What do we mean when we say...?
We decided to include this page in order to clarify some of the terminology we use, and to provide those who are interested in deepening their understanding of our work.
Biodiversity, the vast array of living organisms and the interconnections between them, is crucial for maintaining the balance that sustains life on earth.
Agricultural biodiversity is particularly vital to ensure the production of food, now and in the future. However, human activity means that this biodiversity is diminishing. The globalisation of food markets and the industrialisation of agriculture with techniques such as mono-cropping and genetic modification mean that, in the last century, 90% of crop varieties have disappeared from agricultural fields.
Community Based Organisation
Community Based Organisations (CBOs) are groups of people living in the same area who organise for their common interests. They are owned and managed by the members themselves.
Find Your Feet supports CBOs to mobilise the communities they represent, form networks with other CBOs and develop partnerships with government and international agencies.
As a result CBOs provide a way for citizens at the community level to inform policy makers about local poverty issues, to participate in implementing poverty reduction projects and to monitor the effect of national and local poverty reduction initiatives.
Dalits were traditionally seen as below the caste system and were known as "untouchables." They were forced to do the most menial jobs such as cleaning latrines and sewers by hand and were denied social economic and political opportunities.
While the caste system has been formally abolished under the Indian Constitution there is still discrimination and prejudice against dalits in India. A clear indication of this is the fact that there are currently 110,000 recorded cases of violence each year.
As a result of the discrimination against them many dalits lack adequate access to essential services such as water, education and health care, do not own sufficient land and have few opportunities for better employment or education.
For us empowerment is about building the knowledge, skills and confidence of individuals and community groups to speak out and challenge powerful people and structures that are a barrier to their development.
It involves working through local groups such as self help groups to raise awareness of rights and develop the confidence of individuals to articulate their problems and needs.
It also involves developing authentic partnerships with community-based organisations and local NGOs so that they become effective civil society organisations that are able to influence political and economic processes and so become agents of change.
Indigenous agricultural knowledge
Farmers have knowledge and this should constitute a starting point for all development interventions.
However it should be understood that indigenous agricultural knowledge is not an unchanging ‘stock' or ‘reservoir' of information that can be tapped into when needed. The changing practices of farmers reflect knowledge appropriated, modified and integrated from a number of different sources, some ‘new', some ‘old.'
There is a need therefore for a sensitive approach to the complexities and nuances of diverse forms of indigenous agricultural knowledge.
In India the village Panchayat is a local body working for the good of the village. There are normally between 7 and 31 members who have been chosen and accepted by the village community to settle disputes between individuals and villages.
In 1992 India took the first step in a process of decentralisation by granting constitutional status to the panchayats. This accorded with Mahatma Gandhi's vision for an India in which each village is responsible for its own affairs. A certain number of panchayat places were also to be set aside for women, tribal people and dalits.
However, progress has been slow. The panchayats do not yet deliver services effectively and are not fully inclusive of, or accountable to, the population they are meant to represent.
For us partnership with local NGOs is not only about improving the likelihood that projects will be better tailored to community needs, it is also about building the capacity of local NGOs to act as robust and independent agents of change.
At Find Your Feet we understand that this is a long term process that involves a lot of hard work.
Participation has long been a ‘buzz word' in development rhetoric. However, in many cases, development projects don't get far beyond making it look like people are being listened to. In reality, the project activities have already been decided on. This sends out the message that, so long as community members appear to be participating, they will receive hand-outs.
At Find Your Feet we believe that our role is to engage with communities in a continuous process of dialogue and exchange, supporting them to plan, execute, monitor and evaluate the projects that will bring lasting change to their communities. Through this involvement they also acquire the skills that will enable them to continue planning and working for community development in the future.
There are more than 700 tribal (adivasi) communities in India. Traditionally outside of the Hindu religion, tribal people have long been marginalised in society.
For thousands of years, many tribal people have lived in the forest and depended on it for their livelihood, collecting non-timber forest produce like medicinal plants, spices and honey.
However, the government is now evicting tribal people from their land, opening up the forests to large corporations for logging and tourism. This is destroying both local biodiversity and their livelihoods.
Self Help Group
Self Help Groups are small groups of people from communities that meet twice a month, once to deal with saving and credit matters, and once to focus on community development issues.
SHGs therefore work as an essential platform for change in many of FYF's projects.
They provide a key way for people to access training, loans and support so that they can develop small businesses.
They also empower people to have a voice in their community. By working together SHG members, particularly women, start to develop the confidence to talk openly about the issues that matter most to them.
For the people that Find Your Feet works with a ‘sustainable livelihood' is one that enables them to earn an income and feed their family so that they can live a life of dignity now and in the future.
Subsistence agriculture and the sale of produce in local markets are key livelihood activities pursued by the people we work with. In order to ensure the sustainability over the long term of these activities farmers need to:
- Grow crops that are resilient in the face of external shocks such as climate change;
- Free themselves from dependence on external inputs such as inorganic fertilisers;
- Be able to sell directly to local markets for a fair price;
- Preserve the productivity of the soil for future generations;
- Have a voice in their community so that they can demand access to essential services such as health care and education.
Modern industrial agriculture, with its focus on increasing production at any cost, has caused tremendous pollution, rural displacement, widespread loss of agricultural and biological diversity and growing corporate concentration throughout the agricultural sector. This seriously calls into question the ‘sustainability' of this approach to agriculture.
For Find Your Feet ‘sustainable' agriculture is therefore about far more than the production of food. It's about stewardship of the land. It's about stimulating the growth of local economy. It's about farmers feeling that they have a voice in their community and skills to offer in building a better future for that community.