Asia Initiatives

Tongia Community Poverty Alleviation Initiative

Uttarakhand, India

The Doon Valley is a long and wide valley on the foot of the Himalayas within the Shivalik Hills, with stunning views at each turn. The Rajaji National Park lies along the Doon Valley and contains a magnificent range of fauna and flora.  But the people living in this gorgeous environment are burdened with crushing poverty.

Living on the outskirts of Rajaji National Park, the Tongia tribe, who were previously landless people living all over India, were brought to the area in the 1930s by the Forest Department of India to raise crops and to cattle-graze. The Tongia farmed in the Doon Valley until 1983, when Rajaji National Park was created. Faced with evictions, the Tongia filed a writ petition and obtained a stay order against their resettlement. Although the government provided farming lands, these plots are often so unfertile and badly irrigated that the villagers cannot sustain themselves. Impoverished, illiterate, under-resourced and ineligible for government benefits, the Tongia has turned to illicit felling, poaching and grazing, creating social and environmental issues.

The “Tongia Community Poverty Alleviation Initiative” in Hazara Tongia aims to uplift the Tongia tribe. With Friends of the Doon Society (FODS), we are building a positive human-nature relationship by initiating sustainable socio-economies. The project serves approximately 110 families, focusing mainly on capacity building for youth and women, while protecting the local environment. With the implementation of SoCCs, AI holds awareness camps to spread knowledge and sensitivity regarding environmental conservation, training villagers in sustainable agriculture by building small kitchen gardens and compost pits, and planting tree saplings to use as fodder. These initiatives have protected the Rajaji National Park while creating alternatives jobs for the villagers. Other initiatives are a small educational fund for financially challenged students, adult education sessions, solar street light installations and village clean drives.

(Updated in April 2019) Total eight  ‘awareness camps' were organized covering SoCCs concepts such as building of inner confidence, introduction to banking operations and various vocational course possibilities. 20 women participated in sewing centre and learned basic sewing. 163 native plants were planted in Project village. Selection of species was done to provide green fodder for cattle, nutrition to villagers, probable future means of earning,  and to add some color & shade within the village area. 5 Vet camps were organized and all the village cattle were examined, vaccinated and medicines were provided covering different diseases. Adult Education sessions were organized for 15 weeks where 34 women participated. Slates, chalks and motivational talks were also provided during the classes.  Four Health Camps were organized with professional doctor and nurses whereby almost all the villagers were examined and appropriate medicines were administered. The women and children were very pleased, as some of them have seen a doctor for the first time. 55 families are participating in the activity and total 14202 sq ft area of village is being converted into kitchen garden.

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