Melapatti VKC – creating change from within

This Village Knowledge Centre (VKC) in Melapatti village, Pudukottai District, is buzzing with activity. Housed in a two-room building, this VKC has become a lifeline for the residents of the village. A tailoring class is in session in one corner of the VKC while in another, a class in Microsoft Excel is in full swing. Over the course of the day, there will be more classes being carried out with more people’s participation.

The VKC, located in Ennai Panchayat was set up by MSSRF in partnership with village panchayat in November, 2005, following Prof MS Swaminathan’s vision of introducing technology to the unreached communities. The VKC is providing the location specific demand driven information on agriculture, animal husbandry, health and sanitation, civic services, employment and education. It is a community-owned village knowledge centre. The Village Management Committee consisting of 15 members including 8 women, meet once in every two months to look into what farmers need at that moment and sessions are arranged accordingly. There is a WhatsApp agriculture group, where residents can raise queries. There is also a farmers’ group consisting of 14 persons, who meet once a month. Plant clinic sessions, where plant experts give advice on plant health, are also conducted regularly.

Over the years, the services have gradually expanded and the VKC started providing courses in Microsoft Office programmes such as Word, Excel, and Powerpoint under Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Programme (MUPP). The Self-Help Group(SHG) members, house wives and, school and college students are being benefited under this course. So far 2,700 persons have completed the course. The tailoring course which was started in 2009, is imparting training to its 12th batch. The beneficiaries are all local women, and many who were trained here have secured jobs in big garment shops or boutiques as resident tailors. There is also a tailoring-based SHG, consisting mostly of housewives. Each batch consists of approximately 10-15 women.

Apart from this, the VKC provides SMS-based agriculture services, phone-in programmes on government schemes, a helpline programme held over Skype on a range of topics in farming, veterinary services and also career guidance. The VKC in partnership with Apollo Hospital also organises tele-health programmes regularly on various issues. In the past they have organised nutrition programmes. This ICT-based VKC has improved the availability of timely information to the farming community by bridging the knowledge gaps. Currently, there is also a proposal to begin Tally classes in accounting based on an overwhelming demand from the community members. It will be become a reality very soon.

( A plant clinic session is in progress at the VKC)