Our local village in the UK, Hampton Wick, is a far cry from Mahinsa, an Indian village on an island of the same name. The former, poised on the river between Kingston-upon-Thames and the open acres of Hampton Court Palace and Bushy Park, can fairly call itself a village. But Mahinsa is definitely one: a tiny island community of 750 souls, 150 households, on the edge of the huge Chilika Lake sea lagoon, on the upper east coast of India.
What do they have in common?
Well, Jeevika sits here, and it works there: our 1-room office in Navigator House is our UK base, while one of our on-going village livelihood projects, Project Eco – just completed with our Orissa NGO partner Jeevan Rekha – has helped Mahinsa islanders adapt to lagoon pollution, loss of traditional fishing livelihoods, and poor ecological conditions and practices.
Human resources and lots of water are common to both villages, but that’s about all: Mahinsa is surrounded by brackish lagoon-water not fit for drinking or cooking while intermittent electricity supply is only just in place, starting to transform island life after the fall of medieval darkness.
Success on Mahinsa
But after two years, Project Eco has had several solid and measurable impacts on the life of the islanders:
- 2,000 saplings established for cyclone-shelter and for fruit
- 6 new or restored bore wells
- 10 hand-pumps supported by a new Water Users Group
- 25 self-composting 2-pit toilets for the poorest households, and for the local school, have largely eliminated defecation in public spaces
- 6 thriving Self-Help Groups (SHGs) comprising nearly 1 woman per household have sustainably increased household income levels
- establishment of viable market-linked crab-and prawn-cultivation by the SHGs has been a spectacular success in adapting to decline of traditional fishing
- household kitchen-gardens with integrated worm-composting have improved family nutrition and offered further income opportunities
- overall eco-awareness has been expanded based on an Eco Club at the local school.
While we are grateful to the Zurich Community Trust for supporting this project, we are excited to be moving on. Mahinsa is now a reliable model for similar projects on other Chilika Lake islands, and this month we are embarking on 2 years of activity on the neighbouring island of Barhampur with valuable support from the innocent foundation.
New directions in the UK
Meanwhile, back home we are starting a new programme to expand our links with our local community in Hampton Wick. We want to offer opportunities to our friends and contacts here to get involved in helping us keep planning, funding and monitoring our projects. Through local pubs, libraries, leisure and social clubs, gardening groups, and local businesses, we plan to communicate more effectively the opportunities for association with Jeevika.
We’ve found a strong level of potential interest right on our doorstep, and I’m delighted to introduce our newest team-member Becky Buchanan – based at Navigator House (firstname.lastname@example.org at 8973 3773) – who’ll be driving this programme: Becky has lived at ground level in Indian villages in several parts of India and is always keen to share her experiences!
This coming September, Jeevika is organising two events with a very local feel to them:
- On Thursday 6th we are proud that a fellow resident of ours at Navigator House, Cleve West, will be speaking at the Lensbury Club on Broom Road about ‘water-wise gardening’: Cleve has won ‘Best of Show’ at RHS Chelsea for 2 years running.
- On Sunday 30th Jeevika is again hosting its ‘Walk for Water’ through Bushy Park and back along Barge Walk.
We hope to see a lot of our village friends on both occasions, and will be letting you know how to join us soon.
Photo of Hampton Wick High Street courtesy of Your Local Web.