Enriching Lives of Korku Tribe

Spandan Samaj Seva Samiti is a grassroots organization that has been working among the lesser known and nutritionally vulnerable Korku tribe for two decades now. Its core focus is to ensure the Food & Nutrition Security among the marginalized families. Consequently, it has adopted a multisectoral approach to address the household food insecurity and malnutrition. The organization’s work has been largely lauded and the founder Seema Prakash received prestigious Rashtriya Stree Shakti -Rani Laxmibai Purskar in 2014 for her work with tribal women and children. It also was selected as one of the 50 organization by World Economic Forum for their work during COVID in real remote regions. Niti Ayog also appreciated the COVID relief work.

Its major programs include:

  • COMMUNITY BASED MALNUTRITION MANAGEMENT that enables most of malnourished children to recover at the community level and thus reduce the burden on Nutrition Rehabilitation Centers (NRCs), It tries to help children recover at homes in a non-institutional care. A mobile health unit visits villages, do follow up of malnourished kids and pregnant mothers and periodically organize health camps in remote regions.
  • BACKYARD NUTRITION GARDENS is an initiative that helps most of the mothers of malnourished children, high risk pregnant women and adolescent girls to use their backyard to grow various kinds of seasonal vegetables and include them in their diets. 10-14\ varieties of vegetable seeds are provided and now many families are exhibiting positive deviance in their behavior by increasing the variety of vegetables in their diets. Our vision is to see rainbow in every poor’s plate.
  • REVIVAL OF CULTURAL CROPS AND MILLETS: Since seventies a major agrarian shift forced Korku too to divorce their cultural crops and Millets in favor of soybean and wheat. The major Millet like Kodo-Kutki, Sawa, Jowar et al gradually began to disappear. Soybean never became a part of their food culture and most of the wheat is sold to pay off debts and meet other contingencies. Very little is left for consumption and that triggers the household hunger, It is manifested in the fact that 35% of children below six years are stunted1 . It is universally believed that stunting is the outcome of sustained hunger prevailing in the area. To offset this the organization is running a campaign to bring back cultural crops and Millet in the community, our sustained effort has motivated 1000+ families to use a part of their fields to grow Millet and some places one can find Millet Banks that provides seeds to interested farmers as they are not sold in the market.
  • PROMOTION OF ORGANICS: We have also taken initiatives at promoting increased use of organic manure, pesticides and potion for plant growth. Many families have come forward to adopt the same and they have become models for others to learn. Framers’ Field Schools are conducted to facilitate exchange of knowledge and experience and exposure to new innovations.
  • BEHAVIOR CHANGE COMMUNICATION: Its an underlying activity that is focused on demystifying malnutrition among this aboriginal tribal community. Having settled from their hunter-gatherer life to a settled life during late 19th and early 20th century they have their age-old beliefs and rituals and dependence on their traditional priests and quacks who use herbs, chants, rituals and sacrifices as medium to heal various ailments. So, the challenge is how to build a scientific temper and reinforce faith in government health system. We are orienting the traditional; priests and healers to know the causes and consequences of malnutrition, measure malnutrition using MUAC tapes and observe seven apparent physical symptoms to identify a malnourished child and advise proper scientific treatment above rites and rituals. They are also promoting Millets to come back to farms and fields by stating the nutritional advantage they had erstwhile. A range of IEC materials in their local dialect are used to sensitize the community. We are trying that this already available and trusted by community is a valuable resource and if assisted properly can bridge the health service gaps to a large extent
  • NEIGHBORHOOD NATURAL RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT: Being a woman led organization, the power of tribal women was discovered early. Though unschooled but being close to nature and resilient enough to face challenges they came forward when the opportunity was given. They could visualize their world in their own village and neighborhood and its responsibility lay on them to conserve it, protect it and replenish it. Its they who had to walk miles to fetch water, take care of home, kids and cattle and often wage earn to make the families end meet. The hard times would force them to seasonally distress migrate. So, lot had to be done. They volunteered to contribute their labor (shram daan) and develop their neighborhood land & water resources. They accomplished 100 of acres of land amendment through constructing land bunds, water conservation through digging new wells, clearing debris o old wells, erecting sandbag and loose boulder check dams, repairing damaged structures and even deepening a part of river near their habitations. Their initiatives became an inspiration for women far and wide and their stories were covered by local and national media. A list of land & water conservation works done is annexed. They were not paid in cash but incentivized through a handful of grains to sustain their motivation.
    Over all these years Korku tribe women have exhibited leadership and unity to accomplish things that have become ideal and honor for the district and has motivated many women across.
  • CHILD FRIENDLY ANGANWADIS: We had initiated this long back as we found that children were not keen to stay at center and would come during mealtimes only. We mobilized resources and the citizen sector to donate materials like clothing, toys, seating arrangements and other essential amenities like fans, water containers and so on. GOONJ New Delhi and Glenmark Foundation Mumbai came in a big way to support this initiative and even local citizens have enthusiastically donated woolens and blankets and so on. Recently as per the government directives we have been assigned 25 Anganwadis in Khalwa and Pandhana blocks to transform them into a genuine child friendly space. Minor repairs and paintings have been done and they are being equipped with toys and games and seating arrangements. The purpose is to enhance the retention time of children at centers so that most of the ICDS services can be accessed at the center itself. A range of services and activities have been planned to make these villages malnutrition free. Another important aspect has been to strengthen the pre -school education component as it is critical to physical and cognitive development of growing up children. Tribal children face a dilemma when they speak their dialect at homes and in school must learn the mainstream language – Hindi in our case. We are working constantly to develop Teaching -Learning materials in Korku dialect and in pictorial forms.
  • WOMEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAM: This program has helped women to congregate through various meetings, Self Help Groups and undertaking Nano economic enterprises. To curb migration that has been increasing the women who used to migrate or were migration prone were assisted to set up grocery shops, selling cosmetics and artificial jewelry, vending pani pooris and selling coconut and incense sticks at temples. Most of them have fared well and are able to contribute significantly to their livelihood. Our recent ambitious program for young tribal girls prone to migration is named – Karmyogini. Its unique in the sense it equips selected girls to learn three skills at a time - repairing motor bikes, beauty parlor skills and repair of electrical gadgets. The logic is that the flow of income will come daily from at least one or two works. They received basic training and basic tools and materials to set up their own shops. Repairing Motorbikes was an idea that we too were not sure would gain currency, but these young girls dared to step into what is considered in male domain alone and have been proving their worth. Honorable Minister of Forests visited the training site and promised all help to these young girls in their endeavor.
  • COVID RELIEF PROGRAM: Since the first wave and lockdowns the organization responded to most vulnerable mothers and children through regular Food Baskets to 600 needy families for nearly 8 months. As Anganwadis were shut down and essential commodities could not reach remote places due to supply chain breakdowns, this support was of much help. We also provided a months’ ration to families in reverse migration. We also conducted awareness programs on following COVID appropriate behavior, distributed masks and soaps and motivated reluctant families to get vaccinated. At vaccination centers COVID selfie points were installed. We used decorated bullock carts to go to every street with messages of awareness through loudspeakers.
  • KORKU LANGUAGE & CULTURE PRESERVATION: Korku is one of the 196 endangered languages according to UNESCO. It has no script and is limited to oral traditions. We have been making efforts to preserve it by extensive research & documentation and collating it into TLM for Anganwadis and other awareness materials. We have also documented their history and folk and culture extensively and are trying to pass it to next generation. It has generated widespread awareness and many Korku individuals and organizations are engaged in preservation of their language and culture.
  • FUTURE PLANS
    • Transforming 25 villages to become malnutrition free. It will be a joint effort with government too playing a supportive role.
    • Facilitate the Nutrition sensitive People Learning and Action (NPLA) program that aims at empowering 1800+ Anganwadi workers and supervisors over next 2 years
    • Undertake micro land & water conservation works through peoples’ participation
    • Promote Goat rearing and scaling it in such a manner that families have milk, manure and livelihood support and thus address malnutrition at homes and in the community.
    • Strengthen the Women entrepreneurship program so that more young girls find employment and dignity.
    • Conduct micro planning at village level and encourage more women’s participation in Gram Sabha and get the plans included in Gram Panchayat Development Plan.

List of Villages where Soil & Water conservation work done


Latest News

25
Feb, 2019

Smokeless Chulha

Smoking is injurious to health and so is the smoke produced from the traditional chulhas(Stoves). The traditional chulha uses wood for cooking. They not only pollute the environment but also causes various respiratory diseases and lungs infections. Tuberculosis, low birth weight, heart diseases, still birth are the other diseases that can happen due to these. Coughing is the most common among the women, pregnant women and children using traditional chulhas at homes. It is the time to make these women aware of the harmful effects of using these traditional chulhas and so we have come up with introducing SMOKELESS chulhas. These are designed in such a way that it uses less wood, cooks more efficiently and produces less smoke. We are making women aware to make these chulhas at home.

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