On one of the first expeditions we made in Garhwal Himalaya, we visited the village of Osla, beautifully situated on a slope high above the raging river in the valley below. The village looks the same as it probably did hundreds of years ago; clothes, utensils, tools and virtually everything one can see there has been made from locally available materials. The livelihood of the villagers is entirely based on the agriculture practiced on the slopes surrounding the valley, and on produce from the adjoining forests.

Although poor, people here are no less happy than people in more affluent environments, but there is certainly a lack of basic social services. Health care is non-existent and if a child gets sick, the parents have to trek for a whole day to reach the road in order to catch the bus to the nearest hospital. We started thinking of how the villagers could be supported.
Demand for Change
Regular development projects are usually conceived and formulated so as to match a desire to address the reasons or symptoms of ‘underdevelopment’ on the one hand, and the availability of financial and technical resources on the other. It is unfortunately too common that projects funded by international aid are based more on ‘needs’ as perceived by government officials and donor agencies rather than on an actual demand for change with the intended project beneficiaries. The projects and their outputs therefore tend to be unsustainable - when the time-bound projects are closed there is little in the way of a natural development process left in place. The huge amounts of funding available actually compounds this effect. It becomes more important for all concerned to spend the funds available as efficiently and transparently as possible, than to facilitate ‘real’ development, based on socio-economic opportunities and incentives, that can be sustained once the funds stop coming in.



The Osla Process
The activity we are starting in Osla village is intended to work the other way round. A small amount of funding will be placed at the disposal of the village, and it will be up to the villagers to decide on how to use the funds. There are two conditions: the funds can be spent only on the development of knowledge, and only women will be eligible for support. We think that in doing so, we can avoid starting up just another ‘development project’ – it is better for the villagers to learn how to utilise funds already available for such projects rather than to create more of the same. The focus on women is based on earlier experience in India - it is clear that women are more likely to create sustainable assets to the benefit of the families. We call this activity ‘the Osla process’, just to mark that it is different from a traditional aid project.
  Friends of Osla
An association – ‘Friends of Osla’ - has been set up in Sweden with the main objective of supporting development in Osla. It is this association that facilitates the support to the village, collects funds and takes decisions on their use.

Mail the association for information and membership

A field assistant, Meera, was engaged and the first activity requested by the women of Osla was carried out in December 2004 when Meera and Srikala, a mid wife, spent one week in the village providing training on child birth and hygiene.

Read Meera's two field reports >>