Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Welcome to Harike

The first month in Harike has passed, and it has gone very fast. Many things have happened, and the team has been working hard to establish strong connections with the local communities. After the end of quarterlies, the team began strategizing on the future of the centre and planned the centre's activities for the following year. After some house decoration activities (led by our former centre manager Ethan), the real work began.

First Saturday Meeting complete
Until now, we established two weekly ASP’s with two different local communities. The wonderful  Jessica, our Women’s empowerment project manager, has initiated a Girls’ Club with the Makhu girls and has received a very positive response. Our Eco-building project manager, Maria, has been working hard at establishing relations with local women who will host the eco home stays in the future, as well as worked on the plan for eco-buildings in all of EduCARE’s centres. While our new centre manager Tommaso, in between cooking delicious meals for all the interns, has begun his business plan for Harike’s ReSTORE. In addition, we also began giving workshops to a local school on a range of subjects including SWASH, girls’ health, disaster management and environmental awareness. Maria and Jessica gave the first two workshops and received very positive feedback from both the children and the teachers. These workshops will be given twice a month for the next year and are aimed at raising awareness amongst local children about important issues.

Harike team members standing next to their caricature
With respect to the forestry project, Harike has a lot of potential particularly due to its proximity to Harike’s Wetland, a protected area which includes a bird sanctuary home to hundreds of birds migrating from places as far as Siberia. The forestry team, composed of Sydney and I, had a pretty successful month in terms of establishing contacts and planning future projects. During this month, we have managed to meet and interview a number of officers from Punjab’s Forest Department in both Harike and Firozpur, as well as visited Makhu’s tree nursery to learn about the local flora and fauna. After some brainstorming sessions and lengthy discussions with Mr B, we came up with a number of projects to implement in the future. These include:

·  Establishing a tree nursery at the local Sikh temple, planting bamboos and a number of other local trees, with the aim of engaging the local community in taking care of the trees and create, in this way, a social forestry project.

·  Work with some of the women from Makhu village to create organic vegetable gardens for self-consumption.
·         ·  Establish an income-diversification project aimed at the two local communities we work with in Harike. As these communities’ incomes rely on extraction of resources from the wetland (for example by fishing and cutting wood for fuel and fodder), our aim will be to create a number of organic vegetable gardens for the families to use for self-consumption. This will allow the families to reduce their expenditure on food, improve their levels of nutrition, as well as promote more sustainable agricultural practices.

Harike team at Quarterlies
For the moment, these are the forestry project priorities and steps have been taken to ensure we’re on the right track to achieve these in the next year. In addition to the main project, Sydney and I also created a new garden for the interns’ house which will be used to grow organic vegetables, as well as mosquito-repellent plants (which are very much needed for the summer months here).

All in all, our first month here went very fast, between some planning and strategizing, drinking many, many chais, film nights, perfecting our parantha recipe, running away from frisky buffalos, playing cricket with the children and experiencing our first Punjabi wedding, we have learnt a lot but still have a lot to achieve.
Our first Punjabi wedding

Alessandra Sciarra- Italy 
Forestry and Organic Farming Project Manager, Harike (Punjab)

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