About 74 per cent of India’s population lives in villages. The incidence of poverty is much higher in villages—roughly 39 per cent of the rural population. Agriculture is a source of livelihood for 70 per cent of the population but agriculture accounts for less than 40 per cent of the national income (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
After three years of operating development initiatives in the slums of Mumbai, GPM decided to expand its operations to remote tribal villages that have been historically neglected for hundreds of years. GPM realized that almost the entire population of the Kalwa slums, like most slums in Mumbai, are internal migrants from rural villages within Maharashtra and surrounding states.
GPM holds that the solution to the growth and spread of urban poverty lies in tackling the extreme poverty found in rural villages.
'GPM's first rural center is based in the village of Ashte in the Dahanu sub district of Palghar. Situated about four hours drive north west of Mumbai and close to the Gujarat border, Ashte and its surrounding villages consist of tribal populations of mainly Warli, Konkani and Katkari tribes. These pre-Hindu animistic communities have been traditionally neglected and before statehood were actively marginalized leading to inaccessibility to basic resources and economic opportunities that results in a vicious circle of poverty. Here, GPM concentrates its activities on education, healthcare and nutrition particularly focusing on innovative and holistic educational initiatives in a dozen hamlets in the area. As in Mokhada, GPM works closely with the Ashte gram pachayat (village councils) and local health and educational authorities. Indeed, it is in the Ashte area where GPM has had the unique relationship with local government in being the only non government organization sanctioned to provide its teachers to support existing governmnet village schools.
The Mokhada taluka is one of the eight sub districts of Palghar and one of its poorest. GPM set up a base in Mokhada because of the dire need in the area and because of the absence of NGO presence in the area. There are approx 150,000 ppl living in Mokhada and approximately 93% are defined as “Scheduled Tribes” (ST) by the government; this means they are officially identified by the national authorities as an indegenous tribal population, with most belonging to the Katkari tribe. Historically, indigenous tribal communities have been marginalized and the Katkari tribe in particular is identified as one of the most vulnerable tribal groups in India. The Mokhada Katkari tribal community live in one of the most isolated sub divisions in the Palghar district. The community survives off of the land and via small scale farming efforts. Due to the remote nature of Mokhada, coupled with historical marginalization and stigmatization against indegenous tribal communities, Mokhada lacks accessible clean water and hygiene facilities, secure housing, livelihood opportunities, food and nutrition security, quality education, health care facilities, and so on. These necessary resources and basic essential infrastructure are critical for the development and sustained wellbeing and resilience of the indegenous tribal Katkari community in Mokhada.
"Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life." - Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa"