Over ten years ago, Village Earth supported the creation of a microfinance initiative in the Marathi village of Belgaon Dhaga just outside of Nashik, India. Village Earth’s support wound down as the community paid back the microfinance loans and created their own long-enduring institutions for the continued development of their community. From the outset, five businesses were created using microfinance loans and now ten years later these businesses are flourishing and the microfinance initiative has continued of the community’s own accord by way of various intra-community savings and lending groups.
Back in February, Village Earth was invited back to Belgaon Dhaga to see the community’s progress in the decade since and the results were remarkable. The community hosted an award ceremony to honor local community talent, which included young artists, teachers, exceptional students, entrepreneurs, and women’s savings groups. Children spoke about how after learning to read how they went home and taught their own mothers to read, young entrepreneurs gave encouragement to others to go out and start their own ventures, and all this was interspersed with local songs and dances by the school children. Belgaon Dhaga is even more impressive in its focus on gender equity electing women to the top village leadership positions.The community leaders work with local government and business leaders to create long-enduring support for community initiatives.
And the list goes on and on…Belgaon Dhaga has been nominated for the national award for the most comprehensive, sustainable development including the most successful microfinance project model. Recently when a high level government delegation from Delhi came to ‘inspect’ the village, they were stunned to hear the young village leaders present their community development and training model and were shown different achievements in Belgaon Dhaga. One of the organic farmers from the community was recently chosen as the most innovative young farmer by the state of Maharashtra in February. This is what sustainable community development should look like, and we at Village Earth are very proud of the achievements of Belgaon Dhaga. This community has become a role model for other villages around the world. Village Earth hopes to offer training and study tour opportunities in this area in the future so other development practitioners can learn from the community themselves and their decade of experience with truly bottom-up, participatory community development. If you are interested in potential study tour opportunities, e-mail [email protected]. Kamala Parekh, a Village Earth online instructor, lives in the community and has been seminal in the success of the microfinance program and she teaches our microfinance course online through both Colorado State University and Duke University.