During the second semester of 2008, ERI Alumni Small Grants Program supported 9 projects. This time most of the proposals submitted focused on trainings that will raise awareness about environment and human rights in local communities. 6 out of the 9 projects chosen carried out trainings.
The Palaung Women´s Organization carried out a 7 days training about environment in the China-Burma border. Due to the amount of Palaung people producing charcoal, the training will focused on the causes of deforestation and ways to preserve the environment. The purpose of this project was not to stop the people from producing charcoal but to explain them its negative impacts on the environment and teach them ways of using the forest in a sustainable way. 18 Palaung people participated in this training and according to PWO´s report they all seemed encouraged to go back and share their knew knowledge with their community members.
Karen Education Workers Union offered a 5 days training about labor rights, democracy, types of governments, and union leadership. It was held in Dooplaya district, in Karen State. The 30 participants were all members of workers unions, belonging to the education, health, and agricultural sectors. Therefore, the training also made emphasis on the importance of the relationship between different unions and their link to international labor unions. The organizers intended to encourage workers to participate more often in unions´ activities, and to build stronger networks among the different unions.
One of the ERSB alumni decided to do a 10 days training for 10 people about the environment and the impacts of dams and mining in Pasaung townships. Even though the plan was to focus mainly on the environmental issues in the area, after discussing with the participants and other people from the community two more topics were included in the training: democracy and human rights. This was the first that the alumnus did a training inside Burma. She expressed how she got new experiences from this and how different it was to conduct a training in this area compared to doing it outside Burma. The main point for her was the lack of freedom of speech she encountered there due to the fear participants had about being discovered taking part of this activity. She will like to conduct another training for Yintali people in Karenni State.
Karenni Evergreen trained 24 people from Kaw Thu Doe village about the conservation and protection of the environment in a practical way. Participants learned about the importance of the forest, the benefits that people can obtain from the forests (food, medicine, etc.), forest management and deforestation. The last day the topic was community forest and as a result of this discussion a forest group was created. At the end of the 5 days training, the participants will form a community forest group which will take responsibility of taking care of the forest.
Another training was the one carried out by Zomi Student and Youth Organization. This training was originally planned to focus on environmental conservation in Kalay Myo. But due to some security concerns as well as the needs of the new target group (people from different towns in Chin State) the training also included the topic of food security. A very interesting topic that was taught during the training was about SALT method. This method was developed for farmers with few tools, little capital, and no need for extensive knowledge in agriculture. The organizer was satisfied with the results of project, therefore he would like to continue doing this type of training. He is aware of the need of better planning for the upcoming trainings; this was a lesson he learned from this project.
The Social Development Center not only planned a training but also an alumni reunion. The people participating in these events will be 7 ERSB Karenni Alumni and 50 SDC Alumni. The training consisted in 4 days in topics related to earthrights were reviewed. The reason for this training will be that many SDC alumni only learned about the concept of earthrights but never had de opportunity to have an in-depth explanation about it. The reunion opened a space to share knowledge and experiences among the participants and will help develop solidarity among the ERSB Alumni and SDC Alumni so that they will collaborate in the future. Among the issues discussed there was an idea of doing trainings in different places with one group in order to reduce security concerns. Another idea was to create a Karenni earthrights abuses report, and some ideas about how to do a better recruitment for the future generations coming into SDC were discussed. Finally, Karenni Earthrights Education Program (KEEP),composed of 28 SDC graduates, was created. Most of members will be able to go back inside and they are willing to dedicate their times and knowledge with communities there.
The Ta´ang Students and Youth Organization collected information about land confiscation and wrote a report about the findingsThis report contains an account of the land confiscated in the Palaung area by the SPDC. The report explains how the main cause of land confiscation has been the expansion of Burmese junta military camps and projects in Palaung areas since 2000. Between 2000 and 2009 confiscated land from villagers in Mantong, Nam Tu, Namkham, , Kutkai, Nampa Kar, Hsipaw and Kyaume townships. The confiscated land has been used to construct army camps and projects also to support the army's livelihood.
Another project supported by the Small Grants Program was the publication of a report about the mining project near Tounggyi-Hopone Township. Since 2007, the Pa-O Youth Organization has visited the project areas, met with the local people affected by the mining project, and documented the impact of the project. The report will be published in English and Burmese at the end of the month of June.
The last project supported consisted of producing a 15 minutes documentary about wildlife in Thongpoe Protected Forest. The documentary produced by Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) will focus especially on recording the number of elephants in this area, due to the proliferation of hunting practice in the last decades. Even though this is a protected area, illegal hunting, logging, mining still takes place there. The documentary will be used for future campaigns in order to raise awareness about the situation among local people and policy makers with the purpose of preserving the forest and its wildlife. The organization will receive the rest of the financial support from other organizations. This is a one year project that will be concluded in December 2009.
Alumni have reported the successes of their projects as well as the lessons learned from it. They were all satisfied with the results of their projects and already have plans for future projects