Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan is an organisation founded in 1995 to service the socially and economically backward communities in Bundelkhand region.
Though the organisation has an integrated development approach, its expertise lies in community led management of water resources and in revitalising old water storage structures established by the Chandela dynasty.
From this month onwards, Parmarth will also be our 32nd active partner and we are going to work with them to help drought-hit families who have traditionally depended on agriculture for their livelihoods diversify their income by taking up or expanding alternative livelihoods.
It was in December 2015 that an article on Scroll.in titled “No ordinary drought: Look what the poor in Uttar Pradesh region are eating to survive” brought Parmarth to our attention and we began a dialogue with them in January.
Through our conversations with the Parmarth senior management, we learnt that the organisation has adopted a community centric approach to planning the usage and management of natural resources such as water.
Parmarth also focuses primarily on engaging with women and thus restoring gender equality in a region that has historically been associated with skewed sex ratio and gender related violence.
Parmarth has trained a cadre of women to work as ‘Jal Sakhis’ (literally water friends) who liaise with the panchayat and local administration for water related issues in their village. They also test and report on the quality of communal water sources and repair and maintain the hand pumps.
This year, the drought in Bundelkhand has received attention from mainstream media.
There have been reports of families resorting to foraging grass and wild grains from the forest to survive. Historically, the Bundelkhand region has a high rate of seasonal migration but this time around families have migrated in large numbers.
The people left behind were mainly women, elderly, children and the infirm. The women in some of the villages floated the idea of community kitchens to provide two square meals to those who were the most vulnerable including the infirm, the elderly and orphans.
Following our visit to Lalitpur and Orai in February, we launched a small donation campaign that helped raise Rs 3,17,232 to support these kitchens in March.
However, we realise that this is a stopgap arrangement that would provide only temporary relief to the region. Through our interaction with the women during our visit, we also realised that the community is aware that the unpredictability of nature will in all likelihood only intensify with time and that alternate livelihood activities need to be adopted to avoid a grim future.
Rang De and Parmarth intend to work together to facilitate affordable loans for the women that they will utilise to purchase goats. With a tenure of 24 months (instead of 12 months), the women will have the flexibility of repaying the loan through half yearly instalments i.e. as and when they earn money through the sale of goat kids.
Over the course of the next 3–4 years, we hope that our work would result in more stability in income for the economically and socially backward families in Bundelkhand.
Tanvi Negi is Senior Manager (Impact and Communications) and heads the New Partners team. Organisations interested in partnering with Rang De can reach out to us at email@example.com.