Jharkhand is a state in North India. It is very rich in natural resources and very poor in terms of the quality of life of its people. The main business activities in Jharkhand are mining and big industrial plants. But most of the population lives in small villages, surviving with small scale self-sustained farming. Agriculture in Jharkhand could bring much more prosperity if people knew how to better utilize their resources.
In the villages of Jharkhand, when families need cash, the male members migrate in search of seasonal labour but the rest of the family stays on in the village to which remains attached their cultural and social identity. Traditional social cohesion at the village level has weakened in the past 2 decades because of migration and as a consequence of the modern individualist and competitive values that have also arrived here.
The Millennium Village project implemented by Welthungerhilfe in 26 Villages of the Deoghar district in Jharkhand is a typical example of international cooperation for rural development: it receives funds from the European Union; it was conceived and designed by a German NGO, and it is locally implemented by small Indian NGOs (Pravah and CWS). As most rural development projects, this initiative also aims at raising local capacities in agriculture, promoting basic education and improving infrastructures. The development workers implementing this project are making great efforts to reconstruct the social fabric by involving the whole community in participated policy planning processes. In other words, establishing shared objectives among the local communities and identifying new ways of looking at the common welfare of the village. And in this new approach towards the determinants of wealth and development, women are taking a lead.
What is unique in this project is the effort to bring the macro policy perspectives of the Millennium Development Goals, or the MDGs, much closer to the village level. In fact, in order to restructure community ties and give people self confidence, the same commitment to remove extreme poverty, that generates cooperation at an international level, is also required at the village level.
"Our dreams have come true. We can now stay on our farms instead of searching for jobs in the city and we can eat the healthy food we grow ", says a farmer.
"If people are convinced and there is local ownership, development will take place and it will be sustainable", says the Programme Manager from Germany.
In the 26 villages covered by the Millennium project, agricultural output has increased, thanks to the know-how and new skills provided to local farmers and thanks to the work done by the entire community for building structures that harvest rain water. Hopefully, one day, the increased revenue from local agriculture will reduce emigration. Meanwhile, it is already giving better daily nutrition to women, children and the elderly. And better dignity to everyone.
What started out as an effort to bring the MDG policy to the marginalized populations could well bounce back to the high level policy centers, as a lesson for global decision makers, who need to learn to listen to one another and share a common purpose in our ever smaller global village.
On YouTube ⇒ Millenium Village Project - playlist
- ⇒ Anand Kumar - development expert ⇒ playlist
- ⇒ Dilip Kumar - Founder Member of Pravah ⇒ playlist
- ⇒ Rajesh Kumar Jha - Programme Officer for the Centre for World Solidarity ⇒ playlist
The main factor of poverty is the poverty existing in people's minds. If you ask a farmer here, he will tell you he has 10 acres of land but then he is not able to organise food even for the next two months. In order for him to know that he can achieve something even with the resources he has, he will have to change his mind set.
I believe that if we belong to the generation that hasthe capacity to utilise resources and can demonstrate that we are able to achieve something then ... we can do it !
Bernhard Hoeper I belong to a organization that is called Welthungerhilfe or German Agro-action and we decided to show in 15 different locations, all over the world, that change is possible according to the Millennium Development Goals.
In this project we have started community building and planning process right from the very beginning. The villagers sit together. They make their own plans and try to improve these at their level. When there are irrigation problems, they try to solve these. If we can farm, how do we increase the yield These solutions are proposed by the villagers themselves. We address the MDGs not from the United Nations level, but we adopt a bottom-up approach.
Rajesh Kumar Jha
We tried to organize a village development course where people contribute voluntarily. They collect funds that they raise from project activities and deposit it into a Village Development Fund. Then they rotate these funds. When they buy seeds, then they also deposit 1.5 to 3times the number of seeds.
When I see it at the local level in 26 hamlets, I see that there is progress. It makes me very hopeful. Hope is a strange word so to say, but ... change is possible.
Before this NGO came to our village, the situation was the usual one. People couldn't farm in the way they do now. There was economic poverty. We could not even manage two healthy meals a day. People used to work in markets, dig mud, drive a cycle rickshaw.. Here, people had to run around looking for jobs so that they could feed themselves. But when the NGO came here, they talked with us, they shared their knowledge with us, and we applied this knowledge well and there was an improvement in the food situation which resulted in improved economic conditions. Now, we do not have to depend on anyone for getting three meals a day. Now, we neither have to migrate abroad to earn a living nor drive a rickshaw in the cities. Now we can work with our hands on our farms in our villages
Looking at other impacts besides incomes, for instance, children's education; we found that women constructing roads, or making dams or working as farm labour had small children. They used to take their infants along with them We felt that if we started free day care centres and schools, children would have stayed with us and we timed our schools such that day centres started when our schools finished.
Of course after four years it will be not the end of the efforts. But we believe that once the program will be over after four years, that the community and its leader will be on a higher level of development awareness, from where they cannot go back any more to give you an example, gender equality is a very touchy topic. But look at the participation of women over there. Have a look at the Self Help Groups. Talk to them. Find out how much confidence has increased. These are not wonders. These are real development steps. in the hands of the people. But what we don't want, and what is really a challenge is that we don't want an isolated case: the kind of island where money is pumped in and then development takes place. That will not work. You cannot buy development. Development will only work if people are convinced; and if ownership is there.
When villagers will start understanding that the projects is theirs, we will no longer need to doubt the sustainability of any project.
I have got this opportunity to work in an NGO and to use my freedom and to demonstrate my thoughts this is my passion. If I don't do this, I can do nothing else.
Now you may question what is the interest of the European Union. Why do they fund such kind of projects? There is no vested interest. This is not political money to go this side or that side. This is really money that goes into the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals.
When people tell me that it is due to the work done by our organisation that today they have enough to eat, that their child is going to school, that they now have no difficulties, it is then that I feel really happy.