Saturday, July 5, 2008

D a r j e e l i n g L a d e n l a R o a d P r e r n a

S t r a t e g i c P l a n

Vision Statement

Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna (DLR Prerna) believes in a world that sees the need to live as one family where the environment is preserved and protected, where conscious efforts are made to remove unjust structures while striving to build a just and humane society.

Mission statement

Our mission is to build sustainable human communities in the Darjeeling hills and the adjoining areas by promoting peoples participation, gender equality and living in harmony with the environment.


1. Promote, facilitate and strengthen people’s organisations.
2. Promote organic agriculture and appropriate technology
3. Undertake Development and Environment Education with educational institutions and community based organisations.
4. Provide support to other organisations.
5. Undertake research, development and dissemination on developmental issues pertinent to the Darjeeling hills.


1. Promote, facilitate and strengthen people’s organisations:

The people of Darjeeling come together in community-based organisations known as the Samaj irrespective of the rural or urban background. The activities of the samajs are focussed on social ceremonies. The challenges that the samaj poses are it’s: welfare orientation in activities, gender disparity, centralisation of power in few executive members who are usually elderly, better off economically and educationally (formal) and male. DLR Prerna proposes to work with the Samajs.

DLR Prerna’s intervention is built on the experiences and resources of the community and the organisation. Conceptually and in terms of intervention, the programme is long term one. Working with the Samaj is working within the experience of the community which accelerates the process of change as well as avoids building parallel systems.

In the initial part of the programme, the intervention will look inwards with participatory analysis and planning and adding of developmental activities to the existing Samaj welfare activities. Issues of decentralisation, gender balance savings and credit, improvement of farming skills are addressed. Linkages are promoted in order to avail of the facilities and capacities for the development of the community. This base strengthening of the Samaj will take anything between 3 to 6 years. Self Help Groups and Co-operatives will be used as models within the Samaj. Successively the Samaj will be promoted and facilitated to look into issues of local self-governance, decentralised planning and accessing of rights and benefits. It is important to note that the activity time lines are based on our past experience and are contextual to a situation, community, geography, socio-economic profile and the historical context. It is a process, which is continual and interchangeable.

2. Promote organic agriculture and appropriate technology

DLR Prerna believes that organic farming is a way of life. A way of life, which empowers individuals explore their capacities within existing natural systems and resources. It is also an approach to life, which is communitarian and based on self-reliance. It also promotes diversity, knowledge and conservation.

Going Organic has implications at all levels: individual, community, state and international community. Acceptance of organic farming as a way of life at the individual level is the core of going organic. The individual and the community needs to be completely committed to the organic way of life as it is a cyclic, continuous process with a belief and trust on the natural process of interdependence and the web of life. This commitment is of utmost importance as the organic lifestyle depends on the individual responsibility and creativity.

DLR Prerna promotes going organic by translating the concept into individual and community action. Capacity building as well as logistic support to the individual and the community is provided. The organisational role is extended to the marketing of the organic products by enabling linkages. The issues of organic certification, fair trade labelling is also facilitated.

Organic farming is a constant evolution of the natural farming systems incorporating cutting edge scientific research, which goes beyond formal learning systems. The ultimate aim being the birth of a proactive scientific farmer who is constantly evolving and improving systems and the knowledge base. This evolving systems and knowledge base is multidirectional and based on dialogue, learning and sharing from each other.

DLR Prerna undertakes capacity building of the individual farmer and the community. Capacity building on improved farm management, which includes soil, crop, seeds, livestock, and water management is facilitated. The management system the farmer develops must be integrated within all the resources of the farm. Capacity building also implies the change in mindset of the farmer from a static subsistence one to a dynamic, creative and evolving farmer and farming community. The capacity building support is based on improving on the life experiences and resources of the farmer and the community. Capacity building of the community is focused on increasing community learning, sharing and interdependence.

Access to the organic market needs the certification of the products and the processes. Certification with the help of a largely accepted certifying agency is of utmost importance to gain entrance and acceptability in the organic market. DLR Prerna has an MOU with IMO Control India, an organic certifying agency.

DLR Prerna working with the small and marginal farmers, develop systems of internal control systems and internal regulation systems of organic farming code at the farmer and the community level ensuring community ownership and responsibility. It also reduces the cost of certification as external inspection time is reduced.

DLR Prerna believes that organic farming cannot be promoted in isolation and integrates it in its larger community development programmes.

3. Undertake Development and Environment Education (DEE) with educational institutions and community based organisations.

DEE promotes empathy and action on issues of development and environment especially with regard to the Darjeeling Hills. It promotes the interdependence of socio-ecological systems.

DEE is initiated with interested teachers of the educational institutions, students and representatives of Community Based Organisations. This initial base is expanded within the institution as well as promoting linkages and solidarity support to each other. DEE also enables us to promote linkage between our rural and urban programmes.

The focus of the programmes will be on individual, family, community and institution responsibilities towards a clean, safe, healthy, equitable and sustainable environment.

Besides larger developmental and environmental issues, the programme will continue to concentrate on existing programmes - the Campaign for the Judicious use of Plastics and Solid Waste Management. The solid waste management can be summarised into segregation and storage of waste at source, recycling of recyclables, composting of organic waste, judicious use of non-recyclables and toxic waste. It also has community economic initiative component of community collection, treatment and recycling.

4. Provide support to other organisations.

DLR Prerna will provide technical as well as implementing support to other organisations. This support can be short term or long term one. The rationale for this support is that the non-profit NGO movement in the Darjeeling Hills is very nascent and support in the local language is not easy to come by. The support also enables us to build a larger voice to address the issues of the Darjeeling Hills.

5. Undertake research, development and dissemination.

DLR Prerna will take action research and documentation on issues that are pertinent to the Darjeeling Hills within the focus of the organisation. This will be disseminated to the larger civil society, government, institutions and individuals for wider policy discussion and change.

Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna Activities

i. Community Development:
DLR Prerna facilitates community development programmes with communities based on the experiences and resources of the community.
Harsing, Dabaipani and Yangkhoo Busties: Bijanbari Block – 1996 onwards
· Proposed Sanjukta Vikas Co-operative with 455 family members
· Milk, Consumer, Saving and Credit and Drinking Water Co-operative
· Self Help Groups
· First certified organic communities selling small farmers organic tea in the international Fair Trade market.
Chimney – Deorali: Kurseong Block - 1996 onwards
Community managed Junior High School
Mamring – Sittong: Kurseong Block – 2000 onwards
Promotion of Self Help Groups

ii. Development and Environment Education: 1996 onwards
Development and Environment Education focuses on raising awareness and undertaking action on development and environment issues, especially the Eastern Himalayas. DEE is being undertaken with a number of educational institutions and community based organisations.
Green Darjeeling
Campaign for the judicious use of plastics
Clean Darjeeling Clean River Rungeet – focus on Solid Waste Management
HIV/AIDs awareness and stigma reduction

iii. Research, development and dissemination:
DLR Prerna undertakes research, development and dissemination as a crosscutting activity that has implication to all our activities and also used for advocacy purposes.
Area and Issue Profile of Darjeeling and Sikkim
Village level planning on Developing a Transboundary Conservation Landscape in the Kangchenjunga Complex – Biological Corridors between the Senchel and Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuaries

iv. Support to organisations:
DLR Prerna provides technical and capacity building support to other organizations. The support extends to non-profit organizational planning and development besides the activities stated above.

DLR Prerna plans and implements activities of the Anugyalaya Darjeeling Diocese Social Service Society since 2001.

Linkages and other services provided:

1. DLR Prerna is part of the Institute for Marketecology, India, organic certifying agency, as inspectors. Through the association organic certification will be granted under various international standards.

2. DLR Prerna is associated with Mr. Richard Zook, Certified Permaculture Instructor and Practitioner who imparts certified Permaculture Design Course on a regular basis in Darjeeling Hills.

Capacity Building Support

1. DLR Prerna in 2003 has designed and implemented a training programme for community animators. The training imparts basic content and skills for community mobilisation, analysis, planning and implementing community actions based on their experiences and resource.

2. DLR Prerna in 2003 has designed and implemented and organisational development and strategic plan module for NGOs in the Darjeeling Hills.

3. DLR Prerna and Anugyalaya in 2004 undertook block level capacity building programmes for Block Officials and Panchayat Pradhans on Self Help Groups at all the Blocks within the Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council in partnership with the District Rural Development Cell.

4. DLR Prerna in 2004 developed teaching learning materials on Self Help Groups, which were used in the training programmes. They are: SHG conceptual background, SHG promoter’s manual, SHG promoter’s manual for facilitation. A SHG self-evaluation chart was also contextualised and improved for the Darjeeling Hill context. The SHG conceptual background is in English while the rest are in Nepali with pictorial representations, which can be used as flip charts.

5. DLR Prerna in 2004 developed a basic training programme on organic farming. It covers basic skills of soil management, compost making, pest and disease management, use of effective microorganisms, biodynamic farming and animal husbandry. The content also has systems of organic farming: farm diary, agricultural calendar, Internal Control and Regulations Systems for organic certification.

6. DLR Prerna in 2007 developed a training of trainers programme on Participatory Planning and Leadership with specific reference to Fairtrade. Currently this training is being facilitated with 6 tea gardens and 4 small farmer collective partners of Tea Promoters India, Pvt Ltd.

Darjeeling Hills Context – DLR Prerna’s perspective and role

Darjeeling’s development needs and concerns have never been properly articulated. Development initiatives have been undertaken without taking into consideration the socio-ecological uniqueness of Darjeeling.

DLR Prerna’s focus in the Darjeeling Hills is not only an emotional attachment to the roots of the organization, but from the need that arises from deep analysis and reflection on the development journey of the Hills.

Nestling in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas lies Darjeeling, the northern most district of the state of West Bengal, India. Post 1988, the hill sub-divisions of the district and sections of the plains come under the Autonomous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).

The total population of DGHC is 6 93 793; rural 5 33 413; urban 1 60 380; female 2 59 882 and male 2 73 531. (1991 primary census abstract [pca]). 76.88% of the population is rural with 53.99% small and marginal farmers. (1991 pca). More than 40% of the area is under forest. 4.56% of the population lives in forest villages and forest fringe areas. (1991 pca). More than 20% of the area is under plantations and 41.45% of the population is plantation workers, tea with 35.78% and cinchona with 5.67%. (1991 pca). 23.12% of the population in the urban areas is engaged in the service sector. (1991 pca).

70% of Darjeeling lives in the rural areas in difficult circumstances.

The rural areas are far flung and communication infrastructure poor. Access to the market is extremely difficult leading to an accentuated exploitative structure with remuneration for agricultural produce extremely low for the farmers. Farmers sell their products to middlemen who also provide credit during the lean season, reducing their bargaining power dramatically. The villagers take credit from the informal sector at extremely high interest rates ranging from 60% to 120% per annum. Thus the farmers of the hills are in a constant cycle of debt and low remuneration entrapping them in poverty.

One of the effective ways of breaking from this cycle is in promoting, facilitating and strengthening people’s organizations as has been the DLR Prerna experience in Harsing, Dabaipani and Yangkhoo Busties.

The Tea Plantations present a unique situation. Extremely profitable at the macro level yet the share of profits hardly reaching the labourers.

Each plantation has a permanent set of workers living within the plantation. Of them, only the permanent workers (20% of the plantation population of which 80% are daily wage labourers) are entitled to benefits from the management according to the Plantation Labour Act, 1951. Because of these benefits the low daily wage seems justifiable. But the Plantation Labour Act, an unjust Act, leaving out 80% of the population, is not implemented properly in any garden in Darjeeling. To make matters worse, many gardens in Darjeeling are closing down or are sick due to mismanagement and lack of reinvestment by the tea companies.

Harsing, Dabaipani and Yangkhoo parts of the Harrison’s Tea Estate before the closure in the early 1950s, have amply demonstrated the traumatic situation faced by the communities on losing their occupation and difficulties in initiating the process of rehabilitation. The involvement of the DLR Prerna with these communities and evolving a strategy of development intervention will be of great importance to these tea gardens which have closed recently and going through the same experiences. This experience is pertinent to other parts of rural Darjeeling too.

DLR Prerna’s active involvement in the Fairtrade movement in tea gardens and small farmer collectives is a strategic choice of contributing to sustainable development models with a specific focus on equity. This contribution is being made at the local with communities, with communities and international level, comments on standards of Fairtrade.
The Darjeeling Hills is subjected to great stress of land-use transformation and continues to face multiple threats.

The Himalayas are a very sensitive young mountain range and the Eastern Himalayas, of which Darjeeling is a part of, is among the world’s ten most critical centres for biodiversity and endemism. It is one of the 25 global Biodiversity-hotspots.

Today the green cover is only 41.2%(official figure) due to rampant legal and illegal felling; of this more than a quarter of the forest has undergone degradation to less than 10% canopy cover. (Sanskritayana1997). Deforestation is a complex problem and cannot be attributed to a single factor. Some of them are: malfunctioning of the administration, corruption, energy needs and unemployment. This has led to serious problems of landslides and water scarcity. A recent trend is the influx of wild animals in the agricultural fields due to loss of their habitat.

DLR Prerna’s collaborative effort with ICIMOD and other partners in the Village level planning in the Transboundary Conservation Landscape in the Kangchenjunga Complex is our contribution to the larger issue of conservation and development. The planning process has enabled us to perceive a larger dimension and continuing commitment to our vision.

The use of alternate energy sources, appropriate technology and organic farming within the communities DLR Prerna works reduces to an extent the burden on the forests.

In such a unique and fragile socio-ecological system of the Darjeeling Hills, the adoption of organic farming is a positive and economically viable option. Organic farming has great relevance in today’s world, in a world with growing environmental degradation and ecological destruction. To the person practicing, it means a healthier living environment as well as access to a growing niche market. Darjeeling is famous for her natural beauty and agricultural products of tea, spices, oranges non-timber forest products and medicinal plants. These products are specific to the Darjeeling area and command a niche market.

In the growing environmental awareness going organic will add value to the already niche products of Darjeeling. The economic benefit can be measured in increased price offered for the products. The tangible and intangible benefits of, going organic is tremendous, for the practitioner too.

Darjeeling is a tourist destination and going organic caters to the growing consciousness of eco-tourism.

Thus, going organic is viable environmentally, economically and socially for the Darjeeling Hills, which is being promoted with small farmers by DLR Prerna.

Landslides have always been a part of the evolution of the Darjeeling history. But, off late in the past decade or so, the frequency and magnitude of landslides are increasing with disastrous impact on life and livelihoods. Darjeeling lies in an active seismic zone; earthquakes coupled with landslides make a frightening and disastrous combination.

DLR Prerna and her partner Anugyalaya DDSSS, have initiated a pilot project on community based disaster management focussing on community mobilisation and planning for disaster preparedness and management in high-risk landslide and earthquake zones. This will be basis of expansion of the lessons learnt as well as integrating mitigation and livelihoods initiatives.

In the urban areas, fallout of unplanned growth is being felt everyday with scarcity of water, unmanageable waste production, vehicular pollution, and overcrowding and illegal and unsafe constructions. The problems get accentuated with the influx of tourists in the tourist season.

DLR Prerna has been promoting solid waste management practices in the town as a pilot initiative, which also includes an economic initiative component of community collection, treatment and recycling.

Alcoholism is rampant in the hills especially among the men, proving to be one of the serious killer diseases of individuals and families. Chemical and substance abuse is also a very big problem in the youth especially amongst the urban youth. Darjeeling is a high-risk zone with regard to HIV/AIDS due to the high out-migration of the Darjeeling males for employment, rising floating sex workers and intra-venous drug users.

Through the development and environmental awareness programme the DLR Prerna conducts, it proposes to highlight issues of Darjeeling to the students, get them involved in local issues with a hope that they will form a critical mass of change and support. This programme is being extended to the community-based organisations of Darjeeling too with the same philosophy. DEE is undertaken in collaboration with specialised partner organisations.

As part DEE, DLR Prerna conducts action research, documentation and dissemination projects.

Support to organisations is an expression of solidarity where experiences and resources can be shared and built upon. This enables the growth of the partners as well as the intervention at the community level. DLR Prerna has been extending support to various organisations and have built close partnership with Anugyalaya Darjeeling Diocese Social Service Society, where the entire implementation of the activities was undertaken by DLR Prerna from 2001 to 2006.

DLR Prerna is a founding and active member of the Darjeeling NGO Network, a network of Darjeeling based and Darjeeling concerned organisations established in 1999.

Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna:

Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna was instituted by the Darjeeling Jesuits of North Bengal (DJNB) to cater to its ‘Development Apostalate’ after a regional evaluation in 1993. Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna’s mandate was to evolve and help implement suitable strategy for human development in the Darjeeling Region.

The DLR Prerna, though a Jesuit Organisation at inception is a secular non-profit, non-governmental organisation registered under the Societies Registration Act of West Bengal XXVI of 1961 as Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna dated 13th March 2001.

The Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna has a core staff of Ashesh Rai, Navin Tamang, Rohin D’souza and Roshan Rai. Sailesh Sharma has joined us as of 1st April 2008.

Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna,
42, Ladenla Road, Hayden Hall Complex,
Darjeeling 734 101,
West Bengal, India.
Phone Number: 0091 – 354 – 2255894.


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