30 November 2017

A snow-ball of Transformation in the lives of Marginalized Communities in Rural Nepal.

The earthquake in 2015 brought immense destruction and loss of livelihood in Nepal with certain districts suffering particularly high levels of devastation with marginalized population losing their homes, valuables, resources for agriculture and allied livelihood means.

Recognizing this issue as prior and urgent, Pragya in Nepal works on the post-earthquake restoration of the disrupted livelihoods of vulnerable communities in three districts namely Sindhupalchok, Dhading and Nuwakot. In order to enhance the impact of our endeavour, we have simultaneously worked on local concerns like repairing shared livelihood structures which include creating irrigation channels to ensure proper irrigation systems for water supply to the agricultural fields. These irrigation canals get washed away and damaged during earthquakes and floods. We have also ensured creating poly-houses, which have enabled the farmers to grow a variety of crops for a better yield.  

In its initiative to help people in diversifying means of income generation, Pragya in Nepal supported the low-income groups specifically those dependent on seasonal farming or agriculture labour with low and unreliable income.
Beneficiaries receiving their beekeeping kits for the new venture
Such groups were supported with alternative income generation skills where harvesting natural honey from the wild is a significant indigenous livelihood and communities have been traditionally doing it, although in an unorganized way. Pragya extends its support by procuring new beehives with bees and some basic accessories. The initiative has supported individuals to diversify their enterprises to gain sustainable livelihood choices.

Sandesh is seen here carrying his beekeeping kit
Sandesh Dawadi, a 22-year-old young man was struggling to start some enterprise or in some way increase income of the household. With his father left him and his two siblings early, he was brought up single handed by his mother. Post-earthquake the inflow of farm income also reduced. He received the training on beekeeping by Pragya and started beekeeping. His bees have multiplied and now he needs a new hive to keep them. His interest in beekeeping springs from his observation that there is a demand for honey in this area. Despite neatly packaged honey available in the market people visit their area for the local/natural honey. Sometimes visitors have come to their house to ask for the availability of local honey.

Jasmine receives her beekeeping kit 
Coming from an indigenous community of Nepal, Jasmine Shrestha is differently-abled. Her family works on the land taken on a lease as they do not have land of their own. The earthquake caused major damage to their house and it needed repair. With no means of livelihood and lack of money, the family realized the necessity to diversify their means of livelihood. Jasmine wanted to take up some income generation skill-building training. As a result, when the beekeeping training organized by Pragya came up, she was selected for taking the training. Since she is orthopedically challenged and knows the wild harvesting of honey, beekeeping was an appropriate alternative for her. Her interest in beekeeping grew as she had seen others engage in beekeeping in the area. Aware of the good demand for natural unprocessed honey, she was looking for support to start beekeeping. She is growing her enterprise each passing day. 

Many people like Jasmine and Sandesh in rural Nepal are slowly adopting the new methods to generate their livelihoods and support their families to bring back the strength, hitherto lost in the tremors of the disaster. Pragya in the near future aspires to reach out to more number of households to ensure a holistic development in the lives of the marginalised communities of rural Nepal. 

26 September 2017

Pragya’s engagement with ‘Sustainable Development Goals’

On 25 September 2015, world leaders agreed to a definitive plan for the planet and its people by adopting 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with specific targets, officially came into force on 1st January 2016 and which are to be achieved by 2030. Through the 17 goals, the nations across the world strive to achieve development that is fair, equitable, inclusive, environment-friendly and inspires harmonious relations among living beings.
Hence, the SDGs are a universal call to act on the challenges our generation face e.g. poverty, hunger, health, quality education, gender equality, clean water, proper sanitation, clean energy, decent work opportunities, economic growth, reduced inequalities, climate action to name some.
On the 2ndanniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN, thousands of organizations and individuals came together to support and commit towards fulfilling the goals through Global Day of Action where they pledged for #Agenda2030 and demanded to #ACT4SDGs. The campaign saw events in marginalized communities through mobilization and engagement of such communities and with politicians along with photo stunts, making their demands and voices heard regarding inequality, poverty and other concerns of the people. The idea was to provide an insight into different perspectives, and a window into the situation of communities and where we all are, in our journey to SDGs.

#Act4SDGs” is a joint campaign convened by The UN SDG Action Campaign, the World We Want 2030the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) and Action for Sustainable Development. Various highlighting initiatives included were, Thunderclap, MY World 2030 survey, and sharing the messages on social media to encourage citizens to take action for the SDGs.
In the next 5 years, as the march towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) begins in earnest, Pragya will be hyper-focussed on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, the most persistent and intractable issues, and unwaveringly committed to transformative change. The organisation’s work will have a special concern with addressing the SDGs’ commitment to Leaving No One Behind. Pragya’s work in 2016-20 will focus on the 4 Priority Issues namely 1) Deepening inequality and multi-dimensional poverty, jobless growth and exploitation, neglect of deprived areas and groups, 2) Persisting inequality for women and other vulnerable and disempowered groups, 3) climate change, biodiversity loss, natural hazards, resource stress and the energy deficit and Governance and institutional failures, protracted conflicts and disenfranchised groups. The interventions are already taking place on the areas of focus.
The 2 years of SDGs give us the opportunity to share the commencement of our priority issues. To communicate the same, Pragya was involved with SDG by being a part of the APSD-GCAP Webinar on Global Day of Action - #Act4SDGs on Sep 18, 2017 to understand various initiatives and strategies that people and organizations are adopting, in order to address the issues concerned. The discussion helped us to learn from the work done by organizations across the world and provided an opportunity to present our work & plan ahead.
The emerging take-away from the discussion helped Pragya to initiate the process of the online advocacy. From last two weeks, the online advocacy has been done through strategized social media content-sharing in sync with the SDGs. The social media content was based on the work that Pragya has been doing since last 25 years for the energy conservation in Himalayan region, and the social development of people in such remote places. The strategies for interventions on projects have complemented the goals/themes covered in the SDGs.
The platforms used for this activity were Facebook and Twitter, where we covered themes of SDGs like no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, climate action and strong institutions.
The number of reach and the retweets achieved during the process were quite satisfactory. We could also receive commensurable visibility to share our work along with propagating SDGs. The first tweet (Link: https://twitter.com/PragyaNGO/status/909719555080990720) on September 18th 2017, was quite well received, and as per Twitter analytics, that tweet managed around 1,718 impressions*.

The subsequent tweets commutatively gain around 3,204 impressions* on Twitter since we started tweeting on SDGs.  On an average, we encouraged 2 retweets and 1 like per day according to our Twitter activity.

Reaching out to a good number of audience for the campaign would have not been possible without the followers who have been engaging with us all this while, our partners, grassroots workers and community members. Pragya is thankful to all of them along with being grateful to Act4SDGs campaign and the organizers who provided us the platforms to be a part of this global campaign.
We believe that the campaign has been able to set a reminder worldwide to all of us to remain vehement and passionate to continue achieving the development goals, to hold on to the commitments we made two years back, and to make SDGs a definite reality. With this, we call for a continued support from our audience and continue strengthening and working towards SDGs.

*No. of times users saw the tweet on Twitter. Pragya can be reached out to @PragyaNGO. 

19 September 2017

Healthcare services for marginalized in the rural areas of Madhepura district, Bihar (India)

India after decades of independence is still struggling to provide basic health care facilities to its citizens.  Provisions for basic health care services especially in rural India are few and far between lacking. Some states continue to lag behind on various development parameters especially health, even today. Health indicators of the people in the community are on a poorer side due to factors namely large family size, difficulty in affording and accessing quality health facilities and unawareness of the general hygiene and sanitation issues. This gets aggravated when there is no support from the state.

A doctor conducting the health check-up.

In an attempt to improve the health status of one of the most backward districts in Northern Bihar in India, Pragya and partner organizations organized health camps in five villages. The villages include Tuniahi Uttarwari, Tuniahi Dakhinwari, Laxmirampur Uttarwari, Laxmirampur Dakhinwari and Ganesthan. The health initiatives are a part of the ongoing project being implemented “Welfare Services in Madhepura District of Bihar”.

Under the project, Mobile Vikas Kendra or MVK is a resource center in the target villages of Madhepura equipped with basic medical facilities comprising of diagnostic equipment, emergency health kit and medicine kit along with conducting periodic health camps for extending the health facilities to the community members. The resource center also conducts awareness sessions on various government schemes including health. 

The aim of the camps is not just to provide health services but to create an environment where the whole community gets sensitized about health issues. Unlike a general health camp that offers curative services, a major objective of these camps is to promote health-seeking behaviour in the long term. For this, the teams intensively work on building and raising awareness regarding common ailments, family planning methods, nutrition, and hygiene and sanitation. These camps offer all the services free of cost. Narender Sada of Ganesthan village says, “I was suffering from eczema three months back. But now the disease has gone. I received free medicine from the health camp conducted in our village. For this, I am grateful to Pragya”.   On the other hand, Babul Kumar who is 15 years old from the same village as of Narendra’s says, “I have been suffering from fever since last 7 days and due to poverty at home, I was unable to show it to a doctor. Fortunately, I went to MVK center and was prescribed with the medicines, free of cost and got relieved of the fever. I now feel fine. Now my father takes everyone for any medical issues and we do not need to go too far to seek treatment and spend money for the medicines. This initiative has been a boon for poor people like us for whom accessing health services is not easy!”

Children assimilate and wait eagerly for the health check-up
The health camps have been offering comprehensive services – curative, preventive, and referral – to a large number of people in target areas of intervention. “The uniqueness of the model lies in its comprehensive approach where health promotion and prevention are treated as equally important, while curative care is meticulously administered,” says Dr. M K Jha.

In the last five months, 15 health camps have been conducted in five villages, catering to more than 1507 people since the inception of Mobile Vikas Kendra at Madhepura in December 2016. Gigni Devi, 50 years old woman, a beneficiary of the project who feels better about her after receiving medicines and health check-ups, appreciated the work done by Pragya especially work done on informing people on sanitation and hygiene. She expressed that such work should be continued in order to effectively deal with the health issues of the people and provide greater benefit to the community in the long run.

“Not only did we diagnose and provide relief for ailments afflicting the rural folk, we educated them about how to follow a healthy lifestyle, take care of their environment and village resources, and provide better opportunities for their children,” explains Pravanand Jha who works as an assistant with Pragya at Madhepura. 

A child looks while community members are assembled 
With its efforts, PRAGYA has touched the lives of over thousands of people with the implementation of Mobile Vikas Kendra at Madhepura. PRAGYA also takes up social issues surrounding health emphasizing girl child's care, emancipation of women, nutrition for women and creating a rightful place in the society for women and children who are deteriorating on health and other social parameters due to lack of health facilities and access to various institutions. 

22 August 2017

Safety gear distribution to migrant construction workers

The Himalayan district of Chamoli, Uttrankhand, India is a breathtakingly beautiful place. Over the years it has become a dwelling area for migrants hailing from states like Bihar, Jharkhand and the neighboring country of Nepal.  They carry a lot of hopes and expectations to live a better life for themselves and their family. But unfortunately, safe enabling living conditions to the workers here are limited. They live in shabby, cramped, unsafe homes in unhygienic conditions, and face painfully cold and harsh weather more often than not. To add to this, they often end up working in exploitative and hazardous working conditions.
Migrants working here face more than just the physical strain but are also plagued by a variety of health implications ranging from weakness, back and joint pain to concrete burns, cuts, as well as chronic illnesses such as COPD and TB. While working, they are exposed to dust and asphalt fumes without protective clothing, naturally leading to endemic health issues including eye, heart and lung diseases. The construction workers especially women suffer through skin diseases and infections. At times children are also present at the worksites, who are more vulnerable to catch common illnesses and infections compared to adults. Unfortunately, none of the authorities are interested to hear their health concerns and provide a solution. 

We regularly face sliding rocks and mud. Many times we have suffocation and allied breathing problems due to sudden inhale of mud. To protect from mud we use homemade mask, mainly consisting of handkerchief or piece of cloth. This is insufficient as we feel suffocation after few minutes and remove them afterward. Some of us have reported coughing problems. Doctors at GREF has also advised us to wear the mask and protect from inhaling mud particles.” Says Gulu Marik, 25 years working in Malari Camp.
Pragya did a study of the hazardous work conditions and activities of the migrant workers in Chamoli. It was assessed that workers are not really provided with the necessary equipment while working in risky conditions which makes them vulnerable to various harmful health hazards as mentioned earlier. In view of that, the safety equipment distribution drive was planned, intended to reduce the mal-effects of occupational hazards and to ensure that they are able to protect themselves from other health hazards.
Pragya distributed safety kits and first aid kits to the migrant workers across six camps of migrant workers in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The camps covered were in Birajkund, Birahi, Surai Tota, Long, Bhapkund and Malari. The workers were trained on health and hygiene, safety and first aid.
Reaching out to and training 578 migrant workers happened in an organized way. 600 safety kits and 12 first aid kits were distributed. Workers were provided with protective gear that includes vital protective and safety equipment like helmets, gloves, along with the relevant demonstration. The first-aid kit includes the necessary health equipment and medicines in case of an injury and burns. Through a session on health and hygiene workers were made aware of health risks and the role of personal hygiene in preventing certain illnesses. Since dwelling spaces in these areas are unhygienic and open where awareness on these issues becomes a necessity. Hence workers were also informed on the symptoms, preventive and protective measures for diseases like TB and HIV. The workers many a time know the safety rules at a workplace but they seldom adopt it further risking their bodies to injuries.28-year-old Sarita Devi from Biraj Kund camp exclaimed, “We are not provided with any safety instrument while working such as helmets and gloves etc. I work along with other co-workers to remove silts, stones etc. We needed gloves and mask for my husband to protect from dust particle. Special thanks to Pragya to address our concerns, especially for helmets, gloves and masks.”
Knowing that there is a persistent lack of knowledge among migrant workers on the importance of health and access to basic health facilities, a role-play exhibited to equip the workers to be able to use the first aid kits provided to them. They were instructed on ways to stop bleeding, using first aid kit to treat minor injuries, and identifying the injuries that need a medical practitioner’s attention. Injuries related to environment and conditions like frostbite and trench foot, arising from cold and high-altitude conditions, were also given attention. This has helped these migrant workers to be self-dependent in case of health emergencies and prevent in escalating minor health problems to serious health issues.
A positive impact of the training has been seen while people adopting health and safety measures on their own where using safety equipment has become a daily habit among migrant workers in their workplace. Workers were found to be arranging equipment on their own as a ripple effect of the habit created through the project on using safety equipment while working and adopting habits of good health and hygiene in day today life.
Women were seen relieved due to the provision of gloves since earlier they were quite bothered with cooking food with their dirty and contaminated hands. Using gloves in their daily work has ensured the cleanliness and hygiene along with protection of hands from dirt, itching and infections. In Sarita Devi’s words who is 30 years old from Long camp, “During our work, we face multiple issues such as dust, mist and mud from cutting rock. Many times our fingers cut while hammering on rocks. Also, our hands get rough by putting in mixing cement and Portland. We always felt the need of First aid kit to be provided. I would thank Pragya for giving us first aid kit, having more of dressing.”

Although migration is universally a basic human right, safe living and working conditions were just a dream for these people. Pragya made an effort where it was needed most, and enabled a safe and healthy work milieu to these workers in a land where no one knows them. 

9 August 2017

How Agnes' success inspired farmers in Africa to cultivate rare medicinal herbs

Agnes can be seen in her farm
Ms. Agnes Mulimi is a 35-year old mother of four children, living in rural Kenya. She had been practicing farming for 10 years before A Pragya intervention persuaded her to cultivate medicinal plants. In 2013, when Ms. Mulimi received one and half times more money from the cultivation of Ocimum (basil) and Mondia Whitiei (gondolosia) in one acre of land, as compared to that from cultivation of traditional produce, she decided to completely switch over to the cultivation of medicinal plants. Her success is no accident.

In rural Kenya, a majority of the population is dependent on the traditional systems of medicine and locals regularly consult the ‘daktari wa mitishamba’ or traditional healers. This belief in the power of medicinal plants has endured even with the increased access to western medicine. In the streets of Nairobi, the daktaris have set up shops right alongside the doctors who practice ‘western medicine’, vying with them for their patients.

Contrary to popular belief, the traditional medicines are not cheaper than western medicine, and many rare and valuable medicinal plants are foraged from the wild. In the Kakamega rainforest, which is one of the most densely populated rural regions in the world, people from the villages regularly venture into the forest, collecting firewood and other non-timber forest produce, including medicinal plants.

Following the success of Ms. Mulimi, many other farmers in the region have also switched to cultivation of popular herbal species. Their efforts are not only helping them to improve the quality of family’s lives, but also to reduce the impact on rainforests in the region. The farmers can now better feed, clothe, and educate their children, with enough money left over to invest in livestock. For Ms. Mulimi, it is a drastic change from the situation when she struggled to pay for her children’s school fee. “I plan to rent a piece of land to increase the area under cultivation. But more importantly, the children are happy because they can afford to wear shoes to school,” says Ms. Mulimi.

18 July 2017

Earthquake-hit farmers in Nepal rest hope on polyhouses

In 2015, when the 7.8-Magnitude earthquake in Nepal caused extensive damage to infrastructure and livelihoods of its people, many had lost hope that their lives would ever return to normal. Tek Bahadur, a 60-year-old farmer residing in Kubinde Tol village of Sindhupalchok district, was one of them. His son was killed in a bus accident more than five years ago and the only source of income for him was half-an-acre piece of agricultural land that fetched him an annual income of US $450.

Tek Bahadur can be seen working in his polyhouse 
On the morning of April 25, 2015, one of the worst temblors in 80 years for Nepal completely destroyed Bahadur’s house and left the already Below Poverty Line farmer destitute and in need of dire help. The following year, Bahadur came to know that Pragya was initiating the construction of poly houses to enable production of off-season vegetables for the households, under its Rebuilding Rural Nepal program. “For a farmer like me who had lost everything, a proposal to construct a polyhouse in his own land has brought a glimmer of hope,” says Bahadur. He was then encouraged to attend trainings that will impart  technical skills and knowledge to take forward the polyhouses that would be set up by Pragya.

Today, Bahadur treats the set up as his own physical asset for an increased livelihood and is trying his hand at growing both seasonal and off-seasonal vegetables. He and fellow beneficiaries have gained profits by selling the produce in nearby markets.

“Tomatoes, and more tomatoes in my field”

A polyhouse set up in Majhi's field
Kamala Majhi, a 35-year old female farmer in Sindhupalchowk, was another victim left empty handed by the earthquake. “Our house got damaged and utensils were found within the rubbles and we lost all means to make money,” says Majhi who was also a beneficiary of Pragya’s initiative to construct polyhouses in 100 plots, after stringent site and beneficiary assessment for selecting the most needy households.

Majhi has a polyhouse constructed in a rented piece of land where she has sowed some tomato seeds. “I am convinced that tomatoes will have higher yield than other vegetables and I know I will have many tomatoes to sell in the market,” says the farmer.

Bringing children back to schools

The earthquakes and aftershocks which struck Nepal in 2015 had an enormous impact on the country’s poorest communities. The effect on Nepal...