Gram Vikas (meaning “village development”) is an award-winning Indian non-governmental organization based in Odisha, founded in 1979. It works with rural and tribal communities in India and Africa, to enable poor and marginalized people and communities to achieve a dignified quality of life.
Gram Vikas partners with rural communities to address critical needs for education, health, safe drinking water, sanitation, livelihoods, and alternative energy. The organization works in a manner that is sustainable, socially inclusive, gender equitable, and empowering.
These partnerships help rural and tribal communities learn how to meet their own development needs through democratic and inclusive self-governing institutions.
Gram Vikas has impacted over 400,000 individuals and 70,000 families through its various programs and interventions. They have trained other like-minded organizations across India to replicate the Gram Vikas model of development, and recently began working in The Gambia and Tanzania.
Their vision for impact is twofold – first, to increase their geographical reach to new states and countries; and second, to deepen their impact in the communities they have already worked with.
The poorest communities in India have little voice, incentive, or trust to participate in development efforts.
Gram Vikas engages villages in water and sanitation projects, progressing to improve livelihoods and break down barriers of tribe, caste, and gender.
Joe Madiath sees water and sanitation as a starting point for villagers to take their future into their own hands.
Gram Vikas has worked with 1,199 villages, serving more than 60,000 families.
With water and sanitation as the starting point, villagers take their future into their own hands and invest their time, ingenuity, and resources in carrying out development and positive change.
Replication and Policy Influence
Gram Vikas seeds the development work in each village, then moves on once the community has achieved self sufficiency. The work is also replicated independently by other organizations trained by Gram Vikas. The MANTRA approach has been explicitly written into India’s 12th five-year plan, and Joe Madiath chairs the national Working Group for Water and Sanitation
Joe Madiath began to champion the marginalized at 12, when he organized the workers on his family’s farms to lobby for better treatment. During his university studies, he founded the Young Students’ Movement for Development and led a group of volunteers to assist in refugee camps in Bangladesh and the flood-ravaged Indian state of Orissa. After the “charity” phase was over, he stayed on to consolidate efforts into lasting development, which became his life work. He established Gram Vikas in 1979. Its signature approach to development is called MANTRA (Movement and Action Network for Transformation of Rural Areas). The process begins with a village water and sanitation project and progressively engages community members in improving livelihoods, women’s rights, education, health, and housing, breaking down barriers of tribe, caste, gender, and marital status. Every household contributes to a community capital fund according to its means and contributes labor to the project. Vocational training and employment generating projects restore the natural environment. Women form self-help groups. Decision making bodies work with established local government structures. Village-level activity plans and monthly progress reports assure mutual accountability. At the time of the Award, the MANTRA program had been implemented in 289 villages, reaching 22,347 households. Gram Vikas was active in three Indian states (Orissa, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand).