Creating a lasting legacy
How Christian Aid and partners DDS have helped 5,000 Dalit women
cultivate previously unproductive land that now feeds 50,000 of the
poorest people in their region of India
* guardian.co.uk, Saturday 5 March 2011 00.01 GMT
Chandramma Moligeri is one of the oldest women members of a DDS
sangham or women's group Chandramma Moligeri is one of the oldest
women members of a DDS sangham or women's group. Photograph: Christian
Aid / Chiara Goia / Getty Images
Chandramma Moligeri chuckles as she sits chopping vegetables outside
her small, colourful house in the village of Bidekanne in Andhra
Pradesh, India. "In the past decade I have built up 20 acres of land!"
Chandramma has not always been a landowner. She belongs to the Dalit
group of "weeding people" who have traditionally worked for small
amounts of money in the fi elds of the patels – the landlords.
Meanwhile, she struggled to grow enough food for her family on the
poor wasteland adjacent to her home.
Like other Dalits in her community, the location of Chandramma's house
on the outer margins of the village symbolises the low position that
Dalits, formerly known as "untouchables", still hold in Indian How
Christian Aid and partner DDS have helped 5,000 Dalit women cultivate
previously unproductive land that now feeds 50,000 of the poorest
people in their region of India society despite the abolition of the
caste system in the 1950s. The majority of Dalit people still fi nd
themselves excluded from the opportunities that would allow them to
access their rights and rise out of poverty.
When Chandramma heard about the work of the Deccan Development Society
(DDS), an organisation that works in partnership with Christian Aid to
help the poor take back control of their food production, she seized
Through DDS she, and other Dalit women, have learned how to revitalise
their land to make it productive again. By working together to clear
the land of stones, prepare ditches around their fields, and feed
their soil with healthy fertilisers such as manure and vermicompost
(worm compost), the women have Dalit grandmother Chandramma Moligeri
has overcome hardship to build up 20 acres of land with help from DDS
turned unproductive soil in this drought-hit area into highly
productive fields. DDS has also helped the women acquire more land.
Chandramma and the 5,000 other women farmers supported by DDS now
[roduce a bout 2, 000 tonnes of grain each year. Not only can they
provide for their own families, they also help feed 50,000 of the
poorest people in the region.
What gives Chandramma enormous joy is that she has overcome her former
dependency and hardship and has made sure that all her children, not
only her sons, are secure and empowered. "I now grow about 30
different crops," she beams proudly. "I am the only person I know who
has passed land on to her daughters."
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