HEKS in Indien
Karin Desmarowitz

Land is life

India Country Programme

HEKS/EPER is improving the food security and incomes of marginalized population groups such as the Dalits and Adivasis in the four Southern Indian States of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. HEKS/EPER helps them obtain land titles, it promotes agri-environmental farming and assists with the marketing produce.


India is now among the countries with the highest gross domestic product and will soon occupy third place behind China and the USA. Yet only a small segment of the population is benefiting from the upswing. Development is stalling in rural areas, which are still home to roughly two thirds of all Indians. Some 30 per cent of the population live below the poverty line, on less than US$1 per person per day. On the Social Progress Index, India ranks only 101st among 133 countries.

When it comes to discrimination and violence against minorities, India comes off particularly badly. The Indian caste system even further accentuates social differences. People who do not belong to a caste, called Dalits, as well as indigenous ethnic groups like the Adivasis are systematically excluded from society. Their chances of escaping poverty on their own are negligible.

India's economic boom is increasingly exacerbating conflicts over land and natural resources. The Government's pro-economy policy encourages land grabbing by large investors and this is leading to ever greater marginalization of smallholders and day labourers. The latter must struggle to eke out a living from small fields, mostly with rudimentary tools.

Objectives and priorities

The HEKS/EPER Country Programme for India addresses these people. Special attention is devoted to women, who face even more discrimination. The programme aims to enhance food security and raise the incomes of marginalized ethnic groups such as Dalits and Adivasis in the four southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka.

HEKS in Indien
Christian Bobst


The country programme encompasses the following activities:

  1. Access to land: Specialized partner organizations support landless workers in completing the requisite administrative formalities for owning a plot of land. The land will ensure that there is enough food for them and their families.
  2. Improving agricultural production: HEKS/EPER promotes ecological and sustainable agriculture based on grain varieties adapted to local conditions, as well as intercropping.
  3. Income support: To secure a minimum income, beneficiary families become part of value chains and sell some of their agricultural produce on local and national markets. Moreover, women in particular are encouraged to set up small businesses, which is facilitated, inter alia, by putting them in touch with government savings and loans schemes.
  4. Empowering civil society: Grassroots organizations are built up and networked among themselves. Villagers are enabled to play an active part in village politics and to claim their rights.
  5. Resilience building: Southern India's farmers are being affected increasingly by seasonal droughts and tropical storms. HEKS/EPER instructs small farmers in climate-appropriate agricultural practices and in water management in order to bolster their resilience.




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