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Wayanad Social Service Society

An Undertaking of the Catholic Diocese of Mananthavady

Wayanad Social Service Society is the official development department of the Catholic Diocese of Mananthavady to promote, facilitate, and conduct & Co-ordinate social action programmes for the betterment and well being of the weaker sections in the society. Started in 1974, Registered under Societies Registration Act of 1860, it remained in the forefront of socio-economic development of the marginalized making its presence felt particularly in the districts of Wayanad, Kannur and Malappuram in Kerala State and Gudallur taluk in Tamil Nadu.

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"The Society has its Vision stated   as “Self reliant and vibrant human communities living in a sustainable environment cherishing human values of love, justice, solidarity and human dignity as well as their equity in the social capital ascertained".

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Organising and empowering the target groups consisting of small and marginal farmers, women, tribes, youth and children in the target area through participatory process of development.

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To ensure and support community based people’s organisations for development interventions.

To build self-reliance among the people by mobilizing resources, capacity building, creating employment opportunities, increasing assets and ensuring economic security.

To assure social justice to the less fortunate members of the society who have been denied the same.

To organise/conduct education and action research programmes.

To propagate sustainable agriculture technologies and eco-friendly life style concepts.

To stand for gender equity and to ensure human rights.

To promote alternative health care, medicinal plants conservation and ethnic medicines.

To promote low cost housing technologies, rural energy, water conservation and waste management.

To propagate participatory approaches in development.

To act as supporting organisation for local, state and national governments.

To promote sustainable livelihoods of the marginalised especially Tribals.

To strengthen people base through federations and regional structures.

To promote linkages with Banks, Financial Institutions and collaboration with local self-government.

To provide avenue for free flow of information aimed at bringing socio economic changes in the society.

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The Wayanad Social Service Society was registered as a non-governmental organization in the year 1974 under charitable societies registration act of 1860 with the Bishop of Mananthavady diocese as trustee, the late Dr.V.K.G Nambiar as the President and other prominent citizens of different religious affiliations as members. This organization of a secular nature was set up with the objective of starting development activities in the district of Wayanad, Malappuram and Kannur in Kerala State and taluk of Gudallur in Tamil Nadu. The population was around 2 million. The Society passed through its infant stages with the usual teething troubles till the end of 1977 (beginning of 1978) which was turning point in the history of the Society.The starvation deaths reported in the tribal areas of Wayanad became the focus of attention of Wayanad Social Service Society from that point onwards by creating special department of tribal welfare. During the period 1974 to 1978, micro-projects like drinking water, nursery schools, Mother and Child Health programmes, family sponsorship and plant nursery programs were started.

In the year 1978, a comprehensive socio-economic survey of the North Wayanad region (being considered most backward) was conducted with the financial assistance of MISEREOR and the professional collaboration of ISI Extension Service Bangalore. In the light of the findings of the survey, a five-year package of development program was formulated and submitted to MISEREOR, who sanctioned it in stages. This period could be considered as a high water mark in the history of Wayanad Social Service Society, during which burning issues like human rights, mobilization of tribals, Non Formal Education programme, unionization of tea estate workers, conscientisation and awareness building among the oppressed and deprived sections of society like tribals and women, and struggles like the Gudallur anti-eviction action were taken up actively.

This was followed by two years of transition. Intensive introspection about the impact of the past activities led to a shift in the emphasis. New initiatives were necessitated by the compulsions of circumstances and new types of interventions were called for in order to meet the emerging situation. Organisation of the marginal and small farmers became an unavoidable necessity. This was because it was realized more and more that the genuine development of the people of Wayanad, whose vast majority belong to the agricultural community, can be attained only through the betterment of the socio-economic status of the farmers.

The priority thus given for agricultural development is a re-dedication to the vision of the founding fathers of development work in Wayanad and a step towards realization of migrants to Malabar from other parts of Kerala in the first quarter of the century. Along with agricultural development, WSSS initiated adult education programmes in tribal colonies. Night classes were conducted with the support of local leaders to make the tribal capable of reading, writing and doing basic arithmetic.

The year 1985 was another turning point in the history of WSSS. The parish level local units - Social Welfare Societies (SWS) ­- constituted of different programme partner groups were accepted as the primary agents and authentic planning subjects of the society. Awareness generation programmes on social as well as health issues like HIV/AIDS, Alcoholism and Drug addiction etc. got high priority since its inception. Agricultural development through organic farming, natural resource management, watershed development and management, value added processing and marketing of agro products are visualized and materialized through peoples organisations. 1985 onwards rural and alternative technology development, women’s development and integration in to the mainstream with equity was held in due importance with their organization as self Help Groups (SHG) effectively participating in rural micro credit dynamics and micro enterprises/income generation activities. Health also remains one of the main concerns of WSSS having revived and promoted a unique indigenous health management system sustained through Natural and participatory process.

Wayanad Social Service Society was introduced organic farm certification programe in the year 1999, concentrating in particular among the small & marginal farmers for their betterment in the overall context, highlighting ‘Sustainable Development’ as the motto.

Wayanad Social Service Society, with the status of an NGO and Voluntary Organisation has been pioneers in many fronts with a history of more than three and a half decades to its credit. Its strength has always been in innovations, introduction and familiarization of new and relevant concepts, models, technologies and its replications and in being a fore runner in sustainable initiatives in development. Over the years and with the changing times, it has taken different roles of benefactor, catalyst, service provider, animator, facilitator, activist and so on.