Monday, 19 June 2017

Chinrampatti - A Sustainable Livelihood Village in the making? -Part 1

On the 29th of April 2017, a team from SLI visited the small village of Chinrampatti in Vellore district as part of their follow-up field visit. What greeted them in this village far exceeded their expectations, and has now filled everyone at SLI with new hope for the future.
               Chinnapappa Thangavel, an enthusiastic resident and SLI trainee from Chinrampatti
with SLI director, Ram and Program Manager, Raja Ganesh.

From September 2016, three different groups of women had come from Chimrapatti to SLI to attend training programs. Following this, the village had prepared meticulously for the SLI field visit in April 2017 to showcase everything they had implemented in their village as a result of their training at SLI. From establishing and successfully running a community nursery (with over 50,000 plants) to conducting a health survey of the village to investigate how they can provide basic health care with ethno-botany knowledge they had gained from ‘Herbs for health’ training program in SLI, the villagers exhibited unique aptitude and capacity to make substantial change in a very short time. They had also organised a cattle camp on the day, and had prepared herbal remedies that they learnt during ‘Ethno-veterinary’ program at SLI.  

The SLI team consisted of Ram, our Director; Raja Ganesh, our Program coordinator; Parvathy, one of our key faculty members and Lakshmi Narayanan, our Government Liaison officer. While Parvathy provided expert advice at the cattle camp and discussed more ideas for ethno botany innovations for health with the women, the others interacted with the rest of the villagers and were approached by many, especially the youth, asking for more training programs. They were impressed by the villagers’ desire to learn more to improve their living condition, the conditions of their village and more importantly the youth expressed desire to train in livelihood options to stay in the village rather than go to the nearby town or city looking for work. This is a development that gives a lot of hope for future rural development initiatives, and The SLI team returned feeling that Chinrampatti could be a model village in the making where villagers themselves are taking initiative to bring in positive change.

  “It's not every day we get to visit a village as part of our follow-up that has adapted and utilised each one of our training programmes that it's village women have attended as an enterprise. Chinnarampatti panchayat is a small village of about 350 households in vellore district. Since a few months now, thanks to one panchayat functionary who has taken the responsibility to drive innovation in the village, the village had taken several interesting initiatives forward... Young men come up and tell us, "we don't want to leave the village, want to stay and work here, but, don't know what opportunities we can tap into", that is a promise. A very satisfying day...” Ram, SLI Director.

How did this small village start its journey in to sustainable livelihood?

Madesh with his nursery team at Pitchndikulam Forest, Auroville

It all starts with the story of one man, whose passion to bring  change to rural Tamil Nadu has now been taken up by his entire village. His name is Madesh. Madesh serves as a clerk in Tamil Nadu Panchayat. His relationship with Auroville goes back a long way, and he is devotee of Shri Aurobindo and the Mother. During one of his visits to Auroviille, he became friends with Mr. Loudres from Pitchandikulam Forest. His subsequent visits to Lourdres’ community, meeting Joss Brooks, learning about Pitchandikulam’s rural outreach programs left a deep impression on him. He realised that there are alternatives to what was happening in rural Tamil Nadu villages where globalisation and consumerism were taking over traditional livelihood options. He returned with a burning passion to ‘create a little Auroville’ in his Panchayat. He tried doing this in the Panchayat he was working at the time, but his senior officers were not interested, so he got a transfer and moved to his native village of Chinrampatti where he knew he would be supported in this initiative.

In September 2016, under the leadership of Madesh and support from their Panchayat, the first group of women came from Chinrampatti to attend ‘Raising Nursery and Maintenance’ training program at SLI. They have now set up a thriving nursery on peromboke land around Chinrampatti, with over 50,000 plants, mostly using the seeds they were given during the training. They are supported by their Panchayat through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

This was followed by an SLI field visit in October 2016. This visit helped to further develop the nursery, and plan for future training. Two more groups of women from Chinrampatti visited SLI in April 2017 to attend two different training programs; namely, Ethno-veterinary & clean dairy practices, and Herbs for primary health care. The second field visit happened soon after these programs, and within that short time, the villagers had already identified 40 different herbs in the village area that could be used for primary health care and ethno-veterinary practices.

Future plans?

The community of Chinrampatti has requested SLI to organise training for them in five different areas including sustainable agriculture, waste management, marketing and sustainable entrepreneurship. We are currently in the process of designing these programs for them. The community of Chinrampatti is in the process of expanding the nursery and planting more trees on poromboke land close to water bodies in the area. They are also in the process of using the 40 herbs they have identified in their region to make herbal remedy preparations for ailments identified during their health survey and establishing an herbal primary health care system in the village. Madesh continues to lead the village in visioning a sustainable future together, and taking concrete steps in that direction. The SLI team hopes to welcome groups from Chinrampatti here soon to continue this journey of sustainable livelihood development. 

* As this story continues to unfold, the team at SLI has organised more training programs, and other groups from Chinrampatti has visited our campus. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog soon! *