Deccan Development Society (DDS) is a 39-year-old grassroots organisation in Telangana, India. It works with nearly 50 village-level voluntary associations (sanghams), led by 5000 dalit and indigenous female small-holding farmers.
At a time when development for dryland farmers only meant groundwater extraction and shifting to mono-cropping of commercial crops, DDS recognised the effects these shifts had on ecology and gender relations. It understood that traditional farming practices were valued by poorer women with degraded soils due to the holistic benefits they offer in human, livestock and soil health, whereas men narrowly focused on yield and the monetary benefits it offers. This inspired
DSS to pursue participatory and sustainable development methods that could assert the sanghams’ autonomy in multiple spheres like food, nutrition, seeds, market, media and so on.
By valuing the indigenous knowledge of these women on food and farming, and by using bottom-up participatory decision-making, the society has implemented successful initiatives that integrate:
The Society is now active in 30 village sanghams, supporting rainfed biodiverse farming, grassroots health and legal workers, community led market for millet produce and also engaging in awareness events, information publications and advocacy campaigns. These activities ensure earth-care and human care and raise the profile of women as leaders in their villages.
Over the decades, DDS has designed integrative programmes such as eco-employment days, Community Gene Bank, Medicinal Plant Commons, Community Grain Fund, Balwadies and more which have been replicated and scaled up by other CSOs and also the government.