Advancing development - Towards sustainable livelihoods - Madurai Symposium - DHAN Foundation - September 14-18 ( 2011)

The symposium highlights the importance of rainwater harvesting in the context of climate change.

The Madurai Symposium organised by the DHAN Foundation is a development platform that encourages development stakeholders, community institutions, civil societies, the government, non-government organisations (NGOs), financial institutions and academia to share and learn from each others' experiences through conventions and conferences. Four biennial symposiums were organised between 2003 and 2009, each attended by over 15,000 participants. The 2011 symposium focused on urban, rural, tribal and coastal livelihoods. Two people from the IWP team participated in the 2011 symposium for the first two days.

The purpose of the 2011 Madurai Symposium included:

  • Building knowledge on the best practices for livelihood promotion including approaches, frameworks, and models
  • Promoting networks among the development players
  • Fostering collaborations for action
  • Sharing opportunities for resource mobilisation
  • Identifying leads for action in relation to policy areas and field practice

The symposium themes included:

  • Rural livelihoods
  • Urban livelihoods
  • Coastal and marine based livelihoods
  • Tribal livelihoods

We attended the first two days of the symposium. When we went there, what actually struck us was that the venue looked quite unlike the typical conference venues that we have, with an open ground with an exhibition like look with shamianas/tents installed inside the venue, housing a number of activities such as health checkup camps, village handicraft displays, some stalls displaying agricultural plants, posters on agricultural activities etc.

The other striking feature was the overwhelming presence of a large number of people from villages, mainly farming communities who had come in huge numbers in trucks and buses for the symposium. Infact, the welcome was also a traditional one, like that in marriages, with village women putting on the haldi kum kum, handing us flowers and giving us a piece of jaggery as a sweet, to welcome us to the venue.

The inauguration ceremony was conducted in a big hall in one side of the ground, and  included a welcome address, highlighted the background for the symposium and the activities of DHAN foundation and dwelt on the need to address:

  • The needs of populations in villages and specifically, the farming communities
  • The importance of ensuring sustainable livelihoods
  • Importance of conserving water resources
  • Importance of experience sharing and knowledge sharing among scientists, researchers, agriculturalists and the people at the ground level, the farmers, villagers, who can share their experiences and the wealth of practical knowledge they have.

The inaugural ceremony was followed by the workshops/conventions; there were conventions on five topics, which were conducted simultaneously in different partitioned shamianas/ tents inside the venue. The details of the workshops conducted on each day are given below.

Day 1: 14th September 2011   

The conventions/workshops on Day 1 included:

Tank farmers convention on tank based livelihoods: Launching of the Thirumangalam Vayalagam Federation for Tank Based Livelihoods
The purpose of this convention was to discuss how to improve livelihoods in tankfed agriculture areas, the importance of livelihood in tankfed regions, and to describe the importance and relevance of complementary livelihoods such as pottery, charcoal production, fish rearing and allied activities. The importance of tanks and tankfed agriculture, encroachment of tanks by government buildings, groundwater scarcity, and ways to improve livelihoods through the collective action of the Vayalagams were also discussed in the workshop.

People convention on impact of financing livelihoods
The people convention on Impact of Financing Livelihoods shared and consolidated the best practices in financing for livelihoods by SHGs and federations and identified potential areas for enhancing effectiveness of financing strategies and products.

Visioning and future search in people institutions of RFDP
DHAN Foundation's Rainfed Farming Development Programme is already working with six states in seven districts in which people institutions have been promoted and development process on enabling sustainable rainfed farming is ongoing. This event focused on bringing a future search process on planning developmental milestones towards sustainable rainfed farming.

Natural resources based livelihoods development: DVTFs experiences of implementing UPNRM programme of NABARD
This seminar sought to disseminate the good practices of natural resources management (NRM) by people in achieving sustainable livelihoods. The delegates of the event included NABARD; DHAN Foundation Federations; Tamil Nadu Agricultural University; PWD, Madurai; Arul Anandar College; CIRHER; ASSEFA; TRUPA; IADF; SKECH Trust; and RFCC.

Climate change adaptation for sustainable agriculture
We went for/attended the workshop on ‘Climate change adaptation for sustainable agriculture’, which shared research findings and field experiences related to climate change. The workshop was chaired by Dr A Bhaskar, Professor and Head of the Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, PAJANCO, Karaikal and included presentations by Dr R M Kathiresan, Department of Agronomy, Faculty of Agroculture, Annamalai University and Dr R Babu, Department of Agronomy, AC&RI, Madurai.

The presentations and discussions highlighted the following points:

  • Increased GHG emissions have led to increase in temperatures affecting patterns of monsoons and have been found to lead to floods and droughts
  • Climate change has led to change in rainfall patterns with an increase in total rainfall, but the distribution of the rainfall is becoming increasingly erratic.
  • The importance of rainwater harvesting in the context of these erratic changes in rainfall patterns was also referred to in the consequent discussions
  • The discussions also dwelt on the wetland and upland agricultural interventions needed and the climate resilient farming systems that needed to be developed to enhance livelihood security of farmers, in the context of these climate changes. The integrated farm lag system (IFS) of rice, fish and poultry was also referred to in the discussions

The presentations were followed by an interactive discussion session that encouraged knowledge and experience sharing among scientists, farmers and academicians and aimed at discussing and finding practical and appropriate solutions to improve agricultural output. At the end of the discussions, panelists and the participants highlighted the importance of the need for scientists to communicate more with farmers and to recommend and share suitable practices to improve agricultural productivity.

The discussions also made other recommendations such as enlarging the earth’s green coverage by planting of trees, implementing of different strategies such as mixed cropping, intercropping, and organic farming to improve their condition. The discussion also highlighted the importance of traditional practices that were adopted during floods, droughts and epidemics, which needed to be studied and documented, the best practices identified and disseminated as climate change adaptation strategies.

People living with HIV (PLHIV) and livelihoods
The workshop started by highlighting the fact that about 2.5 million people in India, many in their productive age, were HIV positive and that social stigma, discrimination, and loss of employment were among their major challenges. Inspite of efforts made, more interventions were still needed to ensure livelihoods security for PLHIV.

The workshop participants reflected that even through PLHIV networks, many people failed to avail basic services. Networks in different states needed to make PLHIVs aware of the government programmes for which they were eligible and ensure that the network members had access to such programmes.

Participants reflected that this workshop provided policy advocacy and facilitating environment so that livelihoods and employment opportunities could be generated for PLHIV, peer counseling programmes could be established and that suitable job resolutions for PLHIV and suitable laws for regulating the termination of jobs of PLHIVs needed to be made.

The details of the first day of the workshop can be accessed from this link

Day 2: 15th September 2011

The workshops on Day 2 included:

Conservation of water bodies and sustainable livelihoods
We attended the workshop on ‘Conservation of water bodies and sustainable livelihoods’ that included four presentations that described the DHAN foundation’s experiences at water conservation. The first presentation on conservation through community organisation by DHAN foundation described the successful efforts undertaken by DHAN foundation for preserving water bodies by involving and organising the community to take responsibility for conservation and maintenance of water bodies in their village. The consecutive presentations described DHAN’s experiences in conservation of tanks for sustainable livelihoods in the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu and establishment of farm ponds in a number of villages in Tamil Nadu.

Case studies on water and wastewater
The purpose of this workshop was to share experiences on wastewater treatment and raise the public's awareness on water and wastewater management. During the workshop, several case studies were shared linking water management with the development of livelihoods. About 25 delegates representing: Aravind Eye Hospital, Madurai; SACS-MAVMM Engineering College, Madurai; Enviro Care India; DRDA, Madurai; Green Foundation; DHAN Karunai Illam; Exnora; CDD Society, Bangalore; and Madurai Corporation participated in the workshop.

Microplanning in local self government institutions for livelihoods development
The workshop on Micro-Planning at Local-Self Government Institutions for Livelihood Development attempted to deliberate on the different dimensions of micro-planning with a special focus on livelihood development. The event was organised by the Working with Panchayats programme of DHAN Foundation. About 35 delegates representing from ABT Community College, Gandhigram University, Green Foundation, Pudhu Vazhvu Project, DHAN Foundation, Hope Trust, Agriculture College, Madurai, and Meenakshi Mission Hospital participated in the workshop.

Safeguarding livelihoods of poor through health insurance under the universal health insurance scheme
This workshop identified several issues and challenges in accessing the Universal Health Insurance Scheme (UHIS) by the poor and ascertained the gaps in the product features. UHIS protects the livelihoods of the poor by providing wage loss compensation and prevents huge health expenditures.

Even though UHIS covers wage loss compensation along with existing illnesses and personal accidental claim of the health of the family, its overall claim ratio at the national level in all public sector companies is only 47% for the last seven years which is very low when compared with the similar hospitalization medical claim ratio that includes coverage of middle class and rich people. The workshop hoped to spell out the ways and means of making this scheme  more effective by suggesting appropriate pro-poor systems and pro-poor features.

Securing water in tank cascades for agricultural livelihoods in Gundar Basin, Tamil Nadu
It was suggested that the water and agriculture department of the State Government should focus on developing watershed projects in a comprehensive manner. The catchment area of Gundar basin, a nonperennial area, was good, but because of the improperly functioning water storage bodies, infrastructure development work needed to be done. The existing tanks and ooranies needed to be improved through intensive planning and implementation by all stakeholders including respective government departments, agricultural departments, and banks. This workshop hoped to generate and disseminate ideas for water resources restoration and agricultural development in the Gundar basin area.

Showcasing best practices on converging microfinance and tribal livelihoods
Despite the implementation of various development plans and programmes in general and exclusive development schemes for scheduled fifth and sixth areas, tribal communities in India continue to be socioeconomically backward. Based on this, the present workshop, attempted to showcase the best practices on integrating microfinance and tribal livelihoods and impart knowledge on the development of tribal livelihood strategies by analyzing their risks and vulnerabilities, and identifying the financial, human, physical, natural and social capital available to them.

National Convention on Skill Building for Sustainable Livelihoods of Self-Help Group Federations
This convention was jointly organised by INFOS and NABARD with a focus on sharing the prospects and challenges of achieving sustainable livelihoods through skill building. The discussion in the convention hinted at the vast skills that were available among SHG members, which remained dormant because the members were not provided with enough opportunities. The convention identified the need for skill-building and training for existing activities, rather than for activities in which the members had no experience.

National Conference on IGNOU Community College Initiatives for Sustainable Livelihoods
The purpose of this national conference was to sensitize and spread the concept of IGNOU's community college scheme, to facilitate cross learning through experience sharing by community colleges, to sensitize and enable SHG federations and NGOs to take up skill building through IGNOU's community college scheme, and to motivate youth and poor people to make use of community colleges for their development.

The details of the second day of the workshop can be accessed from this link

Day 3: 16th September 2011

The workshops on Day 3 included:

Convention on Medicinal Plants for Sustainable Livelihood
The purpose of the convention on medicinal plants for sustainable livelihoods was to make medicinal plant gatherers aware of good collection practices for supplying good quality herbs, and to impart knowledge and marketing tips to medicinal plant cultivators. Over 200 medicinal plant gatherers and cultivators from Vatalagundu, Periyakulam, Theni, Bodi, Appan Thirupathi, Pulipattti, and Alanganallur, attended the convention.

People Convention on PRI and Livelihoods through MGNREGA
This convention brought together Panchayat leaders, rural development practitioners, and development sector experts to review MGNREGA from different perspectives. The convention consolidated the experience of MGNREGA in the context of Tamil Nadu on the following five dimensions: employment security, land and water conservation, poverty reduction, gender equity, transparency and participation

National Workshop on Safeguarding Livelihoods for Poor through Life Insurance under Janshree Bima Yojana
The purpose of this workshop was to initiate a discussion between implementers and beneficiaries to improve the scheme's benefits and access to primitive tribes. Participants at the workshop included those from the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty, Life Insurance Corporation of India, United India Insurance, and leaders and staff from DHAN Life Mutual locations

Health Intermediation through Community Centred Behavioural Change Communication
Community centered behavioural change communication (BCC) has been gaining recognition as an effective health communication tool for promoting and sustaining risk reducing behaviours among individuals and communities. This workshop, organized by Kalanjiam Foundation and Tamil Nadu State Health Society, aimed at sharing some of the ground level experiences on behaviour change communication

Inland Fisheries and Livelihoods: Learning from Grassroots - Status, Potential and Challenges for Scaling Up
The fishery sector in India plays an important role in food production, nutritional security, employment and income especially from the export of fish and fishery products. The purpose of the workshop was to showcase the experience of DHAN Vayalagam (Tank) Foundation (DVTF) in inland fisheries development and its e impact and the workshop aimed at evolving a suitable action plan for integrating the livelihood development with the theme of inland fisheries

Tourism based Livelihoods: Emerging Opportunity
This workshop was designed to sensitize participants on the need to sustain development of existing tourism based livelihoods, clarify the roles of different stakeholders in promoting such livelihoods, and build partnerships among stakeholders.

Sustainable Livelihoods: An Experience of SKDRDP
This workshop focused on bringing out experiences on sustainable livelihoods by various development organisations. The experience of SKDRDP of Karnataka in livelihood was taken up as a model.

The details of the third day of the workshop can be accessed from this link

Day 4: 17th September 2011

Sharing Best Practices of Social Security Programmes
The annual progress of 2010-11 and the annual plan of 2011-12 were presented in the convention. People Mutuals covered 10.76 lakh poor under life, health, livestock, micropension and crop insurances. During 2010-11, the members paid Rs 7.24 crore for the total coverage of Rs 3,331 crores. Considering the gaps in the mainstream insurance with insurance companies, People Mutuals facilitated the implementation of mutual insurance in SHG federations.

Coastal Livelihoods: Challenges and Opportunities
The purpose of convention was to get a common understanding on the current status of the coastal livelihoods and undertand the challenges and opportunities, focusing, in particular, on fisheries, coastal agriculture, and animal husbandry. The convention also focused on identifying the livelihoods-related challenges in each sector and sub-sector, and brainstorm on how to solve these issues.

ICT and Livelihoods
The purpose of the convention on information and communications technology (ICT) and livelihoods was to sensitize participants on the usage of different ICT services for livelihoods and to assess the new ICT services needs of farmers, women, and youth.

Workshop on Micro Justice and Livelihoods
The purpose of this workshop was to share the concept of micro justice, a term that includes helping people to meet their basic needs and fully avail their rights and explain how legal support through microfinance can help members to deeal with the issues they face in the workplace or home.

IWMI-TATA Water Policy Research Programme - 'Technologies Tested and Promoted in Project Areas
To review a decade's experience of water management and policy research, a workshop was conducted by the IWMI-TATA Water Policy Research Programme (ITP) and included 35 participants from the Agricultural College and Research Institute (AC&RI), DHAN Foundation, Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (TWAD), Malar Trust, the Agricultural Engineering Department, and Eureko/Achmea, the Netherlands

Greening Urban Development and Livelihoods
The workshop sought to identify alternative livelihoods, share experiences, and find ways of mainstreaming the concept of "environment and livelihoods".

Workshop on Youth and Livelihoods
The purpose of the workshop was to share success stories of various development institutions in building and sustaining livelihoods for the youth section of the country.

The details of the fourth day of the workshop can be accessed from this link

Overall the seminar was a great experience!

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