ITWWS works with ActionAid in 60 villages in four northern districts of Tamilnadu namely, Thiruvallur, Kancheepuram, Villupuram and cudalore.


Irula’s are one of the poorest tribal communities with a population of 210,000. Concentrated mainly in plains of Tamilnadu. The tribal’s who lived traditionally in the forest were the actual conservationist of the land and forest, unlike the outsiders. But Governments forest conservation policies and environmental protection law, instead of acknowledging their role, denies to right to collect forest produce and has forced them to leave forest areas because government claims that they are the threat. Majority of Irula’s rely on irregular and stable work such as wood cutting, small scale fishing, brick making and agriculture labor. Family struggle to survive and finding difficult to provide children with proper food, healthcare and education. Children also migrate with parents in search of work so they cannot attend school and they also have to work to support the family.


Before Irula’s were taking foods like fruits, leaves, rat, pig, cat, lizard, deer from the forest. Forest was their wealth. But now they do not have land to live and as they have been moved out of the forest because of the Forest Right Act, they are not able to eat good food anymore. Children go hungry in order to obtain food families migrate from one place to another in search of job. Some of them do not return home for week or months together. Children and women are mannarised and anemic. Due to their nomadic life in search of work they are not able to get food support from government. Most Irula’s quality under Below Poverty Line (BPL) category of government but they don’t have the ration cared which denies them from getting food items at subsidized rate from fare price shop of government. (Eg. Rs. 2 for 1 kg rice). Majority of them are illiterate and unskilled laborers it is in the context that national rural employment guaranteed act (NREGA) of government which entitles each adult to 100 days work is very useful for them to earn some money without having to immigrate and be able to feed their children.


“I am Prakash Murugan , an 8 year old boy from Duraiswamy nagar village. I study in 4th standard in the nearby government school. My younger sister Priya goes to Balwadi (Pre-school). I love her very much. Both my parents are doing government work now so we can have food and go to school”. Prakas’s parents got helped by ITWWS go get work under NREGA scheme and this has helped the family very much to have regular meals every day. Earlier they were struggling for livelihood and children were going hungry. ITWWS helped them to get job card given by government so they can apply for work and helped them fill the necessary paper work and get the government officials to listen to them and give them work. They are very grate full to ITWWS and ActionAid. Prakas says, “thank you. We are happy now with full stomach. I will study hard and become a government officer.”


After the long struggle. The tribes with support of civil society organization of indie have made government pass the forest act which recognizes rights of India’s indigenous people (like Irula’s) on forest land and forest resources. ITWWS in association with 158 NGOs, adivasi (Tribal) movements, human rights activities and media worked hard to bring this law in to being through continues campaigning including meetings, rallies, protests recently a stay order had come against recognisition of the forest rights bill from the high court. ITWWS and others protested and managed to get it withdrawn. Now the law is passed, we are working to make stage government implement it in Tamilnadu so families will get access and rights to forest and their food situation will improve.


Irula communities have been struggling for employment and migrating to various places in search of job and food. To help them, ITWWS formed self help groups and provided livelihood assistance which has helped them earn so they can afford proper food, healthcare and education for their children. Sangeetha, a 17 year girl from Santhankuppam village says, “our family can afford to eat properly now. Also I was able to attend my studies and I am the only child who have passed 12th standard in my village. All this was possible is because of livelihood assistance ITWWS gave my mother for flower selling and the education support they gave us. Thanks.”


ITWWS has formed 103 Irula women’s self help group comprises 3500 Irula women’s in villages where we are working. ITWWS organized a training programme on livelihood promotion on 10th may 2008. 56 Self Help Groups members form 20 villagers participated in the training. The training inspired participant to strengthen their activities already initiated and to start new activities with locally available resources. “I started idly (small rice cake) business, says Nagama from Onamancherry, and now I earn enough to look after my children properly.

The children are benefitted because of the support and assistance given by ITWWS to their mothers and grandmothers. “Nowadays my grandmother buys new dresses for me and my sister ans she gives money to my mother so that we can have proper food.

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