Skoll Foundation


Gram Vikas

Skoll Awardee(s): Joe Madiath
Award Year: 2007
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Health

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“Gram Vikas sets in motion a process that enables Indian villages to become sustainable and self-governing, with basic infrastructure and livelihood opportunities and where people live in peace with equity and dignity.”

Sub-Issues: Clean Water; Sanitation The poorest communities in India have been systematically marginalized so that their residents have little or no voice in their government and little incentive or trust to participate in development efforts.

The Skoll Awardee: Joe Madiath began to champion the marginalized at 12, when he organized the workers on his family’s farms to lobby for better treatment. During his university studies, he founded the Young Students’ Movement for Development and led a group of volunteers to assist in refugee camps in Bangladesh and the flood-ravaged Indian state of Orissa. After the “charity” phase was over, he stayed on to consolidate efforts into lasting development, which became his life work. He established Gram Vikas in 1979. Its signature approach to development is called MANTRA (Movement and Action Network for Transformation of Rural Areas). The process begins with a village water and sanitation project and progressively engages community members in improving livelihoods, women’s rights, education, health, and housing, breaking down barriers of tribe, caste, gender, and marital status. Every household contributes to a community capital fund according to its means and contributes labor to the project. Vocational training and employment generating projects restore the natural environment. Women form self-help groups. Decision making bodies work with established local government structures. Village-level activity plans and monthly progress reports assure mutual accountability. At the time of the Award, the MANTRA program had been implemented in 289 villages, reaching 22,347 households. Gram Vikas was active in three Indian states (Orissa, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand).

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2007:

  • Cumulatively, Gram Vikas has worked with 1,199 villages, serving more than 60,000 families — a 300 percent increase from the time of the Award.
  • In 2012-13, sanitation units were completed by 55 villages representing 2,908 families in 6 districts of Orissa, and water supply systems were established in 147 villages (representing 7,270 families) that had completed sanitation work in previous years.
  • Gram Vikas has started its water and sanitation program in two villages in The Gambia (with Riders for Health) and two in Tanzania.



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.