Agriculture and Allied Areas
Cost Effective Construction Techniques
With a starting core grant from DST in the late eighties (1987-1989) a number of training programmes were conducted for engineers, technicians and masons, on various low-cost construction techniques. With STEC, Govt of Kerala grants in the year 1991 masons were given training in cost effective methods of building construction. These were ferro-cement slabs, rat- trap bonding, filler slab roofing, arches, brick jaaly, corbelling and pre-casting of handrails etc.
An innovative technique to provide a LDPE sheet layer wrapped in between soil bags to check seepage loss was tried to renovate a pond at Ambalappara Panchayath Ottappalam. (1997) This helped to reduce water loss. Similarly, use of LDPE sheets inserted in soil between buildings and trees to prevent damage from roots of trees is also tried out on experimental basis.
Rainwater harvesting and storage structures were constructed at many Panchayaths (1999-2004) as part of creating community awareness for managing water harvest and storage.
Preschool education can be more scientific and child friendly. Activities in preschools need to be based on modules, where learning strategies are implemented by teachers and parents. A handbook for Preschool teachers has been prepared (2000-2003).
Learning problems in children were studied with a tool developed for the same (2000-2003). The problem encountered could be remedied through parental and teacher education, once awareness is created and appropriate approach in ensured.
On the basis of integrated cognitive approaches a learning module was developed for learning English in school children (2000-2002). Two-day children’s language comps conducted in 8 centres at Vellanad and Nedumangad Panchayath, where 225 teachers and 450 students participated.
Wastage in engineering collages in Kerala was investigated (2002-2003). In a study involving three engineering colleges; one government, one aided and one self financed, many students had several papers to pass when they complete the four-year course. Almost all these wasted students (15% of total admissions) have secured admission under various quotas ie. Management quota and SC/ST quota. Out of these 15% about 10% students did not clear the course. The problem was traced to admitting students with no aptitude for engineering or proficiency in Mathematics and in being forced into the engineering course by peer pressure or parental compulsion.
The campaign of awareness on science (2004-2005) was done through a series of science lectures to school, college students and general public in the three districts of Malappuram, Palakkad and Thrissur. An expert team trained the resource persons who subsequently handled the awareness classes. Demonstrations on water quality, handmade soap making, mushroom farming, vermi composting, rainwater harvesting were arranged at IRTC premises. These were attended by groups of school children, women and farmers. Students of selected schools were encouraged to form a theatre troupe of 10-12 under a teacher of the school. Scripts were prepared and finalized at a workshop at Thrissur. A five-day rehearsal camp was held at IRTC, where two students and two teachers from each district participated. This was followed by school level rehearsal camps at every district, where a troupe of 10-14 students were trained. In each district this troupe made ten performances within 25 km radius of the host school. Articles on science in Malayalam were published in a book entitled science and scientific awareness.
Environment and Solid Waste Management
Women freedom fighters of north Kerala were interviewed to document their role in freedom movement (1999-2001).
Pokkali Krishi is a method of agriculture in wetlands. Both rice and shrimp are grown in an eco-friendly agriculture. Shifting from this to only shrimp growing may adversely affect the economy of farmwomen. However the study indicated that women were employed for export oriented shrimp pealing. The Male labourers are the one who do not get year round employment. Ecological sustainability in Pokkali fields is possible only through rice/fish cultivation schedule (2000-2003)
In Kodumbu panchayath when the health status of women agriculture workers was examined, morbidity was found to be very high (2000-2002). Under employment, poor housing, illiteracy and other related factors contributed to increased health problems among women agricultural workers.
For building capacities of women’s group on health of women, training modules were prepared, and trainings and awareness programmes at state, district and village levels were conducted (1999-2002). A handbook has been prepared on health and women empowerment.
A gender profile of Kerala was prepared (2002-2003). Gender disparity is less in most of the human development indices like education, life expectancy etc. However the work participation ratio was lowest among women. Crime against women has increased in last decade.
The study of the health status in Rural Kerala (1990-1991) confirmed that Kerala has made remarkable advances in basic indicators of health status, like low birth and death rate, low infant mortality, lower rate of disability, higher female sex ratio and female life expectancy and reduced gap between rural and urban population, despite comparatively low economic development.
A comparative study between ICDS and non-ICDS (Integrated Child Development Service) blocks (1991) showed that investment in special programmes like ICDS seems to bring in only marginal returns in the areas of immunisation, and such investments are not justifiable, unless it should be able to show better impact.
An investigation into the sickle cell disease among the tribals of Attappadi (2002-2004) showed that the sickle cell gene has high prevalence (565 patients) among all the tribal communities here. But others. i.e., hemoglobinopathies or thalassaemias are not prevalent to any significant extent. It also showed that sickle cell anaemia in Attappadi is relatively mild when compared to that seen in Africans and the survival of sickle cell anaemia patient is more in Kerala than in any other place in India.
Land and Water Management
Local level planning experiments
The attempt to prepare long-term developmental action plan for resource based sustainable development with peoples’ participation in Kalliassery Panchayath, Kannur, was a unique one (1993-1995). To form Mahajana Sabha one member for every 25 households in each ward were nominated by consensus. This Mahajana sabha then, by a process of election, formed the Panchayath vikasana samithi. Around 1200 volunteers from the village and 20 specialists form outside were involved in collecting data on natural and human resource status of the village. They held discussions at various levels and drew up an integrated village development plan.
As part of Panchayath Level Development Planning (1997-1999) in five Panchayaths, namely Mayyil (Kannur), Ochiyam (Kozhikode), Madakkathara (Thrissur) Kumarakom (Kottayam) and Mezhuveli (Pathanamathitta), micro level institutions were formed to strengthen people’s participation. These were (1) Panchayath Development Societies (PDS) (2) Ward Development Committees (WDC) (3) Neighbourhood Groups (NHG) for every 25-50 household (4) Sub committees at all above three levels and (5) Self help groups for women. Technical Support groups (TSGS) consisting of 30-40 local activists who have technical and organizational skills in managing participatory action plans were also formed. A system was developed for data gathering and processing with maximum peoples participation. Reports on natural resources, socio economic status, education, health etc were complied.
In the second phase of the PLDP project (1999-2001), specific areas were identified for human capability development. These were land and water management, education, health, documentation, building organization structures, preparation of perspective plan etc. Formation of NHGs and TSGs had significant impact. State level and Panchayath level training demonstrated that peoples’ participation (men and women) was meaningful and effective. The handbook prepared became very handy for the state planning Board for the peoples’ planning campaign programme. Natural resources (up-gradation and simplification of thematic Maps) and social resources (land records, Irrigation, energy, education, health, economy etc) data compiled into reports came handy for preparing master plan for Panchayath development. Collective dreaming of common people must lead to development plan to create sustainable, productive employment based on natural resources and human resources. The survival and effective functioning of Neighbourhood groups (NHGS), Panchayath development society (PDS), Technical Support Group (TSG) and women’s core group (WCG) will be key to participatory local development programmes.
The possibility of improving the fish marketing system of Palakkad District (1998-1999) was examined through surveys of markets and interaction with various people working in the related area.
The study to analyse the changing trend in urban ecology of Thiruvananthapuram city during the last century (1998-2000) shows that after the city was retained as the capital of the Kerala State, the land use pattern has become highly oriented towards residential use. The heavy migration and increase in population has resulted in encroachment of natural areas and ultimately led to other problems like urban flood.
A critical evaluation of various developmental activities in Attappadi so far was done (1998) and a comprehensive report was prepared, analysing the relevance of objectives of these activities, implementation techniques used, present status, the impact, etc.
The possibilities of evolving a locally appropriate and integrated credit plan for banks in Akathethara Panchayath were analysed and proposed some methodologies for the integration of credit plan with the Panchayath development plan (1999-2002).
A study on the banking sector shows that the service area approach failed to produce any positive result in credit utilisation and it has inherent limitation in procedure and implementation. (1999-2001)
For improving the quality and functional scope of Grama-sahbas, orientation classes through NHGs, and seminars were conducted in five selected Panchayaths (1999-2001)
A study on the impact of democratic decentralisation and peoples plan campaign on the Integrated Child Development Service (CDS) has indicated a positive impact of the involvement of LSGI in the management of Anganawadis in Kerala (2002-2003).