Everyone deserves a life filled with security, prosperity, and respect. The best NGO in India, S M Sehgal Foundation, is committed to achieving this vision by empowering rural communities in India. Since 1999, the foundation has worked tirelessly to improve people’s lives in rural areas. This nongovernmental organization focuses on rural development and operates as a public charitable trust.
A dedicated team designs sustainable programs to address the most critical needs of rural India. These programs cover water management, agriculture development, local participation, empowering schoolchildren, and outreach. The foundation conducts research, impact assessments, and dialogues with the communities to ensure effective and informed actions.
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How The Top Rural Development NGO In India Improved The Life Of Rural Communities
The Water Management program works with rural communities in India to collect and store rainwater for direct use, as well as recharge groundwater by constructing and restoring infrastructure in villages to help restore traditional water bodies, create water storage facilities, and ensure proper wastewater disposal. The program promotes access to safe drinking water for everyone using affordable and sustainable technologies along good hygiene practices. Raising awareness about the importance of water conservation helps local communities build the skills needed to manage their water resources effectively. The program partners with communities to improve and replicate cost-effective water management initiatives continuously.
TACKLING WATER SALINITY
In Nuh, a large area needs more reliable surface water, and 78 percent of the region has salty groundwater. A few ponds are used for household and cattle purposes, but they dry up when the demand is high. This has a negative impact on people’s social, economic, and environmental well-being. They must buy water or travel long distances to meet their daily needs. The scarcity of clean water leads to poor hygiene and sanitation, which causes serious illnesses, especially among females. Informal water markets exist, but the water quality is not guaranteed despite the high cost.
With limited irrigation, the region heavily relies on rain-fed agriculture. Despite challenging climatic conditions, most families depend solely on farming to make a living. The district has sparse tree coverage due to salinity and the rocky terrain, resulting in higher temperatures during the summer.
To address the issue of saline groundwater, S M Sehgal Foundation implemented rainwater harvesting models to create freshwater pockets within the saline aquifer. Recharge wells were constructed to store and replenish rainwater beneath the groundwater table, forming pockets of freshwater within the salty aquifer.
In collaboration with the Millennium Alliance, the S M Sehgal Foundation team installed high-pressure recharge wells in four schools in water-scarce villages of the Nagina block in Nuh. The project goals and usage of the well were explained to the team and villagers, enabling them to adapt to the new system. Rooftop rainwater harvesting with modified recharge wells combats the salinity.
Previously, students left school during the day due to the lack of water, negatively impacting their education. With rooftop rainwater harvesting in schools, students have access to clean drinking water, helping them stay hydrated throughout the day. The water is now safe for consumption and has a pleasant taste comparable to packaged mineral water available in the market.
As a result of this collaboration, sanitation and hygiene improved, midday meals can be cooked regularly, and the dropout rate, especially among girls, decreased.
RECHARGE PONDS IN DISTRICT MAHENDRAGARH
In Narnaul, Mahendragarh, Haryana, rainwater harvesting has positively impacted the lives of rural communities. Haryana is known for its farming and agriculture, which plays a crucial role in the livelihood of the people in this region. However, the groundwater level in Narnaul was rapidly decreasing, putting the residents’ livelihoods at risk. The distance from the town further worsened the situation. To address this issue, S M Sehgal Foundation and HDFC Bank collaborated to construct johads, catchment ponds, in the Sarelli and Panchnota villages. The project increased the water table in the region through the Parivartan Prayojana initiative.
Previously, the locals had to wait long hours for water tankers, and even the cattle faced water scarcity, reducing milk production. However, after the johad construction, just a few hours of heavy rainfall were enough to fill the pond and provide water for the entire year. The increased moisture in the pond seeped into the ground, recharging the water table and raising the groundwater level. The size and depth of the johads were increased to collect as much water as possible, ensuring it would last longer even after evaporation. The wells in nearby villages also experienced improved water levels, benefiting more people than before. This project had a positive ripple effect. The pond’s construction increased the locals’ awareness and confidence in water management and its various advantages.
S M Sehgal Foundation’s Agriculture Development Program helps farmers in India improve their livelihoods by teaching them better farming methods and introducing new technologies. The program focuses on small and marginal farmers in areas that rely on rain and irrigation. The team teaches farmers how to take care of their soil, use climate-smart techniques, manage crops effectively, use resources efficiently, and adopt technology to enhance their farming practices. They also guide horticulture and livestock management and use information and communication technology in agriculture. The goal is to increase crop yields, conserve water, improve soil fertility, and create sustainable farming practices for a better future.
S M Sehgal Foundation, in partnership with GE, has started the Gram Utkarsh project in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh, to support farmers and make agriculture more profitable. Here are some examples of how the project has helped:
Paddy thresher: Brijesh Pal, a farmer from Chakanur village, received an electric paddy thresher machine through the project. This machine helps separate the grain from the crop, saving time and labor costs. Brijesh also earns extra income by renting out the machine to other farmers.
Seed drill: Inderjeet Singh, a farmer from Chakpura Miyan Khurd village, used the seed drill provided by the project. The seed drill helps with sowing by ensuring seeds are planted at the correct depth and adequately distributed. It saves water, requires less seed, and produces good sprouting, benefiting the farmers financially.
Solar sprayer: Kamlesh Pandey, from Rahikala village, received a solar sprayer through the project. With this sprayer, Kamlesh can spray himself, covering his field more efficiently and saving time compared to manual labor.
A progressive farmer from Nariar village, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, has benefited from this project. He received a subsidized zero tillage machine and training on its operation. Chalitar uses the machine in his field and rents his services to neighboring villages. The machine has transformed his farming practices and improved his life.
THE GUIDING LIGHT
S M Sehgal Foundation, a nonprofit organization, focuses on agricultural development in rural India. Their goal is to bring positive changes to rural communities by addressing issues such as food security water security and empowering women and children. They have worked in over 1,000 villages across ten states, benefiting over three million people.
One partnership is with Mosaic India Private Limited for the Krishi Jyoti program. This initiative supports farmers in Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh by introducing modern agricultural techniques. Farmers have seen improved crop yields and financial benefits as a result.
S M Sehgal Foundation works closely with farmers in their agricultural development program. They guide soil health enhancement, offer agrarian inputs such as quality seeds and fertilizers, and share expert advice. Water management is a key focus, including training farmers in water conservation, building infrastructure, and promoting water-efficient irrigation techniques. The construction of check dams and the use of drip irrigation has been beneficial for farmers.
The positive changes in these areas result from collaboration between S M Sehgal Foundation and Mosaic India Pvt Ltd. Farmers who previously faced challenges such as soil erosion, water contamination, and declining income are now experiencing the benefits of the support and expertise provided by the organizations.
The Local Participation and Sustainability Program
The Local Participation and Sustainability Program involves local communities in decision-making processes and improves the delivery of government programs at the grassroots level. The program emphasizes the importance of community participation in strengthening local institutions and making them more effective and encourages villages to include their knowledge and preferences in their development plans to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth.
The program also focuses on building the capacity of village-level institutions to identify and address community problems. The team monitors the maintenance of public infrastructure and works toward conserving natural resources for the overall development of the village. S M Sehgal Foundation also raises awareness about important community health and sanitation issues by promoting the use of digital technologies to expand the reach and benefits of government programs to a broader audience.
Protecting & Promoting Human Rights | Rural Development
Community-based organizations in India are essential in raising community awareness about their rights and entitlements. They help marginalized people gain the confidence to voice their issues to the government, even when it conflicts with the interests of powerful individuals in their communities. When these organizations unite for a common cause, they form movements such as Ekta Parisad, which works to protect the rights of tribals; and the National Alliance of People’s Movement, which fights for land rights for marginalized people. These movements educate people about their rights and help them bring their concerns to the government’s attention.
S M Sehgal Foundation has been instrumental in creating citizen leaders, empowering village institutions, managing water resources, and promoting agricultural development in selected areas of Mewat (Haryana), Alwar (Rajasthan), and Samastipur (Bihar). Over the past fifteen years, more than 500,000 villagers have benefited from the foundation’s interventions in rural areas. Other NGOs such as Pradan, Care India, and Development Alternatives have also significantly promoted social progress and improved rural communities’ living standards.
While community-based organizations and NGOs continue to work for the welfare of the people, they also play a crucial role in monitoring the government’s social welfare programs. In recent months, they have raised concerns about the budget cuts in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the lack of functionality in the Right to Information Act. The government plans to focus the MGNREGA on the 200 poorest districts or 2,500 poorest blocks to prevent misuse of funds. While targeting specific districts is important, other methods, like Andhra Pradesh’s Smart Card system for payments, help to prevent the misuse of funds in social welfare schemes. A more effective strategy for monitoring work and costs is needed to ensure the proper implementation of these programs.
A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT BY S M SEHGAL FOUNDATION AND DISTRICT LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITIES (DLSA), NUH
Knowing their rights empowers citizens to live with dignity, as the Constitution of India guarantees. To make this vision a reality, the Indian Parliament passed the Legal Services Authorities (LSA) Act in 1987. While the government has introduced several welfare programs, their success relies on effective implementation at the grassroots level.
The Good Governance Now! (GGN) the initiative, part of the S M Sehgal Foundation’s Governance and Policy Advocacy program, aims to create awareness among rural communities about legal empowerment programs that help individuals secure their rights outlined in the Constitution. In collaboration with the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) in Nuh, Haryana, S M Sehgal Foundation conducted legal literacy camps throughout the district. Before the camp, the S M Sehgal Foundation team visited fifty villages in all five blocks of Nuh district, organizing meetings and providing information about the camp’s significance, objectives, and relevance to the community members’ lives. The team also shared logistical details to ensure community participation.
TRANSFORM LIVES ONE SCHOOL AT A TIME
The Transform Lives program aims to improve the lives of schoolchildren by providing them with access to clean drinking water, improved sanitation facilities, a school environment conducive to learning, and training in digital and life skills. The program also focuses on increasing enrollment and reducing dropouts in rural government schools, particularly for girls. To ensure the effective and sustainable functioning of the schools, support, and training are provided to the School Management Committees (SMCs) to enhance their capabilities. Parents, teachers, and children are encouraged to actively participate in these efforts to create a better educational experience for all.
Role Of School Infrastructure In Bringing Quality Education
In partnership with PTC Foundation and Power Finance Corporation Limited, S M Sehgal Foundation carried out a project called Hamari Paathshaala from 2018 to 2021.
As part of this initiative, two schools in Bhandari Panchayat underwent significant improvements. They now have fully functional classrooms, access to safe drinking water, working toilets, solar-powered energy, and digital smart classrooms.
Rajkiya Buniyadi Vidyalaya in Manchi Bhandari received eight new classrooms and a new toilet block. The toilets are separate for girls, boys, and teachers. Both schools now have drinking water stations and modern smart classrooms. With solar energy, schools have a constant and reliable power supply. Each classroom has desks, benches, tables, chairs, and a dedicated computer room.
As part of the Transform Lives One School at a Time program, S M Sehgal Foundation also renovated a room in Rajkiya Buniyadi Vidyalaya, transforming it into a smart classroom. Half-constructed rooms and the school’s veranda were renovated to improve the learning environment.
OUTREACH FOR DEVELOPMENT
Outreach for Development initiatives aim to impact rural communities by spreading awareness and sharing knowledge positively. The program uses various forms of communication, such as a rural community radio station called Alfaz-e-Mewat, social media, print materials, videos, and interactive formats, to inform and engage people. The goal is to provide reliable and timely information in a way that is easy to understand, encouraging dialogue and positive changes in behavior.
By giving voice to grassroots communities, the program helps people identify important issues that affect their lives and encourages them to work together to find solutions. The program bridges the information gap through last-mile outreach activities and brings local voices and concerns to the forefront, accelerating social change.
How Rural Community Radio Stations Are Helping India
NEW Delhi. During the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, community radio stations played an important role in spreading awareness about social distancing and sanitization.
One such radio station is Alfaz-e-Mewat, located in the Nuh district of Haryana and a part of S M Sehgal Foundation. It reaches 225 villages and provides valuable information received from district authorities, medical officers, and the government about various schemes and entitlements.
Alfaz-e-Mewat started a program called 21 din 21 baatein (21 Days 21 Topics), where experts share messages on important topics such as handwashing, healthcare, physical distancing, yoga, and self-learning. Thematic poems and discussions on current issues, including the coronavirus outbreak, are also broadcasted to engage and inform listeners.
The radio station has a special program called Savdhaan that warned people about fake news and myths related to COVID-19. It helps listeners identify authentic communication and share vital information to stay safe. Additionally, the program Áaj Ka Hero features personal stories of individuals who made positive changes in their lifestyle to protect themselves and others from spreading the virus.
S M Sehgal Foundation’s headquarters in Gurugram, Haryana, was built to be environmentally friendly. It follows strict energy efficiency and sustainability standards set by organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council and the Indian Green Building Council. The founders, Dr. Suri Sehgal and Mrs. Edda Sehgal, wanted the building to align with the foundation’s mission of promoting sustainable development and minimizing its impact on the environment and people’s health.
Green Buildings Improving the Health and Productivity of Employees
S M Sehgal Foundation (Sehgal Foundation), the top sustainable rural development NGO, strives to improve the health and productivity of employees in urban areas such as Gurugram, often referred to as the millennium city of India. Sehgal Foundation has constructed its headquarters building in alignment with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum standards set by the Indian Green Building Council and the U.S. Green Building Council.
S M Sehgal Foundation’s green building includes features such as photo-voltaic solar panels on the rooftop, generating 35 kW of electricity; solar water heaters; shading devices; a rainwater harvesting storage tank of 800,000 liters; onsite recycling of gray and black water; groundwater recharging (zero runoff site); courtyards maximizing natural light and ventilation; recycled wood; various endangered plant species; use of in-situ bricks; maintenance-free exteriors; insulated walls; use of rapidly renewable rubber wood and bamboo; double-glazed glass, and a highly reflective roof finish, among others.
4.06 Million People Reached
The teams at S M Sehgal Foundation have been working in rural areas of India for more than twenty years. They focus on sustainable development and work together with communities to address critical issues. The teams use research, needs assessments, and open conversations to make informed decisions and take action. They also provide training and education to others so their efforts are sustainable.