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Empowering grassroots governance
Ganjam, Orissa State, India: In Kamagada, young men and women toil in the sun on a water system that will help beat erosion and fertilize the land. As buffalos wallow in the evening twilight, the women’s group in Saru proudly show off their recently-completed fishery.

These and similar projects help empower the poor to take more ownership over achieving the Millennium Development Goals. National UN Volunteers like Minaram Patnaik see that such projects happen according to the wishes of the communities who propose them, and work with the authorities to ensure they are implemented as effectively as possible. 

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1.    UNV volunteer Minaram Patnaik (right) in discussion with officials at the Hinjilicut block headquarters in Ganjam district. Under the UNDP/UNV Capacity Development for District Planning project, it is his role to coordinate with both the authorities and communities to ensure that there is clear understanding about how to make development work according to the people’s wishes.

2.    Village Secretary Suresh Chandra (in cap) introduces the watershed management system being built in Kamagada in Asna block, Ganjam district. By creating water channels like this, the fields can be protected from erosion. Rainwater also flows into a large pool or ‘tank’ from which irrigation systems are drawn. And the people doing the digging are paid via the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

3.    “It will make it easier to farm here,” says Mr. Chandra, “and vegetation will grow again on the hills. It’s a result of good planning via the District Planning project.” UNV volunteer Minaram Patnaik helped connect the dots between the villagers’ requests and the NREGS and other projects in the area, facilitating the implementation of the project.

4.    The Ganjam District Office provides women’s self-help groups like this one in Kamagada with 10,000 rupees ($215) to fund small businesses: the women also pay their own money to a central pot. The money goes towards income-generation activities like basket weaving, goat breeding and the rearing of specially-bred chickens.

5.    This water tank in Saru (Hinjilicut block) was completed in 2009 at the request of the villagers themselves. It is used as a fish farm for small business development, not to mention its usefulness as a water storage facility for washing and other activities.

6.    Many of the people here belong to India’s marginalized ‘Scheduled Tribes’. The women of Saru joined together in this voluntary self-help group to help each other generate income and press for development projects such as the water tank.

7.    Minaram Patnaik is a national UNV volunteer District Support Officer assigned to the UNV/UNDP Capacity Development for District Planning project in Ganjam, Orissa State, India.
UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)