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The Powerful Combination

Building Up and Criticizing at the Same Time

What is the best way to revitalise the rural areas? Is it by development projects like planting trees, building water harvesting structures or starting a small factory to process medical herbs? Or is it by campaigning against a corrupt Forest Department which tries to make the life of forest dwellers as difficult as possible. Or against big companies which want to build dams and displace many villagers? We think both have to be done. At the same time, interconnected.

Because when your organisation only does constructive work, all the nice results can easily be destroyed by a big project. And when your organisation only looks for political confrontation, villagers will agree with your claims, but they will argue that still the hunger is there and the need for education and healthcare and some cash income.

Both constructive work and campaigning have to be done. But the most important thing is to listen to the villagers carefully, to build up a relationship of trust. It will take years.

For example Himcon

Himcon is a small organisation based in Sabli, a village near Rishikesh in the Himalayas. Himcon means Himalaya Consortium for Himalaya Conservation. It started in 1989 with many discussions in villages, followed by tree planting campaigns, the construction of roof water harvesting tanks and two fruit orchards on waste land.

Every project starts with a serious investigation and collection of data and writing a report for funding agencies and friends. Sometimes there is more money available and sometimes less. Himcon doesn’t accept loans, only gifts, because they don’t want to become dependant of banks or funds. It will never accept one dollar from the World Bank, because it opposes their policies for privatisation.

Nowadays Himcon is struggling with the Forest Department (FD). It reclaims the parts of the village forest in Sabli which the FD has encroached; it fights for the rights of the forest dwellers of Kimsar in the National Park; and it wrote a critical report about forest fires. Himcon is also part of the ‘Save the River’ campaign against the many dam and tunnel projects in the river Ganga in Uttarakhand.

Himcon is not only criticizing the Forest Department and the government, it also cooperates with serious officers who respect the law and are interested in the development of the village life.

Go to next page: Via Campesina: Stop Land Grabbing
Go to overview issues
Read more about Himcon - constructive work
See overview campaigns of Himcon
See overview pictures Uttarakhand South-West
Read For example HPSS, Uttarakhand - powerful combination
Read For Example Upkar Sansthan, in Rajasthan - powerful combination