A Pathway Toward Development
Goela, a small village in the district of Mewat, Haryana, India is home to 193 families. Though the number is low, the average size of families varies from six to eight people. This means Goela’s population exceeds 1200. These 1200 people depend on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.
In 2002, Sehgal Foundation began development project activities in Goela. They developed the Integrated, Sustainable Village Development Model (ISVD) for assisting Indian villages. The ISVD model focuses on five key areas for rural development. These are water management, rural health, family life education, income enhancement and alternative energy.
At the beginning of development work in Goela, Sehgal Foundation conducted a survey to determine the condition of the village. They found that similar to many villages in the area, Goela was deprived of many common amenities. The school building had a leaking roof and younger students sat on bare floors. There was only one teacher for nearly 200 students of different grade levels. The health center was abandoned for almost 14 years. Villagers followed outdated farming practices, which resulted in low crop yield and low income.
The Government of India has tried to provide rural villages with water, electricity, and basic health and education centers. The provision of these services has been erratic and inadequate. Few families in Goela have direct water or electricity connections in their homes. Other families accept their circumstances or illegally connect to public water or electrical supplies. Illegal water connections are poorly fixed, which can lead to water leakages and contamination. This often results in unhygienic puddles around the village.
Following the survey, Sehgal Foundation began by encouraging villager participation in the development activities. Sehgal Foundation’s Program Leader for Community Mobilization was Mr. Bhagirath R Poonia. He said, “Persuading a community to recognize the benefits of participating in development activities requires building trust. This is the most time consuming and challenging phase of the Foundation’s work.” Sehgal Foundation organized several community meetings and focus groups. The groups discussed various development goals and projects.
Kamlesh, the field worker for Goela, said, “Initially I was completely lost, and I didn’t know how I could get anything done in this village. I used to lie awake at night thinking about how I should go about my work. Then I decided that I would start by building close relationships with each of the 193 families.” Kamlesh began by traveling from door to door. She explained the Foundation’s different programs to families individually. Her continuous efforts and commitment gradually generated support from the villagers.
Over time the community came to fully support Sehgal Foundation’s development efforts. The Panchayat (village council) provided the Foundation with an abandoned building. They used this building as a base for implementing the various development programs.
The first project was a renovation of the community center. In May 2003, the Family Life Education (FLE) program began running in the community center. The program provides a basic education of skills useful for young girls not attending school. Girls between the ages of 11-18 years of age are able to attend FLE classes from 10AM to 4PM on weekdays.
After establishing the FLE program, Sehgal Foundation expanded their efforts to a range of other programs. Community support was imperative. The community center was fitted with a roof water harvesting unit, underground water storage tanks, solar lights, and toilets. They allocated a room for community meetings and established a farmer’s information center on the premises. The community center now also serves as a venue for other NGOs to conduct their work.
Sehgal Foundation has also had a lot of success with their other development programs in Goela.
Family Life Education
- The Village Education Committee (VEC) was revived after many years of inactivity.
- The VEC, in conjunction with the Foundation, works to fill teaching vacancies, repair the school building, supply mats for students, and is constructing a platform for raising flags on national holidays.
- The school boundary wall was raised for increased security.
- Sports equipment was provided to the school.
- Trees were planted around the school. Students are responsible for the care and maintenance of these trees.
- A roof water-harvesting unit was built on the school building.
- A kitchen is currently being constructed so that government supplied mid-day meals can be prepared for the students.
- A library is being set up.
The Family Life Education Center has been of great success. 74 girls have passed the six months curriculum. This is approximately 85% of adolescent girls in the village. Approximately 30% of young married women in Goela have started using family planning methods after completing the course. Girls are beginning to fight the social custom of marrying before the age of 15 and desire marriage between the ages of 16 and 18. The girls have increased their self-confidence levels and improved their communication skills. The curriculum has been tremendously successful.
- The abandoned health center was renovated and reopened after several meetings with the District Commissioner. An Auxiliary Nurse Midwife visits the center regularly.
- Training sessions on health issues were organized for women and girls in the community. These sessions included topics on general health, hygiene, mother and childcare, nutrition and family planning. They also emphasized when health issues require medical attention at the local clinic.
- The number of immunizations provided to mothers, newborns, and children has been increasing yearly.
- In collaboration with health organizations, Sehgal Foundation has organized health camps or sent villagers to health camps offered nearby.
- The Foundation has educated villagers about government medical facilities in the area.
Sanitation is a critical component of rural health. In 2003, Goela had only two latrines. Villagers primarily used open fields for defecation. Now, more than 50% of village families have a latrine at their home. Villagers are meeting with the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) for subsidies to construct more latrines.
At the start of Sehgal Foundation’s work in Goela, the village did not have a proper drainage system. Villagers disposed of domestic wastewater on the streets. This led to dirty puddles and streams of raw sewage all over the village. These puddles were a breeding ground for diseases. Sehgal Foundation introduced soak pits to drain wastewater from the surface into the ground. Since 2003, 18 soak pits have been constructed around Goela.
Due to home elevation, approximately 10% of villagers did not have access to public water supply. The village development team has asked the government for a bore well to resolve this issue.
Sehgal Foundation started a water literacy campaign to raise awareness on water conservation and harvesting methods in Goela. Jal Chetna Yatra (water awareness walk) was organized in 2005. The walk led to the construction of three recharge wells and installation of six hand pumps around the village. The school’s roof water harvesting system is used to educate children about the importance of water.
Most farmers in the region of Mewat, Haryana, India follow outdated farming practices. These practices lead to low crop yield and low family incomes. The farmer resource center was created in Goela community center. The center provides farmers with demonstrations on new and better agricultural techniques. These techniques include bed making, chiseling, crop diversification, intercropping and vermi-composting. Village farmers find these methods to increase crop yield and family income. More and more farmers in the community are adopting these farming techniques.
A farmers’ association was also formed in Goela. Village farmers combine their vegetable produce and sell to leading grocery outlets like Mother Dairy and Subhiksha. By combining resources, village farmers are able to eliminate middlemen when selling their products. Approximately 20% of the farming community has experienced a 15% increase in income.
Sehgal Foundation has successfully formed a strong team of villagers. These villagers are motivated by Goela’s development successes. They now meet independently and regularly at the community center to discuss and plan future development activities. The team approached another organization to have roads built in the village. They completed this project successfully.
Sehgal Foundation assisted the villagers in registering for a Village Level Institution (VLI). The VLI was successfully registered in February 2006 and operates out of the community center. The VLI provides the villagers with leveraging power for future development work. This will enable the villagers to continue development work in Goela after Sehgal Foundation concludes their projects.
Sehgal Foundation’s work, along with active community support and participation, has enabled Goela to progress from underdeveloped to developing. In just four years, Goela has demonstrated tremendously encouraging results.
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