(Thank you Indira, for this great lucid piece capturing the spirit..)
Retrospective (2014 and 2015)
In keeping with our motto, Helping People to Help Themselves, the Himalaya Trust (THT) has been working in specific areas in Garhwal and Kumaon, in response to needs and aspirations of local people on a wide range of activities and projects initiated and implemented by the communities with the support and guidance of our field centres. 2014-16 has been a period of consolidating 23 years of painstaking and sincere work leading towards a gradually deepening involvement with village communities, responding to their ideas, crises and hopes, generating activities, analyzing successes and disappointments, and building up of mutual trust and confidence for a lasting
We entered the year 2014 picking up the debris and aftermath of the great environmental flood disasters of 2012-13. It required an enormous effort to restore community confidence and self assurance to rehabilitate the devastated villages. THTs urgent task was to strengthen community spirit by urgently responding to and supporting people’s initiatives for disaster management, providing relief and shelter, training young men and women to deal with health emergencies and giving First Aid in crises hit areas, providing livelihood options through skill development initiatives for youth, as well as assurance of greater food security and sustainability through improving farm productivity for women and small farmers.
During 2014-15 our projects have aimed to continue this trend to create a sound knowledge base at all levels with focus specially on training youth and women farmers, both groups being most open to change and assimilation of new ideas and techniques. Young graduates particularly are being targeted to acquire skills to respond confidently and efficiently to the demands of an increasingly technologically connected world and the globalised market driven economy.
In Ganeshpur Block of Uttarkashi two three – year pilot programs (ongoing) were drawn up for innovative work such as reviving and upgrading of community based gharats (traditional watermills), and generating incomes and savings for women through dynamic self help groups (SHG), training them through exposure visits to federations and cooperatives reinforced by experts’ demonstrations and talks. THT took the step to modernise “gharats” as community managed enterprises by expanding their usefulness with additional technology and turned them into sources of community income through joint participation. A three – year scientific farm-based training programme was launched to enable small farmers, particularly women, to access scientific methodologies and streamline management and marketing practices, obtain improved seeds and plant stock, and learn essential skills like book keeping and accounting to ensure that farming becomes a productive and sustainable source of food security and income for small farmers.
A youth group, Aarambh, consisting of young undergraduates, was set up as a support group for traditional farmers many of whom, particularly the women, are semi-literate and unable to follow the important scientific methods and applications easily and consistently, to understudy and help with the field training. The Aarambh group supports the farmers in implementing the processes, ensures correct and timely observation of methods and techniques, and helps to transport, store and market the produce. The intention is to ensure that young persons who find a promising future in agriculture in their own homeland will be less inclined to migrate to the cities.
The Garur centre concluded two popular programmes in the valley during 2014, one on promoting health awareness and education to twenty peripheral villages which have no primary health centres or doctors, and a cultural awareness programme Katha Sarovar, through which a talented pool of local persons created two vibrant teams of communicators and story-tellers, one through theatre, and the other through puppetry. Both continue their activities, bringing social messages and entertainment through the state “Soochna” departments and other local cultural programmes.
Responding to the urgent problem of widespread unemployment among young graduates and the need to overcome the handicap of poor quality education, the Garur centre took the initiative to introduce two training courses in 2015. The first was for a pilot digital literacy project in two schools to enable students to access educational material and knowledge programs through internet, and the second to create a cadre of trained Master Trainers to develop sufficiently competent computer skills to empower the growing numbers of educated unemployed youth in the valley to avail of income generating and educational opportunities. The programmes are ongoing. A government sponsored Biometric Training programme was also conducted for 24 youth, many of whom have found satisfactory employment.
THT has been greatly strengthened by the presence of strong, visionary community leaders in the field who have guided, inspired and carried out well thought out programmes with great commitment and zeal. They have borne the brunt of THT’s mission in good times and bad, most often as volunteers without remuneration. In Uttarkashi THT’s progress was steered through times of great disaster and adversity by committed volunteers of long experience guided by Devendra Bahuguna. The dynamic Vinayak Samooh, a women’s SHG, was set up by women leaders, and has become an example of cooperation and collective work in the region. In Garur, Sadan Mishra, a founder member of HT, has created a strong base in the Katyur Valley in Kumaon for HT’s long-term concerns through dedicated work on community afforestation, conservation of forests and rivers, agriculture, health and sanitation projects, and consistently campaigned on environmental issues, against alcoholism and other local problems.
Other members have contributed their lively ideas and holistic perspectives regularly on the state of their respective mountain regions, and continue to enrich our knowledge and guide our paths through their vast grassroots experience as we progress.
At the Centre, THT has been guided through its beginnings and held thereafter on a steady course for 23 years, by ND Jayal who set up the Trust in 1993 inspired by the late Swami Chidananda of Shivananda Ashram.
Deeply concerned by the environmental crises facing his mountain homeland, Jayalji ensured that THT’s vision and mission would always underscore the vital link between Nature and Culture. Recently, having seen it through its many vicissitudes, fair times and foul for more than two exciting decades, and feeling that the times and needs of his young ”pahadi” brethren were changing in a more aspirational world, Jayalji has decided to step back and let fresher ideas and energies take over to steer the Trust in these times of change. He was more than happy to hand over charge of the Trust into the experienced and mature hands of Cyril Raphael, well known in the region as a long time social worker and erstwhile CEO and Secretary of the Shree Bhuvaneshwari Mahila Ashram.