To be marginalised is to be excluded from the national discourse and, more often than not, development. This rings sadly true for the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal (PVT) Groups of India. Geographic isolation has compounded problems like poverty, illiteracy, unhygienic living conditions, unavailability of healthcare and nutritional services, deforestation, pre-agricultural levels of technology and lack of access to safe drinking water. And being the poorest of the poor, they have been hit hardest by climate change.

To promote inclusive development, BRLF is undertaking a project named ‘Strengthening Civil Society Action for Transforming Lives of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups’ with the support of the European Union. Being implemented across 279 villages in three districts of Madhya Pradesh (Shivpuri, Sheopur, Guna) and two districts in Jharkhand (Latehar, Palamu), the project aims to improve the outcomes of grassroots interventions by civil society organisations (CSOs) in water and clean energy; build capacities in resource mobilisation and advocacy among CSOs and community leaders; and drive innovations for improved climate resilience.

We’ve hit the ground running with physical work on soil and water conservation undertaken in all project locations: 700 water conservation structures have been built under MGNREGA and 300 hectare of land brought under protective irrigation. Solar water pumps have been installed in six villages and 39 farmers registered with the Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam to install more. Sustainable agriculture has been promoted with 4,251 farmers from 20 villages facilitated to adopt practices like non-pesticide management (NPM), system of rice intensification (SRI), line showing and mixed cropping pattern; also, 13 seed banks are now operational. Further, over 3,700 households have been provided LPG connections under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and five gram panchayats identified for Geographical Information System (GIS) planning, with the planning process in 14 villages already complete.

The project has already proven to be a human capital mobiliser with the number of employment days increased by 100 days, covering 7,600 households, and concerted efforts underway to increase the MGNREGA wages. Going forward, we plan modules for resource mobilisation, community energy audits and training of para-veterinary workers. Sixty community-based organisations (CBOs) from Madhya Pradesh and 40 CBOs from Jharkhand have been registered for the next level of engagement and 279 self-help groups (SHGs) formed from all project villages—they will soon be linked to the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM).

Slowly but surely, BRLF aims to heal the fissures caused by centuries of living on the periphery. Take the case of Murari, a casual manual labourer and subsistence farmer from Kalothara village in Shivpuri. Through project partner Parhit, he received inputs and support from the gram panchayat to set up a farm pond for water harvesting and a solar pump. Now, he has planted crops for both seasons and hopes to reap a rich harvest this coming year. These are our real victories.