Aranganur is a poor rural village with a population of approximately 2000. The village is at the heart of the Tamil Nadu-Pondicherry agricultural belt with extremely fertile soil and “sweet water,” though land in the region is being converted into residential plots at an alarming pace. The majority of families in the area depend on subsistence agriculture, agricultural and seasonal labour work as their main income source. All are low paying and cannot sufficiently support the entire families. This often leaves people unemployed for a substantial period during the year. 70% of the families in Aranganur are living in “hut”-type housing with no sanitation and running water and only have one electric light provided by the government.
Aranganur is the site of one of Sharana’s collective sponsorship programs, run through the local Government Primary school (lower Kindergarten through 5th standard). The program effectively “adopts” the school, providing children one daily meal and nutritional supplements, notebooks, textbooks, uniforms, school fees, bus fares, medical care, laboratory instruments, geometry sets, and other school supplies or fees as applicable for the entire academic year.
Aranganur is also the site of Sharana’s Resouce Center. Sharana had been on the lookout for an appropriate location to begin its Spirulina production project. The organization also was looking to build a space conduct its yearly summer camps for children, which were (since 2001) being held at local youth hostels and other community centers, at considerable expense.
The Aranganur land of one hectare was procured in 2006. This location, like Angalakuppam, is situated in close proximity to villages on either side of the Tamil Nadu-Pondicherry border which have very limited access to services in either state. It is a location not tied to any single village, but therefore an ideal place from which to independently conduct select projects (such as training and summer camps) while also reaching out to the region’s multiple, dispersed communities that are, quite literally, neither here nor there.
A two-storyed building, complete with kitchen, separate facilities for volunteers/social workers and male and female students, and meeting hall was inaugurated in 2010. Separate facilities for spirulina production were constructed at the other end of the same property. Funding for this initiative was provided largely by France based organizations: SOFICOR, Sharana France, ADIS, and Pas sant tois.
The land in between the resource center and the Spirulina production building is judiciously used to cultivate vegetables, with a large percentage of the available space dedicated to banana cultivation. The vegetables produced on this site are used to support the meal programs at the resource center and at Sharana crèches, with excess being sold. In 2010, the local government’s department of agriculture rewarded (by way of subsidy) Sharana’s use of land to grow bananas in recognition of the general shortage of banana cultivation in the area.