I did my Masters in Population Studies. After completion of my studies, I joined Harsha Trust, an NGO which has its existence in tribal dominated pockets of southern and western Odisha. At that time I had a superficial idea about the functioning of an NGO. With lots of curiosity and fear in my mind I joined as a trainee in the Trust. Curiosity of how does an NGO function? What does it do? How does it do? And fear regarding assumption of going to a remote place with which I am absolutely unfamiliar. Initially I did not have much commitment nor was I too concerned about the well-being of others. But I had one thing in my mind – to do something worthy and satisfactory.
In the Trust I met the senior team members and after interaction with them I found the organisation had a very good working culture. Then gradually I understood the mission, vision and functioning of the Trust. In my initial days when I went to the villages and interacted with people, I could internalize their condition. After certain number of visits to the villages I got a fair picture of the livelihood pattern, coping pattern, food pattern of the rural people. While interacting with women I realized their situation inside and outside of their family. I decided to continue with the Trust because I found meaning, motivation and challenges in development work by helping the rural poor and exploring livelihood opportunities for them. Harsha Trust was perhaps the only one in Odisha working in livelihood (farm and non-farm sector) through community mobilization. I formed many CBOs (SHGs, JLGs) with only women as members. Then I planned with the individual households where intervention is needed that can secure their livelihoods and increase earning. In this process of engagement with the community I was addicted to this sector and found difficult to get out of it. The love, respect, responsibilities, commitment that the community and I mutually shared were irresistible. In Harsha Trust I had joined as a trainee and became a team leader when I left the Trust.
After five years in the Trust I still did not have a clear understanding about the government approach towards development. Why schemes like SGSY do not fulfill their objectives? What are the government policies towards the youth? Suddenly, I saw the advertisement of PMRDF scheme in a daily English newspaper. From website I went through its details and it attracted me. I thought I should apply for this fellowship to understand the government system.
After completion of the orientation process and field immersion I joined on 24th Sept 2012 as a PMRDF in the district of Nabarangpur in Odisha. In the beginning the Collector assigned me a task of making a project proposal for District Innovation Fund. With my prior experience in this tribal area I made a project proposal on vegetable cultivation under drip irrigation where 300 farmers would be benefited over 2 years. Then I was assigned the work of launching the Artist Federation (ZKSS) at district level and building capacity of the members of the Artist Fedederations at block and district level (BKSS and ZKSS). I with my colleagues organized a training program for them which would help them to earn their livelihood out of their traditional art form. Also we were given the assignment of forming a new livelihood cluster under NRLM and asked to find out the present status of the existing livelihood cluster in the district. We formed two new livelihood clusters of maize suzi and school uniform where there is assured market for sale of the products. From this livelihood a family can have incremental income of approximately 36,000/- per annum.
Nabarangpur district has a unique feature of lac craft. The artisans are facing problem in procuring raw material. We therefore established a bank of raw lacquer at the district level which was earlier exported to a neighboring district in Chhattisgarh. Also we visited Chandahandi block where lacquer is heavily produced. We interacted with the farmers, identified the existing value chain and then called a district level meeting chaired by the collector to fix minimum procurement price for raw lacquer.
We were also assigned task in job fair under Odisha Livelihood Mission and Odisha Employment Mission. We visited the blocks in various times to ensure registration of the candidates and after job fair visited the blocks to ensure uploading of candidates’ profile in the online portal to generate token number and then tagging them with the PIAs. We were also asked to survey the status of rescued bonded labour and identified their further needs which can provide a sustainable source of income and secure their life.
In this 9 month duration of fellowship in the district I realize that all the schemes and programmes that are invaluable for the needy people are not actually reaching them. To reach the vulnerable people, a holistic long term plan for them and incorporate them in the mainstream needs a rigorous effort. I found this rigorous effort is missing in the existing system. Though many stakeholders are involved, bringing them all together under a common umbrella, formulate a strategy and implement it accurately is a big challenge in the existing system.
At present my concern as a PMRDF is how I create synergy among all the stake holders and effectively convey my viewpoint on development to them. A great challenge remains in reaching out to as many families as I can and change their lives in terms of quality
Devi Archana Ashe is based at Nabarangpur (Odisha). She is an Honours graduate in Psychology from KKS Women’s college, Balasore, Odisha and an M.A in Population Studies from Fakir Mohan University, Odisha.