Alleviating poverty and generating livelihoods in rural Maharashtra

Fellowship stories

01 October 2014

Advanced Fellow, Sudhakar is enabling 7000 people in rural Maharashtra to make a decent living for themselves and their families. He is working across 14 villages to help local residents gain access to forest rights – enabling them to cultivate the land and generate sustainable livelihoods. He's also helped more than 400 people claim financial support under the government’s employment guarantee scheme.

How our Quest Fellowship programme has helped Sudhakar make a difference

During his core fellowship, Sudhakar worked with local people in the village of Ekara to establish the community’s right to local forest land. As an immediate outcome, 67 families were granted ownership titles to use the land for agriculture and other income-generating activities. He also educated hundreds of people about their right to a daily wage under the government’s employment guarantee scheme.

As an Advanced Fellow, Sudhakar has now scaled up his work from his village to a regional level. He's mobilised residents from 14 villages to claim their community forest rights from the government. This will enable other villages to follow in Ekara’s footsteps, tackling extreme poverty through the creation of sustainable livelihoods. The claims process is elaborate and challenging – that all 14 villages have made submissions to the relevant authorities within a year is an incredible result. Six of the 14 villages have so far received the first of two required clearances.

Sudhakar says that the advanced fellowship made him more focused and grounded, increasing his confidence and negotiation power. The advocacy initiatives helped him understand the importance of surveys (baseline and end line) to quote reality and impact numbers while negotiating with the concerned authorities.

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Taking the impact further

Sudhakar is currently working to expand and deepen the impact of his work. He has surveyed 60 villages to examine current levels of understanding about forest rights across the region. Building on the findings of this survey, he has initiated a study group of people from the 14 villages he is already working in, as well as other nearby villages, to spread knowledge of the process of claiming and using forests more widely. While other activities in the region are focusing on working in a single village, Sudhakar is looking to develop and demonstrate a model of medium scale intervention by working with a number of villages together.

“The fellowship has enabled me to think deeper about life and what I really want to achieve from it. It's built a desire in me to accomplish something rather than live a routine life.”

Sudhakar’s Advanced Fellowship completed in December 2015.