In late 2004 when we completed 10 years of work, we had completed with fair amount of satisfaction the objectives we set out to do in that period of time. The Base Hospital and the community health program were running efficiently managed by the team. We needed future directions for our work, so we went back to the people. In late 2004 and early 2005, we literally closed down the hospital except for emergencies and the whole team went walking to villages in 2 valleys 3 days a week. It took us few months to finish that exercise. The days were spent in visiting each household and the evenings for meetings. In the meeting, which were very well attended, we discussed not about the hospital or illness but about good health and how we can achieve that. People talked about agriculture, about alcoholism and so many other social issues that bother them. As a result of these meetings a few farmers groups were formed - some womenís and some menís groups. Some of the farmers who are members of these groups are experimenting with the following things
1. Grow more of traditional food crops so that their families will have at least food security and better nutrition.
2. To try to bring back the traditional seed varieties which were in the valley earlier and conserve them on farm.
3. To gradually shift from chemical intensive to organic farming for all crops.
Tribal Health Initiative is supporting them by
1. Linking them with organic markets so that they will get fair price for the product of their toil.
2. Exposure tour and trainings by other organic farmers.
3. Supporting the women farmers with small machines so that they can process and value add to their produce.
There are few organic shops in Chennai, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Mysore, Pondichery & Bangalore who buy organic products from us. When they give us an order, the womenís groups will procure the materials, process and pack them. But, for products like black gram, turmeric or cotton, we have to buy it from the farmers as soon as they harvest it. Itís difficult for them to store it and they also need money for the next crop. This becomes a large amount Ė for eg. last year we bought organic cotton for Rs.2.5 Lakhs. The money from the buyer came 3 months later. As far as turmeric and black gram are concerned, they will be sold spread over the whole year only. It was difficult last year because we had to take the money from the hospital income.