Shramjivi Janata Sahayyak Mandal (SJSM), a Satara (Maharashtra) based development NGO was founded in 1980 by a group of local youth from nomadic tribal community residing in vicinity of the Koyna dam, the first largest multipurpose dam constructed in 1965 in Maharashtra. These self-inspired youth initiated their work in villages affected due to the backwaters and gradually spread work in villages of Satara and adjoining districts of Konkan region. SJSM works closely with government agencies in facilitating development of poor and disadvantaged communities and have set up number of rural development models with the help of DRDA, agriculture department, fisheries department, DST New Delhi, NABARD and international donor organizations such as Oxfam Australia, Swiss Aid, Ford Foundation, Asia Initiative, Maharashtra Foundation etc. currently corporate houses like ITC, Bajaj, Atlas Copco, Asian Paints, etc.
From inception, SJSM have worked on promoting self-reliant community development organizations through a process of forming people’s organizations and it has promoted 4 independent NGOs and 60 people’s institutions, especially cooperatives with membership strengths of 27,540 families from nomadic and primitive tribes in the state. The main focus of work has been on facilitating promotion of local natural resource-based livelihoods through formation of formal cooperatives. The cooperatives have been formed around dairying, Self Help Groups, fishing, food processing, cane furniture, herbal plantations and Ayurvedic medicine production, etc. The other programs include community health, tribal children’s education, disaster management and community preparedness. The credit cooperative with present membership of over 2525 households from shepherding community with annual turnover over 100 million rupees provides loan to members as and when required.
Gender justice has been the cross-cutting approach of SJSM’s work from the inception and in fact its work was started with the programs of awareness on socio-economic and discrimination issues faced by women within the community (Dhangar Gavalis as called locally and is known as one of the highly traditional and superstitious nomadic community in Maharashtra) such as dowry, child marriages, illiteracy, their labor exploitations, etc. SJSM are presently working in more than 500 villages of Satara, Sangli and Raigad districts.
Most of the cooperatives now function independently and have been handed over to local communities. SJSM provides need-based support especially in the areas of capacity and organizational development for smooth functioning of their financial and administrative affairs.
The intervention in Konkan was started after the unprecedented rains and floods of 26th July 2005 that affected Konkan severely. On demand of local people, especially Katkari tribes (one of the three primitive tribes found in Maharashtra) SJSM started its work to help them overcome the losses suffered due to floods and land sliding. Since inception of work in Konkan a number of development interventions have been started amongst tribals after completing relief and rehabilitation activities. SJSM is also in the process of developing sustainable agriculture development model amongst Katkaris and rehabilitate them on their agricultural lands with a view to stop migration amongst them. The initiatives are taken through Katkari women’s groups. Alongside organizing tribals of Poladpur and Mahad blocks of Raigad district around inland fishing and other empowerment programs SJSM also promoted a network namely Konkan Lokadhikar Manch working amongst Katkaris and other poor and marginalized communities through a process of empowerment, constructive development, networking, linkages with government development agencies and advocacy.
SJSM from inception has been working on NRM based livelihood promotion and has given added emphasis on soil and water conservation and watershed development programs. From 2002 SJSM has developed 5000 hectors of watershed in drought prone area of Man block of Satara district. From 2009 it is implementing IGWDP (Indo-German Watershed Development Program) in Man block in another 1300 hectors with support from NABARD. From October 2007 to December 2011 SJSM also implemented a pilot project namely MWSIP (Maharashtra Water Sector Improvement Project) with financial assistance Maharashtra Govt. (funded by World Bank) in 24 villages of Khatav Block of Satara district focusing on underground water management and its equitable distribution. At present we are implementing ‘Vasundhara’ project namely ‘Integrated Watershed Management Program (IWMP) in Satara block, Patan block of Satara District, Mhasala block of Raigad district. We are currently implementing watershed development project funded by Bajaj Auto in Man block of Satara district. All together SJSM has successfully implemented watershed development projects on more than 25000 ha. Area.
SJSM also works closely with NABARD’s women’s empowerment program namely ‘Promotion and Linkages of SHGs’ and the program is implemented in Patan, Khatav, Maan and Satara blocks of the Satara district and has promoted near about 1000 SHGs and mobilized Rs. 10 million credit from nationalized and cooperative banks.