As MYRADA raised resources for these interventions, the government stipulated that ten percent of all the funds it mobilized be used for work with Indian communities. The demand for interventions had been raised by the communities themselves. Villagers neighbouring the Tibetan settlements would ask the staff, “You are doing so much for these people who have come from elsewhere, why can’t you work with us also?”
And thus it was that MYRADA began working with Indian communities. The Koudahalli cooperative society in Kanakpura and the Nandinathpura Cooperative Society in Odeyarpalya are the earliest examples of such interventions. MYRADA assisted these societies with funds for purchase of tractors and other equipment.
By 1978 the work of Tibetan Rehabilitation programme had come to an end; the administration of the Resettlement camps had been taken over by the Tibetan Government in exile based at Dharamshala. MYRADA then had the option of either winding up operations or continuing in business. By this time the organization had gained considerable skills in resettlement and rehabilitation. Due to this governments began to approach MYRADA for support in similar programmes. Early examples of such work are:
- Work with rehabilitation of bonded labourers in Kadiri in Andhra Pradesh; later also with the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) of the government in the district. In 1983, MYRADA successfully regenerated 2000 acres of leached eroded wastelands; 400 families were helped to resettle in these lands with support for housing and agriculture.
- MYRADA’s entry into Kolar district too (c.1983) was through work with bonded labourers. Around 20 families were helped to resettle in waste lands provided to them by the government; the land was regenerated through afforestation and today the resettled villagers have access to irrigation and grow cash crops such as mulberry and vegetables.
- Work with Sri Lankan repatriates in Kodaikanal in the early 1980s. The project involved providing housing and livelihood options for the repatriates.
- 1976 – Rural Development Programmes including drinking water, promotion of improved variety of seeds and fertilizers for better yields, etc. in Kanakpura taluk, Karnataka
- 1979 – Work with IRDP in Talavadi in Tamil Nadu
- CAPART which was then called People’s Action for Development India (PADI) was working on an IRDP programme with a religious institution in Chitradurga district. At the invitation of that organization MYRADA entered the district following which the former handed over activities to us.
- Through donors such as PLAN, MYRADA entered the health and education sectors around 1982
- As part of its work in regenerating wastelands and improving agriculture, MYRADA had been involved in natural resource management. Around 1985, with support from the Swiss Development Corporation, MYRADA’s focus on this area sharpened as it began work on watersheds in Gulbarga.
MYRADA continues to work with communities in all these areas till today besides spreading out to many other locations. Our interventions were almost always at the request or invitation from the government or donors. Feedback from local communities, field staff and intense discussions within the organization (at project and Head Office level) preceded every decision to intervene in any particular area or sector.
One of our main concerns then (as it is now, and as it was with the Tibetans) was to secure livelihoods. Hence all early interventions – mainly in the area of agriculture and livestock, since the work was largely with rural families – aimed to increase production and productivity. MYRADA was involved in several pro-poor programmes such as the Small Farmer Development Programme (SFDP), Lab-to-Land Programme, Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), etc.
In order to increase yields thereby increasing incomes, the following interventions were implemented:
- Agriculture – Promotion of improved varieties of seeds, and fertilizers, better cultivation and storage practices, support for crop loans, liaising with banks for securing loans for the poor
- Livestock – promotion of better breeds, improved feed, focus on animal health
- Large scale promotion of income generating activities in the non-farm sector viz. petty shop, tailoring and cottage industry such as weaving, chappal making, food items/soap/candle/chalk making and a range of other activities.
Based on our experience and lessons learned over the years many of these activities have either continued or have been modified to suit different areas and different times. Today we continue to actively implement many programmes not only in the livelihoods domain but several other domains as well.