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    Communities and Environment
    Community Initiatives
Case Study: Phuldumer decides to change
Phuldumer is a village of 22 households of the Dongria Kondh Community, in the Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi district. Till May 2009, Phuldumer was deprived of mainstream facilities. Tells Chanchala Majhi, Phuldumer’s Naib Sarpanch of Trilochanpur Panchayat says ‘Other than the government who visited us for census survey, for listing us for the Public Distribution System, health check ups, nobody comes to my Phuldumer for our benefit. Till Vedanta came and spoke to us for us’.

No drinking water, no protective shelter, and no opportunity for schooling coupled with high incidence of malnutrition were commonly found issues. The people of Phuldumer were seeking change.

The company responded and formulated a holistic development plan for the village. The first initiative was to connect the village through approach roads. Subsequently VAL opened a Child Care Centre for the tribal children providing day crèche, pre school education and nutrition supplements. Solar lights replaced kerosene lamps bringing a new ray of hope in village.

Plucking of Siali leaves for producing leaf plates and selling in the market is the traditional livelihood activity of the tribal women. The middle men paid a sub zero price of 25 paise for 100 leaves collected to these women. Availability of skill, abundance of raw materials and assured market impelled the CSR team to enhance this traditional vocation into a leaf plate making business. Shakti, a local NGO was roped in to implement Project Jeebika. Equipped with 8 sewing machines the tribal women were trained in stitching leaf plates. From 25 paise for 100 leaves and a monthly income of INR 200, the women now earn on an average INR 2,200 per month. Strengthening forward linkages, a leaf plate Collection Centre has been established where the finished product is stored till collected by the traders on cash payment.

In due course, it was realized that women waste substantial time in fetching drinking water from the hills. VAL along with Shakti decided to harvest the perennial spring water and constructed treatment points with charcoal, sands and alum with storage facilities. Through gravitation the treated potable water was brought to the door steps of Phuldumer. The villagers christened the project as ‘Tripti’ (satisfaction). Rest what happened is watershed changes not only in Phuldemer but also in the near by tribal predominant villages, of Khemti Padar, Palberi, Kunakadu, Tadijhola and Harida Guda. Today these villages have potable water, Mobile Health Units and varied livelihood projects.

Ratu Majhi of Phuldumer today imparts training to his community on health and hygiene practices. Consumption of fermented meat, homemade country liquor, unsafe water, and unhygienic way of living are stories of past for him. He proudly says, ‘this year there has been no infant and child mortality in our area. Vedanta’s mobile health unit and health consultation centre have given us a new lease of life’. Jagdish Chandra Benia, Vice Chairman of Lanjigarh Block says, 'It is path breaking, Phuldemer and Palberi are now accessible. Konakadu, Tadijhola, Dangamati were out of sight and out of mind. For Vedanta the villagers get water, medical aid and education. They are now counting currency notes and negotiating rates with the traders for their produce. Seeing our children sing nursery rhymes and Bande Utkal Janani is a great experience. We jointly did it!’
 
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