Field Observations: Part 2
Two more of our students, Disha Agarwal and Adam Witt, reflect on their field visits to Samuha.
Can you imagine drinking water contaminated with arsenic? I cannot. But villagers in Koppal and Raichur districts in northern Karnataka are forced to consume drinking water with arsenic concentration as high as 50 PPB (WHO safety standard is 10 PPB). Diseases like skin cancer have been reported from this area. This is all because of gold mining in the area, which involves washing of gold with an arsenic solution that later percolates into the ground.
UNICEF is funding a pilot water filtration project set up by Samuha, a well-established NGO in this area. This picture above shows a small filtration unit installed in Samarthya, Samuha’s Disability Resource Group. They plan to scale this up and construct community-based water filtration systems. This would require technical and financial assistance.
Drinking water is one very basic necessity of life and I really think that access to safe drinking water is everyone’s right. Since arsenic contamination in groundwater has a high cost to the society, this problem requires immediate attention. Gold is an expensive mineral and can earn high profits to the mine owners but only at the expense of the lives of these poor people. Sharing mining royalty or profits with the villagers is certainly not the solution. Perhaps, safer ways of
processing gold should be adopted to prevent putting the lives of people at stake.
My trip to Samuha gave me insights into the structure of a well respected NGO. Their success is built on a foundation of trust, persistence and adaptability. The trust that local villages put in Samuha was palpable. It was evident in the faces of the local farmers who enthusiastically showed us their fields, trenches and compost piles made possible through a partnership with the Trench Cum Bund program. It was clear in the face of the mother in Koppal, who brings her child more than 50km each day to receive therapeutic treatment for his disabilities through Samarthya. The persistence of the Asare program has helped villagers gain access to a fair price for a variety of essential goods. The Chulika Cookstove Initiative has required the perseverance of many individuals who consistently gather field data and relay critical findings to interested investors. In every program Samuha offers, a level of adaptability has been required to move forward. The Non-Pesticide Management Initiative must adapt to seasonal fluctuations in weather that significantly impact market prices and business expectations. The micro finance initiative demands flexibility so they can ensure their member’s livelihoods in times of desperation. It is this combination of trust, persistence and adaptability that I will apply to the TextRA business model to make it a more meaningful social venture.
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