Increasingly we’re concerned that villagers are overly dependent on cattle as a source of income – it’s a growing threat to our ecosystem and putting indigenous wildlife at risk of extinction. We also want to empower local women through their participation in the local economy. By creating new skills in the community, we can help to build new livelihoods. Our latest project will build and create an education and training centre in Bandipur where our local women will be trained to use hand looms to produce and sell beautiful artisan crafts. The looms will be environmentally friendly too, requiring neither water or electricity. We need your support to help us initiate this project. To date our educational and training support has focused on individual villagers to develop their skills and learn new trades. Some have returned to support local villagers, others have supported from afar.
Read Madappa’s story – just one of the local villagers that we’ve helped. “I am 22 years old and one semester away from completing my MBA in Mysore. When I was still at government school a teacher spotted that I was good at my studies and told the Mariamma Charitable Trust that I needed financial help to continue. They paid for my school and college fees from 9th standard (when I was aged fourteen) to the end of my degree course. I came out with a first class BA degree in Business Management. The Trust helped arrange for me to do a three-month internship in a local resort doing a project in customer services. I think it is really good that the Trust helps poor people. My father works on the land. He has cattle. If I had not received help from the Trust I would not have been able to study. Now I hope to get a good job when I finish studying so that I can help my family”.
Madappa – MBA student, Yelchetty village
In the last 9 years the Mariamma Charitable Trust has provided compensation to over 750 wildlife kills protecting the livelihood of rural villagers. We are the only small non-governmental organisation to provide financial support of this nature. We understand the impact on local villagers when their livestock is killed and that they need help quickly. But we are rigorous in our assessment and each case is treated individually. A thorough ‘marger’ (verification and assessment of the kill) takes place as soon as the Trust is notified of a killing. Our process is transparent and villagers know that disturbing a carcass and falsifying any claims will result in non-payment.
“I have 20 cows and 30 sheep, cattle dung is really my only source of income, but there has been no rain now for so long. If the estates can’t farm the land because it is too dry, they don’t buy my dung and then things get difficult. The Mariamma Charitable Trust has been a great blessing for me. I lost four cows in one month. They came and helped me find the kill and gave me compensation. It made a big difference.”
Bellaiah – Chikkayelchetty Villager
The Mariamma Charitable Trust has been providing free health care since 2000 when we opened our medical clinic. It’s home to a volunteer doctor, who visits monthly and treats up to 80 patients and a local nurse who daily sees around 10 patients suffering from more minor ailments. Spreading the word about these facilities is essential, but building trust is just as important. Staff from Mariamma travel by scooter and on foot to outlying villages and along bus routes telling the villagers of the medical care available. This service is provided freely to the local community.
“The free clinic is also a blessing to us. We regularly use it because it is expensive and hard to get medical treatment otherwise. We can get proper medication and the doctor is sympathetic. Sunita doesn’t look down on us because we are poor. We really appreciate that.”
Hoovaiah – Mangala Villager
Stray domestic dogs are a threat to the local community. They spread canine distemper and rabies and the tigers can also contract the disptemper virus and it can kill them. Getting this under control is key. The Trust has implemented birth control for local dogs and has carried out an intensive vaccination program against Canine Distemper virus and rabies for domestic dogs in 131 villages surrounding the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. This vaccination project was supported financially by WWF India and supported logistically by the Bandipur Forest Department.
“If we have any difficulties, Sunita will always help us out. She doesn’t just give us compensation for our cattle – she does a lot more. She cares for other animals too, and gave our village dogs the injections they needed. I am absolutely confident that if ever I am in trouble, Sunita will look after me.”
Deshalingaiah – Mangala Villager
“WWF India has been partnering the Mariamma Charitable Trust in vaccinating dogs in the vicinity of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve against canine distemper virus for the last three years. We found the Mariamma Charitable Trust to be a committed and professional NGO working towards the cause of tiger conservation. The institution has a team of dedicated conservation workers led by Ms Sunita Dhairyam who have worked hard to instil confidence in the local villagers and won support for tiger conservation around Bandipur and in the Nilgiris in general. WWF India is looking forward to continuing the partnership with the Trust to prevent canine distemper virus among wild carnivores and to manage human-tiger conflict in the area”.
Ravi Singh – CEO WWF India