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Managing Community Assets

It is important that the community' institutions and physical facilities we have helped set up across the region are run efficiently and fairly. Seva Mandir therefore provides regular training to help the community institutions and federations understand and carry out their roles and responsibilities, manage and maintain community assets and natural resources, maintain financial records and to strengthen leadership skills. We run a wide range of training programmes and awareness campaigns on engaging with GVCs, improving the liaison between GSs and panchayats, conflict resolution, record keeping, financial management and government welfare schemes. Many of these capacity-building events for GVCs are now being led by experienced senior federation leaders.

We provide training on managing development interventions, especially the common property resources such as community pasturelands, forestlands, community water tanks, common wells, Shiksha Kendras and Balwadis. Through these training programmes, Seva Mandir helps the community in the formation and implementation of norms related to the sustainable management of all common property resources. This also enables communities to create sustainable, yet profitable natural resources. Mobilising the community through its own self-governance mechanisms forms the core of Seva Mandir's work.

The community institutions oversee the activities, and help us implement programmes as effectively as possible. They monitor all development work in the villages. They also appoint the community workers who deliver the services, such as Shiksha Kendra teachers, Balsakhis, Balwadi Sanchalikas, and monitor and review their performance, which affects their entitlement to the honorarium which the institutions help to pay. Importantly, they supervise the fair distribution of benefits from the assets and services run in the village by Seva Mandir.

The community institutions are accountable, transparent and democratic, with villagers deciding when and where the community needs funds to be used.

The village institutions liaise with panchayats for permission to develop common pastureland and use the MGNREGA scheme to work on common lands and dams to ensure proper implementation of government projects e.g. roads, toilets, houses and drinking water systems.

To help communities raise issues related to forests and other common lands at regional level, Seva Mandir has facilitated the establishment of Van Utthan Sansthan, a federation of committees working for the protection and management of common property resources such as forests and pasturelands. Van Utthan Sansthan and the GS federations are together mobilising the community institutions to safeguard and protect these community assets.


Impact

Since 1987, Seva Mandir has encouraged each village community to take responsibility for village resources and the quality of public services such as schools, Anganwadis, government health centres etc. Several GVCs have been taking a proactive role in this, where necessary discussing and dealing with any misconduct relating to community assets within the village.

GSs also have the ability and space to assess the quality of Seva Mandir’s work and give feedback. This has helped them understand the essence of self-governance and build strong leadership within the community. According to Seva Mandir data, 67% of GVCs are independently managing their community assets.

According to a recent study conducted in 800 villages by professors from Georgetown University and Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics, there is good evidence of Seva Mandir’s institutions functioning effectively, and strong and consistent evidence of our effect on reducing conflict (in particular caste-based) and improving natural resource management, and evidence of improved public service quality and increased female empowerment.

With guidance and support from Seva Mandir, the community institutions have been successful in developing more than 16,000 hectares of common land (pastures, forests etc.). These lands, which we have worked with the community to improve, have provided fodder, fuelwood and non-timber forest products to 63,000 beneficiary households and are being managed by the communities themselves according to management rules decided by them.

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