India – Village Animators Bring “Where the Rain Falls” to Life in their Communities in Jashpur District
Village animators play an important role in linking their adivasi (tribal) communities, through the Where the Rain Falls project, to government services and wider Indian society. Twenty animators have been selected and trained by CARE and its local implementing partner NGO Nav Yuva Jagaran to serve the 40 villages participating in the project in Bagicha and Patthalgaon Blocks of Jashpur District in Chhattisgarh State. These individuals are from the project communities and are paid a modest monthly stipend of 3,500 Indian Rupees (about US$57); most of the animators are young, relatively well-educated adivasis, and a majority of them are female, so the project’s investment in their capacity is an additional contribution by CARE India to long-term development in these marginalized communities.
The village animators in Bagicha Block, which is the more remote and “backward” of the two project locations, already can point to a number of successes in their communities. One male animator, Chandar, was able to help seven families in his village secure legal rights to the land they cultivate. Some of them had previously applied for titles and been denied by the State Forest Department, while others had never applied. The animator reports that these families are more willing to invest in improving their land now that they have secure title. Another male animator, Jaisingh, is proud of having been able to mobilize his community to repair a water storage structure in the forest area. Anjana, one of just a few female animators in Bagicha Block, has focused on increasing women’s attendance at local governance (Gram Sabha) meetings and helped the communities draft proposals for government to address their concerns. One example was a request to restrict operations of a rock crusher operating near the village, which was creating health, safety, and noise problems for the residents.
All of the animators in Bagicha Block, pictured below in Figure 2, are also working to strengthen women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in their villages. The Where the Rain Falls project has already helped to revitalize or form more than 80 SHGs in the project’s communities. These savings groups, in additional to mobilizing savings for household production and consumption needs, also serve as an important platform for mobilizing women to undertake joint cultivation and other economic activities, and they also open the door of eligibility for important Government of India livelihood and social safety net schemes. These community volunteers are, however, very aware of some of the problems that have in the past led to the demise of such groups and are working to avoid those problems. Among the lessons they have learned about how to maintain healthy SHGs are: rotating both the leadership and cash-handling responsibilities of groups to avoid one or a few individuals from dominating the group and misappropriating money; improved record-keeping; forming more homogeneous groups in terms of socio-economic status to avoid elite capture of group benefits; and paying for required labor to avoid conflicts over who contributes labor and a disproportionate burden falling on lower status members. This kind of local knowledge is invaluable to the Where the Rain Falls project, which aims to increase the economic and social empowerment of adivasi women.
In Patthalgaon Block, which is less isolated, a large majority of the Village Animators are female. Like their counterparts in Bagicha Block, they also express pride and satisfaction in being able to serve their communities. Among the accomplishments they cite are: the formation of many Self-Help Groups; linking groups to banks for credit from government schemes like the National Rural Livelihood Mission; the formation of Village Development Committees; helping women to formulate petitions to their Gram Sabha for local priorities (such as village pond rehabilitation); and organizing trainings for farmers on sustainable agricultural practices, including the System of Rice Intensification and the use of bio-pesticides. They also report developing new skills through the project, including one female animator who has become expert in the use of GPS technology, as well as greater self-confidence in dealing with both community members and local authorities. At a more personal level, the animators are proud of being able to contribute to the development of their communities, and they report that they could not do this work without the support of families, including parents and spouses.
The Where the Rain Falls Village Animators in Patthalgaon also report many challenges in their work in the project’s communities. Some of these challenges are common to all the animators, including: their own lack of self-confidence; overcoming community skepticism or resistance to trying new technologies; motivating communities to organize to address their own needs rather than waiting for government intervention; and the logistical challenges of moving around and between villages for project activities via bicycle or limited available public transport. But the project’s female animators reported additional challenges not faced by their male counterparts, particularly a heavy workload of child-care and other domestic responsibilities, which requires them to get up a 4AM to complete food preparation and other household responsibilities before 9AM to then be able to engage in any outside activities. In addition to the social pressures related to household responsibilities, women also reported some concerns about their safety in moving around on their own within and between villages. Despite these concerns and constraints, village animators remain motivated to play their part in the project and enjoy support from both their families and the communities that benefit from their work.
Project Coordinator, Where the Rain Falls