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Tribal Women Making a Difference in Odisha Through Disaster Response Programme

Bhubaneswar, 23 May-2014: While entering to Brahmanidei, anybody canclip the remnants of destruction and damage that had occurred during cyclone Phailin and the subsequent flood. People of Brahmanidei have been heavily stuck with the nature’s fury and devastation. Cyclone Phailin rooted out thousands of Cashewnut trees. Roads were damaged and the communication to the village was totally disrupted.

Tribal Women Making a Difference in Odisha Through Disaster Response Programme

Tribal Women Making a Difference in Odisha Through Disaster Response Programme

The loss in terms of livelihood, infrastructure and livestock was so hugethat it will takeyears for the people recover from the damage. Brahmanidei is a remote village in Pandiripada Grampanchayat under Polasara Block of Ganjam District. It is a small village having all 19 tribal households which is situated alongside the forest.

The village is not only disadvantaged geographically but also a hard to reach area so far as the people’s access to civic amenities is concerned.Welfare policies and schemes like Indira Awas Yojana, NREGA are not implemented for the reason best known to the administration, said Dr.Kumud Chandra Behera, Secretary, INDIA, a voluntary organization working in the disaster response programme in Ganjam and Puri.

After cyclone, the people lost every thing of their resources. Houses were damaged and remained inhabitable. But the most important damage was their source of livelihood i.e. cashew trees.

The villagers have been provided some government support as relief but it was not adequate to meet their needs. They also remained jobless for weeks. The villagers had either been earningthrough selling Cashewnut or working as daily wage labourers. But both the means of livelihood were unavailable. On the other hand, they had to repay the amount to the contractorsthat they had received as advance to supply Cashewnut at the fruit yielding season. So, it was too difficult for the villagers to feed their families with proper nutrition as well as to rearrange their household articles. They were in immediate need of some income opportunities to sustain their livelihood.

Keeping into account the severity of their damage and destruction, local NGOs Dalit Adhikar Sangha(DAS) and INDIA decided to support the village through Cash for Work; in which community people were paid a daily wage for work project such as cashew plant rejuvenation and land leveling.In cashew trees rejuvenation work, 65 persons from 18 households generated a 486 persondays and could make it to rejuvenate cashew trees in 40 acres of land.

Interestingly, mostly the village women took the responsibility to bring change through the village Phailin committee. It is them who decided to rejuvenate cashew trees through Cash for Work and demonstrated their strength by adoptingindigenous techniques to rejuvenate these trees.

While discussing with the committee on such innovative approach, they explained “If we do plantation of new saplings afresh, it would take five to seven years to yield fruit on the trees. Therefore, we want to rejuvenate the trees through our traditional practices under Cash for Work Programme. Firstly, we would dig a hole within one to two feet distances to the roots of the bent down tree. Then,wewill cover soils on the roots of that tree. By doing this, the bent down tree will not die and still remain productive. We have successfully adopted this practice in the past several times as and when we have confronted with natural disasters. We can have early recovery to our losses and can save times”, the committee members revealed.

“This is one of the most innovative work done under ECHO supported Cash for Work Programme.In this, people used their traditional knowledge to maximize the resources (here cashew trees) after the Phailin cyclone and rejuvenated the trees which could continue to give income,” says Debabrat Patra, Regional Manager, ActionAid, Odisha.The people are not only restoring their livelihood, but they have also shown their leadership through participating actively and taking decisions that effects their lives through this disaster response programmes.

While interacting with Mrs. Maguni Sabar (26), an inhabitant of Brahmanadei Village regarding Cash For Work, she expressed her happiness and said “we had no way but to wait for a programme through which we can make some cash income. It was a matter of worry for us on whatwe will do now, how we shall do cashew plantation again, where we shall search job for our daily household needs. Cash for Work programme has fulfilled our need in many ways. At least, we have got50 person days for our family” revealed Maguni.

The response of Gurubari was also more or less same to Maguni Sabar. She revealed “It would have been very tough for our family to do cashew plant rejuvenation work alone. Fellow feeling among the villagers has improved as we work, participate and decide independently through village Phailin committee. It’s a great thing happening and I am also excited to do my own part for the community. Cash for Work has not only helped us to restore our livelihood but also taught us the importance of fraternity and unity”, said Gurubari.

Reflecting on the convergence of government policies and programmes for the disadvantaged, Mr. Ghasiram Pandasaid that MGNREGA is one of the largest social safety net programmes in our country. In disaster affected areas, the role of NREGA is also vital. People have lost their houses, livelihood and livestocks to a huge. So, it would be great if this work can be incorporated in MGNREGA. We could be benefiting a lot to create and restore our livelihood through the scheme, concluded Mr. Panda.

For almost all of the households of the village, Cashewnut is the basis of their central ecomonic support. Laxmi Sabar, president of the village Phailin committee said “ our committee decided that the beneficiaries will work as a group rather working individually in their own fields. The beneficiaries will help each other to complete the work; not concentrating on individual household work”. It lessened our labour and we could do more productive work” Laxmi added.

(Input Source: orissadiary.com)

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