Village Earth-Purulia works with a population of more than 56,000 in the Arsha Development Block of Purulia in West Bengal, India. The 50 villages in the area are made up of predominantly indigenous and tribal members. Tribal populations tend to lag behind the general population in terms of access to resources, a situation that is particularly devastating to the people of Arsha, whose primary means of subsistence is traditional farming. Many do not own or have access to land and depend on seasonal migration for their livelihoods. Approximately 85 percent of the population lives in severe poverty, creating additional barriers to accessing the resources needed to improve the well-being of both the villagers and their environment. The primary goal of the Village Earth-Purulia project is to empower tribal communities to gain greater control and management of their resources in order to achieve their vision for the future. To that end, Village Earth has worked closely with the Purulia villagers to develop a water project and a microfinance initiative, in order to address the most pressing needs of the communities.
The Water Project
Imagine having to walk four to five kilometers, two times per day, just to acquire drinking water. For villagers in remote Purulia, this is the reality of daily life during the dry season. For four to five months each year, these villages experience severe water shortages that limit water access to an average of just one liter per person per day. It is no wonder that strategic planning meetings conducted by Village Earth revealed water scarcity to be the number one concern of villagers. Village Earth, Village Earth-Purulia, and the Colorado State University chapter of Engineers Without Borders have been collaborating with the villagers in Purulia to increase water security. Steps toward improvement include the establishment of water storage facilities and irrigation technologies appropriate to each village’s existing infrastructure. This project has resonated positively with the local government as well as local landowners.
The microfinance project was designed to empower tribal women to improve their economic conditions through micro-credit and entrepreneurship development. The women use the small loans they receive to invest in income-generating activities such as tilapia farming, producing and marketing traditional crafts, and animal husbandry. With the help of seed money provided by Village Earth, six groups—representing a total of sixty tribal women— have begun self-employment enterprises. Village Earth is working actively to raise additional funds needed to expand the project so more tribal women may participate.
Village Earth-Purulia continues its work as an organization grounded in the Village Earth approach to sustainable development. The founders of Village Earth Purulia, husband and wife team Dr. Milan Dinda and Dr. Mousumi Dinda, use the knowledge and skills they gained from Village Earth trainings to serve the people of Purulia. Focusing on participatory practices for sustainable development, these projects draw on the rich indigenous knowledge and cultural traditions that already exist in the communities. Working side by side, Village Earth has helped the people of Purulia learn how to leverage their strengths to create a more positive vision for the future. But there is still much more work to be done. The expansion of current projects, along with the development of new initiatives, is crucial to achieving improved quality of life for the people of Purulia, and securing this life for future generations.