PRADAN works towards transforming lives of the poorest communities in rural India.
If you were to draw a line between 18N-28N latitude on the Indian map, it would contain majority of the 100 poorest districts in India, with the largest concentration of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. The area would cover regions from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and Karnataka in the south, and Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in the north.
43% of India’s poor households, which would be nearly half the poor in Sub-Saharan Africa fall in seven states of this region – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal.
Untouched by modern farming practices and lack of public services – hunger, disease and indebtedness is an everyday reality. Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN), a national NGO is engaging with the people from these areas and helping the region and its people towards sustainable livelihoods.
PRADAN was established in 1983, by Deep Joshi and Vijay Mahajan, both of whom believed that even the most stubborn, endemic poverty of rural India can be solved.
They believed that well-educated professionals working within communities can bring both the empathy and knowledge needed to help poor people improve their lives.
Deep and Vijay, who also believed in the grassroots work in the spirit of ‘pradaan’ or giving back to society founded PRADAN with an aim to systematically groom and enable professionals with empathy towards the poor to work at the grassroots level.
PRADAN works with a vision to bring about positive change in living conditions of the people living in these poor regions, which is made possible through intervening in the psycho-social, political and economic constituents.
“We work at the grass roots level in promoting overall well-being of the vulnerable rural communities through various interventions – building community-led collectives and networks, partnerships with various stakeholders, and influencing development policies. These add up to changes at large-scale at all levels, leading to influencing the norms in society as a whole,” says the current executive director, Narendranath Damodaran.
PRADAN works towards social mobilization, food security, managing natural resources, livelihoods and strengthening market linkages.
Ironically, the region between 18N-28N latitude on the Indian map is also India’s mineral-rich region with dense forest cover and abundant natural resources. PRADAN is taking measure to engage the local people in making the most of nature’s gift through husbandry, suitable technologies, and investments.
PRADAN is building models of alternative livelihoods, training the community in new skill sets and strengthening market linkages of the local communities to the markets outside and to the government. The local communities are also made aware of their rights and empowering them to have a say in the way the things are run.
PRADAN has touched over 2 million lives, with over 482,000 tribal families, and 80% of the women that PRADAN works with belong to Schedule Tribes and Schedule Castes from the poorest and remotest parts of rural India.
PRADAN has helped the local communities set up enterprises in tasar silk, vegetables, fruit and poultry. The team has helped women set up self-help groups (SHG) in most villages, where currently the organisation is responsible for 80+ women’s SHG federations are in these regions.
The organisation has introduced several models and prototypes for soil and water conservation, which has led to the scaling up of small-scale irrigation. Community accesses job guarantee programs and the organisation itself has over 400 trained professionals working in the field of rural development. Over 80% (2000+) of the development professionals trained by PRADAN continue to be engaged in eradicating poverty.
PRADAN has a Development Apprentice Program, where the program identifies educated youth with a sense of empathy and provides them the right blend of techno-managerial and socio-behavioural knowledge to be involved in the kind of work that PRADAN has been associated with.
“Over 5 years, a Development Apprentice will work with 1500 poor women, through their collectives, who will help their families achieve food security throughout the year, have increased household incomes to the tune of 50-75%. 100%, have access to government funds and entitlements, and the women of these families, hitherto marginalized, have an enhanced ‘say’ in their families, society and local governance,” says a member of PRADAN.
PRADAN recently run a crowdfunding to raise funds for their future initiatives. By 2022, the organisation hopes to reach out to 10 million people in the 52 poorest districts in India so they can take advantage of the opportunities emerging with India’s economic growth.
Deep Joshi, who was raised in a remote village of Uttarakhand in the Himalayas, where until today there are few motor roads, who holds an engineering degree from National Institute of Technology, Allahabad, a master’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a management degree from MIT’s Sloan School. Deep Joshi received the Magsaysay Award in 2009.
Vijay Mahajan is a social entrepreneur, founder and CEO of the BASIX social enterprise group engaged in livelihood promotion of low income households in over 20 states in India and six developing countries.