Centre for Advanced Research & Development believes in Community-based Natural Resource Management approach to reduce poverty. The sustainability of this approach largely depends on the empowerment of the communities for not only sharing the costs and benefits at all levels, but also by demanding their entitlements. This can only be achieved by bringing in attitudinal change, disseminating knowledge and by imbibing participatory skills amongst various development stakeholders. CARD believes in mainstream development approach and recognizes the role of State in overall development of the rural communities. We have specialized in improving the existing delivery mechanism of the government by providing participatory soft skills. CARD has a strong grassroots presence in some distinct regions of Central India, namely; Gond predominant eastern tribal region (MP & CG), agriculturally rich Feudal Malwa region and Bhil predominant western tribal region and Bundelkhand region where we demonstrate by doing Poverty initiatives in areas where there is high incidence of poverty among scheduled castes and backward classes in feudal Malwa region (Ujjain, Shajapur, Agar, Dewas). The basaltic mountain chain of Malwa region is more fragile, complex and vulnerable to climatic changes. The impacts of ongoing changes in climate are already being experienced by the communities. The northern region has vast plains of high lands, which are very fertile. But in between there are hills and slopes, which are not suitable for settled, advanced agriculture. 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 own 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. The economy of the region is fully based on the rain fed agriculture. Our team started with facilitation of empowerment of Community Institutions (SHG/ CIG), Village institutions (Federations and VDCs) of marginalized communities in entrepreneurship development / livelihood promotion through self-help and farm sector development. The centre has over the period worked with various partners like; DPIP (World Bank), Rajeev Gandhi Watershed Mission, Department of Science & Technology (GoI), ICRISAT, Department of Agriculture (ATMA), Solidaridad and Hindustan Lever Foundation for sustainable agriculture. CARD has also initiated PPCP (CSR) based development model with GAIL, IOCL, ITC, JD-GC and Suzlon. Today we promote almost fifteen thousand farmers with sustainable agriculture. The NACO program of Link Workers Scheme complements our community awareness effort in Ujjain district. Skill India (PMKK) under NSDC is our new banner now.

The western tribal area is a part of the central west India comprising contiguous districts of Jhabua, Dhar, Barwani, Khargone and Ratlam. The area is predominantly tribal and is the home of over 3 million people directly dependent on a rapidly degrading natural resource base for livelihoods. The population growth rate is very high and functional literacy rate is very low. The primary occupation is agriculture, except for a minority; the production of food crops for subsistence dominates agriculture. The area is prone to the incidence of consecutive years of drought. The average annual rainfall of about 750 mm is extremely erratic. Farmers report a crop failure three years in ten and serious shortfall in 4 to 5 years out of ten. The degradation of the environment in this drought prone area has been caused by a combination of factors. The denudation of forest cover has led to extensive soil erosion in the generally undulating topography of the area. Declining farm productivity increases population pressure on natural resources and accelerates further degradation by inappropriate agriculture practices. CARD entered the Bhil tribe dominated Jhabua and Dhar districts of Western MP Region, which is continuously facing the onslaught of desertification with Drought Mitigation experiment on Watershed Management guidelines during 2001-02. The World Food Programme and the Rajiv Gandhi Watershed Mission (MP) provided initial support. But the long term action was possible with CCF (now Child Fund India), which focuses on child centred integrated community development programme. It was strengthened by NABARD badi and SOLIDARIDAD-HUF program support. The experiment has within a decade made significant change in the life style of this otherwise most backward and illiterate community. Hundreds of children have now passed the most significant barrier in education that is High School and are now ready to take up the challenges of profession. The IIT Bombay lead Million Soul (Solar Lamp) rural enterprise has brought a new ray of hope to the Bhil community. A small initiative has also begun to provide sustainable livelihood to the leprosy affected households with Sasakawa (SILF) support.

The eastern Madhya Pradesh region though has abundance of natural resources, mineral as well as forest, but it is also one of the most backward regions as far as its socio-economic progress is concerned. The tribals, mostly rural, are subjected to various degrees of exploitation, because of their illiteracy and ignorance and consequent limited access to the development programmes even when and they are meant to be substantially for them. The major tribes of the area Gonds, Baigas Pradhans are known for their traditional cultivation practices almost away from modern appropriate technologies and market. The region has predominance of small cultivators and agricultural labourers among the main workers. Nine out of every ten workers are engaged in the primary sector. Though agriculture is the major support of tribal economy but only 48 percent of the total land is cultivable. Irrigation is limited to only 6 percent of total cultivable 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 productivity enhancement of these land holdings. Thus the tribals of Central India today, do not have a definite way of living. Here CARD is actively involved in value addition to the local non-timber forest produce, through the self-help groups. Some of the Technology Management Packages (Honey, Natural Fibre, medicinal plants conservation and food processing) have drawn regional/national recognition. UNDP, DST, CFLI, Toyota Foundation have supported us in the past and now we are associated with IORA Foundation on an action research project supported by Biodiversity Foundation. CARD has also facilitated a network of SHGs with Tejaswani, SGSY, TRIFED, etc. CARD is promoting woman farmer based sustainable agriculture with MKSP (MoRD), SDTT and Ekgaon Technology. FPO formation is a new initiative across all the programme farmers. The objective is to increase farm output through diversified farming approach.

During 2010-15, CARD entered into new regions; Gwalior and the Bundelkhand in the districts of Shivpuri and Guna and Chhattarpur and Damoh. These regions along with some parts of Baghel-Khand are the toughest areas to work in. The problem in these parts is basically socio-political and political economy related. Issues germane to Bundel-Khand are - legacy of zamindari system, unresolved agrarian issues, large share of wastelands, inefficient use of water tanks, problems of fisher-folks, rampant castes politics, problems of large scale illegal stone-quarrying, problems of halwaha system of cultivation, problems of women beedi workers, child-labour, prevailing untouchability, exploitation, female foeticide, lack of reproductive health care, atrocities on women and many more. CARD has worked here on Water and Sanitation (WASH) related initiatives in the region in partnership with WaterAid and UNICEF to support the Swachha Bharat Mission.

During the post 2015 CARD has now spread to new states of Maharashtra and Punjab initially with John Deere CSR support in Pune and Patiala and later on with HDFC in Abohar and Nanded. Meanwhile Nagpur is another new location under the JD programme. CARD now has access to both the drought prone regions of Vidarabha and Marathwada of Maharashatra, and we will share our learnings of Central India in to these two backward regions.

These are the fields of experimentation for future strategy formulation and learning lessons for designing improved strategies and policies. Participation being its core value, CARD acts as a facilitator rather than an implementer of development process. We believe in working through community institutions and women are at the centre of development approach.