Subsequent to the Government Order setting up the Rishi Valley Special Development Authority (RVDA) in January 08, three meetings were held in Rishi Valley under the chairmanship of the District Collector Sri Ravi Chandra. The aim of the meetings was to discuss the planning and implementation of objectives mentioned in the Order, namely (a) protecting and enhancing wherever possible natural resources, (b) protecting traditional livelihoods and (c) enhancing and diversifying local livelihoods while ensuring sustainability of natural resources. In short, the Order requires planned development within the horizons of protection and conservation of environment and also its heritage.
In the course of the meetings the following decisions were taken:
RVDA Board was formed under the chairmanship of the District Collector. The Board would consist of the Secretary, Rishi Valley Education Centre (KFI), District Forest Officer of the Department of Social Forestry, Assitant Director, Ground Water Department, The Superintending Engineer, Irrigation Department; the Director of the Town and Country Planning department of the Government of A.P.; and the Sarpanches of Thettu and Kurbalkota Panchayat.
Action Plans, presented by Departments of Irrigation, Forestry, Social Forestry, and the District Water Management Agency (DWAMA) would be implemented by the respective agencies.
As a result of the meetings a two-pronged approach to implementing the Order emerged. The top down approach adopted by government departments would complement RVEC’s own efforts at ground level. All initiatives and interventions would be participatory with complete stakeholder involvement, taking advice and support of local NGOs working in the field. The following areas of focus were identified: raising educational standards, enhancing traditional livelihoods and creating new employment opportunites for youth, improving health and nutrition, empowering women and managing natural resources.
Dr. Radha Gopalan, an environmental scientist with 17 years of work experience in various parts of the world, joined Rishi Valley Education Centre in December 2008, to head the RVEC team created for the outreach work. Under her guidance RVEC’s programme towards implementing the Government Order is taking shape.
Mr. G. Dattatri, Former Chief Planner Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) was invited to Rishi Valley to discuss the design of the Master Plan together with the Directorate of Town and Country Planning, Hyderabad. We expect the Master Plan to be ready by the end of June, 09 for review by the RVDA Board.
Connections were established with NGO groups working in the area (Anthra, Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Sahaja Samruddha, Timbaktu Collective) and extensive discussions, interactive sessions and exposure programmes are being held involving RVEC, NGO groups and various stakeholders with a view to identifying their problems, enhancing the natural resources and improving development indices in the valley. Some details are given below:
Animal Husbandry: RVEC requested Anthra, an NGO group, to prepare a comprehensive report on livestock and livelihoods in the Valley. The report underlined the critical importance of animal husbandry for our semi-arid and drought prone region. The major problems facing shepherds and cattle rearers in the area, according to the report, are ‘scarcity of grazing lands and drinking water.’ Additional problems include lack of medical treatment for the variety of diseases that afflict their animals. Following up on this preliminary study Anthra has commenced a pilot study to mobilise the community to protect the grazing lands and ensure long-term sustainabilty of these common lands as a source of fodder;
Education: RVEC team has carried out a reconnaissance survey of all primary and high schools in RVSDA to get a preliminary understanding of their facilities and operation. More detailed and focused activities have commenced in collaboration with the newly established Zilla Parishad High School, Thettu (ZPHS) towards enriching the education system in the school. An action plan for the next academic year is currently under preparation.
RVEC staff provided support to the teachers at the ZPHS in teaching science, maths, telugu nd hindi to the students. RVEC staff propose to build the capacity of the teachers at ZPHS, and enrich the students through focussed engagement during the new academic year starting June 2009.
Preparatory work towards establishing a Youth Club at RVEC's Rural Education Centre (REC) is underway. The objective of the Youth Club is to enhance the ability of the students to become employable either through access to higher education or vocational skills. As a pilot study, a ten-day workshop was conducted from May 1-10, 2009 for over 75 students from the surrounding villages. Spoken English, English Grammar, Computer Skills, Drama, Music, Stitching and Creative Handwork were the activities taught during this workshop. The feedback and lessons learned from the workshop are being used to develop the action plan and proposal for the Youth Club to be conducted once a week during the academic year 2009-2010.
Livelihood Training: Training for women in supporting livelihood options including embroidery and tailoring was provided. 20 women from the surrounding villages underwent training from June 8 to July 8, 2009.
Natural Resource Management: RVEC's organic farming initiative is underway with a group of five local farmers who have dedicated portions of their land to grow select crops organically. RVEC is providing technical support and samples of natural pesticide and fertiliser formulations. Monthly meetings have commenced from March 2009 of the group where crop planning, natural methods for crop protection and growth enhancement and experiences are shared and discussed. Seeds of traditional varieties of vegetables have been distributed to select households in some of the hamlets in the RVSDA to establish vegetable gardens and preserve seeds that can be banked by the community for the next season. The local Velugu group is identifying women volunteers from the surrounding community interested in learning organic farming practices and native seed collection and management. They will be trained by resource persons identified by RVEC.
Exposure visits to Timbaktu Collective and to seed banks near Thally have raised consciousness among the local people regarding alternative agricultural methods and the regeneration of vegetation on hillsides of the Valley. Our hope is that these visits will result in greater cooperative conservation efforts.
Land for establishment of a nursery of herbs and medicinal plants has been earmarked by the Forest Department and preliminary work is underway. Collaborative efforts are underway with FES, Anthra and the Forest Department to ensure that appropriate species are selected together with the community for revegetation of the area.
For the July 2009 update of the Program Overview, Please Click Here.