You will remember from the ‘previous projects’ report that K.P. began its partnership working in the district in 2012 with the N.I.D.S. voluntary organisation managing all the schemes.
We made three visits to the district to see how the chicken, goat, pension and ‘petty business’ initiatives were going along. All are working well and those people who are receiving support seemed happy!
Here are two special reports on projects started in 2013 and which we saw in action during the visit.
We went to two of the projects and saw how helpful this type of grant can be in assisting a family; the eggs can be eaten as part of the family meal, and those eggs not needed by the family can be sold and the money used to buy other food items. Clearly, the greater the number of chickens given to one family, the greater the benefit.
One family had been given 30 chickens; a mother and her 37-year old son. Son has been bedridden (paralysed from waist down as a result of a motor accident) for the last 20 years and mother has to attend to his needs – cooking, washing, toileting, and so she cannot work regularly. We understand that at the time of the motor accident the father deserted the family.
The mother has a small house that N.I.D.S. and the local Panchayath (Council) jointly funded but it has no surrounding ground. N.I.D.S. volunteers had approached K.P. in 2013 for a grant to give about 15 chickens and provide a ‘shed’ and it was fascinating to see what had actually been provided! The volunteers had developed a good working relationship with the Government ‘Animal Husbandry’ station (not the correct title but something like that) and as a result were able to buy small chicks for 75p each, instead of paying about £4.50 to £5 for ‘laying hens’. With sensible care the chicks will soon become ‘laying hens’.
30 chicks could be afforded plus the construction of the ‘shed’ and a supply of feed, although we suspect the volunteers raised some local money to add to the K.P. grant given the way the shed had to be built! If you look at the photos you can see a front view of the house; the two rooms and kitchen are ground-floor and the first floor concrete block structure is the chicken shed!
As there was nowhere to put the shed (no land) the volunteers made a ramp on the side of the house (see other photo) then used the house roof for the shed and chicken-run. In UK we talk about ‘living over the shop’, but this is a case of living under it!Actions like these do not solve a families problems but they deliver some relief from the real hardships, and perhaps enable the family to carry on with hope and resolve.
Petty business – vegetable selling:
In the January 2014 newsletter (see ‘news’ page) you can read the details of the 9 schemes started in 2013. Three of these grants, each of £50, were given to three ladies who decided to sell vegetables and to operate collaboratively in the villages of Manickapuram. We travelled for about an hour and a half from our base to this rural village. Interestingly, it is close to one of the forest ‘tribal’ areas where the people choose not to have much contact with those outside their community.
The three ladies are Leela, Augers, Omana (Leela and Augers are married but their husbands are sick and do not work; Omana is a widow. All are BPL). On the days when they ‘sell’ they take a bus in the early morning to the wholesale market which is about an hour away and then carry the purchased items back to the village where they will display and sell between about 9.30am and noon.
The two photos shows how the ‘market’ is simply set up on the roadside with no stall or table. While we were with them sales were good and there was no competition from others. Please take a look on the ‘photo gallery’ page (Neyyattinkara – petty business’) to see other photos, and do look out for the one other business that was at the market – two elderly fellows selling tapioca using the old-style weighing scales!
On the days when they sell, each lady usually makes a profit of £1.50 and of course has ready ingredients for their own meals. It was great to see a sales-technique that all three were using: variety packs! Each lady had made a pack of different vegetables that they considered would be the basis of a good meal (the veg part), and that was available to buy; add a fish portion plus rice for a full meal. Next step ‘ready meals for one’?
End of the special reports.
Schemes in the Neyyattinkara District – 2014/2015.
You will remember that 4 pension schemes (for a total of 40 persons) and 2 nursery school ‘free meals’ schemes (for about 60 children) received ongoing grants last year, as well as the one-off grants for the goat projects, chicken projects, and 9 petty businesses.
For the year 2014/2015 grants will be made to the ongoing schemes as follows:
- The 4 current pension schemes PLUS a new 5th scheme: now a total of 50 people / families will be supported at £2 per month each. (Cost of £1100 up to 31/3/15);
- You will have read in a recent newsletter that following the start of the school-meal ‘tackling malnutrition’ projects started in two nursery schools for 3 days each week, one of our regular monthly sponsors sent a cheque so the 2 schemes could be extended to run on all 5 school days each week! As those 2 schemes have been both well received and need to carry on so that each child can ‘get the benefit’ for as long as possible, it was agreed to continue the funding for both at 5 days per week for the 10 months of the school year – 80 children now in the 2 schools. (Cost of £900 to 31/3/15) See our comments on the issue of malnutrition in the ‘background info’ report at the end of this section.
- Up to 20 children will be helped with the costs of school uniform, school books etc needed to start school in June (BPL families). (One-time payment of £100 for approx 20 children);
- Some individuals who would be entitled to a pension live with a serious illness or disabling condition, and for these bedridden people their monthly medicines costs have to be found as well food. 4 such persons will receive £5 per month. (cost of £220 for the period up to 31/3/15);
Photo (left) shows ‘egg and milk’ break, with a trainee classroom assistant handing round the milk! Photo (below left) shows 3 lady ‘pensioners’ and a volunteer.
We have asked the N.I.D.S. organisation and the volunteers to look into starting a ‘pakal veedu’ (‘day house’) in a village in the District. An explanation of ‘day house’ was given earlier in this report under the section for Kattakada; we will keep you posted on any progress using the ‘news ‘ page.
MARCH 2014 – BACKGROUND INFORMATION TO THE VISIT MADE IN FEBRUARY
In some of these earlier newsletters etc the view has been expressed that although India is developing rapidly and successfully in terms of its industries and economy, poverty and hardship remains for huge numbers of its people.
In coming on this visit, we wanted to re-examine that view; at the end of the two weeks we felt that, sadly, we had to confirm that while the national statistics show ‘world stage’ growth at c 5%, ordinary village and towns-people have problems just subsisting.
We have seen that in areas previously supported with grants things are continuing to get better; Vizhinjam for example where we decided to shift funds from in 2013. But in going ,as we always do, to Vizhinjam and nearby Kalluvettankuhzi we have learned that such ‘improvements’ have intensified one issue into a critical social problem: alcoholism. This has been evident over the years but its effects are now being felt by more people – whether individuals drinking to excess, or their families and close friends. We are giving thought to how K.P. might work with others to start to address this.
In those rural areas supported in 2013 such as Neyyattinkara, Kundara and Kattakada the issues of poverty and hardship remain and are compounded by the effects of economic inflation. Oil prices (transport fuel and gas for cooking for example) continue to increase which of course pushes up the costs of food and other basic items.
Given these observations and the experience of visiting the schemes, we have felt the grants for 2014 should focus on –
HELPING TO TACKLE:
– POVERTY and
In terms of poverty we have taken into account the national statements and statistics issued on the proportion of India’s population who are BPL (Below poverty Line). The State Government of Kerala has developed and published its own set of criteria for determining B.P.L. We felt these criteria gave the basis for the volunteers to organise and distribute assistance in the various ‘schemes’.
For malnutrition the approach is not one of addressing ‘starvation’, although the volunteers regularly notify us that without the (small) support regularly given by K.P. (for example via the ‘rice-packets’; or the ‘pensions’), individuals would be on the brink of a disaster.The approach is more one of trying to support those on very limited incomes who require some extra funds to improve their diet from a heavy influence of starch (rice, tapioca) to one containing more vitamins.
Again, we felt the volunteers could take this on board when organising and delivering the ‘rice packets’ and ‘nursery school malnutrition projects.’ (The volunteers will try to provide not just rice alone as the content of the packets).
Background info on ‘poverty’ and B.P.L. (Below-poverty-line):
BPL is a benchmark used by the Government of India to indicate economic disadvantage and so identify individuals and families needing Government assistance and aid.
Kerala is one of only a few of the State Governments witihn India to create its own framework for assessing BPL; this framework has 9 factors and any family lacking access to 4 or more are classed as BPL. Once classified as such, that family should be able to access certain subsidies and benefits.
The 9 factors are;
– no land or less than 5 cents of land (NB: 1 cent is 1/100 acre);
– no house or a dilapidated house;
– no toilet;
– no colour TV;
– no regular employed person;
– no safe drinking water;
– woman-headed household OR presence of widow or divorcee;
– scheduled castes and scheduled tribes;
– mentally retarded OR disabled member of family (NB: wording used in framework…)
Above 9 factors are for urban households.
For rural households the ‘colour TV’ factor is replaced by:
– family with an illiterate adult member.
Background info on malnutrition in children: the 2011 Global Hunger Index Report showed India’s index as having increased (worsened) in the 5 years to 2011, while 78 of the 81 developing Countries decreased (improved) their position on hunger.
In practical terms when adults suffer from hunger / malnutrition then overall health declines not just for them through the possible onset of chronic illness but for others too; the health of newborn may be adversely affected due to the poor health of the mother and deaths in newborn can occur.
It has been assessed that 33% of the world’s malnourished children live in India, with 50% of those being underweight. Within these ‘all-India’ statistics Kerala is a ‘better performing State’, and UNICEF estimate the 27% of Kerala-children suffer malnutrition.
In June 2013 it was discovered that 30 small children had died in one village alone due to malnutrition in the period from January to June. Sadly K.P. is not operating in that area but this disturbing report indicates the poor position so many are living with.
The background to this report about the 30 deaths is as follows:
Om March 19th 2013 the Kerala State Government Comptroller and Auditor General tabled a report at the State Assembly meeting indicating that 37% children were malnourished, and that 56% to 66% were not receiving support due to them under the State’s ‘Supplementary Nutrition Programme’ that had been introduced under the ‘Integrated Child Development Services’ initiative launched in the 1980s.
The report went on to comment that implementation of the ‘Integrated Child Development services’ initiative and the ‘Supplementary Nutrition Programme’ had not been taking place due to poor organisation and under funding. So, less than 50% of eligible children were not receiving any due support.