All is not lost in Attappady – implementation of a Rs.64-crore project to bring back 25,750 acres of fallow tribal farmland to cultivation under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has started yielding results.

During the last three years, the scheme has brought 2,601 acres under cultivation and provided employment to 2,252 tribal families regularly.

Under the scheme, the tribal families can work on their land to prepare it for cultivation and get wages under the MGNREGS, P.V. Radhakrishnan, Project Officer, Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP), Attappady, told The Hindu.

The scheme helped the families escape starvation as they got both employment and food from their land that was kept fallow for various reasons earlier, he said.

The first of its kind in the country, the scheme was launched in 2010-11 in most of the 192 tribal hamlets in Attappady.

It was implemented through Ooru Koottams (hamlet committees). Approval had been given to 10,405 works that focussed mainly on the revival of tribal farming practices and organic cultivation.

The Project Officer said that Attappady Tribal Block stood first in the implementation of the MGNREGS as it spent Rs.9.75 crore during 2012-13.

It generated 5,69,530 mandays and provided 64 days employment to 8,869 families.

A notable feature of the project was that the administrative cost was just 3 per cent of the total money spent.

Jobs given

About 52 per cent of the families given jobs under the MGNREGS had gone to the tribal people in the grama panchayats of Agali, Sholayur and Pudur under the Attappady block.

Ever since the winding up of the Rs.219-crore eco-restoration and tribal empowerment project of the Attappady Hill Area Development Society (AHADS) in 2010, the tribal people were facing acute unemployment. With no work, many of them were close to starvation -- allegedly resulting in women going anaemic and infants dying of malnutrition.

The new scheme was launched with a view to ensuring the crucial food security to them, Mr. Radhakrishnan added.

The scheme is being implemented jointly by Rural Development Department through grama pachayats using the service of the Tribal Promoters and the mates of Ooru Vikasana Samitis (hamlet development committees).

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