The Center for Improved Rural Health and Environmental Protection (CIRHEP) is an NGO established in 1994 in Nilakottai, Tamil Nadu in Southern India. The organization is working to strengthen the capacity of villages in the Indian countryside to increase the opportunities for the population to be able to live in a sustainable way without having to move to the cities. This is done through several different projects, but where the foundation is about improving the quality of life in a sustainable way in the area.

The area around Nilakottai is very exposed to drought and access to water is a major problem. That is why CIRHEP works with water conservation programs in order to be able to take advantage of the water that, when it comes, comes in large quantities at the same time. This has been the basis of CIRHEPs work since its inception in 1994 and has helped many villages in the area to take advantage of the water, while the groundwater level is constantly falling due to climate change.

In addition to the water conservation projects, CIRHEP also works with education at several different levels. On the one hand, they educate the locals about how to take advantage of the natural resources available. They also educate farmers from different parts of India about land and water conversation, and also have a mulle school for children where they learn about nature and climate change, a project built on the exchange of experiences through the Future Earth Network. They also have courses for women on how to increase their power and also create women’s groups so that they can together take loans from banks which is difficult as a single woman.

Another major part of CIRHEP’s work is PGS (Participatory Guarantee Systems), which is a system for obtaining an organic label on their products to help them in the market. The system is based on a group of farmers controlling each other on the basis of common and local set goals for what an organic product means. CIRHEP has created about 30 such groups with about 10 farmers in each group. They have also created a seed bank where they collect and save seeds in order to withstand climate change and not be dependent on GMO seeds.

CIRHEP has also since 2002 received trainees as part of the trainees program and where they have learned about Indian culture, helped in the joint projects and documented the successes that most of CIRHEP’s projects have been. Want to know more about CIRHEP or support their work? Do not hesitate to contact CIRHEP’s friends.

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