Increasing agricultural productivity and income in rural India 

Caritas Australia supported the Harit Asha (Green Hope) program from 2007 to 2013. The program aimed to help communities manage their natural resources more sustainably, better understand their rights, and improve how their communities are organised. 

The communities are now successfully developing their own plans and advocating for themselves. We are applying many of the lessons learned from these communities in our other programs in India.

A woman in a field in India

The State of Chhattisgarh is located in the north of India and forms part of what is commonly referred to as the ‘tribal belt’. A large coal seam lies under much of the State and an increasing threat of industrialisation places the residents under a real threat of displacement due to unfair land acquisition.

The Harith Asha program encouraged community participation and improved natural resource management. The program aimed to:

  • Preserve and improve on local natural resources and Indigenous practices to enhance agricultural productivity and livelihoods, for example by helping farmers move from one crop harvest a year to two.
  • Increase community participation in decision making, especially participation by women.

Outcomes and learnings

The Harit Asha program has had a measurable impact on the communities with which it has worked. Here are some examples from the last three years of the program:

  • Before joining the program, around half of families had just 6 to 8 months’ food security; after joining the program, almost all have food security all year round.
  • With improved land and water management, the area of land under cultivation in participating communities grew four times, while soil erosion was reduced.
  • Farming families taking part in the program earned on average $136 (AUD) more a year from their agricultural produce alone.
  • We helped communities develop strategies to access their rights and entitlements under Indian law.

A strength of the program was its ability to involve the local community in decision making, and in particular to encourage women to participate more in community decisions; women like Prabha, below.

Prabha’s story

Indian woman carries a pot

Prabha lives in Silma, one of India’s poorest tribal areas in the remote north of Chhattisgarh. Her family relies on their crops for both sustenance and income. A lack of conservation awareness in the community has, in the past, left them and the community vulnerable to crop failures.

Prabha's story was featured in Project Compassion 2009. She participated in a group established under the Harith Asha program, where she learnt how to grow her own vegetables to feed her family and generate extra income.

“I see a future since this project has started,” she said. “I want to be able to educate my children as I believe that when they are educated they will have a better chance of getting employment.”

The Harit Asha program has brought many benefits to many people like Prabha. But, as Danielle Atkins, Caritas Australia’s Program Coordinator for South Asia, reported in 2010, sometimes the less obvious benefits — such as greater community spirit, pride, confidence and unity — are the most inspiring and most important.. Read more in Animating for a brighter future in India.

About the program

The State of Chhattisgarh is located in the north of India and forms part of what is commonly referred to as the ‘tribal belt’. A large coal seam lies under much of the State and an increasing threat of industrialisation places the residents under a real threat of displacement due to unfair land acquisition.

The Harith Asha program encouraged community participation and improved natural resource management. The program aimed to:

  • Preserve and improve on local natural resources and Indigenous practices to enhance agricultural productivity and livelihoods, for example by helping farmers move from one crop harvest a year to two.
  • Increase community participation in decision making, especially participation by women.

Program details

  • Issues: Climate justice; Food security and agriculture
  • Partner Agency: Caritas India
  • Geographic location: Chhattisgarh State
  • When established: 2007 to 2013
  • This program was supported by Australian Aid.