Community report in India
The community of Verdhara is located in Rajsamand District, Rajasthan State in the northwest part of India. It is 30 minutes away from the main town of Kelwara and two hours from Udaipur City. The rural community consists of forest land, hills, mountains, and cultivated valleys. Cultivated land is limited, but can be productive with adequate rain or irrigation. Most households are unable to sell their agricultural goods as they use most of what they produce for their own consumption.
Verdhara is comprised of people from different castes represented in various ethnicities including Bhil, Gurkar, Lohar, Nai, and Rajputs. The population of the community is approximately 1140 people, where over 60% of men and over 85% of women are illiterate. The average life expectancy among community members is 65 years.
Through the Adopt A Village model, Free The Children is working in partnership with the community of Verdhara to eliminate the barriers that prevent children from accessing education. Future projects focusing on clean water and sanitation as well as health and alternative income all have the goal to empower community members to break the cycle of poverty in their community.
Free The Children is working with the community to reconstruct schoolrooms to ensure a safe learning environment for children while also motivating students to continue their education to higher grades. Thanks to the support of FTC Japan, we have been fortunate enough to complete a new school room in Verdhara! This new classroom is located over an older building and provides a safe, well-ventilated space where students can participate in their studies without distractions from outside.
The classroom is construction to provide a space for students that is bright, fun, and shelters students from rain and poor weather. Construction materials were chosen to minimize the noise created from heavy rainfall and ensure that windows bring in lots of natural light and fresh air. We are also painting the Head Master’s room and storehouse to ensure the school has the same welcoming feel in every space!
We began construction on the school boundary wall in 2014 and are so pleased by the progress so far! Work continues on the wall and ensures that the school grounds remain secure and safe for students. As the school grounds are elevated, this work is so important for the safety of younger students. The school boundary wall also helps to build school pride by creating a designated school space that students and educators can work and play in.
Clean Water & Sanitation
The community of Verdhara suffers from high rates of waterborne illness and disease due to drinking contaminated water and a lack of awareness on water and sanitation practices. Roughly 50% of households lacked access to safe drinking water and 90% lacked access to proper sanitation facilities – thankfully much work has been done to support the community in remediating this! We are so pleased to have completed rehabilitating the well on school grounds – this work ensures that water accessed through the well is safe to drink and to cook with. In doing this, students and the community can access clean water and reduces instances of illness!
Free The Children has also been working on a new toilet block which is nearly complete! This is incredibly exciting for students as it will enable girls and boys to have separate sanitary facilities. Having access to clean sanitary facilities is one of the most important and impactful things that can be done to increase attendance and graduation rates for girls as it reduces the likelihood that they will miss class throughout the month.
Due to poorly ventilated homes and working and cooking over fire, community members are extremely susceptible to acute respiratory diseases and infections. While there are two centres and one hospital roughly 10 kilometres from Verdhara, much of the resources are limited and the distance can be very limiting for community members. There is also an Anganwadi (a government run local health resource centre) within the community, however the centre is not sufficient for the needs of community members.
Free The Children is working closely with the community and local government with the ultimate goal of increasing training for local health care workers, rehabilitating the Anganwadi, and ensuring access to quality health care for the community. Free The Children has been going door to door and discussing the effects of indoor smoke pollution with women in Verdhara with incredible results. To date, we have installed 100 smokeless chullahs in households which drastically reduces the amount of smoke within homes, creates two cooking spaces, and improves the overall health of households.
Alternative Income & Livelihoods
More than 80% of community members in Verdhara live in $2 a day. Men normally engage in agriculture and labour work, while women are very involved in agriculture. When agricultural output is not sufficient, men are forced to migrate out of the community to urban centres and find work to support their families. As a result, women are left with a heavy workload, maintaining agricultural activities and taking on additional labour work while also taking care of the household and children.
Free The Children has been working closely with community members to provide training on improved animal husbandry techniques and activities which can boost household income. One technique has been the provision of goats from an improved breed (Sirohi). The Sirohi breed is hardier and stronger than local breeds, it provides more milk and more meat, and matures much earlier than local breeds. An added benefit is that it has a 10% likelihood of having twins – increasing the size of goat herds much quicker! To date a total of 100 goats have been distributed among 20 households and the goats have already had 41 offspring!
Important aspects of this work have been to ensure are vaccinated, dewormed, and visited regularly by a veterinarian. The community members have also had extensive training on the importance of saving, setting up bank accounts, and proper animal husbandry techniques.
Agriculture & Food Security
The community of Verdhara consists of rural, subsistence farmers who largely grow maize, chillies, nuts, and wheats. Located in the only desert state in India, environmental conditions such as drought and unpredictable rainfall constrains the quantity and quality of crops harvested by farmers in the community. Farmers are also using basic tools and farming techniques for their agricultural and animal rearing activities that have been passed onto them from earlier generations. We have been working closely with community members to broaden agricultural practices that are resistant to unpredictable weather, require less water, and have higher yields.
Farmers in Verdhara have had the incredible opportunity to participate in training on inter-cropping. It’s an incredibly versatile agricultural technique which has the capability to increase food security. Within Verdhara, one of the most viable options is to intercrop corn and soya beans – this can increase yield and improve the level of nitrogen in the soil. The months of May and June have typically been slower for agriculture as farmers have not planted crops in these months. With increased access to irrigation, farmers have received green gram seeds and now have the capability to add a new crop in the summer months!
Farmers also received training on using rows in their fields, this ensures that plants have the space necessary to grow to their fullest potential and limited competition for light, water, and nutrients. This training is beneficial as the traditional method of planting has been to scatter seeds with little attention to spacing which decreases yields and reduces productivity. The MB plough was also introduced to farmers, this plough has a curved blade which turns soil over and increases the level of nutrients.
Thank you for your continued generosity and support. Free The Children is tremendously happy with the developments that have been and continue to be made in Verdhara. Community members are taking true ownership over the implementation of the Adopt A Village model and continue to grow and flourish thanks to your support.