PRADAN is a non-government organisation in India.

Overview PRADAN is a voluntary organisation registered under the Societies Registration Act of India. Established in Delhi in 1983, PRADAN was pioneered by a group of young professionals, all of whom were inspired by the conviction that individuals with knowledge resources and empathy for the marginalised must work with communities at the grassroots in order to help them overcome poverty.

PRADAN believes that the path towards conquering economic poverty is through enhancing the livelihood capabilities of the poor and giving them access to sustainable income earning opportunities. In the process, the poor must be enabled to break free from their past, develop an alternative vision of their future and set achievable goals. They must be equipped with the technical, organisational, negotiating, and networking skills that will facilitate the fulfillment of their goals.

Today, some 268 highly motivated and skilled professionals under PRADAN’s fold are working in the remote villages of India, immersing themselves directly with target communities. These young professionals are recruited from universities and hold specialised degrees in subjects like management, engineering, agriculture, and the social sciences.

PRADAN professionals, divided into 27 teams, work with over 112,900 families in 3,044 villages across seven of the poorest states in the country. A majority of the families that PRADAN works with belong to the Schedule Tribes and Schedule Castes.PRADAN follows a four-pronged approach to achieve its goals:Promoting and nurturing Self-Help Groups (SHGs) of poor women and strengthening them as organisations to leverage institutional finances for members’ livelihoods.Developing and introducing locally suitable economic activities to increase productivity and incomes among SHG members; building synergic collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders.Mobilising finances for livelihood assets and infrastructure from government bodies, donors, banks, and other financial institutions.Setting up mechanisms to sustain the livelihood gains made by the poor communities.Challenged by the abysmal poverty of millions of people across India, PRADAN has resolved to reach out to 1.5 million poor people in the next 10 years as a part of its vision, PRADAN 2017.

VisionPRADAN seeks to enable poor rural families to live a life of dignity.

MissionImpacting Livelihoods to Enable Rural Communities PRADAN’s mission is rooted in a clear understanding of the societal contexts that make poverty in India complex, a phenomenon which thrives in various interrelated factors including:

The rural poor’s view of themselves;

Their understanding and skills to deal with outside systems;

Their access to resources;

Their technical knowledge to use the resources that they have;

The existence of feudal or semi-feudal agents which deprive the poor of their surpluses; and,

Other causes that are rooted beyond the local context

Over the many years that it has worked with India’s rural poor, PRADAN has learned valuable lessons that serve as a guide to fulfilling the organisation’s mission. Among those learnings are the following:

Alleviating rural poverty is an extremely challenging task. Development efforts must be conducted with the collaboration of different and equally interested actors in order to make an impact.

Rural communities are fragmented along caste and class lines. These tend to restrict the effectiveness of joint action for development.

Among the rural poor, women are generally marginalised, yet they prove to be more effective agents of social change. Sadly, however, such potential is not well-recognised.

There are plenty of resources in the rural areas – including human resources – which remain largely untapped.

There is need for innovation in the social and technical spheres for generating ideas that can affect the rural poor on a large scale.

The government remains the biggest and most dominant actor in development, but its efforts have had a limited effect on alleviating rural poverty.This could be due to various factors, including:

lack of access of people to government;

government programmes that have little relevance to rural communities;

inappropriate design of some government programmes and schemes;

low quality of human resources at the implementation levels of government; and,

lack of recognition among government personnel that they have a stake in the poor’s development.

The context in which PRADAN operates is changing fast

With all this in perspective, PRADAN seeks to define the space in which it can be most effective, as well as the approaches that can best help the rural poor enrich their lives.

PRADAN’s core competency is in the area of sustainable livelihoods. By addressing issues of livelihood, PRADAN has been able to make an impact in the lives of poor communities. Having access to sustainable livelihood opportunities, the poor become less vulnerable to adverse natural and man-made forces. Control over their source of livelihood improves the poor’s image of themselves. Livelihood is a tangible instrument around which rural poor people can be organised, opportunities to deal with outside systems be created, and a greater impact on the fight against poverty be attained.

In this light, PRADAN is guided by the principle that for the rural poor communities to be able to access opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, they must first be enabled. This concept of “enabling communities” implies that PRADAN adopts participatory processes in its work with the people, making available ideas and technologies in a manner that enhances the poor’s access to and control over their resources. These resources, in turn, aid in the improvement of their lives, in organising them into appropriate peoples’ institutions at various levels, to improve their bargaining power and in enhancing their ability to deal with mainstream systems and provide sustainability to the interventions.

PRADAN looks for concrete livelihood interventions in the local context after a scientific evaluation of the specific environments. We constantly seeks to extend intervention that is sharper and more relevant, aided by a thorough process of action, reflection, and learning.

As rural poverty is so widespread and multifaceted, it is not possible for any single actor to make a significant dent on the problem merely on its own. Efforts will be sustainable only when made at multiple levels and in a scale that is significant. Therefore, PRADAN also collaborates with, educates, and influences mainstream actors in development. A gap exists between the mainstream and the grassroots, and PRADAN is competent in effectively filling such void. Moreover, PRADAN strives to share its experiences with other development workers, recognising the unfortunate fact that knowledge about processes in addressing rural poverty is severely limited.

PRADAN carries out all of these programmes with the collective hard work of its highly skilled and dedicated workforce. The organisation recruits and deploys high-quality human resources at the grassroots, inducting, nurturing, and developing professional development workers who are able to operate in a wide spectrum, are capable to reverse roles, are self-regulating, and continually seek excellence in their tasks. Board Name Board Position Affiliated Organisation Dr. Ravi Chopra Chairperson Peoples’ Science Institute Ms. Bharti Gupta Ramola Vice-Chairperson Pricewaterhouse Coopers Pvt. Ltd. Mr. Ajay S. Mehta Member National Foundation for India Mr. M. A. Krishnan Member State Bank of India (Retired) Ms. Asha Swarup Member Government of India Prof. Kanchan Chopra Member Institute of Economic Growth Ms. Nivedita Narain Member PRADAN Mr. Satyabrata Acharyya Member PRADAN Mr. Soumen Biswas Ex- Officio Secretary PRADAN As on February 2008

The Governing Board comprises maximum 12 members. Nine are invited Honorary Members, who come from diverse professional arenas, having their own distinguished record of public service. They are independent directors and hold no material interest in PRADAN.

The Honorary Members nominate two senior members of the staff to sit in the Board.

The Board appoints the Executive Director, who serves a five-year term by convention, and concurrently acts as the ex-officio Secretary of the Board.

The Board renews itself periodically as members can serve no more than two consecutive terms of three years each. All incumbent Honorary Members are also members of the General Body besides other individuals who have joined the Society earlier.

Teams The focus of PRADAN’s work is to promote and strengthen livelihoods among the rural poor. This involves organising rural families, enhancing their capabilities, and introducing ways to improve their incomes by linking them to banks, markets, and other financial services and economic opportunities. PRADAN works through its field-based teams to achieve these goals.

Currently 31 field-based teams carry out daily operations and the organisation’s livelihood and other programmes in all project areas, each of them working under the leadership of a mid-career executive designated as Team Leader. Each field team comprises of six to ten professional staff members.

A senior executive designated as Programme Director supports several teams. Organisation-wide functions are also overseen by the Programme Directors. All Programme Directors, together with the Executive Director, constitute the Executive Committee that is responsible for strategic and operational integration and institutional development.The Executive Director, Programme Directors, and Team Leaders constitute the Consultative Forum which carries out twice-yearly programme planning, budgeting, and review.

PRADAN professionals work with over 112,900 families in 3,044 villages across seven of the poorest states in the country. All professional staff meets once a year in a Retreat to exchange experiences and broadly chart out future direction.

PRADAN's Work Promotiion of SHG's PRADAN is one of the pioneers in the promotion of Self-Help Groups (SHG) in India, having formed its first SHG in Alwar, Rajasthan, in 1987. A savings and credit SHG is a simple yet effective way of reaching out and connecting with rural poor women.

A Self-Help Group is an informal association of 10 to 20 poor women belonging to the same village and sharing a common socio-economic background. The group enables its members to gain their identity as individuals, while realising – and utilising – the immense power of mutual aid. It provides them with a platform from where they can access banks and public services, and spearhead changes that affect them as poor women.

Nurturing Self-Help Groups of rural poor women is PRADAN’s key tool in fulfilling its mission and goals. The Self-Help Groups work for the women in a number of ways: they provide guidance; they give support and assistance to women; and they identify and promote home-based enterprises among its members. These home-based enterprises, called “honeybee activities”, involve a myriad of ventures. The SHG members take loans from the SHGs and set out to begin an enterprise of their own.

As a result of PRADAN’s intervention efforts, an increasing number of rural families – especially women – are engaging in independent livelihood activities. These activities serve as opportunities for diversifying and enhancing their incomes.

PRADAN gives particular attention to women because even as they comprise half of the country’s population, they remain the most disadvantaged sector among the poor. Yet it is the women who prove to be most effective in fostering change in their families and communities.

With PRADAN’s guidance and the members’ own experiences, SHGs can potentially play four key roles through the different stages of evolution: mutual help, financial intermediation, livelihood planning, and social empowerment.

As of March 2007, PRADAN has worked with some 7,512 SHGs across seven states, representing a total membership of 106,090 rural poor women. These SHGs have mobilised a total savings of 225 million Rupees.

Also significantly, the financial accounting and Management Information System (MIS) of PRADAN’s SHG programme has been streamlined by the innovative system of community-based accounting through the Computer Munshi System.

Forest Based LivelihoodsFOREST-BASED LIVELIHOOD PRADAN works mostly with Adivasis and poor people who live near forests for whom forests and trees have, traditionally, been an important source of livelihood. Over the years, dwindling forests and the implementation of protection-oriented public policies have made serious inroads to these livelihood activities, resulting in decreased incomes for the local communities.

PRADAN’s forest-and tree-based livelihood interventions in Jharkhand and Orissa comprise of Tasar cocoon production, Lac cultivation and production, and trading of Siali leaf plates. Farm forestry has also been taken up as part of a programme on integrated natural resource management. In all, there are some 7,792 families who are involved in these various activities.

In its activities, PRADAN is supported by, and works in close association with various government departments such as the Ministry of Rural Development, the Department of Agriculture and the Ministry of Textiles, and a number of resource institutions such as the Central Silk Board and the Indian Lac Research Institute.

Lac CultivationThe insect Laccifer Lacca, living off the sap of certain trees, secretes lac resin. The processed resin is called Shellac and has numerous industrial applications including in the food and drug industries. India is a major producer of Shellac.

Among the Adivasis, Lac rearing and cultivation is a traditional occupation, and has proved to be an important source of income for thousands of poor families. However, the full potential of lac rearing and cultivation has yet to be tapped; the activity can generate higher incomes for the poor of the East Indian plateau region.

Despite its importance, lac cultivation is beset with numerous risks and uncertainties. For one, technological advances have not filtered down to the rearers, and they are unable to access adequate working capital to buy brood lac (mother insects). Furthermore, the availability and quality of the brood lac is highly uncertain. The lac insect itself is highly vulnerable to predators, diseases and natural elements, and no insurance mechanism exists to mitigate such risks.

PRADAN works to revive a dying traditional livelihood by helping to enhance incomes of lac rearers. In collaboration with the Jharkhand Government and the Indian Lac Research Institute (ILRI), PRADAN provides technical trainings on modern rearing techniques to local Adivasi youth and promotes technologies developed by ILRI.

Methods for rearing on alternative host trees such as palash and kusumi have been successfully initiated.

PRADAN’s intervention in Lac cultivation programmes has reached 2,107 families.

Siali Leaf PlatePRADAN began its Siali leaf plate-making livelihood intervention in April 2002. Making leaf plates is a source of supplementary income for poor people living near forests in South and West Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh. Virtually every household in those areas depend on this activity. Their annual incomes vary from anywhere between Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 2,500.

This livelihood activity uses the leaf of the Siali creeper, abundant and available throughout the year, and which is widely used in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra. PRADAN works in the Balliguda and Kandhamal districts where over seventy per cent of tribal women are engaged in making loose leaf and rough stitched leaf plates. The producers are trained to stitch plates of finer quality and produce a wider range of products either manually or with the aid of machinery.PRADAN’s strategy is to help producers – mainly women – to increase incomes; organise them into SHGs to pave the way for access to credit; create storage facilities and upgrade products to close-stitched and machine-stitched plates. The returns are expected to be around Rs. 6,000 per year for every family.

Tasar Cocoon Production Sericulture – or the production of silk – involves the rearing of silkworms to produce cocoons, and then processing those cocoons to make yarn and fabric. Tasar is a variety of wild silk (Vanya silk) produced by the tasar silkworm, Antheraea Mylitta. This worm, unlike the mulberry silk worm, is only partly domesticated. Tasar is, therefore, reared in forest areas. The process requires round-the-clock vigil and, overall, dedicated husbandry for six to ten weeks.Tribal communities living in remote forested areas are usually engaged in Tasar cocoon production. The activity is a source of supplementary income for the poor families who are otherwise engaged in small and marginal farming or are migrating to other places in search of livelihoods. Since cocoon production involves family labour, yields quick returns and requires simple technologies, it is ideally suited for these families. The activity requires very low initial investment, and the key requirements are labour which is readily available, and flora which is plentiful in these fringe forest areas.

The growth potential for this economic activity is simply enormous. There is constant demand for tasar silk, estimated – both for domestic consumption and the international market – at 1,500 metric tonnes (MT) per annum of raw silk fibre

PRADAN works with Tasar rearers – about 4,436 families so far, almost all of whom are tribals – at various intervention levels. The rearers have been provided with trainings in improved rearing techniques developed by the Central Silk Board (CSB). Those techniques have reduced the risks and increased overall productivity.

Natural Resource ManagementA vast majority of the rural poor continue to be dependent on land and water resources for their meager livelihoods. Sadly, however, various phenomena including deforestation, drought and soil erosion have resulted in decreased incomes for these families. Chronic poverty persists. Thus PRADAN devotes a significant part of its intervention efforts on developing land and water resources. The aim is to enhance productivity, incomes and sustainable livelihoods.

Towards this objective, PRADAN promotes the Integrated Natural Resources Management (INRM) of land, water, forest and biological resources to achieve and sustain potential agricultural productivity. INRM combines managing the use of natural resources along with their conservation and sustenance.Programmes comprise of enhancing productivity in agriculture; diversifying into new crops; setting up irrigation systems; and instituting entirely new ways of managing the natural resource base.

Agriculture Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood in the regions where PRADAN works. With current low levels of productivity in agriculture, PRADAN extends assistance in finding opportunities to enhance livelihoods. Over half of PRADAN’s livelihood programmes are focused on agriculture, its improvement – and the overall management of natural resources – remains key in the battle against endemic poverty in the rural areas.

Enhancing productivity and diversification are the core strategies of PRADAN’s agriculture programmes. Specific activities are increasing the productivity of the main cereal crops to improve food security, and diversification into cash crops such as pulses, oil seeds, and vegetables.

Whichever programme is undertaken, PRADAN seeks to ensure its sustainability. In order to achieve this, the organisation trains and deploys a large number of agriculture extension entrepreneurs to the field. Producers’ institutions around agriculture are formed and strengthened as well.


Horticulture is gradually emerging as a significant livelihood programme in the high-rainfall regions where PRADAN is engaged. Diversification has become an essential component of sustainable strategies, given the dwindling productivity of agriculture. Critical to the success of PRADAN’s horticulture programmes is the enhancement and management of natural resources, particularly in the hilly regions with limited potential for reliable irrigation.PRADAN teams, fielded in the undulating and hilly terrains, are working to encourage farmers to take up vegetable cultivation on their small-scale homesteads and near dug wells. These activities provide the poor families with a dependable source of income.PRADAN has taken up fruit tree plantation programmes on private lands. Over 6,000 families are currently involved in PRADAN’s horticulture programme.

Land & Water Resources At the heart of PRADAN’s strategy has always been to work directly with the rural poor, build their capabilities, and introduce and develop new livelihood opportunities. While the organisation’s strategies, programmes, and methodologies have evolved over time, developing land and water resources has been a fixture in PRADAN’s work.

PRADAN takes the integrated approach to resource management and has demonstrated ways to promote the development of natural resources. This approach leads to an equitable and sustainable economic growth, ensures household food security, and helps minimise mass poverty.

An integrated approach to land and water resources management requires participatory planning with the people, to develop systems and treatment measures that are most suitable to the resources available. The technologies that PRADAN has developed are simple and labour intensive and best suited to the people they are designed to serve.PRADAN’s integrated approach to natural resource management (INRM) calls for the efficient management of soil, water and vegetation resources, yet maintaining a livelihood focus. INRM recognises that uncontrolled, unplanned and unscientific use of natural resources results in their decline. Therefore, managing natural resources calls for proper land use while protecting it from erosion; enhanced productivity while maintaining soil fertility; and water harvesting and conservation.

INRM not only optimises the productivity of land and water resources, but also helps fight mass poverty. In other words, sustainable development efforts must take into account the relationship between the needs and priorities of the people, and natural resources.

Livestock Development PRADAN works with rural families in the promotion of dairy and goat rearing activities in the project areas of Jharkhand, Orissa, and Rajasthan. While livestock populations in these areas are higher than the national average, productivity is low, rearing practices remain poor, breeds are non-descript, veterinary services are non-existent, and market infrastructure is often absent.

Yet dairy and goat rearing possess tremendous promise as livelihood supplements for the rural poor in these areas. Thus PRADAN seeks to help bring in better-quality breeds, veterinary care, while at the same time developing a reliable cadre of village-based service providers and marketing systems. Specifically in Rajasthan and Jharkhand, PRADAN is expanding its outreach programmes with support from various quarters like the government, financial institutions, and various resource institutions such as the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) and the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI).

Dairy PRADAN’s interventions on Dairy programmes are being extended through the induction of better quality of breeds, the training of women in feeding and husbandry practices, veterinary care, the development of a cadre of village-based service providers, and the creation of systems for effective marketing.

Though holding potential, Dairying remains poorly developed in PRADAN’s project areas. In these areas, the population of domestic animals is higher than the national average. Yet milk productivity is low, rearing practices are poor, breeds are non-descript, veterinary services are non-existent, and market linkages do not exist. To fulfill the potential of Dairying in its project areas, PRADAN provides assistance for the induction of new animals, while giving attention as well to better housing and veterinary care, especially the provision of immunisation against diseases. In this light, systems have been set up to for the procurement and distribution of important vaccines.

PRADAN also assists participants in accessing funds from various sources such as centrally sponsored schemes, donor-aided programmes, and state governments.

In Jharkhand, PRADAN is promoting a women’s dairy co-operative. An additional two are in the pipeline, the setting up of which is being conducted with assistance from banks and the State Government. Meanwhile, in Rajasthan, PRADAN has set up a women’s Producer Company in collaboration with the Mother Dairy and the World Bank-funded District Poverty Initiatives Project (DPIP). The Producer Company will procure milk for bulk markets and provide technical assistance to the producers, too.

At present, the Dairy programmes reach out to nearly 3,858 families. Goat Rearing PRADAN is promoting goat-rearing programmes in Rajasthan and Orissa. As with other PRADAN initiatives, the focus is on assisting women in optimising their livestock resources. This becomes necessary given that in these project areas, goat rearing is characterised by the use of poor breeds and unscientific husbandry practices that result in low incomes and high morbidity and mortality risks.

PRADAN focuses on the induction of new animals, better housing and veterinary care, especially immunisation against certain well-known killer diseases like PPR (Peste des petits ruminants). Systems have been set up to procure and administer necessary vaccines in collaboration with government agencies.

PRADAN assists poor women in goat rearing as a potential livelihood supplement. The programme enables women to obtain credit to buy goats and provide improved shelter and veterinary support. Training a cadre of para-vets to provide animal health care on a routine basis is also an important intervention.

The programmes are implemented in clusters so that capacity building, veterinary support, and marketing can be taken up in a more systematic manner.

PRADAN’s goat-rearing programmes currently reach out to some 2,331 families.

Microenterprise Promotion In PRADAN’s project areas, land, water, livestock, and forests remain the main sources of livelihood that are available to the rural poor. Most families depend on agriculture for their meager incomes.

But with continually diminishing outputs and declining farm sizes, it has become more urgent for the rural population to diversify their avenues of income. This necessarily involves introducing them to emerging home-based microenterprises. The aim is to take advantage of the rising demand for newer goods and services, which provide livelihood opportunities outside traditional farming.

PRADAN is promoting home-based microenterprises such as poultry rearing, Tasar yarn production, vermi-composting, mulberry sericulture, and cultivation of oyster mushrooms

Tasar Yarn Production PRADAN has identified the production of Tasar silk yarn as an activity that has the potential to generate a large number of livelihoods among the rural poor in the eastern and central Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh. PRADAN has sought to separate Tasar yarn production from weaving, promoting it as an independent and viable enterprise for women.

Tasar yarn production has traditionally been a low-paying activity carried out by rural poor women in their spare time. Yet it plays a critical role in the Tasar fabric industry by supplying the raw material. Despite this key role and its income-generating potential, Tasar yarn production has not flourished independently, always being seen as a mere component of the entire weaving enterprise, to be done solely by the women in the weaver families.

PRADAN’s intervention in Tasar yarn production equips rural poor women with skills and provides them with infrastructure, inputs, and marketing support for yarn production as an independent enterprise. This helps ensure for them a steady and sustainable income.

The basic strategy has been to organise the rural women into ‘reeler’ or ‘spinner’ groups. These groups are then encouraged to establish links with other organisations and institutions to expand and improve the Tasar yarn production business.

The Central Silk Board (CSB) has developed technology and machinery to produce reeled (fine) and spun (coarse) yarn. It also provides trainings. PRADAN helps to market the yarn both as an intermediate product as well as the final woven products.

In 2006 alone, PRADAN’s Tasar yarn production activities impacted on 1,894 families. Broiler Poultry Rearing PRADAN has developed a model of decentralised smallholder poultry rearing which has emerged as a powerful tool for the livelihood promotion of rural poor women. Women from tribal and other poor families are organised into cooperatives to serve the growing needs of small town and urban markets.

PRADAN provides poor women – through the cooperatives – hands-on training and assistance in securing finances from either the banks or government programmes. These women rear a batch of 300 to 400 birds in rearing sheds built on their homesteads. In around 32 days the birds are ready for sale.

The women’s cooperatives, organised by PRADAN, also provide inputs like feeds, chicks, and medicines. At the same time, the cooperatives make arrangements to market the birds. Some of the producers are trained to provide veterinary care and manage linkages on behalf of the co-operative. By working together the women realise the importance of scale economies to the poultry business.

The poultry cooperatives suffered a depression brought about by the recent bird flu scare. Many units across the country were wiped out. Still, the cooperatives stayed afloat, taking on measures to mitigate the ill effects of the bird flu scare. As market prices crashed, they reduced production and offered members a minimum support price. They are now rapidly picking up from the depression, with most of them having recovered a significant proportion of their losses.

At present, PRADAN works with 2,809 families organised into 15 cooperatives, the largest conglomeration of smallholder poultry in India.

Extent of activity

Today PRADAN works with over 135,000 poor families in rural India in 33 districts of seven states. Over 250 professionals work full-time to eradicate mass poverty in rural India.

Currently it is one of the largest rural livelihood promoting NGOs in India with extensive linkages with Government programmes and mainstream commercial banks.

External links

* [ PRADAN website]
* [ The System of Rice Intensification]
* [ Lohardaga web page]

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