With no roads, high dependence on forests, active militant groups etc. the villages in forest areas on the Bhutan border is at the bottom of the pile even among the poorly developed villages in the Bodoland areas. Households subsist on poor agriculture yield from land which belong to the forest and whenever there is a crisis, they go into the forest and cut trees to sell as firewood. This has led to huge depletion of rich forest resources.
The Remote Areas Development Areas programme (as the name suggests) is to focus on development of these “communities living in remote, hard to reach border areas” so that they have development with dignity and the government takes responsibility for their development”.
a. Deosri Development project
With help from “Caring Friends”, a giving circle of individual philanthropists, the ant has been carrying out education and other development work in Deosri. We run education centres for children, have strong women’s collectives, give micro-loans to local businesses and also experimented with rain-water harvesting and agriculture.
Though they had got help from the government and other humanitarian aid agencies, we still found many families a year after the violence of 2014, living in roof-less and wall-less “shelters” in their villages they had recently returned back to. Their loss had been so immense that they needed urgent support to tide the cold and harsh winter of 2015. Caring Friends supported a ‘Cloth-for-work’ initiative, where we gave 500 riot-affected families a pack of two blankets and a tarpaulin sheet, in exchange for a day’s labour of some community-identified work. It was much appreciated and help warm up the bodies and hearts of families who lost their all to violence.
b. Kuklung Deveopment Project
With joint support support from ‘Caring Friends’ and Mastek Software Foundation, the ant started setting up kitchen gardens and horticultural plots in the Kuklung, a forest fringe area of the larger Manas National Park. The initiative’s main focus was to improve nutritional status and also provide supplementary income to 170 households.
In 2015, 120 women farmers who we trained and supported earned an additional income of Rs.18,000 in two seasons of growing vegetables in their kitchen gardens. Also around 5000 fruit saplings were distributed to 50 households, whose fruits shall be reaped later!