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Fr. Theodosius Florentini OFM Cap (1808-1865)
Founder of the Institute of the
Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross
Mother Mary Theresa Scherer (1825-1888)
First General Superior of
Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross
‘KURSEONG DISHA’ is a Registered Society working for Environmental protection. It was formed in 2004 and got registered in 2007 April. It is being operated in Mamring-Toryok, a remote area in Sittong II Panchayat under Kurseong Subdivision. It has an office in St.Mary’s Hill, Kurseong for communication purpose. Why this remote area is selected is that it is a landslide prone area and 90% of the population is under BPL families. The local people of this area are subsistence farmers. Communities mainly grow maize, cardamom, millet and a few in lower altitudes grow rice and other crops. Cash crops consist of cardamom, ginger, potatoes in higher reaches and oranges, cassava and seasonal vegetables in the lower areas. Monoculture was practiced here. Agriculture land is decreasing as new houses are built on agricultural land. The Holy Cross sisters were already working here for 13 years in Mamring, felt the need of the time. Sr.Ranjini, the Chairperson also belongs to the same Holy Cross society was invited by the then Superior, Sr.Maria Tamang of Holy Cross convent in Mamring to help the poor people of the area. Thus, Sr.Ranjini came to Mamring in 2004 with the vision of protection of environment in a sustainable manner and ensures health and well being of the community and conservation of the local biodiversity.
At inception; ‘KURSEONG DISHA’ was a CBO (Community Based Organization), named ‘Mamring-Toryok Farmers’ Association,’ in short, MTFA.

The Chairperson, Sr.Ranjini was working in collaboration with SASAC (ST. ALPHONSUS’ SOCIAL & AGRICULTURAL CENTRE). Late Fr. Joseph Murray Abraham S.J. was the founder of SASAC. Sr. Ranjini did the training in organic farming in SASAC and was promoting the same method, SMVG (SQUARE METER VEGETABLE GARDENING) that she learned in SASAC in different areas of Mamring-Toryok. The project activities are executed in rural and urban areas of Darjeeling Hills. Also, wherever, the resource persons are needed out of Darjeeling, Sr.Ranjini and team conducts environmental awareness workshop for students, farmers, women and unemployed youth. At this juncture, Sr. Ranjini heard about the Small Grants Programme (SGP) from her friend Dr. Durga Neopaney, who worked as a National Coordinator to GEF-SGP (Global Environment Facility-Small Grants Programme) in Bhutan. Hence, understanding the opportunities provided by the SGP fund, the CBO, MTFA (Mamring-Toryk Farmers’Association) was formed in 2004 to obtain funding to improve the standard of living of local people through conservation of local environment. Dr.Durga Neopaney went out of her way and helped generously Sr.Ranjini and in 2005 the project was sanctioned.

Late Fr. Joseph Murray Abraham S.J.
Founder of St Alphonsus Social & Agricultural Centre - SASAC

There was no electricity connection yet when MTFA was formed. Therefore, with the help of SGP, a population of 5500 got benefit from replacement of fossil fuel with solar light service. People in Mamring-Toryok areas used naked kerosene lamps for lighting purpose. In 2005,478 households got solar lanterns which gave light three to four hours which reduced indoor air pollution and improved the health of the inmates, specially women and children.

Organic farming by the SHGs is a step in right direction. Hence, 42 SHGs were formed in Sittong II Panchayat and SMVG method, which is ideal to mountainous region with scarcity of Agricultural land, was demonstrated to all the SHGs in Sittong II Panchayat.
In SMVG method, in 10 meters of land, 10 different varieties of vegetables can be grown. Thus, in SMVG system, monocrop system is replaced by multicropping. Therefore soil nutrients are increased and human health is improved by consuming varieties of nutritious food. The technical assistance was given by SASAC while implementing the project.

The SHGs also set up herbal garden in their respective areas. They were instructed in dispensary of Mamring, run by Holy Cross Sisters, what and how to use different herbs for different illnesses. The dispensary gets over 2000 patients annually and 30% of them are treated by herbal medicines since the project has been implemented. The ailments that are treated by herbal medicines are jaundice, asthma, urinary infection, piles, high blood pressure, dysentery, diarrhea, common cold and fever.

Afforestation programme was organized by MTFA during monsoon.12000 saplings of 16 different species of trees are planted in different landslide prone areas of Upper, Middle and Lower Mamring in the year 2006. Herbal garden and tree plantation increased the forest cover and biodiversity of the region. SMVG also enhanced the Biodiversity. Training in compost preparation for organic farming is an inseparable part of the project.

Alternative livelihood through mushroom cultivation, preparation of marmalade, jam and pickle, weaving bags is an added activity for women in SHGs. The SGP brought a new awakening in this remote area. The generous support of Dr.Durga Neopaney, the liberal guidance, advice and encouragement of Sri.Prabhjot Sodhi, the National Coordinator and Dr.D.P.Rath, the Regional Coordinator of GEF-SGP, is very much significant in the development of the project. This project was from 2005-2007 and while implementing the project, procedure to register the CBO was also done simultaneously. As a result, the CBO got registered with the name ’KURSEONG DISHA’. Its registration number is: S/1L/ 44176.
Location: Kurseong DISHA Centre
Lower Mamring Busty
P. O. Bagora - 734 224
Via Tung
Dist Darjeeling
West Bengal
Correspondence: Kurseong DISHA Centre
Holy Cross Convent
St. Mary's Hill
Kurseong - 734 220
Dist Darjeeling
West Bengal
Phone No: +91 89066 25424 / +91 89724 57811
E-Mail: ranjini_seb@yahoo.co.in

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