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Holistic Vision of Development

Starting with a simple idea that problems are interconnected, so must be the solutions, AID grew as people came together to be part of the solution. What have AID volunteers learned from the grassroots about the meaning of development and the meaning of India?

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What are they reading?

Well hello hello if it isn’t the August 15 Dishaa!  That’s August 2015 … and it also came out just in time for August 15 events.  We carried them with us to chapters we visited over the past few days and saw that people read them.

Reading Dishaa Morgantown

What did you like reading in the Dishaa? we asked.   A student in Morgantown readily responded, “This newsletter was printed with vegetable oil based inks on 100% recycled paper using wind power.” The “Jai Kisan” article prompted several elderly people to come forward and comment: “these are the techniques our parents used when we were growing up.” Continue reading
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Citizens examine flood relief record in Jammu & Kashmir

This article was published in indiatogether.org, with the support of Oorvani Foundation – community-funded media for the new India.

After the disastrous floods and landslides in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2014, who was eligible for relief and compensation from the government?   How would people apply for it, and what were the details of the relief packages?  And who actually obtained these benefits?   

Bandipora flood RTI5

People of Bandipora district decided to find out.  And the district collector complied, posting the information on the notice board and on the official website: Bandipore Dstrict Flood Relief Details.  Continue reading

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Gram Sabha in Vanabarangipadu

Invitation to Gram Sabhas in Chintapalli and G Madugula Mandals in February 2015

Invitation to Gram Sabhas in Chintapalli and G Madugula Mandals

For the first time in the tribal areas! the flyer proclaimed, Gram Sabha as per the PESA Act!  We were being offered front row seats to history and we weren’t going to miss it.   Over two weeks in February, a series of Gram Sabhas were taking place in this tribal belt and we took the opportunity to attend the one on 16 February in Vanabarangipadu, G Madugula Mandal, Visakha District in the Eastern Ghats (తూర్పు కనుమలు) of Andhra Pradesh. Continue reading

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Farmers’ Market

Eating is an agricultural act.   – Wendell Berry

Films like “The Story of Stuff” have made millions of people aware of the connection between what individuals consume and waste daily, to the issues of poverty and pollution globally.  At the local level, we need to translate this to specific changes people can make in food, clothing and shelter habits to meet our needs without exploiting our environment and other people.

While the mainstream media spends billions persuading us that we need to consume more and more to be happy and that simple living is dull and difficult, the Farmers’ Market serves as a place to bring producers and consumers together, to and make a socially conscious economy not only possible but also joyful.  Street musicians perform while children ramble about the park and eager photographers zoom in on birds and butterflies.

The farmers bring fresh vegetables and fruits from their fields, and several stalls sell snacks prepared from organic ingredients.  As well as art and craft stalls, a place to spin thread on a charkha, a stall to get a massage and others that come and go.

I found it a worthwhile place to display our jivika products, particularly those that are not available in most places, such as our convenient nursing kurtas, cloth menstrual pads and cloth diapers, and the veggie-bags.   All of these are designed not only for supporting products made of khadi by rural tailors, but products that make sustainable living easier for all of us.  So I usually take an EZ Cooker, which generally interests people to come and find out what it is and how it works, and a few people order them for home use.  When it is cold I try to take some khadi hoodies as well.  And the usual AID literature, CDs, calendar etc.  Apart from sales, tabling is a great opportunity to meet interesting people and particularly young people looking for volunteer work.  Because the farmers’ market is not just about buying delicious food but connecting with people who believe that we can bring about a better world.

Organic food is expensive.  But polluting the land and our bodies is even more expensive, though as a consolation the vegetables may come with a lower price tag.  I try to keep on buying organic food not only for my own sake but also in the hopes that as the farmers practicing organic agriculture get more demand, they will also increase their supply, get more economic supply chains and eventually more people will be able to afford these and farmers who grow the food will have more secure livelihoods.

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Greeting Aunt Flo

This article appeared in Manushi: A Journal of Women and Society, Issue 150 and was published online by India Together in November 2005.  It also appeared in Himal Magazine (September-October 2005) (listed here, archived here) under the title “The Cup and Me.”  It appears on the AID website as Greeting Aunt Flo

Greeting Aunt Flo

When I read about Gita’s menses in Kirin Narayan’s novel Love, Stars, and All That, I felt many a page was yet to be written of this rarely told yet widely experienced love-hate relationship. Would I ever attain the peace of Anne Frank, who wrote in her diary that she cherished her monthly cycle as her own sweet secret? Continue reading

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Raising the standards for fair trade and livelihoods

This article  appeared in Parivartan, the AID Sanfrancisco Bay Area newsletter in December 2005.

L.S.Aravinda describes AID-India’s new plans for marketing ecoproducts and debates the issue of how to put two and two together when it comes to demand and supply.

In India today, many communities practicing traditional livelihoods such as spinning, weaving, jute and bamboo crafts, vegetable dyeing, paper making, metal work and other small-scale industries have lost some of their competitive advantage in part due to governmental policies that have allowed large industrial manufacturers to copy some of their special techniques and designs without negotiating any terms or royalties with them. Therefore, those that want to sustain a livelihood through traditional skills as well as those learning a new skill need better marketing support.

Many organizations that train people in making garments, household and gift items (such as the bag in Kalamkari style, above) have sought help from AID to get their products to the market. AID volunteers have also sold products such as greeting cards, candles, soaps, mats, frames, jewelry, pottery, and toys through stalls at meetings, conferences, neighborhood networks. From 2001-02, AID-India also ran an “Eco Shop” in the busy Grant Road area of Bombay.

This experience in marketing ecoproducts has led us to examine livelihood issues in greater depth. How can we build co-operation and reciprocity between consumers and producers? If consumers knew how the price they pay for a product is split up among all those who produce and market the product, would they be concerned to ensure that all receive a living wage? We believe so. Living wage is the simplest, most honest way to ensure livelihood and development opportunities for a large number of people who now struggle to access 2 meals a day. When parents in a family unit earn a living wage, conditions that lead to the use of child labor and seasonal migration end. And when communities have strong roots and retain access to common resources, they have the power to plan their own development based on local knowledge and priorities.

We also believe that quality as well as quantity of income makes a difference in people’s lives. For example, Chand Bibi from Srikakulam district recently learned to process and make household items from jute. Though she is not earning more than she did previously through daily wage work, she is now able to set her own hours and work from her home. Also, whilst earlier her family used to be scattered in search of work, these days they are together year round.

In Orissa, the new AID Rural Technology Resource Center works with local artisans and trains youth in various appropriate technologies and methods of production that sustain the natural resource base. This training extends beyond production into marketing products such as handmade paper, windmills etc. Our “know-your-product” labels will explain how an item–say, a Khadi Kurta–benefits the wearer, society and the planet. By keeping customers informed of the amounts earned by the tailor, the weaver, the dyer, the spinner, the farmer, the truck driver, the accountant, & the web designer, we hope to raise the standards of fair trade locally as well as globally.

This article by L.S.Aravinda emerged out of a discussion on the same topic during her recent visit to the SF Bay Area in July of 2005.

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