By Ms. Pooja O. Murada Director–Communications
and Ms. Aparna Mahajan Director, Resource Mobilization & Partnerships
Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD)
Economic and social development in India, as in most developing nations is often discussed in terms of rural-urban dichotomy. This divide needs to be addressed in nearly 833 million people (who live in rural India – in its 640,867 villages (per Census 2011). For India, the last two decades have been that of transformation, and the challenge still remains to address this divide for ensuring sustainable growth.
The Government has taken several concrete steps towards addressing this divide. However, there is also an increasing realization amongst the decision making people that this effort cannot be carried out in isolation and for ensuring sustainability, private sector and civil society organisations necessarily have to play a complementary role in partnership with each other.
The growth story of rural India and the nation can be sustained only if win-win models are created, which on the one hand, catalyse inclusion through new models of value creation and income distribution, and on the other hand, establish sustainable and competitive new businesses.
The expertise and skills of non-profit sector or NGOs complemented with corporate resources and strengths, has an immense power to bring a turnaround positive change and help shape the lives of innumerable underprivileged and poor communities. The supportive role of government in strengthening the initiatives of NGOs and corporates for implementing CSR action, is imminent. Thus, partnerships of government, NGOs and corporates are instrumental in accelerating the socio-economic development of developing countries.
Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD), Gurgaon, India, through its working with multiple partners, including corporates, government and international organizations, among others, has achieved certain milestones in the process of contributing to country's rural development process. IRRAD, an initiative of the S.M. Sehgal Foundation, aims to further the well-being of rural communities in India and has grassroots field level experience of working in one of most backward districts – Mewat District of Haryana.
IRRAD develops and implements sustainable, replicable models in the areas of water management, hygiene and sanitation, agricultural income enhancement, capacity building, and rural governance to improve current conditions and future prospects for India's rural communities. IRRAD also conducts rural research as a premier knowledge institute for rural development and poverty reduction in India.
For the past 10 years, IRRAD has focused on developing innovative, replicable models that lead to integrated village development. These include models for water management; agriculture; sanitation, hygiene and health; and empowerment of communities through good rural governance. Each of these models, flexible by design, is made up of smaller components, or modules that can stand alone or be combined to suit local needs. IRRAD strongly believes that replicable and sustainable models/modules can be adapted to local conditions in other parts of India and beyond. Its mission for the next decade is to scale up the proven models/modules with willing partners in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
IRRAD's partnerships with corporates in some of its core areas like water resource management, agriculture and education, has resulted in success stories, which are replicable models for wider adaptation in many rural parts of the country. For example, the agriculture model, with emphasis on water and soil management, has a potential to trigger dramatic increase in agricultural productivity, and is being conducted in partnership with an internationally reputed fertilizer company Mosaic India. The project is called Krishi Jyoti wherein emphasis is on a balanced approach to crop nutrition and underserved farmers improve their soil and farming practices, leading to increased productivity and enhanced income. For improving irrigation, check dams are constructed to help replenish the freshwater aquifers.
Similarly, another project called Krishi Chetna in partnership with a reputed international seed company Misr Hytech Seed International, seeks to enhance farmers' knowledge on soil testing, seed rate, use of scientific package of practices, insect and pest control, agriculture credit and marketing of final produce. This leads to improved agricultural income of small and marginal farmers and enhances women capacities to increase their participation in decision making in agriculture crop production process.
In water resource management, IRRAD through its partnership with the Coca Cola India Foundation, is augmenting groundwater through watershed and community water conservation projects in select villages. A tripartite Government-NGO-Corporate partnership model, is another significant initiative wherein IRRAD is working in partnership with Mewat Development Agency and Coca Cola India Foundation, for water conservation through construction of check dams in select villages.
With further upcoming collaborative support from some corporates in the scalable models of agriculture, water management and sanitation for improved health and hygiene and for putting an end to open defecation, IRRAD is enabling the social responsibility initiatives of corporates to help them reach out to the unreached for improving the living conditions of rural populace.
A community radio- Alfaz-e-Mewat FM 107.8 is a unique Public Private Community Partnership (PPCP) model; with start-up support from the government (Ministry of Agriculture), private support on content for a children's program by Sesame Workshop India Trust and S.M. Sehgal Foundation and run by the local community broadcasters with support from IRRAD communica-tions team. The radio broadcasts for almost 10 hours daily, reaching out to 185 villages where main stream media has a limited reach. This community media not only provides a platform to the local people to share their voices but also contributes to making rural empowerment through imparting awareness on various issues related to agriculture, health, education or social schemes which will be beneficial to villagers.
A knowledge institute with its unique strengths of technical, research and community engagement skills at grassroots levels, and backed with several recognitions for its flagship programs, at national and international levels, IRRAD has established its capacity for project delivery and an excellent reputation in the NGO sector. It is well positioned to leverage the corporate agenda of CSR in enabling them to contribute towards rural development. IRRAD's efforts have been recognised by many organizations. It has received the Jal Puruskar by Bhaskar Foundation (2012), “Best Water NGO” Award by UNESCO and Water Digest for three consecutive years (2007-2009). It won the National Ground Water Augmentation Award for Best NGO, northern zone (2009). IRRAD holds a Special Consultative Status with United Nations Economic and Social Council and is member organization with Clinton Global Initiative, US and Credibility Alliance, India.
The guiding philosophy and futuristic vision of IRRAD is led by its founder Chairman, Dr. Suri Sehgal: "Our strong belief is that if a model/module is replicable and sustainable, it can be taken to other parts of India and beyond after adapting it to local conditions. To do this, we need to work in tandem with willing partners in the public, private or non-profit sectors, and help secure a brighter future for the people of India."