Business Today

Rural development: A Holistic Approach

Print Edition: Jan 6, 2013

Thirty kilometres from Ranchi is Rukka village, a popular weekend spot in Jharkhand state. Kalavati Devi was born here. A girl child in this region is often considered a financial burden, so she was married young. But Devi, now in her twenties, challenged societal norms by striving to become financially independent.

She joined a self-help group and learnt poultry farming. Within a year she started a business and began supplying chickens to Krishi Gram Vikas Kendra (KGVK), an organisation supported by the Usha Martin Group, makers of wire ropes. Today, she earns around Rs 20,000 a month, and plans to give her three children a good education.

KGVK, launched in 1972, helps Jharkhand villagers improve their livelihood. For nearly three decades, it focused on giving them donations for projects. But it changed its strategy in 2000, as it realised that villagers often needed both financial assistance and mentoring. "We were looking at sustainable income and better quality of life," says B.K. Jhawar, Chairman Emeritus, Usha Martin. In 2000, KGVK helped farmers start a water harvesting project. "Water resource management could make a lot of impact," says Yezdi Karai, member of the governing body of KGVK. It also started a maternal and child health programme together with the Indian government and Life Spring Hospital. "At that time many practices that we started were not part of the municipal rural health mission," says Jhawar.

B. K. Jhawar, Chairman emeritus of the Usha Martin Group
B. K. Jhawar, Chairman emeritus of the Usha Martin Group (left), says KGVK aims for sustainable livelihoods and better quality of life Photo: Somnath Sen

350 the number of Jharkhand villages that will soon be covered under the 'total village management' model of KGVK.

In 2005, KGVK introduced a new farming process for paddy in Jharkhand - Systematic Root Intensification. This reduced water consumption by 50 per cent, fertiliser use by 70 per cent and seed consumption by 95 per cent.

In 2008, KGVK developed an integrated approach, called the Total Village Management model (TVM). It is based on strong business principles adapted to the rural setting. It focuses on eight key areas: natural resources management, education, renewable energy, livelihood, women's empowerment, capacity building, resource mobilisation, infrastructure development, and health, nutrition and sanitation. All TVM efforts have 90-day implementation cycles, at the end of which impact is measured. Today, all KGVK projects are based on the TVM model.

TVM projects cover 130 villages in the state, and will soon be extended to 350 villages in six districts. They include midwife training, opening Gurukul Schools in association with the World Bank, and rural manufacturing of products such as low-cost sanitary napkins, baby food, and bamboo furniture.

Projects are increasingly being run by governing bodies of villagers. KGVK seems to have found the right formula to make villages a better place to live in

-Sunny Sen

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