Welcome to our new blog! As many of you will have read, this first update has already been published in our November/December newsletter. However, as promised, we'll only be publishing previews in the newsletter first, followed by more detailed blog posts here, on our new website, for those wanting to know more. Keep checking back for the next few weeks - we'll be adding more updates from our colleague, TV, as he continues his work in southern India.
Revisit to Kolihills: Place, Folk and Work
I taught at a University in India, and did research as part of my profession and as a living. I do both now for the love of them, mainly as a ‘giving back’. I am working on a Participatory Action Research (PAR) in an exotic hill area in southern India called Kollihills. I have been there before, for years in the early 1980s and in the early 2000s, researching social life, cultural ecology, terrace agriculture, traditional ecological knowledge, food security and a whole lot of related things.
My work now has three purposes: to enhance capabilities of women and girls and men and boys in two villages, namely, Ariyur Nadu and Valappur Nadu providing leadership, organizational and development skills; to motivate, develop and promote a Partnership Initiative among hamlet communities, local governments and NGOs/CBOs to enhance sustainable livelihoods, development opportunities and community resource management for poverty reduction; and to demonstrate effectiveness of partnerships and capacities through developing a Community Action Plan (CAP), of the people, by the people and for the people of the two villages. Capacity building in youth of the Nadus and helping to improve livelihoods through income generating activities among the women’s SHGs are the major focus. For developing CAP, I would use participatory appraisals and PAR methods besides baseline surveys.
Kollihills in southern India is a tribal area. Insights on, and the present situation of development here, will help me arrive at policy interventions towards natural resources use and traditional ecological knowledge in community building. In the process, I will consider traditional habits and usages of the tribal people concerned, the Malayalis of the Kollihills, and also pay attention to their places, folks and work.
Place: Kollihills is a preserved mountain area of the Eastern Ghats. The height of the Hills ranges from under 1,000 m to 1,350 m above mean sea level. Annual rainfall is 1,440 mm. Shola Forests, and secondary growth forests, occupy 44 per cent of the geographical area of the Kollihills: 28,293 km2. The villages are called Nadus, meaning village republics, with numerous hamlets (251 in the last count), scattered across the hills.
Folk: Kollihills is 50,000 strong (2018), 40,479 in Census 2011, distributed in 14 Nadus or Panchayats, or administrative village clusters. Sex ratio is 940 (2011). More than 95 per cent of the people are from the Malayali (= hill people) community. Literacy is about 52 per cent, with female literacy at a low of 45 per cent. There is no secondary care hospital in the Kollihills and infant mortality is high at 30 per cent. The Malayalis are agriculturists. They have a rich cultural heritage, characterized by traditional knowledge systems in active use.
Work: Agriculture takes place in 52 per cent of the area, leaving just 4 per cent for other activities (built-up area, roads). Irrigation is available to less than 15 per cent of the cropped areas, from springs and wells. The remaining area is rain-fed. The agricultural season starts with the onset of the Southwest Monsoon in June-July of every year. I am hoping to make capacity building, skill training for youth and seed funding for the SHGs through crowdfunding.
- Thangavelu Vasantha Kumaran (TV for short)
Welcome to our new blog. We've teamed up with our colleague in India, Thangavelu Vasantha Kumaran, to publish updates on his humanitarian work in southern India. Updates will first be published in our newsletter, followed by more detailed updates here on our blog, for those who want to learn a little bit more!