Centre for Rural Systems and Development (CRUSADE)
CRUSADE began their work in a place called Minjur in Tamil Nadu in 1995 by organising rural communities into Self Help Groups (SHGs). SHGs are essentially savings groups, where people save money each month. When a substantial amount is reached money is lent out to the group members. The SHGs directly addressed cash flow problems for women who then benefited through group saving and credit activities.
The Tamil Nadu government recognised CRUSADE’s excellent work and they received support from the Government’s Women’s Development Corporation. After stabilising the SHGs, CRUSADE switched its focus to meeting the needs of marginalised communities. They developed links with the Tamil Nadu Government and also with the banks. They started to work on improving literacy rates and creating economic independence by providing skills training and financial assistance.
Within a decade CRUSADE has successfully created 400 SHGs. In just 20 years the percentage of women involved in income generating activities has increased from 33% to 80%. CRUSADE now works in 200 villages reaching around 200,000 people.
With Salt of the Earth’s support, CRUSADE will be delivering two new schemes: tree planting and village sponsorship. The tree planting scheme will see SHG members receive seeds to grow fruit and vegetables and give farmers, on the margins of their communities, casuarina saplings to plant which can be used in the future for timber.
The village sponsorship scheme focuses on the capacity building of local village councils called Panchayats. CRUSADE will support these Panchayats to produce a five year plan, which captures the needs of the communities they are responsible for. By then lobbying the government CRUSADE will fight for ‘rural development funding’ that the Panchayats are entitled to. Even with CRUSADE’s help the amount these rural communities receive is never enough to meet the ever growing needs in the villages. So, Salt of the Earth will contribute to village-wide funding enabling the Panchayats to implement projects which will have a huge impact on the villagers.
Salt of the Earth are currently planning a longer term health programme with CRUSADE as well as a pilot programme supporting adolescent girls.