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Pancham: A Journey To The Nondescript Tribal Village

About the Pancham

Pancham village, situated in the remote hinterlands of Keonjhar district in Odisha, is a picturesque tribal village, situated about 3 km from the main roadhead, with six hamlets populated by Sabara, Santhal and Munda communities. The village is surrounded by dense forests and hills dominated by Sal (Shorea robusta) and Teak (Tectona grandis) trees, among others.

The local communities depend mainly on agriculture and allied activities for their livelihood, including fishing, domestication of livestock (cows, goats, sheep, and country chicken), and collection of non-timber forest produce (NTFPs). The village has a mini Anganwadi, primary school, and creche facility for children aged 0-5 years. The primary source of drinking water is from the solar panel system and the seven tube wells available in the village.

Farming is predominantly rainfed, with crops cultivated during the South-west monsoon season (Kharif). The local communities sell their extra agricultural produce in the local haat at Rasulo and collect NTFPs like Mango, Mahua, Kendu, Kusum, medicinal plants, and myrobalans from the nearby forests.

Food security and livelihoods are the primary concerns of most households, with food production from own land only sufficient for about three months of the household food requirements. Communication (road connectivity) is a major challenge, with access to high school, primary health center, and community health center being difficult, especially during the rainy season due to lack of proper road connectivity and transportation facilities.

Pancham village is located in Rasula Gram Panchayat of Harichandanpur Block in Keonjhar district, Odisha, India, and has a total population of 745 people. The literacy rate is low, with only 41.48% of the population being literate. The village comprises about 135 Kutccha houses made of brick and Mangalore tiles (MPT). The local communities are vulnerable, with women, children, the aged, and disabled being among the most affected.

Demography of the Village

According to the Census of 2011, the population of Pancham village is 745, with a density of 7.12 people per hectare. The sex ratio is 203:106 (male to female), and the literacy rate is 54.12%, with male literacy at 67.22% and female literacy at 39.41%. The village is connected to public and private bus services and a railway station, all within a 10-kilometer radius. The nearest town for economic activities is Keonjhar, which is 73 kilometers away.

In terms of demographics, there are 309 literate people in the village, with 203 males and 106 females. The total number of households is 135, and the village has a total of 400 workers, out of which 178 are main workers and 222 are marginal workers. The agricultural commodities produced in the village include paddy, black gram, green gram, cowpea, and various vegetables, while there are no major manufacturers. The forest area covers 22.63 hectares.

Unfortunately, the nutritional status of children in the village is a cause for concern, as there is high malnutrition, with 36.2% stunted, 23.8% wasted, 6.2% severely wasted, and 37.1% underweight children under 5 years of age in the village, according to NHFS V data of Keonjhar District, Odisha.

Major Observations and Analysis

The village has abundant natural resources such as land, water, and forests. However, open grazing is prevalent, especially during the Rabi season and summer.

Tribal women self-help groups (SHGs) exist in the village but need to be strengthened. On the other hand, public distribution system (PDS) rice is available at Rasul Gram Panchayat. People collect their quota of rice individually on a monthly basis, ensuring household food security, especially for poor households.

Distress out-migration is a problem in the village, with young girls migrating to Bengaluru to work in the textile industry. While most rural households have job cards, limited livelihood options are available for local communities.

The primary school is operational, but issues regarding school safety and the use of toilets due to non-availability of water are present. Most school-going children attend the Government school, with cases of school dropouts, mostly adolescent girls.

Access to health facilities and services is limited in the village, and leadership, especially women and youth leaders, is also scarce. Farmer’s groups/organizations such as Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) are non-existent, but the village committee is present and conducts the Gram Sabha/Palli Sabha.

The Vana Surakshya Samiti (VSS) is active and engaged in protecting village forests. Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are abundant, and the local community depends on them for food, firewood, fodder, and habitat use.

Firewood is primarily used for cooking and heating purposes and is available in the adjoining forests. However, LPG gas connections were non-existent in the village.

Women have limited articulation skills and are not vocal in village meetings, which are mostly dominated by men. Adolescent girls and boys have limited participation in village development work, and youth have little interest in farming.

Access to social security schemes is limited, and many eligible individuals are yet to be linked with government development schemes and programs. Institutional finance access, particularly for crop loans and household-level consumption needs, is also limited among the communities.

Medicinal plants are abundant in the adjoining forests, and local Dissari administers medicines for various ailments in the community. Timber species are abundant in the reserve forests adjoining the village and are used for poles, building materials, furniture, etc.

Anaemia and malnourishment are endemic among the tribal communities, particularly among women, adolescent girls, and children aged 0-5 years. Access to government development and housing schemes is minimal in the village.

The village committee conducts Gram Sabha/Palli Sabha meetings, and work on Individual Forest Rights (IFR) and Community Forest Rights (CFR) is ongoing. Fortified rice was observed in the Anganwadi centre, which could pose serious public health issues in the district. Construction of Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana (BPGY) is a concern in the village due to delayed payment from the State Government.

SWOT Analysis

1. Education Sector

The village has one primary school, one mini Anganwadi center, and one creche that are currently operational.
Enrollment of both girls and boys in the pre-school and formal education systems has increased.
The school and centers are managed by a team of four teachers, one cook, Anganwadi workers, helpers, and ANM who work on a regular basis.
Teaching and learning materials, school uniforms, Poshahar, playing kits, and basic medicines are available in the school and centers to support the learning and well-being of the children.
The school faces safety issues such as an unsafe roof and dysfunctional toilet. The boundary wall is also weak and may collapse during rainy seasons and floods.
There is limited space in the classrooms and a small playground.
Some children of school-going age are missed out from the formal education system, and girl child education is limited in the village.
The school dropout rate, especially for adolescent girls, is high in the village.
The high school is far away from the village, located in the Gram Panchayat headquarters. It is difficult for children to reach the high school, especially during the rainy season.
The SSA guidelines and National Education Policy ensure quality school education.
The operationalization of POSHAN 2.0 can enhance the nutritional and health status of children.
Bridge construction over the two streams will facilitate connectivity and access to the high school, PHC, and CHC.
The village is situated in an elephant corridor, and there are risks of wild animal attacks.

2. Health sector

ANM (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) provides regular health services in the village.
There are no health centers within the village.
The Primary Health Center (PHC) is located in Rasul, making it difficult for patients, especially women, elderly, and disabled individuals, to access government health services due to limited road connectivity and transportation services.
Patriarchal attitudes and practices in the village may limit women’s opportunities and reinforce gender inequality.
Construction of roads and bridges can improve connectivity and provide better access to PHC and CHC services and benefits.
The presence of wild animals and an elephant corridor poses a threat to the safety of the villagers.

3. Household care

Women in the village play a significant role in household care and contribute to various livelihoods activities.
Women face a triple burden of productive, reproductive, and community roles, which can limit their opportunities for education and economic empowerment.
Women’s groups and collectives can play a vital role in raising awareness, building knowledge and skills, and empowering women in the village.
The 50% reservation of women in the Panchayati Raj system can help increase women’s representation in local governance and decision-making.
Mission Shakti, which promotes women’s leadership and livelihood opportunities, can provide further support for women’s empowerment.
Patriarchal attitudes and practices in the village may limit women’s opportunities and reinforce gender inequality.

4. Leadership

The presence of youth, women and men leaders in the village.
Weak leadership overall, especially among women and youth.
Providing leadership trainings and exposure to women and youth to strengthen their leadership skills.
The influence of patriarchal norms and practices that may hinder the promotion of gender equality in leadership.

5. Earnings and Finance

The village has abundant natural resources including land, water, and forest, and Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) are available.
There is limited utilization of the available natural resources, and the local community has limited knowledge of financial literacy and negotiation skills. Moreover, there are few functional Self Help Groups (SHGs) and people’s organizations in the village.
The government-led Mission Shakti and Odisha Livelihood Mission (OLM) provide opportunities for SHG formation and strengthening, leadership training, and skill building in agriculture and allied activities such as organic farming and tassar production. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and NABARD offer low-interest loans and livelihood support to the community.
The limited financial literacy among the community, especially women and adolescent girls, poses a challenge to the utilization of these opportunities.

6. Ethics and Values

The rural village has a strong foundation of ethics and values, which are passed down from generation to generation by elders in families.
There is a decline in the practice of ethics and value systems among youth due to modern distractions, employment pressure, and limited interest.
The National Education Policy of 2020 includes value-based education, which can be used to strengthen the practice of ethics and values in the community.
There is a lack of interaction between elders, children, and youth on the importance of ethics and value systems.

Recommendations for Future Action

  1. Conduct a comprehensive baseline study in the village to gather necessary data using research tools such as household schedules, open-ended questionnaires for focus group discussions (FGDs), and in-depth interviews (IDIs).
  2. Develop a concept note, budget, and Logical Framework Analysis (LFA) to submit proposals to various donors for long-term development work in the village and surrounding areas as part of the Call for Proposals.

Proposed Interventions and Strategie

  • CSNR can provide long-term development support in Pancham village, with potential funding from donors.
  • The work can focus on six thematic areas: Education, health, Water and Sanitation, Food security and Livelihoods, Nutrition security, and Social Security. Access to Government development schemes and flagship programmes should also be a priority.
  • The Panchayati Raj System (PRIs) needs to be strengthened on roles, responsibilities, financial management, etc.
  • Protection and sustainable management of the village forest are crucial due to the threat of mining in the district.
  • Work on renewable energy, including solar pump sets, drip irrigation systems, soil and water conservation, forest protection, and regenerative/sustainable agriculture, can be undertaken.
  • Safe migration pre-departure trainings, promotion of small businesses and entrepreneurship among women and youth, and the provisioning of traditional best varieties of seeds (food crops) and quality planting materials can be implemented.
  • Community groups and people’s organizations need to be strengthened for future work, and policy and advocacy on food security, nutrition, work and livelihood issues should be promoted.
  • Community level capacity building initiatives, including thematic trainings on ecological agriculture, organic farming systems and practices, exposure visits, etc. can be conducted.
  • Women and youth leadership should be promoted through thematic trainings and exposure, and gender equality and gender mainstreaming should be incorporated into all projects and campaigns.
  • Thematic trainings on “The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006” can be organized.
  • Convergence with Government development schemes and programmes, services and entitlements is essential.
  • Right to Food (RTF) and work advocacy, including fortified rice through the PDS, should be promoted.
  • Fundraising from back donors, District Mineral Fund (DMF), and CSR Foundations should be explored.
  • Participatory research on food crops, including minor millets, traditional/desi varieties of Paddy, medicinal plants, and use, can be conducted.
  • Results-based documentation and reporting are crucial for tracking progress and ensuring accountability.


Pancham is an underdeveloped village with several dimensions of poverty. These include low levels of literacy, maternal and child health issues, limited social security, and restricted access to government development schemes, entitlements, and services. Civil society organizations such as CSNR can play a crucial role in working with the targeted communities, government agencies, and other developmental actors to facilitate overall socio-economic and political empowerment of the local communities. To achieve this, long-term developmental work is necessary to address people’s immediate needs for food and nutritional security, sustainable livelihoods, and a life with dignity.

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Ravi S. Behera
Ravi S. Behera
Mr. Ravi Shankar Behera, PGDAEM, National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad is an independent freelance Consultant and Author based in Bhubaneswar. He is an Honorary Advisor to grassroots Voluntary Organizations on Food Security, Forest and Environment, Natural Resource Management, Climate Change and Social Development issues. Ravi has lived and worked in various states of India and was associated with international donors and NGOs over the last twenty three years including ActionAid, DanChurchAid, Embassy of Sweden/Sida, Aide et Action, Sightsavers, UNICEF, Agragamee, DAPTA and Practical Action. He has a keen interest in indigenous communities and food policy issues.

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