Arbutus organises self-help programmes in small villages near Pune. It has been helping the farmer communities in solving their own problems of irrigation, energy availability through bio-gas, training in sustainable agriculture, production of education material for organic farming, adult education, micro-savings and so on.
The Arbutus contribution in a village in Mulshi taluka near Pune for over a decade can be called a true success story. This is a very small village at the foothills of the Sahyadri Mountains, where almost all of the families are engaged in agriculture. The village used to face a major water problem, which had become a constraint for agriculture, leading to lower produce for the farmers. Arbutus donated a pump set to the farmers in 1999-2000. The farmers now share it, and the problem of water has been solved to a fair extent.
Arbutus, having initially started as an organisation for children, also noticed that the local school did not have benches. The children used to sit on the floor and had to bend to read or write, which was harmful for their posture. Arbutus, hence decided to provide for benches for the school children. However, our thrust being on self-reliance, we did not donate the benches to them. Instead we gave the work of making the benches to local carpenters. Good quality wood of the locally grown tree was used, thus saving the money spent on buying wood from outside. Arbutus paid the fees of the carpenter. It was thus a grass-root initiative by Arbutus.
As the village has basically hilly terrain, with undisturbed wild-life, flora and fauna, we conducted a study of the locally grown trees. We gave information about the plants with medicinal properties to the villagers. Similarly, we identified plants from which natural colours/ dyes could be derived. We gave them demonstrations on how to extract colour from the plants. This is a step towards generating opportunities for secondary occupations for the farmers. Similarly, we give them advice and guidance, as well as necessary inputs (in certain cases) for helping them to process their produce, and enter the next stage of production, which will enhance their earnings.
Arbutus has also been promoting organic farming in this village to help farmers retain soil fertility and depend less on borrowed funds and purchased inputs. We organise training for farmers, as well as produce education material on organic farming.
We truly believe that development is for the people, of the people, and by the people, and we have always tried to abide by this philosophy, which is most evident in our various projects for community support.
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