Winds of change are visible in every sphere – across economic, education, environment, health and infrastructure sectors through the rural communities of south India. A quiet revolution is taking place through the efforts being undertaken by the Srinivasan Services Trust (SST). Men and women, irrespective of age are engaged in a myriad of entrepreneurial activities and programmes – and also earning a monthly income. What is the force driving these winds of change?
Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), the social arm of Sundaram-Clayton Limited and TVS Motor Company for charitable purposes is engaged in promoting holistic and sustainable development of rural communities in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh under the banner of Village Buddha.
SST believes our villages are beautiful, because of the people who live there, their love for nature and the simple way in which they live and rise up to challenges. The simplicity and honesty of these people, the rustic honesty which they infuse into the land they cultivate, the products they nurture and grow and above all, the convergence they bring about is making this change.
Even as SST deploys its foot soldiers across these villages, they have a tough job making things happen because of the gravity of issues. Some of them are complex and knit deep into the fabric of our society. SST is constantly trying to shape the world around these villages, empowering villagers to live a life with dignity. SST believes in working its way through partnerships and facilitating the process of sustainable development, hand in hand with national and state governments, working in partnership with NGOs and Indian and multinational corporate houses. Much of SST’s programmes are seen as catalytic and impactful today.
Take for example the project on economic empowerment of families in Padavedu. SST is partnering with NGOs keeping a mutual goal in mind, in such a way as to bring together in depth technical knowledge and local expertise to help the people in a cohesive and effective manner. These efforts have helped them earn an income of above Rs 15000 / month.
Some of the programmes focus on i) empowerment of women through Self Help Groups, ii) adoption of improved agriculture practices, iii) adoption of improved livestock management and iv) enhancement of vocational skills among youths.
Sustainable development for integration
The programmes under sustainable development include rearing of milch animals, promoting handicrafts like banana fibre, wood work with Lantana, crafting products in bamboo, pottery and agarpathi making, tailoring, honey collection and distribution, engaging in catering services, promotion of silk weaving etc. By bringing to the forefront local skills and crafts with a rustic flavor, the Trust has managed to sustain local empowerment.
The Trust is constantly trying out various methods to improve crop productivity to enable all farmers produce yields above the average, making farming sustainable. Best practices like continuous testing of soil testing, provide integrated nutrition management, good quality seeds, sustainable agricultural practices, new technologies, demonstrations, workshops, market information and facilitation, field extension and monitoring have helped in raising the bar on production.
What’s a better futuristic vision than seeing the village youth empowered and earning members, and able to live and give back to their own village. The Trust provides vocational skills for unemployed youth in the age group of 18 to 35, thus turning them into employable youngsters through various schemes like honey collection and other entrepreneurial programmes.
Health for all
Health is a matter of grave concern to our society today. The buzzword for SST is – Reduce – be it in infant/maternal mortality rates, malnutrition, anemia, sanitation and hygiene. The Trust deploys its foot soldiers regularly to conduct health checks, and run awareness programmes in schools and local communities on safe drinking water, waste management etc.
Coming to education, the trust is constantly trying to identify potential balwadis and provide proper infrastructure, motivate staff and involve mother volunteers, encourage creating a kitchen garden climate in every home to provide nutritious food to children, educate on the need to develop personal hygiene and periodic health check-ups and encourage the community to provide supplementary nutrition.
Working on the premise that all children need to go to school, the Trust makes every effort to encourage parents to enroll their children in schools. Career guidance and vocational skills are provided, along with coaching that will help children secure high grades.
How does one keep the environment clean? Through effective disposal and segregation of waste, watershed development, conversion of uncultivable to cultivable land and afforestation. The Trust promotes several activities in line with Private-Public Partnerships. Some of the groups have also received awards for exemplary performances.
And in conclusion a beautiful scene that will stay with all of us is the programme on sparrow conservation resulting in the increase of more than 25000 sparrows in these villages.
SST believes that as long as young mothers and infants live and grow in health, young children make education their priority, the youth get trained and become the heart and soul of the villages, the farmers, the artisans and craftsmen of traditional vocations live in dignity, the sparrows will flock in thousands and the villages will become beacons of a billion heart beats!