dec03Since our last newsletter the trustees and friends have come together and had a formal meeting. The following is a report of the things that we discussed. All future meetings of the trustees and friends will be covered in the newsletter.

MEETING 15-11-00.
Present: David Eldridge, Adele Eldridge, Kath Lawson, Stephen Lawson, Rosie Muncaster, Francis Muncaster and Ann Turner.

Newsletter: An excellent response has been generated from the August mailing, some people have taken out new covenants, and donations through gift aid have also been made. People have commented on the format as being Ôfriendly and informativeÕ, this is encouraging. Rob Ives was thanked for his work on its presentation.

Brochure: The brochure, kindly produced by Susan and Martin Sands, has continued to be of great help when introducing people to the project. We will consider the possible benefits of updating the leaflet, in October 2001, following the planned visit to Mettupalyam by David, Adele, Rosie and Francis.

Finance: The funds in hand are £ 6 500. This figure takes into account payments made for the period up until the end of January. Regular monthly contributions now amount to £277.
We are committed to sending £ 520 per month on a bi-monthly basis (69 000 rps). We aim to keep a minimum reserve of £1400, in effect six months support, when taking regular donations into account. We are filing a tax claim covering the last five years; it is hoped that this will amount to approximately £850. In the last financial year we have raised £8000. Christmas crafts have again raised £1 000Éthanks Rosie.

IRDT Project Requests: Drawing on reports from a variety of sources over a period of time, in particular from Venkat and Martin with a long term overview provided by David, targets for capital expenditure were discussed. The following additional capital expenditure has been identified and voted on (carried unanimously).

Diesel Cultivator: £1 000 . Venkat has identified this as producing yield increases of 25%, above hand cultivation. It also provides a means of income from hire charges paid by other farmers. This was a very difficult decision and was agreed after much debate. The view that bullocks might provide a better option was considered. The judgement of what was the best course in the end, it was felt, should be made by the people who live with the practicalities of the decisions taken.

Manual land- levelling board, a backpack sprayer and hand tools: £120.

Well improvement: £2 400. The well is vital to the cultivation of the land. When the land was purchased we recognised that the well would have to be re-constructed. We are now in a position to do this. The work will take place during the dry-season April-May. This is a major cost but hopefully will underpin the agricultural development that will increase the self-sufficiency of the project. This action will benefit the project and will provide labour opportunities for local people.

Farm News: Recently on the farm half an acre of both jasmine and guava and two acres of paddy have been planted. Three acres of sugar cane will be planted in January, using home produced seedlings. Venkat has opened a ÔFriends Farm AccountÕ, at the bank. Recently 45 bags of paddy were harvested and sold for £190. We now have two cows Tina and Robina, a third ‘Hardwick’, is about to be bought with funds raised from a Primary School in Stockton. Tina is in calf and Robina is giving 4/5 litres of milk per day. A cow now costs approximately £120. The morning milk is given to the children and the afternoon milk is sold. Now that the school is more established in its day to day running, we understand that Venkat spends the majority of his time involved in developing the agricultural side of the project.

WomenÕs Group: News has come through that the womenÕs group have independently secured a loan of £3 260. This is very exciting news. We hope that Robina Hattersley may be able to report back about this, after she returns from her January visit.

Motorbike: Venkat has always had to use initiative when sorting out transport. It is unrealistic to expect him to walk/cycle or bus everywhere. To this end Robina made a kind donation intended to purchase a bike. This has not taken place; I suspect because of a misunderstanding regards cost. When the exact situation is sorted out, we feel happy to support any reasonable additional cost a motorbike will involve, from fundraising activities. It is to be remembered in medical emergency; a motorbike could help save lives.

Anjaltchi: Anjalatchi after many years service has left the project and has married a local doctor. We hope to keep in touch with her and wish her every happiness. Venkat has made arrangements for the appropriate staffing of school.

Computer Courses: Both Venkat and Ganasoundari have expressed an interest in attending computer courses. These would be evening classes and would cost £52 per person in total. No decision was made on this item.

Next Major Capital Projects. It has been suggested that the next priority for major capital expenditure should be a lime and earth latrine of substantial size. Alternatively, several of smaller size. We have to consider this idea carefully. It is estimated that such a project will cost £1500-£2000. There is a very strong feeling amongst supporters, that the provision of basic sanitation facilities must now be viewed as a priority. We now need to research this development and hopefully with Venkat’s agreement, will be able to address this issue in 2001. The other major project objective being considered is to purchase the three acres of land which we rent at present. This will cost approximately £1590. We feel that before we purchase more land, we need to analyse the way the land currently owned, is being used. There are also issues regarding the best farming practise that need to be considered. Our current investment in the well development and cultivation equipment, is aimed at enhancing the value of the land to the project. We have a lease with four years left to run, on the three acres of land in question so this is not viewed as a priority.
General News. There are currently three proposed trips to Mettupalayam that I know of. Robina is going in early January as are Craig and Kay Begg (briefly). Our North Yorkshire visit is planned for August 2001. Visits always generate news and stimulate interest. I know that Venkat looks forward to them and finds them rewarding. This first hand contact is invaluable and should anyone want to know more about arranging such a visit please contact me. Friends may be interested to know that Venkat and his son Anand have been invited to UK during the period July/August 2002. This will be privately funded and will not involve project funds.

The website has been launched (as you an see -web ed!). At present it has the newsletters on it, an interesting photo gallery, which I am hoping to improve shortly and a brief introduction page. I have had requests to put up more background information and hope to do this early in the New Year.

Computers, diesel cultivators, wages and the way forward.
Although Friends of Mettupalayam is a registered charity, we have always been informal and I hope friendly and professional. Recently I have had some interesting conversations regarding the appropriate way forward for Mettupalayam and the identification of the things Friends choose to support. We have always paid closest attention to the ideas that are generated by Venkat himself. We are also guided by our own studies and experiences. Everyone is most welcome to put forward their opinion and argument. To aid this I have tried to identify some proposed future objectives in this newsletter. The key objective currently needing to be researched is the provision of latrine facilities for the school. A particular reason for re-visiting the project in August is to ensure that members of the Trust committee are fully conversant, first hand, with the current development issues faced by Mettuplayam. Two areas of particular interest recently have been the diesel generator and the possibility of providing the village with a computer. The Trustees have discussed at length the respective merits of hand cultivation compared with mechanical cultivation. In the end VenkatÕs arguments in favour of the greater efficiency of diesel cultivation were supported. As a general rule we try to provide technological support that the people at the project feel is appropriate to their situation. It is common for all but the very smallest plots of land to be cultivated mechanically. We have to support the project in its efforts to improve its own level of self-reliance; the cultivator will increase crop yield by 25%. The other, possibly more contentious question is that of computer provision. There are no immediate plans to provide a computer for the project at this time. I am currently in a minority of one within the Friends Trustees over this issue. I believe the benefits of speedy communication would be very advantageous. I think it would increase peopleÕs involvement, especially for those who cannot make a personal visit to the project. It would certainly enable some excellent educational work to be done, which would lead to some major fundraising that would more than pay for the cost of the computer. It is perhaps important to realise that computers are ÔworldÕ and not ÔwesternÕ technology. Beyond communication there are many practical uses that a computer might be used for. Researching organic agriculture, latrines, solar-power cookers or biogas developments for example. Surely a research tool that people who have the opportunity to readily access University libraries, magazines, and buy books regard as a necessity, is all the more valuable for people with no research alternatives? We are conscious that the pay of the people working at the project is at a very low level and it is an area, that we will have to review this year. Further details of this situation will be presented in a future newsletter. The school continues to be a very exciting aspect of the project. Having been running for more than ten years it now benefits from hard won experience. Changes in staff occur but this does not effect the balance of its work. I would like to see an improvement in the midday meal provisions in the coming year. Again I would hope that nutrition and health support would be issues that feature in coming additions of the newsletter. Many thanks to all of you who support Mettupalayam, it has been a fantastic year and you have all been very generous. It is so important to remember that the day to day work of teaching, feeding, sharing and caring is at the core of the whole effort. Debates and thoughts about future development of the project and moves towards increasing levels of self-sufficiency take place against a constant need to meet the continuing everyday needs of the people at the project. I am hoping to get some short sketches of the lives of some of the individuals at the project to be included in future issues. If you wish to comment about any of the points made, raise new questions, or if there is an aspect of the project that you would like to see discussed in the newsletter, please contact me at any of the addresses given below.

GIFT AID (increase the value of your donations by 28%):
Gift Aid has been put in place by The Chancellor. When making any donation to charity if you state that you intend it as Gift Aid, then the charity can claim back tax, providing it is made from taxable income. This requires no more than acknowledging your intention whenever you send a donation.

Financial latest: The drafts for the outlined expenditure and running costs for Feb-Mar have been drawn, this amounts to £ 4 500. We now have approximately £2 000 in reserve.

Regards David Eldridge (Director F.o.M.).
D.Eldridge,
The Coach House,
Bainbridge,
North Yorkshire.
DL8 3EE Telephone:
01969 650618
E-Mail: dave@eldridge.demon.co.uk
Friends of Mettupalayam website: www.irdt.co.uk

Bank account details for standing orders: Account Number: 30120268 Sort Code: 54-10-41
Bank: Nat West, Northallerton.
Registered Charity Number 1054673

The objective of Friends of Mettupalayam: “The relief of poverty and sickness (whether physical or mental). The advancement of education and the preservation and protection of good health amongst those persons residing in and around the village of Mettupalayam in the district of Chengalpattu, South India.’