29 January 2019

A look back at Pragya's work in 2018... and a look forward at what's to come this year!

As is often the case with the coming of a new year, Pragya UK’s transition into January is serving as an important time of reflection! Here we’ve had a look back at Pragya’s work and progress in 2018, as well as a moment to look at what we hope to achieve going forward into 2019.

2018 was a busy year for Pragya’s programme in India. Our Food Security for Himalayan Smallholders project continued to go from strength to strength, empowering farmers to adapt their practices in response to changing ecosystems, guided by each other as well as through services provided by Pragya-supported Agri-Advisors, including soil testing and weather information. Farmers were also supported to add value to their produce with services established to provide them with information on prices, buyers and markets, in order to enhance their revenues and help move their communities out of poverty. We trained women’s Self-Help Groups in Nutri-dense farming and dietary requirements in order to increase each family’s calorific and micronutrient intake, helping lift communities out of hunger and food insecurity. Pragya UK made a field visit to project sites in and around Uttarkashi, meeting with members of a farmers’ cooperative supported by Pragya for local value addition and the development of ethical trading links, and also visiting Pragya-supported crop research plots that provide insights enabling the Agri-Advisors to assist farmers in crop diversification and Climate Smart Agriculture.
A Schools on Wheels lesson in Bhapkund camp
In 2018 Pragya further developed its programme for migrant communities in the Indian Himalayas. The past year has seen an emphasis on the importance of reducing levels of educational exclusion suffered by children of migrant road workers, providing the basis for our ongoing ‘Schools on Wheels’ campaign which transports learning materials and a trained teacher to migrant workers’ camps. The classes introduce basic literacy and numeracy and encourage both the children and their parents to develop an interest in education, with some adult classes being run as part of the programme. The project staff have also made progress in their liaisons with local schools near the camps, encouraging admissions of the children of migrant workers despite lack of documentation.
We also made significant progress with our project establishing DMS-Himalaya, a community-led disaster preparedness model for the Himalayan region. With the aim of increasing the resilience of neglected communities particularly prone to natural disasters due to the region’s unique climate and geography, Pragya have introduced the citizen-led disaster management system in order to empower communities for grassroots disaster risk reduction and response. In the project’s recent year, Pragya-established Disaster Response Teams received further intensive training and orientation, the integration of the model within existing disaster relief programmes was heavily promoted in meetings with state government officials, and the project was enhanced by the addition of a new element, Eco-DRR, an initiative that incorporates community-based monitoring of ecosystem health as part of their disaster preparedness. The DMS-Himalaya system was even successfully employed on several occasions as a response to incidents over the year – a positive step going forward in the development of the project.

Establishing a fodder farm at Simpani
In Nepal, 2018 saw the continuation of Pragya’s post-earthquake rehabilitation projects, primarily focused on communities in the disaster-struck rural districts of Dhading and Sindhupalchowk who continue to suffer from the long-term impacts of the earthquake such as the loss of livestock and damages to housing, community water sources and cultivatable land. Combatting the earthquake’s negative impact on WASH practices in these districts, Pragya’s implementation of the rehabilitation project included the installation of water tanks and community toilet blocks in the regions where such facilities had been damaged, the formation of Women’s Water and Sanitation Councils to ensure the sustainability of WASH improvements, and workshops in schools and in the wider community to raise awareness and provide training on community hygiene, sanitation and waste management practices. The earthquake’s threat to Nepalese livelihoods also continued to be addressed with repair of irrigation structures and pipelines to increase farming productivity, as well as the establishment of community fodder farms in regions that would benefit from shared farming space. Pragya also helped rehabilitate livelihoods, supporting disaster-affected families with livestock and poultry packages, and providing training in fields such as organic farming, goat rearing, and candle making. These projects helped build local enterprise capacity for sustainable income generation.
As part of our initiative to combat trafficking and other gender-based violence (GBV) in Nepal, an issue which had particularly escalated in districts where economic distress caused by the earthquake has been highest, Pragya continued to monitor the previously installed Women’s Helpline Centres and conducted further discussion and training with the Women Vigilance Committees. Helpline leaders and committee members have received further training in effective support to victims of GBV and awareness raising of the issues within their communities. Extensive efforts have also been made to establish linkages with police and government departments to foster an integrated response to GBV and a comprehensive support network for victims of GBV and those at risk.

A cultivation field demonstration session in Isecheno
In Kenya, the conservation and cultivation of medicinal plants in Kakamega Forest was a priority in 2018. The initiative saw Pragya addressing the depletion of threatened medicinal plant species by supporting Pragya-established Community Conservation Groups educating them on the importance of local biodiversity and building grassroots capacity for species identification, habitat monitoring, data collection and analysis. Awareness campaigns were also run in schools where children were encouraged to participate in conservation efforts and feed information learnt back to their families and peers, ensuring a greater scope of impact as well as the sustainability of the project. Pragya also expanded its earlier established plant nurseries in 2018, building propagation sites for important endangered medicinal plant species as a crucial conservation effort as well as a means of income generation for families within the community.

As for 2019… our commitment to transformational change for the communities with which we work of course lives on. Our efforts to strengthen community disaster preparedness remains a priority, with a view to the regional expansion of our work and the adoption of the latest appropriate and affordable disaster management technologies. We will significantly expand and enhance our Food Security work, helping secure the prosperity of smallholder farming communities in the face of climate change. We remain committed to serving the needs of highly disadvantaged ethic minority and migrant communities, supporting their access to education, health care, and rights, towards a brighter future. 
Our gender programme in 2019 will continue to challenge the many forms of violence against women that persist across the regions in which we operate, including work in south Asia to tackle the regionally-interconnected trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation and bonded labour. We will be exploring partnerships to further our maternal and reproductive healthcare work, working to improve the accessibility and capacity of community health services, helping to combat the appalling maternal and infant mortality rates commonly found in the marginalised and last mile communities that Pragya serves. Pragya will also strive to enhance access to safe water and quality sanitation in desperate communities deeply impacted by climate change, providing a vital lifeline in harsh environments and combatting the spread of water-borne diseases. We remain committed in 2019 to supporting the development of sustainable, culturally-appropriate livelihoods for those most desperately in need, with an emphasis on below-poverty-line and female-headed households. Our work in conservation will see neglected communities supported to conserve local biodiversity and protect habitats from anthropogenic pressures, through a combination of awareness-raising, community-led habitat monitoring, and advocacy. We will also support energy-deficient and under-electrified communities meet their energy needs by empowering communities to adopt and manage clean, off-grid energy technologies, which in turn will positively impact community education, healthcare and economic wellbeing.  
A flood affected Chars Community
2019 will also see the expansion of Pragya’s work in Bangladesh. Pragya has recently established its programme with the vulnerable communities of the Chars, or River Islands, in Bangladesh with the aims of enhancing disaster resilience, improving the standards of WASH and livelihood capacities, and empowering women and girls for their protection from trafficking and other gender-based violence.

This is just some of the vitally important work Pragya is committed to in 2019. Everything we do is only made possible through the generosity of our supporters. If you’d like to make a contribution to our work and join us on our journey, please visit https://www.pragya.org/donate.php - Thank you so much.

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