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Gram Vikas

Using sanitation as a tool to empower communities.

350,000 direct beneficiaries.

Already at the age of 11 – when he attempted to unionise his father’s employees – Joe Madiath was instilled with a strong sense of social justice. His later experience as a student volunteer following a cyclone in the Indian state of Orissa in the early 1970s solidified his resolve to alleviate the plight of the rural poor. Never leaving, he founded Gram Vikas in 1979, initially focusing on community organizing, education and renewable energy projects. In the period since, the organization has refined and scaled up a holistic village development model that serves a population of over 350,000 people. 

Based on the values of inclusion, sustainability, cost-sharing and social and gender equity, ‘Movement and Action Network for Transformation of Rural Areas’ (MANTRA) is a comprehensive habitat development and governance programme that uses common concerns regarding clean water and sanitation as a tool to unite and empower communities, launch development initiatives, and improve village health and quality of life. Requiring 100 percent community ‘buy-in’ as a precondition for commencing new projects, the MANTRA approach has achieved impressive results, eliminating 85 percent of water-borne diseases in participating villages, and boosting school attendance from ten to 90 percent. 

Reflecting the success of a patiently developed model, Gram Vikas has begun to replicate its approach further afield, beginning in Tanzania and Gambia.

(Photo © Gram Vikas)