Project Nanda – An exercise in collaborative, sustainable Rural Development

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Centered around villages and hamlets in and around Almora, Uttarakhand, Project Nanda, named after the local deity, is a collaborative initiative that brings individuals, NGOs and village folk and Mrida together onto a common platform and harness traditional knowledge systems, local enterprise, and natural resources to facilitate holistic and sustainable development and reverse the trend of migration of youth to urban centers in search of livelihoods.

Mayoli Farms, an innovative project combining energy access, organic cultivation and impact tourism into a single package, is an initiative conceptualized and developed, supported by Project Nanda.

Bee keeping is being launched as a livelihood opportunity for local farmers, which will also help improve agricultural yields in the area. Starting with about 30 farmers across 6 villages, the objective is to cover more than 200 farmers over the period of time, and develop a range of organic, high value output for honey and related products, which Mrida and Project Nanda will market.

Groups of farmers and women folk in 6 villages to begin with, are being encouraged to cultivate a variety of millets, hand process the grain, and then grind them using the environment friendly ‘paan-chakki’ or water wheel. The output is organic, highly nutritious flour, processed in an environment friendly manner. Mrida has undertaken to procure and develop market linkages for the output. Village folk get a sustainable livelihood opportunity and are able to value add to the basic crop, earning much better returns for their efforts. Project Nanda and Mrida are able to derive a commercial return from sale of the finished product, while the end user gets a healthy, nutritious food product – a win-win situation for all, and a sustainable livelihood opportunity at the base of the pyramid.

Huge tracts of land in the area are barren, for want of farmers and youth to cultivate them, having migrated to urban areas, and/or given the huge animal menace – monkeys, barking deer and wild boar who often forage and completely destroy months of efforts virtually overnight. Project Nanda has launched an initiative to encourage round-the-year cultivation of Turmeric, Ginger, Garlic and Cardamom among others, which are largely unaffected by the animal menace. Again, cultivators are provided good returns and commitment for purchase of the output at (often better than) prevailing market rates. Finally, a supply chain is being put in place to process, value add and convert the same into finished goods – feeding into win-win situations for all concerned.

Project Nanda aims to progressively bring over 100 villages under its fold, creating virtuous circles of development, well being and prosperity.