Samaj Pragati Sahayog as Anchor
SPS sees its work in the field not so much as a model but as a living laboratory of learning for others to adapt to their own areas. To facilitate this mutual learning, in 1998 it set up the Baba Amte Centre for People’s Empowerment (BACPE) in tribal village Neemkheda. SPS work has shown that farmer-driven, location-specific watershed development combined with bio-diverse agriculture and other nature-based livelihoods, can dramatically raise rural incomes, providing an enduring panacea to the suicide-ridden drylands. This arrests distress migration of tribal communities towards the city and liberates them from the clutches of the usurious moneylender-traders. SPS’s achievements in direct implementation of such livelihoods programmes are the basis for SPS becoming a major centre for learning on such programmes. People come from all over the country through the year to see SPS work and to be trained so that they can carry out this work in their own areas.
Training and Support
As a training and support organization, SPS has logged 41,632 person-days for 5,704 persons in 243 training/orientation programmes so far. Since the passage of the MGNREGA, most of these training programmes have been focussed on MGNREGA with specific reference to natural resource management. The training has been extended to other CSOs, government departments, PRIs and village community leaders.
SPS has also provided handholding technical support to Consortium partners in the field, helping them with planning and implementation of MGNREGA works. Since 2011, SPS has been supporting Government of Maharashtra in the Melghat region for capacity building of its officers and developing plans on MGNREGA. GoM is keen that SPS should be the Principal Coordinator, helping it to identify other organizations who could play a similar role and to carry out their capacity building.
A key role of the BACPE has been to constantly prepare high quality training material on watershed development. At the specific request of the Ministry of Rural Development, GoI and with support from UNDP in 2006, SPS prepared:
- A 308-page fully illustrated training manual on NREGA and Watershed works in Hindi
- A 320-page fully illustrated training manual on NREGA and Watershed works in English
SPS has made 5 training films (in both Hindi and English) based on the training manuals. This set of award winning films describes very simple, low-cost methods to address the problem of water — methods that can easily be used by local people, utilising locally available natural resources. The films demystify the seemingly complex technical details of location, design and construction of watershed structures. They illustrate the creativity and meticulousness involved in fine-tuning interventions to match the immense diversity of nature.
Research and Policy
SPS has consistently worked to focus attention on MGNREGA and possible ways to strengthen in. To further this, it has produced several articles, research papers and reports which have been released in the public domain. SPS core team members have also been involved in deliberations and dialogue in different fora with government at different levels. In recognition of the work of SPS, Dr. Mihir Shah, Co-Founder of SPS and the Consortium, was invited in 2009 by the Prime Minister to join the Planning Commission as Member, in-charge of Rural Development and Water Resources. The two reports of the Consortium brought out in 2009 and 2011, have also contributed to the debate on policy reform on MGNREGA.
Core Group of the Consortium
In the National Meeting of the Consortium in 2011, we took a decision to constitute a Core Group of the Consortium. Apart from coordination, the Core Group is working to facilitate:
- knowledge generation
- knowledge sharing
- public debate and discussion on needed changes in policy.
The Core Group meets to review work done, identify weaknesses in it, share and consolidate learnings from the past experience to chart out a course of action for the immediate and medium term. It also factors in latest developments in MGNREGA in order to inform its strategy better.