Shri Kshetra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project (SKDRDP) is a brilliant example of a truly innovative microfinance institution.
SKDRDP was the proud recipient of the 2014 SKOCH Financial Inclusion and Deepening Gold Award in recognition for showing excellence in “implementing innovative micro products for the economic empowerment of the poor”, including one of the most affordable and efficient health insurance schemes in the nation, as well as life insurance, pension coverage, and training-based micro loans. Other prestigious awards include Microfinance Award India, Changemakers Award, and the Ashden Golden Award for Global Green Energy.
Founded in 1991 as a charitable trust, SKDRSP concentrates on the empowerment of rural women through self-help groups (SHGs) on the lines of Joint Liability Groups (JLBs) of Bangladesh, life and health insurance products, pensions, and provides financial structure through micro credit loans. Their lending and training programs are geared toward families with agricultural development programs for the head of house, women’s programs to build self-sustainability and community growth, and scholarship programs to boost the level of education among rural children.
During its first years, SKDRDP families were compensated for working their own land with large quantities of rice. This concept of “Food for Work” was implemented with a view to develop agricultural lands and improve the knowledge-base of the farmers. However, it was realised upon review that mere charity does not give the desired result and so SKDRDP ended the program and began building more innovative solutions to help the people help themselves.
These programs include:
Agricultural Programs to build the farming community and financial independence through training programs, financial support with Joint Liability Groups, and social support in farmer’s clubs.
Community development through infrastructure projects, maintenance of crematoriums, protection of indigenous cattle species, sanitation provisioning, clean drinking water systems, and waste segregation programs.
Women’s empowerment through weekly two-hour group sessions for knowledge-sharing on health, hygiene, children’s issues, and education. Classes are now being introduced on floriculture, vegetable cultivation, dairy practices, and home industries.
Enabling education through infrastructure, aid to schools for special needs students, and scholarships for all educational levels.
Rehabilitation initiatives through personal counselling and de-addiction camps.
- Financial programs through micro-loans, Joint Liability Groups, insurance programs, and pensions.
SKDRDP is also taking an active part in the implementation of the government of India’s Financial Inclusion plan. Working as a Banking Correspondent and Business Facilitator (BC and BF) in all the areas of its operation, SKDRDP is promoting SHGs that enable poor people in remote villages to access banking facilities.
SKDRDP currently has 317,000 active SHGs, with a total membership of 3,518,000 families.