CCD envisions realising ‘Life in understanding and harmony with nature’.
CCD works for "Building community institutions around traditional wisdom to empower the poor and vulnerable communities for sustainable development.
CCD's programmes are designed around the issues of poverty and vulnerability being faced by the poor and marginalised communities. Embracing the propositions and goals envisaged by the Sustainable Development Goals of United Nations, CCD has been working on evolving and designing development programmes that can impact the lives and livelihoods of the small and marginal farming communities in its working areas.
CCD continues to work with the poor and vulnerable communities since its inception and over these three decades, CCD has evolved workable models for securing livelihoods of small and marginal farmers and medicinal plant gatherers. They were living in abject poverty and often indebted to usurious moneylenders. Migrating to nearby cities and towns had been their last resort.
The small and marginal farmers in the drought prone districts of Tamil Nadu are traditionally involved in low-input rain-fed farming producing pulses, chillies, coriander, rice and millets. Naturally, these crops are prone to be organic or natural, fetching high reception in the distant markets, which was exploited by the middlemen and traders. Understanding this dynamics, CCD intervened and set up Kalasam Sacred Foods, a public limited company and Aharam, a collective brand of Farmer’s producer organisations. Through collective identity of these two initiatives, CCD brought corporate organic buyers to the area through exposures and experience sharing in various forums, resulting in competitive price for the produces. Merchants of organic products were brought directly to the field and made to interact with the farmers. In the process the both the farmers and the corporate players started interacting and built a sustainable partnership. The community organisations - KALASAM due to the strong social infrastructure and governance could demand the government systems legitimately and could establish the infrastructure for marketing like drying yard, machinery, storage godown in 100 villages to the tune of Rs. 30-50 lakhs. With the facilitation of forward and backward linkages, the farmers could realise an increased income of 20 to 30%.
The medicinal plant gatherers are mostly landless labourers, who are largely ignorant about end use of the produce and they are often at the mercy of procuring agents. They used to receive a meager income for the produce they bring to the market. By way of promoting a community enterprise and educating the gatherers on end use of about 326 medicinal plants, CCD ensured elimination of exploitative trading practices and transparency in pricing. The Procurement Centres set up by GMCL in villages ensured fair-trade practices. In the whole process the individual gatherers and farmers were able to get a better price. Many of the gatherers those who earlier did the gathering as the part time or free time work has taken it as their full time livelihood now. Instead of agents or intermediaries, some of the gatherers have established procurement centres as a group or as individuals. They are able to get better income and with their improved knowledge on medicinal plants they could secure their livelihoods and move out of poverty.
Over 20 years of intensive engagement of CCD with the dry-land farmers of the drought-prone regions in Tamil Nadu has resulted in promotion of Farmers Producer Organisations (FPOs). CCD organises the small and marginal farmers involved in production of area specific crops under dry-land condition into primary producers’ groups and network them into a FPO. CCD, as a promotional institution offers a range of business development services such as production and supply of inputs, providing technical advisory, capacity building, product development, market information, quality control, brand building and facilitating credit linkages to the members through the FPO.
The emphasis is on increasing and sustaining the income of the farmers. Since 2014, with the support of NABARD, CCD has promoted 12 FPO’s in the locations of Kalasam SHG Federations and another 12 FPO’s involving other NGO’s. All these 24 FPOs are guided and assisted by CCD. Keeping the principles of enabling and empowering poor people as central focus, CCD continues to build FPOs as democratic institutions governed and managed by the localcommunities. CCD builds requisite managerial and marketing skills to the FPOs and steer them to become a full-fledged community enterprises catering to the consumers directly and through other community organisations promoted by CCD.
In 2001, CCD promoted GramaMooligai Company Limited (GMCL), the first medicinal plants (MP) based public limited company in the country, owned and managed by the rural community of MP collectors and cultivators. It operates with the principles of cooperation and ethos of corporate institutions. Major shares of this company are held by the collectors and cultivators of medicinal plants. GMCL, the company buys back the produce and extends technical assistance to the shareholder groups. CCD as a facilitating agency provides needed managerial and training assistance. The primary objectives of GMCL are to promote and maintain sustainable cultivation and utilization of MPs besides sharing the benefits back to rural communities who are the primary stakeholders. Consequently, the MP gatherers and cultivators get better price for their produces. GMCL is also working for educating the consumers on medicinal plants and related products.
Followed by the success of GMCL and with the experience gained from it, CCD has initiated Aharam yet another community enterprise centered on the wisdom and capacity of the local communities. Aharam is essentially an initiative for managing supply chain network, where suppliers are producers of the Kalasam regions (operational areas) and the market is every household in the village. The Aharam rural supply chain was evolved around the micro-credit structure of the Mahakalasam Federation. Both GMCL and Aharam have established a successful model for marketing and value addition of farmers’ produce.
CCD spearheads the movement of community-led biodiversity conservation, particularly native herbs and medicinal plants. Began as an intervention for the marginal farmers and landless labourers, CCD’s works among medicinal plant gatherers brought lessons related to the inherent issues of the medicinal plant conservation and sustainable harvest. Then, CCD started working on the conservation, sustainable harvest, protection of herbal diversity.
CCD undertook a lot of studies and documentation since its inception and all these efforts culminated into establishment of Medicinal Plants Conservation Park sprawling over 40 acres in Sevaiyur, Virudhunagar in 2001. This Park is a home to around 3 lakh plants. Now the Park is getting transformed into Vaigai Flora Botanical Garden(VFBG) and it has been dedicated to the nation for educating the next generation and to conserve the native and endangered species.
VFBG works for conserving the regional (semi-arid) flora of dry-deciduous species from Ramnad plains, one among the seven agro-climatic regions of Tamil Nadu, which is part of Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Sivagangai and Virudhunagar districts. These species are systematically and scientifically collected from five different accessions in the neighbouring reserved forests (SathuragiriMahalingam Hills in Watrap, Shenbagathopu in Srivilliputhur and Ayyanar Falls in Rajapalayam).
It has become a resource centre for educating students, botanists, medical practitioners and communities dependent on medicinal plant based livelihoods such as healers, gatherers, farmers and artisans on the medicinal value of the local flora. CCD offers training to aspiring young generation from traditional healers, medicinal plant gatherers and cultivators, and health conscious public who can learn both theory and practice from experts in the fields of agriculture, horticulture, forestry and botany. CCD works with the GIZ and Tamil Nadu State Biodiversity Board to develop people’s biodiversity register (PBR) and set-up mechanisms for Biodiversity Management Committees at block level in 10 select blocks.
In the drought prone areas, as a result of distress caused by the vagaries of monsoon, the small and marginal farmers often migrate seasonally to nearby cities and towns in search of livelihoods or go to foreign countries and contract labourers, leaving behind the women and children. Women are the most sufferers. The women are doubly burdened with responsibility to take care of farm as well as home. They are the sole bread winners. They often sacrifice their own health and nutrition, work overtime and undergo a lot of issues. In order to address these issues, CCD has organised women into Kalasam Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and promoted the Mahakalasm Federation for sustaining their initiatives.
The Kalasam groups are linked with banks for creating access to credit and other products of financial inclusion and linked with the government programmes for getting their rights and entitlements. The community enterprises have been promoted in the locations where the Mahakalasam Federations are in operation, organising the producers involved in production of select products. Over a period, these Mahakalasam Federations takes the role of a civic institution started implementing various social development programmes such as remedial education and skill building programmes.
Household healthcare remedies (Patti Vaidhyam) and the herbal based (Nattuvaidhyam) healthcare traditions are vanishing rapidly. In order to restore the lost legacy of such traditional wisdom, CCD has been working with the traditional healers from its inception, and those healers were organised into a specialized community organisation to revive and validate traditional practices by way of documentation and creating scientific evidence with the support of experts and organisations. CCD connected them with organisations like FRLHT, AVN, Dabur, Himalayas and AVP.
CCD facilitates medicinal plants collection and primary processing and marketing in a scale. Also, it works for promoting primary healthcare using the herbs and facilitates establishing herbal home garden in each of the member’s home. CCD as part of graduation of existing Kalasam Women Federations and FPOs into holistic development organisations, CCD has helped them design and implement an integrated community health programme focusing on child and adolescent health and nutrition improvement. It was designed in response to the findings of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 4) that revealed 60% of the children in the age of 5-69 months are anaemic, 60% of the women in all age group are anaemic, 41% of the children in rural areas are malnourished, 38% of under5 children are stunted, 25% of the under 5 children are wasted in the working districts of CCD. It has named its health programme as ‘Nalam’, meaning ‘Well-being’.
CCD has launched a pilot in association with Foundation for Researches on Health Systems (FRHS) for addressing child malnutrition through appropriate food and nutritional interventions, and preventing health issues. By way of promoting validated traditional food and home remedies, this pilot works for providing comprehensive healthcare programme for adolescent girls starting with anaemia reduction.
Going beyond setting up of nutrition and herbal home garden for ensuring availability of food and herbs with nutritional and therapeutic value at household level, CCD has started intervening through social and behavior change communication, improving knowledge, attitude and practice of mothers towards their children and adolescent boys and girls.The core strategy is promoting convergence with the health department, and facilitating access to diagnostic and referral services.
While access to primary and secondary education has been improved significantly in Tamil Nadu, the quality of educational attainment remains to be a great concern for CCD. The children from poor and vulnerable communities are facing the problem of poor educational outcomes, getting dropped out of school before reaching higher education goals, lacking employable skills after school, end up in taking poorly paying unskilled jobs.
CCD has come out with a comprehensive educational intervention to bridge the gaps in the mainstream educational delivery system. It advocates ‘Education for Holistic Living’ drawn from the vision of CCD, ‘life in understanding and harmony with nature’. CCD began its education programme in the form of village learning centres (VLCs). With the perspective of advancing and improving the quality of education these VLCs, going beyond conventional curriculum, imparts life skills and all round development of children’s personality.
During weekends, appreciation programmes on agriculture, livestock and computer education are provided. During vocations, they are provided with needed and vocational skills, in which the children are interested. They are encouraged to participate in raising nurseries, nurturing birds and animals, making of home-based produces to understand the nuances of rural livelihoods, environment and culture. With the experience gained over the past five years, CCD has planned to cover 10,000 children within this year through the Anandam Learning Centres.