Inauguration of BAIGA Resource Centre concludes Livelihood project with NIWCYD

The oldest ongoing project of AWO International in South Asia came to an end. On 27th March 2015 the Baiga Resource Center in Dindoori was inaugurated to conserve traditional knowledge and seeds and to promote dialogue and access to government schemes. One day before members of the Baiga and Gond communities paid farewell to the partnership with AWO International and NIWCYD by performing ceremonial dances till late night.

The project started in January 2001, ended officially on 31st December 2014 and was implemented in 29 project villages in the state of Madhya Pradhesh and in 5 villages of the Indian state of Chattisghar. More than 25.000 tribal people benefited from various project interventions in context of promotion of food security and household incomes, land and user rights, community empowerment, basic health, informal education and access to government services and support schemes. The success of the cooperation project with NIWCYD roots in the applied participatory approach and the 320 social structures that have been set-up and capacitated in the last 14 years.

On 27th March the BAIGA Resource Centre in Samnapur (District Dindoori) was formally opened by AWO Regional Representative, Felix Neuhaus, NIWCYD Program Director, Anil Nimborkar and the elected President of the Resource Centre, Ujiyarobai Kewatiya. In her opening speech Kewatiya highlighted the initial situation when the project started. “People were right less and frightened of the forest department. They did not stand together. By help of the forest user rights committee solidarity between the community members grew. If community members have a problem today the entire village will help and stand together”. Kewatiya lives in a remote village in the Baigatschak forest. She was the first person in her village sending her daughter for higher education.

During the opening and project farewell ceremonies former target groups and project staffs shared success stories of the project - and those are plenty. Rai Singh from the village Kanari received a cow; today he has five, cultivates vegetable and does not need to migrate as a daily laborer to earn for his family that consists of five persons. Phul das Baruwar from the village Jadasurang was 19 years old when he became a Gramdoot (community representative). First the villagers were not ready to accept him due to his young age but this changed when he found out that government funds were corrupted in the name of villagers. He organized a Public Hearing and many villagers received access to services of the Public Distribution Systems (PDS).

Ujijar Singh Dhurve from the village Rajani Sarai started in 2003 as an “Instructor for Informal Education” and worked in the cooperation project of AWO International and the National Institute of Women and Child Development (NIWCYD) before he became a Gramdoot in his village in 2010. In the beginning of 2015 he was elected as the president of the Block-administration in Samnapur. During the function he committed to bring relevant issues of the forest populations to the Block and District level institutions of the government.

As per the jointly developed phasing out strategy in 2012 the social structures of all 29 project villages in Dindoori are able to sustain without external support. In the phasing out year 2014 publications about the Forest Right Act 2006 and the MANREGA Rural Employment Act 2005 including explanatory notes, application samples and contact data were published in easy understandable language to further promote the access to these and other government schemes. As a part of the opening ceremony a new tractor was handed over to Phul Singh from the village Pondi. He is a Gramdoot and was able to leverage government support for the tractor that he plans to share with other farmers of his hamlet.

Anil Nimborkar, the former Project Director of NIWCYD accompanied the project from the beginning and stayed four years with the target groups in the project area to study their culture and living practices and to develop suitable project approaches to promote the livelihoods of the forest tribes (mainly from the BAIGA community). “The most relevant achievements of the project were the increase in food security from 3-4 month per year to 10-12 month by promotion of organic agriculture, introduction of hill millet and other yields and the successful linking of the target groups with governmental support schemes. We organized the villagers in different social structures where they were capacitated and empowered to fight for their right and to improve their forest management practices. At the end of the project all inhabitants of the 17 project villages in the Baigatschak forest reserve have forest user rights and land certificates. The communities know how to access government schemes and services and are supported by elected and capacitated representatives, the so called Gramdoots, who advocate for their interests on a local and district level” says Nimborkar. The times in the remote field, far away from his family were not every time easy but today he is proud about the achieved. In 1993 he started in NIWCYD as a volunteer; today he is the Program Director of NIWCYD and mainstreams his experiences in all livelihood projects of the organization and regularly lectures at the University of Nagpur. He plans to make a PhD in context of Tribal Development.

Except two project staffs all were tribals from the villages and most were placed by NIWCYD in other projects where good practices from the cooperation project with AWO International are up-scaled. Mr. Balwand Rahmdale started as a field mobilizer in the cooperation project in 2003. Today he is coordinating a new project funded by Swiss Aid that up-scales the best practices in the neighboring villages of the AWO International project.

Dances of the tribal Baiga and Gond communities were performed till late night

President Ujiyarobai Kewatiya opens the BAIGA Resource Centre in Samnapur

The new Resource Center will enable services beyond the end of the project

Rai Singh performs a song about the development of his village

Handing over of a token of appreciation to the Project Coordinator of NIWCYD

The Resource Center hosts a small library with BAIGA and rights based literature

Exhibition of traditional crops and traditional land use devises

Baiga and Gond communities gathered for the opening ceremony

Phul Singh and his new tractor

A pilot field watered by a drip irrigation system is part of the Resource Center