What, Where and How We Work

CARD has a strong grassroots presence in three distinct regions of Central India, namely; Gond predominant eastern tribal region (MP& CG), agriculturally rich Feudal Malwa region and Bhil predominant degraded western tribal region. The primary concern of CARD has always been livelihoods promotion but at the same time we do support other development initiatives like water & sanitation, health & nutrition, child development & woman empowerment, alternate energy promotion, etc in the existing action areas. Our major concern is that the majority marginalised farming community can earn enough to live a life of dignity and enjoys atleast the minimum quality standards. Our thematic areas of work have broadened over the journey of fifteen years. The Main fields of our action research/ activities include:


Watershed Rehabilitation:

The State of Madhya Pradesh took a lead in the watershed based development approach during the nineties when the common watershed guidelines were introduced at the National level. The key founders of CARD were among the few State level celebrities who shaped this movement. The CARD therefore inherited its legacy of land and water based livelihood development model. The execution of watershed rehabilitation programme could start only in 2002 under Rajiv Gandhi Watershed Mission with watershed plus approach and within a decade CARD has attained a position of one of the few agencies in India with experience of over 1 lakh ha area under watershed rehabilitation.

CARD also contributed towards shaping the new common guidelines through the findings/ recommendations of several impact assessment studies commissioned by the Goi-MoRD, MP Govt and UNICEF and by representation of its Chief Functionary in the sub committees of the MoRD and as member of SLNA the during the early 2000s. We have been working in different agro climatic sub zones of Malwa, Western MP hills, Central Narmada Valley, Mahakaushal regions in the districts of Mandla, Jhabua, Dhar, Agar, Shajapur, Dewas, Dindori, Hoshangabad, Harda (MP), Dhamatari and Kanker (CG) in partnership of NREGS, IWMP, MPRLP, NABARD, NVDA, SUZLON, etc. CARD has also been a network partner with IWMP and FAO for promoting agriculture water management across the state.

Sustainable Agriculture/ Responsible Farming:

Despite the fact that CARD has been a major player for rural livelihoods promotion through natural resource management since its inception, agriculture was never a prime focus rather it was taken up only as part of integrated development. The realization was soon brought into action by integrating with few national and international agriculture development initiatives. Today CARD is working with 30000 farmers on agriculture transformation through Good Agriculture Practices in 300 plus villages across Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and our motto is “Aap Cheti aap Khet” – “Sensible Farmer Responsible Farming”. We are presently active in two major practices in the state; one is the farmer support programme through responsible farming practices in Soybeans cultivation in the Malwa region, and the other is promoting chemical free natural farming in the Eastern Mahakaushal region.

The Malwa plateau region has rich fertile lands over-used with excessive application of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and wrong agricultural practices (including excessive irrigation). The landowner community of Patidars or Patels owns these lands. The scheduled castes and scheduled tribes generally inhabit the slopes and hills, which are less productive. These economically weaker and agriculturally backward communities till their own small and marginal lands, and provide cheap labour to the neighbouring landed community. Ground water scarcity has already occurred in the whole Malwa region. The annual ground water development is estimated between 35 and 50 percent. Soybean is the most popular oilseed crop in the whole Malwa region and occupies more than 90 percent area of the Kharif season crops, and more than half of the total farmers’ strength is either marginal (less than 1 ha. Holding) or small (1-2 ha holding) but they together hold less than 15% of total land. The region is Zinc deficient and imbalanced use of fertilizer /chemicals is causing soil deterioration and fertility loss. As a result the organic matter is gradually decreasing. Further there is lack of agro based market research and value addition based on market demand, and lack of technical expertise at ground level at the time of need. The strategy proposed to increase the soybean based economy has four components in i) improvement of productivity, ii) adoption of new technology, iii) diversification and intensification and iv) meeting the processing, storage and marketing gaps. We are promoting responsible soy cultivation as per the principles of RTRS- “Round Table on Responsible Soya” in over hundred villages in Ujjain, Agar, Dhar, Dewas and Jhabua districts with SOLIDARIDAD and ATMA, under RKVY.

The Maikal hill region comprising Mandla and Dindori districts, a tribal dominated hilly and forest area has scattered habitation. The tribes have a definite way of life style and social-cultural and religious characteristics. A large majority of tribals are associated with agricultural activities but their agricultural fields are undulating, and smallholdings are subjected to severe soil erosion. Due to their marginal and uneconomical holdings, earnings from these pursuits do not give them reasonable level of living. The district is deficient in secondary sector; there is no major irrigation project that may influence the agriculture development of the area, with the result the tribals are totally dependent on dilapidated status of agriculture or on wage earnings from plethora of government schemes being implemented in the district. The picture is akin to most of the naxal affected districts of the Central Indian belt which are resource rich but poor due to their remote location, backwardness and failure in delivery of services. It is believed that a sound planning along with systematic execution of development projects can not only sustain the livelihoods of these tribals but also bring them into mainstream national development. After long deliberations with the district officers, it was perceived that solution lies in making agriculture a profitable occupation without increasing cost of cultivation. One way is to develop the region as a market hub of chemical free grains (organic), exotic and traditional vegetables and fruits, pulses, oil seeds and minor millets. The other option is to utilise maximum resources of MGNREGS to extend the area under cultivation, adopting various land reform measures, developing water conservation techniques, enhancing soil fertility, settling land disputes, brining change in sowing pattern etc. so that a sustainable source of livelihood may be ascertained. CARD has been promoting capacity building of farmers, demonstration of new crop varieties and conservation of traditional varieties, farmer field school, primary & secondary agro processing, market network, etc. The major CARD initiative of Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MoRD) is bringing the traditional agriculture labourer woman to the forefront as “responsible farmer- Sachet Mahila Kisan”. The other major supporter is the SDTT.

Climate Change- Variability and Adaptability:

The effect of Climate change is already being experienced by the agrarian community living in the Central India zone in the form of rising temperatures, un-timely downpour, extreme climatic events, changes in rainfall pattern and increase of drought like situations. These persistent changes in the weather have resulted in the overall decrease in the quantity of available water in the Central India region. The western part of Madhya Pradesh, especially the Malwa region, has been suffering from severe water crisis since the eighties. The limited availability of surface water for irrigation has led to fast pace of ground water development. In the absence of any significant efforts having been made in recharge of groundwater, the resultant groundwater availability scenario posed serious challenge to the intensive agriculture based livelihoods of the region. Whereas, the hill region both in the West and the East, which are still at the door of organized agriculture are caught between the debate of traditional vis/a/vis modern and are acutely suffering due to climate change and resultant droughts as well as untimely heavy downpour. Climate change poses number of challenge to the agricultural sector and the most vulnerable are the rural poor who have limited resources and whose assets and livelihoods are exposed to climate-sensitive factors. Climate change may further stress rural livelihoods, beyond just agriculture. Resilience is typically low in rural areas as the existing asset base is weak (natural, human, physical, financial, social) and services provided by infrastructure and institutions are often insufficient. Thus, the rural poor are chronically vulnerable to climatic conditions beyond direct agriculture production impacts. Building resilience of these groups to current climate risks is a difficult challenge. Climate and weather determine food security of the rural communities, who rely on agriculture, forest resources and animal husbandry for their subsistence needs. CARD has been conscious to the fact and helped communities in adapting to climate change through cultivation of new crop varieties that required less water, creating new sources for rain water harvesting based irrigation, shifting to new income generation activities and by skill improvement programmes under livelihoods generation. At community level CARD has promoted drought resistance watershed rehabilitation activities to develop and regenerate the common property resources.

As programme partner CARD has promoted agriculture water management technologies across the state with FAO and IWMI support, and has been instrumental in rehabilitation of more than hundred thousand hectares of individual and common lands with support from IWMP, NREGA, NVDA, NABARD, etc.

Bagwani: Agro- Horticulture:

The eastern Madhya Pradesh region though has abundance of natural resources, but it is also one of the most backward regions as far as its socio-economic progress is concerned. The major tribes of the area Gonds, Baigas Pradhans, baigas are known for their traditional cultivation practices almost away from modern appropriate technologies and market. The Central India plateau has a large territory with uneven sloppy terrain. Due to excessive rains during monsoon the water flows for long period in the rivulets but remains untapped. It has predominance of small cultivators and agricultural labourers among the main workers. Nine out of every ten workers are engaged in the primary sector. A large majority of tribals are associated with agricultural activities. Due to their marginal and uneconomical holdings, earnings from these pursuits do not give them reasonable level of living. Though agriculture is the basis support of tribal economy but only 48 percent of the total land is cultivable. Irrigation is limited to only 6 percent of total cultural land. The agriculture development of the region is constrained by the small size of its land holdings. Hence the only approach to agriculture development of the region rests on diversification of farming and productivity enhancement of these land holdings. In view of the complexities attached with tribal way of life, due to their historical, socio-cultural and geographical situations, the generalized approaches of development attempted earlier have not met with significant success.

The “BADI” approach initiated by an NGO - BAIF stands out as a sustainable model suitable for replication in other tribal areas. In this model, the central focus is on “BADI”. The other development interventions are built around “BADI”. The Term “Badi” means small orchard covering one or two hectares. A “Badi” may consist of Mango or Cashew or Aonla or any fruit crop suitable to the area with forestry species on the periphery. CARD has been a propagator of this scheme since a decade but on a small scale. It started the initiatives with NABARD support in Mandla and Dhar in an organised manner and later continued with Dhar alone. CARD has now been promoting the concept of agro horticulture and kitchen garden in Ghughari block of Mandla on its own.

Promotion of Farmers Producer Organisations:

CARD started the initiative of promoting Farmer Producer Organisations in two blocks of Mandla district (Ghughari and Bichchiya) and two blocks of Dhar district (Badnawar and Dhar) with target of 1000 farmers for each FPO in partnership with Small Farmers Agri-Business Consortium (Ministry of Agriculture & Cooperation) during 2014. It is an initiative that ultimately aims at creating sustainable agriculture economy particularly for marginal and small farmers by consolidating their resources so that these cultivators may exploit economy of scales concerning agriculture practices, which, otherwise is not possible in view of small size of their holdings. The success of FPO model is yet debated, the old practitioners branding it as another green revolution while the critics say it is another SGSY. As it happens with all new initiatives there is mushrooming of FPOs being formed and not being able to cross its infancy stage. CARD has been mobilising the farming community since a decade and now its decision to go for promoting FPOs will bring dividend soon. We are adopting area based different approaches in forming FPOs which can sustain without government aid. We propose to have set up more than 20 FPOs by the end of 2015.

NTFP based Rural Technologies:

Non-timber Forest Products (NTFP) play increasingly greater role in the social and traditional lifestyle of millions of forest dependent population particularly the tribal, land less, women and other rural poor. Most of the products are sold in raw form and therefore is not remunerative to gatherers. After walking long distances and spending several hours the gatherer is able to get less than minimum government prescribed wages. Thus, they try to collect as much as possible to maximise their earnings from day’s collection. In the process, they resort to destructive harvesting. As a result many important NTFP species are getting depleted in the natural forests. Organizing the communities through woman collectives offers best option to reduce the exploitation by middlemen and ensure better returns from collection of NTFP to women and other vulnerable section of society particularly in tribal areas. The institutionalisation of these collectives and its integration with NRLM will provide a sustainable livelihood solution to the region.

CARD has been actively involved in livelihood promotion of tribals and in organising tribals collectives. It has been promoting scientific harvesting, domestication and propagation, value addition and Marketing of some important NTFPs on eco-friendly basis for the past several years. It has setup a technology resource centre (TRC) in backward tribal block of Ghughari in Mandla district and has successfully piloted GOI-DST approved TMPs in Honey, Sisal, NTFP, Medicinal Plant Processing and forest Nursery during 2001. Need and market research based Technology Management Packages (TMP) were developed and field-tested to generate employment and sustained livelihoods for the rural tribals and approved by the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India. The TMPs were; Eco friendly Honey Harvesting & Scientific Processing, Medicinal Plant Semi-processing, Low Cost Nursery, Organic Composting, Natural Fibre Processing, and Processing of Locally available Food Products, CARD is working on promoting these NTFP based livelihoods in the region. The TRC (Technology Resource Centre) provides training and hand holding support to tribal NTFP collectors and also serve as processing centre.

Woman Empowerment:

CARD has been consciously promoting the exercise of rights of women in decision making in general. If we look into the tasks of women in the agriculture operations across the Central India rural belt and their roles in the decision making process of these tasks. Of the total 34 agriculture operations, 12 are decided exclusively or determined by women and equal number by men. The remaining ten operations are decided by both. The women excusive works are generally manual and which require very little skill application. This is an area which require further probe. CARD further probed the reasons for the non-inclusion of women in the higher level decision making processes in agriculture operations and the psychology behind these decisions. The outcome of the brain storming exercise showed that; convention, Illiteracy and poverty, inability to handle money/ household budget, lack of opportunity to understand market and unfriendly environment were the reasons. The suggestive measures are being taken care during preparation of training modules and capacity building programmes for the community (both males & females).

Accordingly woman empowerment initiatives are being carried out in all field areas of CARD. CARD has facilitated 4600 rural women in 43 village federations with NDDB support in Ujjain/ Shajapur and has more than 500 woman SHGs supported under Tejaswani and NABARD in Mandla; facilitating them in livelihoods promotion and gender activities. MKSP remains the major initiative in establishing the identity of women as farmers and also for promoting 500+ women as Community Resource Persons (CRPs)..

Child Development:

CARD has been working for total development of Bhil tribe Children in one thousand households in 18 villages of Tirla block of Dhar district with Child Fund India support since 2004. Health, nutrition, education, livelihoods and personality improvement are the main components of the development process. During the period most of the infants have grown up in to school children and hundreds have crossed high school, three are few who are attending colleges. It is uncommon trend in this otherwise most backward Bhil tribe region. As part of total development we have organized three Child Resource Centers, four early care centers (Anganbaris), 22 child clubs, 17 orchards and have 22 active SHGs in these villages. We are studying the impact of this decade long unique programme.

Water and Sanitation:

CARD has partnered with GAIL, UNICEF and WFP for Water & Sanitation and has also facilitated wat-san models in various villages of Ujjain, Jhabua, Mandla districts of MP. CARD is national level verification agency for Nirmal Gram Purskar, and has facilitated in building capacities of staff of Water & Sanitation Department, GoMP. CARD helped UNICEF in establishing 21 “WWM models” and convinced the TWD and PHED to replicate WWM systems in 400 hostels across Madhya Pradesh. CARD supported UNICEF in 50 schools in Shivpuri district under the Fit for School programme (WASH) and supporting WaterAid in Chhattarpur and Damoh districts for WASH programme.

Health and Life Skill Development:

CARD is emerging a major player in the Health Sector with National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) supported projects; i) Link Workers Scheme (LWS); State level Lead Agency in Chhattisgarh State and District level Implementation Agency in Ujjain district, ii) Target Intervention with Female Sex Workers (FSW) in Bhopal. The main purpose is to spread awareness and information about HIV/AIDS; Reducing stigma and discrimination, care & support, etc. Integrated health and nutritional management program covering around a thousand households is also run in Dhar, and also organize health camps under various programmes in all locations..