Settled 1,638 meters above the sea level, the Almora District is part of the Indian Himalayas found in the northern part of the country. The beauty of the area, unfortunately comes with a lack of essential facilities such as water and roadways. According to The Times of India, the growing concern regarding these issues was a major factor when the local community decided to boycott the assembly elections in January 2017.
Working within the central and western Himalayan states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation seeks to improve the quality of living for those communities. Kalyan Paul, Executive Director of Grassroots, says that life in the mountains moves in a different way from the great Indian plains. "In terms of infrastructure, mountains may be less organized and daily life may be a bit tougher. But that is fine as mountains are known to bring out the best in men and women," explained Paul.
With his partner Anita, Kalyan Paul has been engaged in community development since 1980. When their family started to grow, the couple decided to turn their attention to the mountains, knowing that it would soon be difficult for them to move to a place with hardly any infrastructure.
Grassroots was registered as a non-profit organization in 1992, with the goal of enabling the local mountain communities to implement a holistic development program that increase the quality of living. Their current projects focus on safe drinking water and sanitation, renewable energy, community forestry and enterprise development. The foundation also has an online store selling hand knitting products, natural jams, spices, nuts, tea, among other quality and sustainable products.
Jeff Garriock, PWB TV Co-Director, traveled to India to collect footage of Grassroots for an upcoming episode of PWB TV. "Many organizations try and solve one problem and hope that life, in general, will improve after that, but that’s not always the case. Often one positive change can even invoke unforeseen negative consequences. Grassroots believes that you need to have holistic changes throughout every aspect of the community in order to improve their quality of life," said Garriock.
"Holistic development is a cumulative effort over a period of time," explained Paul. He says that, normally, communities initiate projects in one specific sector and then slowly add other programs.
"Of course, some programs require more attention and longer incubation - for example, community forestry requires a massive mobilization of people to agree to protect commons, raise appropriate rootstock in small nurseries, plant-out saplings... and grow forests over a period of 8-10 years. Whereas a drinking water program may take just a few months to plan and implement," added Paul.
PWB is also preparing a video to celebrate Grassroots 25th anniversary, aiming to promote their work. "We are celebrating 25 years of Grassroots and happy to note that there are independent local bodies which are flourishing, and soon we would be expanding the scope and scale of these efforts," Paul said.
Click here to learn more about the work of Grassroots, and how you can show support.
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