ASSIST has been intervening in the Piduguralla area, which is home to communities who work in the Lime production industries, area for more than 20 years. In the early years of ASSIST’s operation, child labour was rife in all three stages of Lime production: Quarries, Kilns and Factories. Following years of hard work taking children in at daycare centres, integrating them into mainstream education, and helping adults to find alternative livelihood opportunities, there has been a dramatic reduction in child labour in the area.
Nevertheless, with migrant workers arriving in the area all the time to seek work, there is still a need for ongoing support in several communities. Comprehensive Community Development projects in villages and Vocational Training in ASSIST’s training centre are two examples of successful ongoing projects.
The Lime Production process remains the main industry in Piduguralla, with the town noticeably hotter due to the huge concrete Kilns which cover its landscape. After limestone is retrieved from quarries, large rocks are broken by hand, loaded into Kilns, where they are fired and broken down to the size which can be taken to factories. At the factories the daily workers are exposed to airborne fumes as they pack the lime dust into bags. Wages for labourers are around 150-300 INR per day, somewhere between $2-$3 USD. Families travel from across India to work in the lime industry in Piduguralla.
ASSIST has been working hard on the Comprehensive Community Development of several communities living on the islands where the Krishna River splits and meets the Bay of Bengal, over recent years.
The predominant livelihood of villages like Eduromondi is fishing, with families depending entirely on this trade which they have practiced for generations. Villages in this region are cut off from mainland services such as hospitals and high schools. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the small hospital on one of the islands was completely overwhelmed, and has to be entirely repurposed as a COVID treatment ward.
ASSIST has been working in partnership with villages in these remote locations to ensure that, through the Village Development Societies (VDS), communities prioritise the improvement of housing, sanitation and school infrastructure, especially with the increased occurrence of flooding due to climate change.
The inland area of Markapur, in Prakasam district, is by contrast a very dry region where slate mining is the main industry. Water access in this location is a particular challenge, with groundwater scarcity and contamination both being major issues. Excess fluoride in villages has led to higher number of musculoskeletal diseases, including cases of Polio.
Caring for family members with disabilities is a challenge in ASSIST’s focus villages, as adults work long hours in the slate mining industry, leaving very little time – or extra income – to look after those with challenging impairments.
Comprehensive Community Development projects address each of these serious cases under the Community Health focus, where health checks are organized, after which the families are connected to external experts, whom they would not otherwise have had the chance to meet. In many cases, young adults with impairments are then able to work, and contribute to the income of their families, where they had been inactive before.
Another recent project in this region has been Rainwater Harvesting systems, being piloted as a household level alternative to Water Treatment Plants, now that there is greater scarcity of available groundwater.
ASSIST has started its interventions in the villages of Veldurthi, near Marcherla, relatively recently in comparison with other areas. At the moment, a major Organic Farming scheme is in progress to enable farmers to diversify their crops away from the regular cash crops of cotton and chillis, for which a good price is not always guaranteed, and require the heavy use of fertilizers. Those participating in ASSIST’s 5 year programme are now growing mango, guava and other fruits from trees in an intercropping method. This enables farmers to learn how to cultivate the new produce and receive a profit at market before transitioning away from cash crops and fertilizer.
Many of the communities living in and around Veldurthi are from the Banjara, or Lambadi tribe, who now live in large numbers in Andhra Pradesh, having migrated south over the last century from northern Rajahstan. As a Scheduled Tribal group, the local population are one of the more disadvantaged economically in India. Despite this, ASSIST’s community development efforts are bringing new hope and opportunity to a group of people with an extremely rich cultural heritage.