Academy of Development Sciences
ADS is an exemplary organisation located near Kashele in the Karjat Tribal Block about 100 Km east of Bombay.

The Thakurs, Mahadev Kolis and Kadkaris constitute nearly 90% of the population here and they are among the poorest of the poor with next to no chance of improving their lot without outside help.

Rajeev Khedkar is a brilliant young bio-chemist who has been single-mindedly revitalizing the ancient Ayurvedic medical system and the other systems of traditional healing in India. The rural and tribal communities in India have traditionally used the plants growing in their surroundings to treat common ailments and also for many preventive purposes. Unfortunately this form of health care is declining due to habitat destruction by deforestation and the promotion of western methods of medicine. However the percentage of the population actually reached by westernized health services is reported to be 30% maximum and in some isolated areas it is as low as 3%. Therefore the importance of revitalizing the traditional medical system which makes use of local renewable resources and is practiced by community based healers cannot be overstated.

They have created a vast "gene-park" of over 160 species of ayurvedic healing plants, many of which have never been cultivated before which they propagate and distribute free to the local people who can't afford to pay for health care. Ninety-nine percent of these medicines are traditionally gathered from the wild and as the wild disappears, so do the medicines. As many of the medicines come from the root and bark of trees and vines, it is especially important to propagate these and distribute seedlings as gathering them results in the death of the wild plant.

has made and distributed illustrated books for the tribals showing them how to grow the herbs and how to use them to treat common ailments. They arrange classes so that the old vaidus (healers and shamans) and midwives can meet with young apprentices so that their knowledge can be transmitted and they document the traditional knowledge of the tribal healers. They distribute at no cost hundreds of "kitchen garden medicine kits" - the seedlings of some 25 plants that prevent and treat common ailments like malaria and dysentry and others useful for first aid.

In one of his letters, Rajeev wrote: "The Indian system of medicine (Ayurveda) has a glorious tradition and it caters to the health care needs of the majority of rural population even today. The urban folks have become slaves of the Western system of medicine - Allopathy - to such an extent that traditional medicine has been completely ignored. The proliferating pharmaceutical companies and the total reliance on allopathy even by the policy makers has further jeopardised traditional medicine.

Being an oral tradition, Ayurveda needs periodic strengthening but the advent of allopathy has disturbed the entire system. Now-a-days, even the tribal people spend huge sums (by their standards) to get an "injection" instead of going to a folk healer. They think that an "injection" will cure all. Such is the misconception and it only encourages the millions of quacks operating in rural areas.

Traditional medicine has tremendous potential to meet the primary health care needs of the majority of population, yet it has been ignored in the National Health Policy. The Primary Health Care Centres in rural areas practicing allopathy are poorly managed and too few in numbers.

So access to health care is difficult for most people in rural areas. The resource base of traditional medicine is locally available flora and fauna and a sustainable utilization of these natural resources is necessary to ensure the availability of medicinal plants.

Traditional medicine also suffers due to unavailability of medicine plants to the rural people, and in this context our attempts to establish a Genebank of medicinal plants for conservation and educational purposes assumes significance.

The various components of this centre are:
  • A Genebank [garden] of medicinal plants for conservation and education purposes
  • A seed bank and a nursery to distribute seed/plantlets to local people
  • A tissue culture lab for rapid multiplication of plants needed in large quantities and prorogation of difficultto propagate and endangered medicinal plants.
  • A training and education centre for folk practitioners, village level health workers, students and interested laymen.
  • A documentation and communication centre.
As well as the medicinal plant work, their tree nurseries distribute over 200,000 seedlings a year including lots of grafted fruit trees, they run a free school for 100 of the tribal children with loving and gifted teachers; the industries they've created for the tribals include: a fruit processing plant that pays for wild fruits gathered and turns them into sauces, juices and chutneys; a craft co-operative for furniture, metalwork and construction for 40 tribal youth; they have fields conserving 350 traditional rice varieties scooped from the brink of extinction at the hands of the "green revolution" via the 2 species of hybrid being promoted by the government, World Bank and chemical industries. Every year farmers are encouraged to choose from among the traditional varieties and seed of the varieties of their choice is given to them free of charge.

Contact:
Academy of Development Science
PO Kashele, Karjat Taluka
Raigad District
Maharashtra 410 201 India
Phone 91 - 2148 - 24007 / 24008
Fax : 91 - 2148 - 22479
Email: @pn3.vsnl.net.in .

Funding:In the past has been funded via AusAID, US Foundations and the Rainforest Rohow

Long Term Role: The Academy is being developed as a science, technology and development education training centre for village-level workers of rural social-action groups, environmental and healt organizations and other rural institutions interested in Science & Technology (S & T). Training in S & T related areas is the long-term focus of the Academy. Applied research carried out at the Academy is intended to develop people-oriented programs and to "feed in" the research experiences into its teaching programs. Grassroot action undertaken by is confined to the villages of Karjat Tribal Block.

Program Areas :
  • Traditional medicine and primary health care
  • Conservation of genetic resources
  • Village technologies for employment and self-reliance
  • Watershed development and sustainable agriculture.
  • Innovations in school education.
  • Local leadership and community based organizations.


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