Annum Report 2015
Dear friends of Vayam, wish you a very happy Makar Sankranti with the sweetness of Tilgul. We are happy to share the journey of Vayam at the end of its eighth year with pictures and wonders.
We begin this year’s report with an amazing incident in village Doyachapada. It’s Wednesday dusk, the time for weekly village meeting. The chairman of Community Forest Rights Management Committee Krishna Tumbda speaks, “The stone bund we are raising for protecting our forest is near completion. This last week our gang has taken lot of toil and huge amount of work is done. The total wages run over Rs. 40,000. If we spend so much on one muster, we will run out of funds without finishing the work. Vayam folks have raised funds with so much trouble, we must be thrifty.” The meeting had vibrant discussion and people decided to give up Rs. 90 from their hard-earned daily wages. Vayam is running a project for protection of 150 hectares of Community forest in Doyachapada with funds from Cybage Asha Trust, Pune. The people are involved since planning. They know the fund availability; they keep records and measurements of work done, and also calculate the labour cost. Their involvement is so much that they are ready to give up hard earned money to achieve the goal. This Jana-vishwas (trust in the people) is Vayam’s point of pride.
Tribal people are using forest resources since centuries, but they had no right over it and consequently no responsibility for conserving the forest. Their forced alienation from the forest had disastrous effects for both forest and tribals. The new law in 2008 changed this and sought to end the ‘historical injustice’ of deprivation from forest rights. The enactment of law alone did not ensure the people exercising the rights. Vayam – after a hard struggle of 3 years – won the first CFR (Community Forest Rights) for four villages; viz. Kokanpada (22 ha.), Doyachapada (150 ha.), Dhadhri (284 ha.), and Ambyachapada (60 ha.). There are about 100 more villages in this tribal belt that are yet to get these rights. Vayam’s four have humbly paved the way.
Kokanpada Villagers volunteered to build vegetative live fencing. They used cactus, nirgudi, and jatropha which was available around.
Kokanpada villages declared ban on felling and ban on grazing in certain area of their community forest. They began work for rejuvenation. The initiative by community was matched by a project walking in. Vayam, BAIF-MITTRA, and Kokanpada Gramsabha are jointly running ‘Habitat Conservation project’ under Maharashtra Gene Bank. The villagers have completed protective trenching and bunding for an area of 5.5 hectares. Bamboo and certain other rare tree species are planted within the area. This village is the first in district to prepare People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR). Prof. D.K.Kulkarni guided the villagers in upgrading this PBR. They together documented 225 tree species. Seeds for 22 varieties of cowpea, 7 varieties of beans, and 4 varieties of sweet potato were distributed thus enhancing the farm biodiversity. MITTRA has also planted 125 Desi varieties of rice for demonstration. Youth were trained in technical mapping of water and soil conservation works. The village can now design its own watershed conservation program.
Doyachapada-Kaspada villagers have declared ban on felling and ban on grazing in certain area of their community forest. Dried branches can be collected for firewood by local people and neighboring villages only on headloads. Tractors and bullock carts are strictly prohibited. This ensures that people cut only for basic need and not for market. All families in the village have improved chulhas in order to consume lesser firewood.
The village has received financial support from Cybage Asha Trust, Pune to build protective stone bunds, cattle prevention trenches, and rainwater harvesting tanks. The village has completed 1830 meters of protective bunding and trenching. Farmers have contributed sand and labour to build 48 rainwater storage tanks. Jalvardhini Pratishthan provided free training to masons for building these ferro-cement tanks. Farmers have planted mango, cashew, mogra and some vegetable crops on this tank-water. This will prevent distress migration. Farmers will stay to protect their farm as well as the forest. The protected forest has over 450 Mahua trees. The state forest department in order to support the village had proposed a mahua oil expeller from Tribal development department (TDD). But the TDD being a highly inefficient agency has not acted on it. Vayam has decided to raise not only an oil expeller, but a multifarious forest produce processing center with private funding. This center will comprise of a small oil expeller, pulverizer, solar cabinet drier, leafplate press, and other machines along with a shed to house these machines. The estimated cost is Rs. 700,000.
Ensuring effective implementation of NREGA has always been a trump card for Vayam’s youth leaders. This year we appointed village motivators with basic stipend to accelerate NREGA. Results were like this: Six approach roads were built for remote habitations. A nursery of 25,000 saplings was raised and maintained. Farm leveling work (to prevent erosion) was done in seven villages. 1180 persons got seasonal employment and did not have to migrate. 731 labourers got new bank accounts. This ensured their wages going straight in their accounts without any corruption. 542 persons got registered as labour under NREGA. This is a brief tally of seven villages we focused on.
The school education seldom gives anything useful in daily life. Learning about banking and basic bank transactions, about Gram Panchayat and its services, about seed selection and processing, about making organic insect repellents, about preventing and treating animal diseases – is absent in current curriculum. Vayam’s Life Skills Curriculum is ensuring that 9th standard student acquire these life skills at the right age. A high school in the remote village of Medha-Patilpada has gladly given 1 hour every week for this curriculum. (Running this curriculum for 90 students for one year costs about Rs. 1 Lakh. Sponsors solicited.)
25 hectare land in Deolali Airforce station is proudly hosting a biodiversity park developed by Vayam’s volunteers with funding from Mahindra & Mahindra. This is the third year since planting and 2500 trees are growing well.
ICICI bank has extended a grant to this program with participation of 100 farmers for raising 40,000 trees of 20 species.
Lokmat a leading Marathi daily ran a big story on Vayam in its youth supplement Oxygen. About a thousand youth called from all corners of Maharashtra and thanked Vayam for inspiration. About a hundred also said they wanted to learn from Vayam. Lokmat and Vayam jointly organized a training camp and youth from many far-off districts joined this camp at Nashik. They have gone back to their districts with Vayam spirit.
Smart leader course
A novel course for the youth in ages 18-25 comprising of full-day sessions on 12 Sundays began this year. We selected 37 youth from 56 applicants. This course has further developed our knowledge products on law-based advocacy, community mobilization, mass communications skills, and so on.
Vayam received ‘Keshavsrishti Award’ instituted by Keshavsrishti, a Mumbai-based organization. This award is a recognition for innovative community work by activists below age 40. Vayam’s team of 40 volunteers accepted this award in Rangsharda auditorium packed with Mumbaiites. Our founder Milind Thatte was also awarded ‘Yuva Prerna Puraskar’ by ABVP, the biggest student organization in India.
- The government for the first time has transferred tribal development funds straight in the hands of tribal villages. The fund is sans strings and the village can decided its own priorities and utilize the funds. The villages however need lot of capacity building and hand holding support. The government has plans for the same, but with many limitations. Vayam has plans for mass awareness programs and village level trainings. The need is for Rs 10,000 per village for 30 villages i.e. Rs 300,000. We wish to extend to 100 villages in the area provided we have funds and human resource.
- We need a jeep and two motorbikes for our community mobilization work.
- Doyachapada-Kaspada community forest area needs water and soil conservation works. The planning and estimation of this work needs INR 50,000. The primary estimate for entire work is approximate Rs. 10 Lakh.
- The community processing centre for forest produce proposed at Doyachapada will need about Rs. 7 Lakh. This will include a shed hosting solar cabinet drier, pulverizer, oil expeller, leaf plate maker, and some other machines required for processing of fruits, medicine, oilseeds available from the forest. This centre will be a pilot for similar centres in other villages.
- Our core activity is capacity building and leadership development in villages. This work needs a strong team of full-time dedicated and trained staff. The annual expense for the team is Rs. 8 Lakh.