Deccan Development Society (DDS) works with nearly 5000 dalit and indigenous small women farmers who collectivise as Sanghams (grassroots collectives) in the Zaheerabad region of Telangana. The collectives work together in the semi-arid underdeveloped region in India for just and sustainable development and to assert Sanghams’ autonomy in multiple spheres like food, nutrition, seeds, market, media etc.

Participatory approach

Utilizing the valuable indigenous knowledge of these women on food and farming and a bottom-up participatory decision-making, the society implemented successful initiatives that integrated inter-linked goals like ecological conservation, livelihood development, gender & social justice, food security, health and nutrition enhancement, agro-biodiversity etc.

Empowering Dalit Women

What started off with the intention of ensuring simple sustenance needs of sangham members, became a tool of empowerment to address the larger issues they are facing. The conscious integration of various activities the Society has helped is intended to retrieve women’s natural leadership positions in their communities.

Strengthening Grassroots

Currently, the Society is active with nearly 50 village sanghams, supporting their rainfed biodiverse farming, grassroots health and legal workers, community led market for millet produce and also engaging in awareness events, information publications and advocacy campaigns.

Holistic approach to social change

At a time when development for dryland farmers only meant groundwater extraction and shifting to mono-cropping of commercial crops, DDS was able to recognize the effects these shifts had on ecology and gender relations. We understood that traditional farming practices of biodynamic farming practices were valued by poorer women with degraded soils due to the holistic benefits they offer in human, livestock and soil health, whereas men narrowly focused on yield maximizing productivity and the monetary benefits it offers. This guided us to design several integrative programmes like eco-employment days, Community Gene Bank, Medicinal Plant Commons, Community Grain Fund, Balwadies etc which have later been replicated and scaled up by other CSOs and local governments. The success of these programmes highlighted how social, economic and environmental regeneration are inter-linked to each other for 4 decades.

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