Sahadeo Shanaware used his Quest Fellowship advocacy training to secure government subsidies for local Basod craftsmen, improve their access to clean water and help them organise a union to tackle challenges with a united front.
The Basods are traditional craftsmen who earn their livelihood by making and selling bamboo items at the local market. Using his social rights experience, Sahadeo undertook community-based research and discovered that their access to raw product was being limited by a conservation project, resulting in threatened livelihoods and an increase in unemployment.
Working with his mentor, he organised the Basod Kamgar Union, which now has a membership of 225 families. One of the union’s first actions was to organise for each family to plant 25 bamboo plants, to comply with conservation rules and contribute to forest regeneration. Sahadeo went on to secure forest product cards for the families so they could claim their allowance of 1500 subsidised bamboo stems, and this boosted their daily income by an incredible 300% (from 30-40 to 100-200 rupees per day), thus lifting them out of the critical poverty zone.
By the end of his fellowship year, Sahadeo had grown into an experienced community leader and had gained the trust of the forest management authorities. He’d increased union membership and geographical outreach and established links with India’s national labour council. He also secured funds to buy equipment and created a self-help group to help with funding applications and increase bamboo business profits.
Most importantly, his efforts mean the government now recognises the Basod community’s right to a livelihood based on traditional bamboo crafts. The Basods themselves are now fully aware of their rights and are currently working on schemes to improve sanitation and local roads.
Sahadeo has spent the last decade working to defend the rights of the Basods. Having grown up in a nomadic tribal community himself, he understands the challenges that traditional communities face. “Some people think their position in society is down to bad luck,” says Sahadeo. “I don’t agree with that.”