The Search for Eco-Friendly Alternatives Leads to Sustainable Livelihood in Quilon, Kerala

Star Making Group
The waste management campaign that was started by the SPED III team in Thrikkadavoor Panchayath, Quilon, Kerala, is aimed at promoting systematic waste management and reducing the use of plastic products. To sustain the campaign, the team realized that it was critical to introduce the manufacturing and marketing of various paper products into the community. They got the idea that if the production and sales of paper products became a part of people’s livelihoods, they would have more incentive to use paper and avoid plastic.

A large number of the women in the community were unemployed and eager to find a source of income, so they worked together with the SPED III team to find an alternative livelihood that would change the entire ambiance of the community. Mrs. Felsy in Pallivettachira village said that, “We were unaware about the possibilities and opportunities that are available in the community. Once we came to recognize it, we were filled with great confidence and immense enthusiasm”.

Exploring the options

SPED III team was eagerly searching for an alternative livelihood to support the group of women who are actively propagating the systematic waste management and anti-plastic campaign. The team felt strongly that the livelihood project should be sustainable and ecofriendly. The leader of opposition in Thrikkadavoor Panchayath stated that “the Panchayath committee and VAT committees in various villages suggested for paper bag, paper plate products, paper cups and other paper based product manufacturing. But when we think about its feasibility we realize that it needs huge investment and risk”.

Paper StarThe SPED III team identified some companies that are encouraging home-based production of paper stars. These stars are used in India to decorate homes and communities during celebrations, especially Christmas. The companies provide free training and supply raw material at a low cost, then purchase the finished products at a reasonable margin. After receiving the necessary training to make the stars, the SPED III team and the beneficiaries began to network with star making companies. They were also provided with training to market their product and negotiate and bargain with the companies. The training was a blessing and opened up new opportunities to the poor and unemployed women.

Building Confidence

Now it has becomes a sustainable and regular source of income to 400 women. Mrs. Moly Babu, Ward member, Venkekkara village shared that “when we came to experience the star making, we did not believe that it would becomes sure source of income, but now we realized that it is a less expensive and marketable product and it is providing a sustainable and remarkable income to us”. The entire community whole heartedly agreed that the star making training was lighting the lamps of change for many lives and families.

Mr .Prasanth. B, the Grama Panchayath president also expressed that they were doubtful about the success of star making as a livelihood, but the community and the SPED III team proved that it could be a lucrative project for the women. “I would like to appreciate the SPED III team for their sincere efforts and innovative ideas.”

Celebrating Success

Star MakingNow the women are manufacturing two kinds of stars at different rates. The raw materials are purchased by the workers themselves and they sell the finished product to various star making companies in Kollam town. They were earning a reasonable income ranging from Rs. 1500 to Rs. 6500 ($30-$130) in a month.

According to Mrs. Jincy from Pallivaettachiara village, “The training was a blessing to me. Prior to the star making training, I was an unemployed house wife without income. But now I am very proud to be an earning member in my family and happy to be economically self-reliant. I am living in a rented house with my husband and two children. My husband is an alcoholic and completely ignored the family. Prior to the star making training I didn’t have any means of living. But now I am able to achieve nearly Rs.5000 ($100) as my monthly income and to ensure decent standards of living to my children.”

A big thanks to Quilon Social Service Society for providing us with this case study!


Protecting the Forest in Raipur, Chhattisgarh

The SPED III Program acts as a plaform for communities to organize themselves, make connections with local leaders and institutions, and address a variety of poverty-related issues.  Here is a wonderful story of a community defending the environment from one of our NGO partners, Raipur Diocesan Social Welfare Society, in Chhattisgarh, India.

In the village of Attarahgudi in Chhattisgarh, the villagers regularly meet to discuss their problems as part of the SPED III Program. During one meeting, the community examined a serious issue that emerged. The trees in a nearby forest were being cut down regularly, which was leading to environmental damage to this important resource. The villagers identified that those responsible were members of their own community.

After some serious reflection, members of the village committee, sanghams, and the local government decided to form a Forest Protection Committee. This committee was given the power and responsibility to safe-guard the trees in the forest.

However, even after taking action, they found that trees were still being cut down. This time, those responsible were coming from another village and could not be caught.

Once again, a meeting was called in the community to address this issue. With the support of the local government officials from the nearby villages, the community members decided to impose a series of sanctions. Anyone caught cutting down the trees would be penalized Rs. 500, their bicycle and axe would be confiscated, they would be socially isolated within the village, and any wood collected would be auctioned to support the Forest Protection Committee.

A few weeks later, a powerful person from a nearby village sent five of his thugs to cut teak from the forest. When the Forest Protection Committee came to know about this, a group of women went to protest their action. But the thugs would not stop and threatened the women with terrible consequences from their powerful boss.

The women returned immediately to the village and shared the story with the community. Together with the local government officials, they took up sticks and succeeded in chasing away the thugs. The next day, they registered the incident with the police.

The women were so affected by these events that they wanted to take some meaningful action to protect the forest in the future. In India, it is a tradition for girls tie beautiful silk threads called Rakhi on their brother’s right hand as a symbol of their emotional bond and their commitment to protect and care for each other. The women decided to tie Rakhis on the surrounding trees as a symbol of their solemn promise to protect the forest as a part of their own family (see above photo).

The action taken by the community of Attarahgudi village provides a wonderful example of environmental protection at the local level and the power of communities to make change when they act with unity and determination. The community did not give up when difficulties arose, but continued to work together to solve their issues. This provides a strong foundation for this village to continue making change in the future and a great example to inspire other communities to take action.