Over the last two decades, Samaj Pragati Sahayog (SPS) has grown to be one of India’s largest grass-roots initiatives for water and livelihood security, working with its partners on a million acres of land across 72 of India’s most backward districts, mainly in the central Indian Adivasi belt. We take inspiration from the life and work of Baba Amte (our Pramukh Sahayogi) who rejected charity and successfully empowered even the most challenged. SPS is headquartered in a drought-prone, tribal area in the Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh, which typifies the most difficult problems of the country. We concentrate all our direct interventions in about 220 villages and towns of this area. This work is not so much a model as a living laboratory of learning for others to adapt to their own areas. To facilitate this mutual learning, in 1998 we set up the Baba Amte Centre for People’s Empowerment in tribal village Neemkheda, where our watershed work began in the early 1990s.
SPS believes that location-specific watershed development combined with low-cost, low-risk agriculture, other nature-based livelihoods and women-led microfinance, can dramatically raise rural incomes, providing an enduring panacea to India’s suicide-ridden drylands. This approach arrests distress migration towards the metros and liberates the rural poor from the clutches of usurious moneylender-traders. Our central mandate is the empowerment of India’s most disadvantaged people – women, Adivasis, Dalits and the poor, which we believe contributes to strengthening our fragile democracy at the grass-roots.
SPS works with its partners on a million acres of land across 72 of India’s most backward districts, mainly in the central Indian Adivasi belt.