The Volunteers for Village Development (VVD) was formed in the year 1982 by an Ex-Army Officer Capt. Ashok Y. Tipnis from Maharashtra and his local colleague Tennyson Kazingmei. VVD is registered under Societies Registration Act and the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.
Structure of the Organisation:
The organisation is based at Ukhrul head quarter. It has three field centres one in Phungyar block, second in Chingai block and the third in Lungchong Meiphai. We have 27 staff currently divided into Support Staff and Programme Staff. The Programme Staff are further divided into three areas. All program staff are required to sign a job contract for 3 years at a time.
The Governing Body:
There are eleven Governing Body members who represent different fields of specialization elected for 3 years at a time. The Governing Body decides all matters concerning the organisation.
The Project Management Committee:
All Project related matters are decided by a Management Committee comprised of all senior program staff, Administration, Finance with Program Director.
We visualize a society with sustainable livelihood, where love brotherhood and equitable life prevails.
To enable Self Help Initiatives of the people for sustainable livelihood, reducing conflict, liberating from discrimination and enhancing people’s participation in governance.
The organisation is committed to certain values which governs our work and behaviour. We believe in recognizing brotherhood in the face of others, we choose to side with the poor, feel in their position and commit our services for their cause, we believe in humility as the foundation of human virtues and we believe that transparency reduces conflict of interest, overcomes fear and strengthens our foundation.
Some of the good works we have done so far:
The project works in a tribal area known as Ukhrul District in the North eastern state of Manipur where villages are not governed by revenue Act and Forest Act of the country. Scheduled as excluded area during the British period and the area being a land of multi ethnic minorities has remained disappointed and there has been a violent awakening of ethnic nationalism.
VVD has played enabling role for self help initiatives for community development and intervened to capacitate the community in terms of awareness and skills to analyse their own problems and plan relevant community action to change.
Tribal system of oral tradition of governance in the village though democratic, is headed by the hereditary Headman, the system lags transparency, awareness, skills, gender balance in composition and is corrupted by state party politics and its welfare schemes. This necessitated the project intervention to organize the community at three levels viz; Self Help Groups (SHGs) at Group level, Village Development Committee (VDC) at village level and Area Development Coordination Committee (ADCC) at area level. Capacitation of these organized groups in terms of awareness on issues concerning their lives and skill in terms of analyzing their own situation and planning relevant development programs are facilitated by the project influencing change of gender bias mindset by gender balanced composition in formation of VDCs and ADCCs at grassroots and ensuring transparency in the village system though peoples participation thereby enabling redefining their own concept of development based on their own situation.
A profile of each village is developed in a process of Participatory Rural Appraisal and based on the facts and figures of which analysis of local situation is facilitated by the project and relevant development program is planned. The profile is updated every year for a comparative study of change. This intervention is to strengthen the traditional system of village governance headed by the Headman and is now adopted by even non project neighbouring villages.
Intervention for Livelihood Support:
In the absence of Institutional credit service in the district VVD initiated interest free micro credit service for income generation activities in the district which later culminated into formation of women’s SHGs which created an impact across the district in terms of reducing interest rate of private money lenders and reduced land alienation by money lenders. A culture of family saving was initiated through the women’s SHG and this has been picked up by many other Groups across the district. The organization has to its credit the introduction of loom in the district to protect the only surviving traditional skill which became so popular and has contributed in reducing migration of young girls to cities in search of work. In agriculture, apart from land development for enhancing food security, we have accomplished breaking through the psychological resistance of farmers in one block (Phungyar) for changing practice of cultivation from shifting to permanent, thereby saving the forest. As an alternative, we have also enhanced land use from one year to 50 years by introducing orchard, the project has also helped farmers to increase their sources of income by introducing new crops like sugar cane, Avocado, Kiwi, Lichee, sweet lime and many others found suitable in particular areas. Skill trainings are given to young entrepreneurs in food processing, solar technology and making washing powder and dish wash making, carpentry and wood craft, cane and bamboo technology, weaving, tailoring and bee keeping.
For promotion of weaving industry in the district an Association of Weavers known as HAOFIA was started with meagre support of credit which has now become what is known as Credit Union, the management of which is now entirely transferred to the people and functioning now with a core fund of 6-7 crores.
In view of the absence of credit services in the district the organization has now institutionalized Microfinance and has registered under Societies Act for separate legal identity. This organization apart from providing credit services to the rural poor, has also introduced solar technology for lighting in view of the power supply deficiency in the state, the distribution of which has reached even the remotest of villages.
Intervention for Forest Regeneration:
For the past 34 years VVD has been working to raise awareness among rural people on the vulnerable ecological balance and atmospheric vulnerability, have encouraged community tree plantation, conservation of forest and wild lives. As a result we have conservation areas declared in all our partner villages which is being adopted by neighbouring villages. We have supported other forums- students, church and other civil society organizations taking similar initiatives on the issue. Area wise Associations of village chief are formed to enforce regulative measures for sustainable use of land and other natural resources.
The state of Manipur has experienced bitter ethnic violence in recent times, the major being the animosity between the Kukis and Nagas and the Paites and Kukis, both stemming from xenophobic insecurity.
VVD began its peace initiative during the climax of tension and violence between two particular ethnic groups Kukis and Nagas in Manipur. It was “Kill at sight” situation when people would say there is no news in the daily newspapers unless there was news of killing, burning of houses and displacement of villages. It was ethnic war supported by armed groups on both sides. The media played a havoc in arousing communal emotions and spreading violence like wild fire. Whoever talked peace was a coward. Even Reverends talked hatred and vengeance. Human right activists were bound by narrow ethnic nationalism and loyalty to their own ethnic group. Politicians made use of the communal emotions for their personal political gains thus making it difficult to bring peace. Behind every effort of the Govt. to bring peace there was violence and the opposition tried to capitalize the bad situation of law and order to destabilize the Govt. It was in such a situation that Capt. A.Y. Tipnis, (Rtd.) as Programme Organiser of VVD led a task force to Imphal and took the opportunity of building alliance with CRN (Committee for Restoration of Normalcy) formed of United Naga Council (UNC) and the Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM). Through CRN volunteers from both sides Kukis and Nagas were called for a workshop on conflict resolution facilitated by “THREAD” of Orissa, our initiative thus came to be known as “Fraternal Green Cross” signifying brotherhood, progress, humility and sacrifice.
Our immediate action was to reduce the sufferings of those displaced from home and means of livelihood with the belief that such humanitarian action would strengthen the bond of brotherhood.
Relief materials like rice, cooking vessels, blankets and tarpaulins were distributed for temporary shelter of displaced villages. This was accompanied by peace meetings, procession and peace workshops advocating for peaceful co-existence by influencing the church and other people’s organizations. Thus the first phase of our initiative came to an end by December 1995.
However, the project continued supported by EED and ICCO through its parent body VVD at Ukhrul and in between we received small support from CAPART, Guwahati, for livestock keeping project. Our efforts for peace initiative were strengthened when in 1999 Action Aid came in to support us for 10 years. The project was able to successfully rehabilitate many of the displaced villages and their livelihood. The worst affected were women and children. Various skill trainings were organised for girls to save from various vulnerabilities and education support was given to 1000 children 500 from each community.
Another challenge before us was to change their attitude of mutual hatred and vengeance and bring reconciliation, we used cultural programmes, we used sports, we used residential trainings, we use project related meetings, we used church for breaking the ice and bring reconciliation in sensitive areas.
Encouraged by people’s response we formed area peace committee in sensitive areas to build local capacity for peace which succeeded in resolving local issues on many occasions. We felt the need to strengthen local capacity for peace by training peace cadres in the affected areas. We were able to contain many rumours and local issues from spreading and polarising the conflict.
Intervention for Women’s Empowerment:
VVD has always been sensitive to the issue of Gender equity, both in the organizational structure and its intervention as well, women’s economic empowerment through SHGs created a positive impact on their status and relationship in the family. While our efforts at grass root level has also been to change the gender bias mindset by involving them in project related institutions and influencing acceptance of women’s participation in all traditional institutions, our strategy to influence amendment of gender bias customs at the community’s apex organisation- the Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL) by lobbying strategic individuals and groups is yet to show result.
Building network of NGOs in the State:
In 1995 VVD initiated a network of NGOs funded by EZE (Germany) in the state known as United NGO Mission Manipur (UNMM) and nurtured it till 1997. Later in 1999 the network created a secretariat of its own and Ashok Y. Tipnis became a full time Secretary of UNMM till 2000.
VVD also coordinated Peace Promotion Program across Nagaland and Manipur under Action Aid India from 2002-2006.
Projects of the organisation has been funded by various agencies both local and external. Among the local sources were CAPART, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Forest and Environment and Rashtria Mahila Kosh, North Eastern Council (NEC), while the External funding were from agencies like, ActionAid, India, Christian Aid-UK, ICCO- The Netherlands, CORDAID – The Netherlands and EZE, now Bread for the World, Germany. Among them EZE and BftW has been the longest funding partner.
The ongoing programme activities focus on community capacitation, women’s empowerment, livelihood, natural resource management and conflict mitigation.
Community capacitation in terms of awareness on issues related to social, economic, political and natural resources;
Capacitation in terms of skills to analyse local situation and plan relevant development and defining their own concept of development;
Livelihood support focuses on ensuring food security by enhancing production and productivity through land development, irrigation and also by promotion of orchard for sustainable land use, skill development and income generation activities of women’s SHGs.
Natural Resource Management aims to regenerate forest, conserve biodiversity and prevent misuse by evolving various regulative measures against use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, poisoning rivers for fishing, hunting, prevents fishing and felling trees during breeding season. Two fold strategies are adopted to implement these- one at village level and another at area level even beyond partner villages.
Conflict mitigation deals with those emerging from oral tradition of inter village boundary and seeks find a permanent solution, facilitates a democratic solutions within, without resorting to violence and third party interventions. This program also intends to advocate, educate the community on constitutional provisions that protects tribal rights over land and natural resources.
Overall Objectives of Programs:
By project and effective village governance, improved socio, economic conditions of target families values and practices of sustainable use of natural resources improved social status of women, responsible youth and cooperative neighbourhood exist in project.
VVD is state level organisation and its activities are sometimes spread across districts depending on availability of resources. However at present we have limited our operation within the district of Ukhrul and implementing program activities in 42 villages.