living traditions: the lessons of our ancestors is always vivid in India, especially when it is rooted in Gandhi’s teachings. Based on his program and on the agrarian reform carried out by one of his devotees, Vinoba Bhave, Assefa India (Association of Sarva Seva Farms) was set up in 1978 to help village farmers to improve their way of life. Today Assefa is one of the most important NGOs in India.
what: Assefa works to promote self-reliance for Indian villages and to give them the resources they need to look after their own development. In this process of social reconstruction, the most vulnerable members of the Indian society, women and the ‘untouchables’, have gained recognition and the possibility of having their own work. Gandhi’s lessons shape all of Assefa’s work. In the field of children’s education, for example, particular emphasis is placed on the need to integrate theory and practice in study activities, on democracy training and on the principle of self-sufficiency.
facts: so far, 3,650 villages in six Indian states have been organised and about 1,200 schools, which 60,000 students have access to, have been created. In the area of Sivakasi, 15,000 children have been taken away from their work in a match factory and are now able to pursue their studies.
87 different projects have been started, which involve 80 departments in five states of India (Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajastan);
sustainability: based on Gandhi’s principles about empowering villages in order to fight poverty, Assefa is giving freedom of expression and the opportunity for development to these ‘natural communities’. And it does so by relying on local resources, artisanal work and everybody’s participation and involvement.
- there are 1500 Gram Sabha (villages assemblies), in total two millions beneficiaries;
- 3000 and more villages are involved in the projects;
- 70.000 students and 1.900 teachers are present in 1.300 schools;
- 700 biogas installations have been built, 3000 wash houses, thousands health services and 1000 water pumps;
- 550 little handicraft activities and 50 kandhi shops (little handicraft activities in the village);
- 8.400 post-pregnancy programmes, 24.000 pediatric programmes, 31.000 children have been vaccinated against polio, there are 500 nurses and obstetricians;
- 360 agrarian committees, 600 milk committees, 350 house committees and 400 factory committees;
- livestock farming: about 6.000 cows, 3.000 sheep and 2.500 goats.