GRAVIS’ sustainable approach of helping people to help themselves

“Help for self-help”, is a statement related to developmental work, I heard quite often back home in Germany. In my opinion it is of great importance to involve everyone in the process of planning for a sustainable developmental work. And how can I in Germany know what people somewhere very far away, living in a total different environment, really need? With this question in my head I decided to leave Germany and came to India for volunteering with GRAVIS.

Let me suggest some of GRAVIS’ very successful projects based on ‘Help for self-help’.

The sustainable success of GRAVIS’ projects is ensured by building up self-ruled villages. In maximizing the participation of the village, the inhabitants’ self-reliance and community empowerment are promoted. People will be more likely to stand behind something they decided themselves and helped to create. Therefor GRAVIS assists communities in establishing ‘Community Based Organizations’ to accomplish the participation.

These are several forms of ‘Community Based Organizations’:

VDC & Farmars Association meeting organised in Jaisalmer IMG_0192
Woman speaking on VDC Meeting

The Village Development Committee (VDC) is one of the first interventions in the development of a village. They are established through a local election. Both genders and all casts, religious and social groups must be represented. The members are responsible for the assessment and selection of beneficiaries, the village funds, selecting development initiatives, supervising projects and the communication with local Panchayats (council) and the GRAVIS staff. Last year GRAVIS worked together with 902 VDCs.

Women’s empowerment is promoted by establishing Self-Help Groups (SHG). SHGs create a social and financial network for women and give them the opportunity to independently secure their livelihood. GRAVIS field staff provide materials on subjects chosen by the members. For example about organic farming or watershed techniques. To become financially independent each member deposits 25 – 50 India rupees every month and women who wish to start entrepreneurial projects can take out loans. By becoming financially independent they gain a better status in their families, as well as in the community.

To ensure that all generations can participate, GRAVIS establishes Village Older People’s Associations (VOPAs) in the communities. VOPAs give the elderly an organised voice. They promote the status of older people in desert communities and give them the chance to participate actively in the development of their communities. Last year 152 VOPAs were operating in the Thar Desert.

Farmers Association

The Farmers Associations consist of farmers from different casts. With resources provided by the GRAVIS team the farmers work on developing drought-resilient farming techniques in order to increase yields in low rainfall.

Village Education Committees (VECs) focus on the schooling system GRAVIS has implemented in the rural communities. The goal is to ensure a well-rounded education for the children. The Committees are responsible for the daily administration of the schools, the community’s education fund, the teachers and their salaries.

In addition to the just presented projects for supporting self-ruled villages, GRAVIS also involves the community members in their projects concerning water security, health, education and agriculture.

The community members are a very important and success promoting part of the planning. They are highly desired to participate in the discussions and offer wisdom and logical knowledge. For example, when a bund to redirect waste water from naadis is built, GRAVIS employees discuss with villagers the most appropriate placement and height of these bunds.

The Food-for-Work program employs rural workers to construct naadis, taankas and beris. In return, they are provided with food and other resources.

*by Lisa Haar, Volunteer


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