People's Education and Action for Community Empowerment (PEACE) strategy
The conventional schooling system has been described as a ladder to success in one's life. Yes, it does provide income and empowers people to make decisions for themselves and for their communities. But what kind of decisions? Is it a pursuit of selfish aims? History and what goes around now shows evidence that man has progressed albeit selfishly without care of the environment, communities near and far, and the generations to come.
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
- Mark Twain.
Yes, schooling is important to know the numbers, letters, and how they all fit in to make a more convenient world for the ones so educated this way. A better kind of education is when this schooling is augmented with the knowledge to make the world a more just place to live in. World where communities take care of each other, know and care for the environment, and keeps the world in a better state for the next generation. IIRD and the rural community animators believe in such kind of education.
Such kind of education results in people who are unselfish, keen listeners, humble learners, impartial, sincere, and determined to act likewise. They realize firstly that knowledge exists among their peers and nature is a good teacher. They therefore learn from their peers and their experiences from being close with nature. Ultimately, they are able to take right decisions with respect for their communities, nature, and future generations.
Practically speaking, they learn about the traditional crops, the climate patterns, soils, water, flora and fauna, their own bodies, and how they relate to each other. This helps them deal better with their main livelihood resources - small farms and their local environment - in a sustainable and just manner.
Action for Community Empowerment
The actions evolve as the fruits of education in the PEACE strategy. The actions and education is a continuous inter-related cycle. As we act, we learn, and as we learn, we act. The actions are aimed to empower people to make decisions for their sustainable livelihoods. Empowering would mean that even the weak have a voice in the development of themselves and their communities.
Such actions have led to even the most marginalized farmers, destitute women, and persons with disabilities, chalk out their own plans for livelihoods hand in hand with others in the community. The actions are focused on collective efforts for both individual and community benefits.
Actions for community empowerment has to led to participatory and affirmative actions for inclusion of the elderly destitute and persons with disabilities - for instance, the grain banks run by the farmers clubs for the marginalized poor. Another example would be establishment of a community based certification system (or Participatory Guarantee System) to guarantee the organic produce of the small and marginal farmers by the farmers themselves for selling their produce directly through systems established by themselves. There are many other examples on seed saving, organic farming, vocational skill-building, rural entrepreneurship, etc.
Community Learning Centres was established in 1999 in focal villages of the programme area by Institute for Integrated Rural Development (IIRD) to coordinate the sustainable development activities among its neighbouring villages in Paithan Taluka. Six community learning centres were established in Shekta, Bidkin, Karkin, Tondoli, Jambhali and Babhulgaon which are in charge of their neighbouring villages. 72 villages are covered through these CLCs. Various programmes are implemented through these CLCs by an interactive education process involving the rural poor and by activating them to undertake the responsibility of their individual, family and village development based upon their visions.
The activities of the CLCs include
- Promotion of organic agriculture,
- Eco-development and bio-diversity conservation
- Credit and micro-enterprise development,
- Rural housing
- Community based elderly care
- Primary health care
IIRD strives to promote the PEACE philosophy in the villages where it works with the small and marginal farmers. Such envisaged education and actions for empowerment leads to a transformation process that takes time and efforts. However, it is the way to sustainability as communities take ownership of the process with the knowledge of what is apt, just, and sustainable.