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On Networking
connecting micro to macro
- P V Satheesh
 

It is a period of excitement all around. For the first ten years of its existence, DDS had been basically introvert and inward looking. But as our experiences built up and we found more than one thread stranding us with the needs and experiences of the outside world, we had to started joining force with many other organisations, regional, national and global. The last two years have seen this networking at its intense best. There have been multiple networks of which we have been a part. The most important ones are :

1. SANFEC - the South Asian Network for Food, Ecology & Culture
2. APART - a network on Participatory Methods initiated by DDS
3. Alternative Educators Network
4. Using Diversity Group
5. Biodiversity Network

DDS has been a key player in all these networks.


SANFEC

As a member of the SANFEC, a South Asian Network for Food, Ecology and Culture the DDS has organised farmers exchanges, produced a participatory module for training on Dryland Agricultural Technology, has started initiatives like research on Productivity of Ecological Farms.

DDS has actively participated in two SANFEC meetings and the first SAARC People's Forum held at Sri Lanka. It is now on the Steering Committee of the Network.

The most important aspect of the DDS participation in SANFEC is the active way DDS women farmers are involved in the network meetings. Six of them went to Bangladesh to participate in the meeting in 1997 August. For some of them this was the first time they were moving out of their district. Many of them had not even sat in a train till that day. None of them could speak any language other than Telugu, their mother tongue. All of them were non-literate.

But none of these limitations came in their way of relating to their Bangladeshi sisters and brothers. But they did set up a fantastic relationship with Bangladeshi farmers, participated in the SANFEC meeting and contributed to the theory and ideology of the network. They exchanged seeds with the women of Bangladesh, sang and danced with them and spread a great canvas of goodwill.

In July 1998, the women went to Nepal to participate in a workshop on sustainable hill agriculture hosted by the USC-Canada, Nepal. This was a crucial workshop for SANFEC. As per the mandate given to SANFEC by its members, the network was supposed to conduct a series of trainings on sustainable agriculture, one each for the Hill Areas, Drylands and Wetland Ecosystems.

The women of DDS made a vibrant contribution right from the start. They designed a ritual motif for the inaugural ceremony. They drew a traditional Muggu design on the ground with millet flour, filled it with colours and placed a bouquet of grainheads in the middle. A large earthen lamp with multiple heads and a series of earthen lamps at different corners of the floral design decorated the motif. The women danced around it after lighting the lamp.

But it was not just the ritual celebration for which they contributed. They participated regularly in the discussions, became part of the panels and one of them Ms Masangari Narsamma, a non-literate farmer, even chaired a session on livestock. Through their intense knowledge of agriculture, they enriched the group discussions and made a valuable contribution to the development of the training module.

The Deccan Development Society has also assumed some key responsibilities in the SANFEC matrix.

Networking

ACTIVITY
COMMUNITY
NATIONAL / PROVINCIAL
SOUTH ASIAN
INTERNATIONAL
Producer exchange : eg. farmers, fishers, weavers etc.
DDS
Sharing information, analysis, and visions on ecological farming
DDS
Targeted cultural activities
DDS
DDS
DDS
SANFEC Bulletin
DDS

 

Campaigns

ACTIVITY
COMMUNITY
NATIONAL / PROVINCIAL
SOUTH ASIAN
INTERNATIONAL
Holding citizens tribunals on immorality of individual patents & life patent laws
DDS
Organise boycotts of consumer goods produced by multinationals
DDS
 
Support campaign against shrimp monoculture
DDS
 
Campaign for recycling wastes into organic manures
DDS
 

 

Research & Documentation

ACTIVITY
COMMUNITY
NATIONAL / PROVINCIAL
SOUTH ASIAN
INTERNATIONAL
Documentation of successful Biodiversity conservation initiatives
DDS

 

Education, Awareness and Training

ACTIVITY
COMMUNITY
NATIONAL / PROVINCIAL
SOUTH ASIAN
INTERNATIONAL
Training on ecological farming
DDS
DDS
Making films on sustainable agriculture etc.
DDS
DDS
 

 

Community Based Activities

ACTIVITY
COMMUNITY
NATIONAL / PROVINCIAL
SOUTH ASIAN
INTERNATIONAL
Sustainable livelihood practices
DDS
Biodiversity Registry
DDS
In situ biodiversity conservation, seed collection conservation, regeneration including herbal medicine
DDS
DDS

We are pleased to report that DDS is actively engaged in fulfilling all its commitments.

  • Under networking, the farmers of DDS have visited Bangladesh and Nepal and have received farmers and NGOs from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  • We have continuously interacted with SANFEC members on the issues of ecological farming. Many of the visitors from SANFEC to DDS have been introduced to the concept of permaculture and sustainable agriculture.
  • DDS has contributed six stories to the two issues of Cultivating Links , the SANFEC Bulletin
  • It has organised community level composting activities introducing NADEP and Vermicomposting. This training and production is targeted at vulnerable sections of single women.
  • DDS has been involved in the production of a series of biodiversity registers in its project villages. Teams of DDS workers have now mastered the skill of participatory interaction with the village communities and have produced ten CBRs till now. By the middle of 1999 they will cover all their 75 villages and produce on CBR per village.\
  • DDS has organised two workshops to about 100 NGO groups in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The strong network created among these NGOs promise us the production of at least 500 CBRs. Each CBR represents the smallest administrative unit of Mandal, representing a population of about 10,000 persons. Such a massive amount of information put into the public domain, we believe, would create a strong public domain base and can be a mighty deterrent against the TRIPS.
  • As a part of the USING DIVERSITY network DDS is contributing to the research and documentation of biodiversity conservation.
  • DDS has already created a module of sustainable agriculture through a participatory methodology with its women farmers. This is probably the first attempt where people have themselves designed a training programme for others. The module has been whetted by a number of experts on sustainable agriculture. We expect to put this module into practice by the middle of 1999.
  • P V Satheesh, Director, DDS has made a series of eight films called TRADITIONS highlighting the sustainable, ecological traditional farming on the issues of Agricultural Practices, Biodiversity, Seeds and Seedkeeping, Natural Resource Management, Tank traditions etc. They have been telecast on the national network of Indian Television, Doordarshan.
  • DDS is continuing to document on video its own work on ecological agriculture and will continue to convert them into proper documentary films.
  • DDS has also started a series of activities on In situ Conservation of Biodiversity through Community Gene Fund and through Village Medicinal Commons as well as through its afforestation programmes like Community Green Fund.


A P A R T (Andhra Pradesh Participatory Resource Team)

DDS took the lead role in initiating a network to promote participatory approaches to development. Centre for World Solidarity enthusiastically backed up the idea and took the lead in convening a set of leading NGO groups and important practitioners of PRA. The group included people from Government, Governmental institutions and NGOs as follows:

  • Dr N K Sanghi from MANAGE the national institute for Agricultural Research Management, Dr Durga Prasad from the National Institute for Rural Development,
    Dr Prabhakar Reddy, Director, DPAP, Mr Suresh from the Andhra Pradesh Academy for Rural Development
  • Mr M V Sastry from the Centre for World Solidarity, Ms Sudha Goparaju from Intercooperation, Mr Udayashankar form AFPRO, Mr Roy D'Silva from OXFAM, Mr Damodaran from ACTION AID, Mr Murali (formerly CWS), Dr Rukmini Rao and
    P V Satheesh from DDS, Prof Kochar from WASSAN (Watershed Network for Andhra Pradesh)

The team met a number of times to delineate its own role in participation and identified the following as its main functions:

  • To create a resource team in each of the 25 districts of Andhra Pradesh. The resource teams will in turn train the district level NGOs (in each district of Andhra Pradesh there are at least 20-50 CBO groups) on the issues of participation.
  • To make participatory attitudes and methods an integral part of their organisational structure and management.
  • They will work as a lobby for participatory governance with governmental and other developmental organisations and departments.


As a consequence of these decisions, the APART group organised a series of trainings for a select groups of NGOs from different districts of Andhra Pradesh. Ms Sheelu, a renowned PRA trainer took charge of these trainings and conducted six trainings in all. The participants came from organisations like AFPRO, ANTHRA, APARD, DDS, MARI, MEM, MVF, ROAD, SECURE and SRAMA.

The team has completed one course of training and many of them have started working with and influencing each other.

DDS has also actively worked with Alternative Educators Network, a group which is a combine of all the South Indian education groups.

The Using Diversity network is a group of ecological activists, scientists and NGOs who have been formed into a steering committee to administer a fund set up by the International Development Research Centre of Canada. As a part of this group DDS has influenced the policy direction of the group and has worked towards making the group recognise people's science.

One of the latest networks DDS has entered into is the group to fight against MNC lead Genetic Engineering in Agriculture. DDS took the lead in starting a campaign the global agrochemicals major Monsanto whose bollgard cotton was being surreptiously field tested in Andhra Pradesh. Through a constant media campaign and through building a coalition of NGOs and farmers organisations, the Society was able to influence the government to ban all Monsanto field trials in Andhra Pradesh.

Subsequently the Society has constructed a coalition of NGOs, Farmers organisations and scientists in Andhra Pradesh to lead a campaign against unthinking acceptance of Genetic Engineering. It has also taken up an important role in the national campaign on Genetic Engineering.

All these networks are a reflection of the way DDS has been trying to link up its intense micro understanding of the development, food security, participation and sustainable agriculture situations to global campaigns.

- P V Satheesh