Following the devastating earthquake of 26 January 2001, CEE and its sister organisations have been involved in ‘Rebuilding Hope’, a large rehabilitation programme. The goals of this programme were threefold:
- To strengthen rehabilitation efforts and lay the foundation for integrated Natural Resource Management in at least 41 villages in 3 earthquake affected districts of Kachchh, Surendranagar and Rajkot through empowering communities, facilitating partnerships, creating replicable models, and rapid lateral learning among the communities and various agencies working with the communities
- To facilitate restoration of livelihoods for accelerated rehabilitation
- To have a holistic programme which looks at education, training and capacity-building, health and sanitation, information servicing, institution building as a part of the overall development process of the affected areas.
The fundamental focus of the effort has been to facilitate people-centered, community-driven rehabilitation and development processes. The idea is that the communities should not be merely recipients of aid, but should be able to interact as equal partners in the rehabilitation. To this end, the efforts have looked at strengthening participatory processes and institution building in the communities.
The activities under ‘Rebuilding Hope’ can be summed up as follows:
- 1095 earthquake and cyclone resistant shelters reconstructed in Surendranagar district and in Vavaniya village (Rajkot district), with a community-centered approach and process that resulted in more than 200 variations to the core unit design. The design was flexible to additions when people contributed costs of additional structures. The homes were occupied as soon as they were completed. People’s involvement in construction activity ensured capacity building of village masons in earthquake-safe techniques of construction, bringing income generation opportunities to the community and instilling a sense of ownership.
- 4 Community Centres, 9 schools, and a Primary Health Centre in Vavaniya reconstructed with built-in features such as roof rainwater harvesting. Decision-making process for final design features actively involved all stakeholders.
Natural Resources Management and Livelihood Programmes:
A baseline information database on demography, agriculture, water and animal husbandry for all 41 villages was developed to identify key areas of concern and intervention:
- Water harvesting structures: Activities included creating local assets for the community for long-term benefits, with their involvement in cash and kind:
- Check dams constructed in Kachchh and Surendranagar
- Pond deepening activity undertaken in all the three sites
- Roof rain water harvesting structures in all three districts
- Repair and renovation of existing ponds and check dams in Kachchh and Surendranagar
- Drought proofing activities such as nala bunding, farm bunding, land shaping, clearing of Prosopis juliflora from grazing land, developing of fodder plots, and appropriate irrigation systems in Surendranagar.
- Livelihood: Activities include encouraging small savings, and providing seed grant/small equipment to small entrepreneurs.
- Self help groups for savings and credit formed in all villages.
- Micro-entrepreneur support in the form of loans to women to support traditional livelihood activities in Kachchh
- Agriculture: Interventions were required to address the arid and drought prone conditions of the region. Based on needs assessment studies, small farmers were provided with initial incentives to undertake sustainable agriculture practices. These included provision of material, soft loans, demonstration and capacity building activities. Specific interventions included:
- Drip irrigation kits distributed in Surendranagar and Kachchh villages
- Drip irrigation kits installed in schools in Surendranagar in demonstration vegetable gardens.
- Seed kits distributed in Surendranagar and Kachchh
- Kitchen garden kits distributed in Surendranagar.
- High yielding variety of horticulture saplings such as drumstick and seeds of chilli, brinjal and tomato distributed in Surendranagar, with 10 per cent community contribution.
- Grain banks set up to ensure food security during drought months in Surendranagar to be managed by the community.
- ‘Green house’ activities with support from Gujarat Agriculture University in Kachchh to improve scope of growing vegetables and horticulture plants.
- Demonstration of pro-biotic organic agriculture practices in Rajkot.
- Animal Husbandry: Animal health was a casualty during the period post earthquake, though a large number of people depended on animal husbandry activities. The following interventions were undertaken:
- Vaccination camps, medical camps in liason with government department
- Training programmes to increase fodder production in Kachchh
- Distribution of improved breed calves to community in Surendranagar
- Plantations in villages, around community buildings.
Health and Sanitation:
This was undertaken to address the need for improved systems of sanitation, provision of safe drinking water and creating a nucleus of village women who could, in the long-term, be involved in village development planning, implementation and management.
- Cleanliness drives with emphasis on personal hygiene and sanitation practices, cleanliness around community areas and water sources in Surendranagar and Rajkot
- Water, sanitation and health training to women in Rajkot
- Liason with government services to provide basic health facilities
- Creating water storage and sanitation facilities in villages for better access to drinking water and sanitation depending upon the specific needs of the village.
- Health camps
This addressed the immediate need for education in the face of infrastructure breakdown, using schools as a medium to educate on developmental issues.
- Mobile school education programme in Surendranagar
- Eco-clubs set up in Surendranagar and Rajkot
- Teacher training in all three districts
- Vacation programmes with school children in Surendranagar and Rajkot
- Mobile library in Kachchh
- Demonstrations, camps and Bal Melas with school children in all three districts
Children and Stress:
One of the earliest initiatives after the earthquake was counselling and rehabilitation of children suffering from the trauma of the earthquake. As part of this, two booklets titled 'Role of Teachers' and 'Role of Parents' to Cope with Stressful Situations were published in Gujarati and English.
'Rebuilding Hope: An Educators Guide to Cope with Stressful Situations' was also published. The manual offers a menu of activities that can involve children in expressing some of their anxieties. The activities can be carried out in group settings by educators or by parents to use within the family.
Village Institution Development:
Gram Samiti was formed immediately after the earthquake in villages in Gujarat to facilitate decision-making in the rehabilitation process. Rebuilding Hope activities helped strengthen the role of Gram Samitis by ensuring their active participation. The gram panchayat came into being after the villagers selected their own Sarpanch as part of Sabras programme and after elections in some of the villages.
Existing institutional structures that influence the socio-economic processes in the villages for eg., the village cooperative societies, credit societies, etc. were integrated into village development planning exercises. The SHGs formed are expected to play a role in village development programmes.
Information Servicing for Strengthening Rehabilitation:
A newsletter, Aastha reaches out to more than 1200 people involved in rehabilitation. It documents rehabilitation progress and learnings, has information on technologies, government schemes and covers a broad spectrum of sustainable development issues.
A website provides general information on the Rebuilding Hope programme and is being strengthened to cover government schemes, information on livelihood and possible interactivity for the users.
Documentation of processes from the point of view of approaches to shelter construction, government schemes applicable to the villages, and case studies of NGOs involved in rehabilitation have been completed.
GIS based software has been developed in collaboration with a company called ORG-GIS for use as a planning tool to facilitate immediate decision making. The product will be used in all developmental work being undertaken by NFD, and demonstrate the use of GIS for village level developmental planning to other NGOs.
Presentation material such as posters, brochures and on power-point has been developed for use in various fora.
Capacity Building and Training:
Training workshops for NGOs, community-based organizations and community leaders involved in rehabilitation have been organized at the state, district and village level covering issues of shelter reconstruction, health and sanitation, planning and decision-making at the village level, improved techniques of agriculture, gender issues.
- Exposure tours: Farmers, cattle breeders, entrepreneurs, village leaders, teachers, men and women from villages of Surendranagar and Rajkot were taken to institutions, demonstration projects to orient them on approaches and technology that could be utilized in their villages. The following areas were addressed:
- Sustainable agriculture practices
- Eco enterprise
- Scientific animal husbandry practices
- Development of milk cooperatives at the village level
- Institution building and village development planning
- Water and sanitation
- Windmill technology demonstration and possible utility in drawing brine for salt pan cultivation in the Little Rann of Kachchh
- Rainwater harvesting systems and irrigation management
- Account and Record keeping
- Skill improvement (embroidery and weaving)
- Entrepreneurial development training
- Self Help Groups - savings and credit
- Innovative approaches to school education
While the project activities in the core 40 villages involved intensive capacity building activities, the team members were invited as resource people to provide consultancy to other NGOs and institutions in the area. The issues covered involved water resource management, animal husbandry and natural resource management. The school programmes covered the entire talukas in their activities, in the process disseminating information about the rehabilitation activities in other villages, and government departments.
Networking and Advocacy:
The sustained programmes in the villages and all activities under Rebuilding Hope networked with stakeholders - the community, government departments, other NGOs and funding agencies. The teams were part of the NGO networks in all three districts.
District level workshops were organized on the issues of NRM, livelihood. A seminar was organised on "Livelihood options in the Little Rann of Kachchh (LRK)" to discuss threats, issues and livelihood options in LRK; initiate dialogue among stakeholders; and share CEE's perspective and emerging role in this context.
The team participated in various workshops organized over the two years. Besides, the team actively played the advocacy role in the areas of work with the government to ensure sustainable and long-term planning processes in rehabilitation.
Taking it Forward:
Keeping in line with CEE's vision of village development as the ultimate goal, efforts were made and the first response came from Sir Dorabji Tata Trust with support for enhancing the 'social infrastructure' at Vavaniya site. Zonta Club of Bombay-1 supported for the construction of a community hall at one of the relocation sites. Efforts are also on to get various Government schemes applicable to different sections of the society. Community participation (village level institutions, women and youth) is envisaged on a large scale in this endeavour of village development. The efforts are intended to make the village self sustained and ready to brace any future disasters.
Another significant initiative after the earthquake which particularly focuses on livelihoods and conserving/promoting local art and culture is KHAMIR – Center for Kutch Heritage Arts, Music, Information & Resources. Khamir is a collaborative effort between NFD and Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan (Abhiyan) – a network of NGOs based in Kachchh. KHAMIR aims towards setting up an education, training, demonstration and interpretation facility in the areas of craft, natural resource management and heritage conservation for Kachchh. To support in maintaining and enhancing the skills and capacities of crafts people of Kachchh, especially the women, and empowering them, in order that their craft tradition is preserved and enriched, and the crafts contribute to improving their livelihoods and incomes.