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Vision Statement

Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna (DLR Prerna) believes in a world that sees the need to live as one family where the environment is preserved and protected, where conscious efforts are made to remove unjust structures while striving to build a just and humane society.

Mission statement

Our mission is to build sustainable human communities in the Darjeeling hills and the adjoining areas by promoting peoples participation, gender equality and living in harmony with the environment.

Strategic Goals

1. Promote, facilitate and strengthen people’s organisations.

2. Promote sustainable agro-ecology and appropriate technology

3. Undertake Development and Environment Education with educational institutions and community based organisations.

4. Provide support to other organisations.

5. Undertake research, development and dissemination on developmental issues pertinent to the Darjeeling Hills with special focus on conservation and climate change.


1. Promote, facilitate and strengthen people’s organisations:

The people of Darjeeling come together in community-based organisations known as the Samaj irrespective of the rural (revenue villages, forest villages, tea gardens) or urban background. The activities of the samajs are focussed on social ceremonies and minor conflict resolutions. The challenges that the samaj faces are it’s: welfare orientation in activities, gender disparity, centralisation of power in few executive members who are usually elderly, better off economically and educationally (formal) and male.

DLR Prerna works with the Samajs. DLR Prerna’s intervention is built on the experiences and resources of the community and the organisation. Conceptually and in terms of intervention, the programme is long term one. Working with the Samaj is working within the experience of the community which accelerates the process of change as well as avoids building parallel systems.

In the initial part of the programme, the intervention looks inward with participatory analysis and planning and adding of developmental activities to the existing Samaj welfare activities. Issues of decentralisation and equity including enhancement of skills are addressed. Linkages are promoted in order to avail of the facilities and capacities for the development of the community. This base strengthening of the Samaj takes anything between 3 to 6 years. Self Help Groups and collectives are used as models within the Samaj. Successively the Samaj is promoted and facilitated to look into issues of local self-governance, decentralised planning and accessing of rights and benefits. It is important to note that the activity time lines are based on our past experience and are contextual to a situation, community, geography, socio-economic profile and the historical context. It is a process, which is continual and interchangeable.

2. Promote organic agriculture and appropriate technology

DLR Prerna believes that organic farming is a way of life. A way of life, which empowers individuals explore their capacities within existing natural systems and resources. It is an approach to life, which is communitarian and based on self-reliance. Diversity, knowledge sharing and conservation is promoted.

Going organic has implication at all levels: individual, community, state and the international community. Acceptance of organic farming as a way of life at the individual level is the core of going organic. The individual and the community commitment is essential to the organic way of life as it is a cyclic, continuous process with a belief and trust on the natural process of interdependence and the web of life. This commitment is of utmost importance as the organic lifestyle depends on the individual responsibility and creativity.

DLR Prerna promotes going organic by translating the concept into individual and community action. Capacity building as well as logistic support to the individual and the community is provided. The organisational role is extended to the marketing of the organic products by enabling linkages. The issues of organic certification, fair trade labelling is also facilitated.

Organic farming is a constant evolution of the natural farming systems incorporating cutting edge scientific research, which goes beyond formal learning systems. The ultimate aim is the proactive farmer who is constantly evolving and improving systems and the knowledge base. This evolving systems and knowledge base is diverse, multidirectional and based on dialogue, learning and sharing from each other.

DLR Prerna undertakes capacity enhancement of the individual farmer and the community. Capacity enhancement on improved farm management, which includes soil, crop, seeds, livestock, and water management are facilitated. The management system the farmer develops is integrated within all the resources of the farm. Capacity enhancement also implies the change in mindset of the farmer from a static subsistence one to a dynamic, creative and evolving farmer and farming community. The intervention is based on improving on the life experiences and resources of the farmer and the community. It is focused on increasing community learning, sharing and interdependence.

Access to the organic market at times, needs certification of the products and the processes. Certification with the help of a largely accepted certifying agency is of utmost importance to gain entrance and acceptability in the organic market. DLR Prerna has an MOU with IMO Control India, an organic certifying agency.

DLR Prerna working with the small and marginal farmers, develop systems of internal control systems and internal regulation systems of organic farming code at the farmer and the community level ensuring community ownership and responsibility. It also reduces the cost of certification as external inspection time is reduced.

DLR Prerna believes that organic farming cannot be promoted in isolation and integrates it with other community interventions.

3. Undertake Development and Environment Education (DEE) with educational institutions and community based organisations.

DEE promotes responsibility, empathy and action on issues of development and environment especially with regard to the Darjeeling Hills. It promotes the interdependence of socio-ecological systems as well as stewardship of communities and institutions.

DEE is facilitated with teachers, students and representatives of Community Based Organisations. The facilitation is focused on socio-ecological analysis, participatory leadership, effective communication and participatory planning and action tools as a means of widening world view and creating a critical mass of leaders. The software input is contextualised to specific issues pertinent to the area, institution or community. This initial base is expanded within the institution as well as promoting linkages and solidarity support to each other. DEE also enables us to promote linkage between our rural and urban programmes.

The focus of the programmes is on individual, family, community and institutional responsibilities towards a sustainable and equitable socio-ecological system.

Besides larger developmental and environmental issues, the programme continues to concentrate on existing programmes - the Campaign for the Judicious use of Plastics and Solid Waste Management. The solid waste management can be summarised as segregation and storage of waste at source, recycling of recyclables, composting of organic waste, judicious use of non-recyclables and toxic waste. It also has a livelihoods component of community collection, treatment, recycling and building linkages.

4. Provide support to other organisations.

DLR Prerna provides technical, organisational development, as well as implementing support to other organisations. The support can be short or long term. The rationale for this support is that the civil society movement in the Darjeeling Hills is very nascent and support in the local language is not easy to come by. The support also enables us to build a larger voice to address the issues of the Darjeeling Hills. The support is based on the ideology of DLR Prerna of environmental sustainability, equity and participation. The support has been provided to NGOs as well as community groups.

5. Undertake research, development and dissemination.

DLR Prerna undertakes action research and documentation on issues that are pertinent to the Darjeeling Hills within the focus of the organisation. This is disseminated to the larger civil society, government, institutions and individuals for wider policy discussion and change.

Darjeeling Hills Context – DLR Prerna’s perspective and role

Darjeeling’s development needs and concerns have never been properly articulated. Development initiatives have been undertaken without taking into consideration the socio-ecological uniqueness of Darjeeling.

DLR Prerna’s focus in the Darjeeling Hills is not only an emotional attachment to the roots of the organization, but from the need that arises from deep analysis and reflection of the development journey of the Hills.

Nestling in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas lies Darjeeling, the northern most district of the state of West Bengal, India. Post 1988, the hill sub-divisions of the district and sections of the plains come under the Autonomous Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC). The demand for a separate state within India was revived in 2007 resulting in the formation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Adminstration in 2011. The demand has been revived in 2013.

The total population of DGHC is 6 93 793; rural 5 33 413; urban 1 60 380; female 2 59 882 and male 2 73 531. (1991 primary census abstract [pca]). 76.88% of the population is rural with 53.99% small and marginal farmers. (1991 pca). More than 40% of the area is under forest. 4.56% of the population lives in forest villages and forest fringe areas. (1991 pca). More than 20% of the area is under plantations and 41.45% of the population is plantation workers, tea with 35.78% and cinchona with 5.67%. (1991 pca). 23.12% of the population in the urban areas is engaged in the service sector. (1991 pca).

70% of Darjeeling lives in the rural areas in difficult circumstances.

The rural areas are far flung and communication infrastructure poor. Access to the market is extremely difficult leading to an accentuated exploitative structure with remuneration for agricultural produce extremely low. Farmers sell their products to middlemen who also provide credit during the lean season, reducing their bargaining power dramatically. The villagers take credit from the informal sector at extremely high interest rates ranging from 60% to 120% per annum. Thus the farmers of the hills are in a constant cycle of debt and low remuneration entrapping them in poverty.

One of the effective ways of breaking from this cycle is in promoting, facilitating and strengthening people’s organizations as has been the DLR Prerna experience in Harsing, Dabaipani and Yangkhoo Busties.

The Tea Plantations present a unique situation. Extremely profitable at the macro level yet the share of profits hardly reaching the labourers.

Each plantation has a permanent set of workers living within the plantation. Of them, only the permanent workers (20% of the plantation population of which 80% are daily wage labourers) are entitled to benefits from the management according to the Plantation Labour Act, 1951. Because of these benefits the low daily wage seems justifiable. But the Plantation Labour Act, an unjust Act, leaving out 80% of the population, is not implemented properly in any garden in Darjeeling. To make matters worse, many gardens in Darjeeling are closing down or are sick due to mismanagement and lack of reinvestment by the tea companies.

Harsing, Dabaipani and Yangkhoo parts of the Harrison’s Tea Estate before the closure in the early 1950s, have amply demonstrated the traumatic situation faced by the communities on losing their occupation and difficulties in initiating the process of rehabilitation. The involvement of the DLR Prerna with these communities and evolving a strategy of development intervention will be of great importance to these tea gardens which have closed recently and going through the same experiences. This experience is pertinent to other parts of rural Darjeeling too.

DLR Prerna’s active involvement in the Fairtrade movement in tea gardens and small farmer collectives is a strategic choice of contributing to sustainable development models with a specific focus on equity, peoples participation and sustainability. This contribution is being made at the local with communities and international level. TPI and DLR Prerna have a long term MOU for capacity enhancement of Joint Body Representatives and Small Farmers Representatives with focus on Fairtrade Principles and Standards of Hired Labour and Small Farmers.

The small farmers’ tea movement is facing a new challenge with the industry led registration of “Darjeeling Tea” under certification trade marks and Geographical Indicator being limited to the existing 87 tea gardens only. This excludes any small farmers being able to call their tea “Darjeeling Tea” even if it is within the Darjeeling Hills and has the required quality.

The Darjeeling Hills is subjected to great stress of land-use transformation and continues to face multiple threats.

The Himalaya are a very sensitive young mountain range. Eastern Himalaya, of which Darjeeling is a part of, is among the world’s most critical centres for biodiversity and endemism. Darjeeling is within this global biodiversity hotspot and has 4 protected areas within its geographical boundary. The protected area conservation adopted is based on ‘conservation in islands’ and ‘exclusive of communities’. On the long run this practise is unsustainable from the perspective of ‘limited gene pool’ and ‘community exclusion’.

Today the green cover is only 41.2%(official figure) due to rampant legal and illegal felling; of this more than a quarter of the forest has undergone degradation to less than 10% canopy cover. (Sanskritayana1997). Deforestation is a complex problem and cannot be attributed to a single factor. Some of them are: malfunctioning of the administration, corruption, extractive and exclusive management systems, energy needs, and unemployment. This has led to serious problems of landslides and water scarcity. A recent trend is the influx of wild animals in the agricultural fields.

DLR Prerna’s collaborative effort with ICIMOD, Nepal and other partners in the Village level planning in the Transboundary Conservation Landscape in the Kangchenjunga Landscape and its continuing conversations, is our contribution to the larger issue of conservation and development. Efforts of community based conservation in 5 fringe forest villages in the Singalila National Park which addresses issues of sustainable livelihoods and community stewardship of conservation is being implemented. Through the process of promotion of agro-biodiversity and food forests, communities’ lives and livelihoods are enhanced as well as forest connectivity improved in this fragmented landscape. Issues of human wildlife conflict in mountain regions are being highlighted in appropriate fora.

Within the discussion of conservation, agro-biodiversity loss is not given its due. The hills face dramatic loss of agro-biodiversity due to policy gaps of focus on monocultures of improved varieties from a small gene pool bank as well as lack of incentives for traditional and local agro-biodiversity. DLR Prerna recognises this loss and actively documents and promotes seed saving at source.

The use of alternate energy sources, appropriate technology and organic farming within the communities DLR Prerna works with contributes to the reduction on the stresses and threats on the forests and promotes agro-biodiversity.

In such a unique and fragile socio-ecological system of the Darjeeling Hills, the adoption of organic farming and fair-trade is a positive and economically viable option. Organic farming and fair-trade has great relevance in today’s world, in a world with growing environmental degradation, ecological destruction and inequitable market forces. To the person practicing, it means a healthier living environment as well as access to a growing niche market. Darjeeling is famous for her natural beauty and agricultural products of tea, spices, oranges non-timber forest products and medicinal plants. These products are specific to the Darjeeling area and command a niche market.

In the growing environmental awareness going organic and fair-trade adds value to the already niche products of Darjeeling. The economic benefit can be measured in increased price offered for the products. The tangible and intangible benefits of, going organic is tremendous, including for the practitioner too.

Darjeeling is a tourist destination and going organic caters to the growing consciousness of eco-tourism.

Thus, going organic and fair-trade is viable environmentally, economically and socially for the Darjeeling Hills, which is being promoted with small farmers by DLR Prerna.

In the urban areas, fallout of unplanned growth is being felt everyday with scarcity of water, unmanageable waste production, vehicular pollution, and overcrowding and illegal and unsafe constructions. The problems get accentuated with the influx of tourists in the tourist season.

DLR Prerna has been promoting improved and innovative solid waste management practices in the town, which also includes an economic initiative component of community collection, treatment and linkage to recycling. This programme is being implemented in close collaboration with the Darjeeling Municipality. The programme is being expanded to larger Darjeeling Hills as solid waste management is not just an urban phenomenon today. DLR Prerna is part of the Zero Waste Himalaya Group.

Through the development and environmental awareness programme the DLR Prerna conducts, it proposes to highlight issues of Darjeeling to the students, get them involved in local issues with a hope that they will form a critical mass of change and support. This programme is being extended to the community-based organisations of Darjeeling too with the same philosophy. DEE is undertaken in collaboration with specialised partner organisations.

As part DEE, DLR Prerna conducts action research, documentation and dissemination projects.

Support to organisations is an expression of solidarity where experiences and resources can be shared and built upon. This enables the growth of the partners as well as the intervention at the community level. DLR Prerna has been extending support to various organisations and have built close partnership with Anugyalaya Darjeeling Diocese Social Service Society, where the entire implementation of the activities was undertaken by DLR Prerna from 2001 to 2006.

DLR Prerna is a founding and active member of the Darjeeling NGO Network, a network of Darjeeling based and Darjeeling concerned organisations established in 1999.

Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna:

Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna was instituted by the Darjeeling Jesuits of North Bengal (DJNB) to cater to its ‘Development Apostalate’ after a regional evaluation in 1993. Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna’s mandate was to evolve and help implement suitable strategy for human development in the Darjeeling Region.

The DLR Prerna, though a Jesuit Organisation at inception is a secular non-profit, non-governmental organisation registered under the Societies Registration Act of West Bengal XXVI of 1961 as Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna dated 13th March 2001. It also has registrations under the FCRA and IT 12A exemption.

DLR Prerna’s General Body consists of 17 academics, social activists, educationist and a banker who have contributed to the development discourse and action of the Darjeeling Hills. The Board provides the necessary intellectual support and passion to work in the Hills.

The Darjeeling Ladenla Road Prerna has a core staff of Ashesh Rai, Rohin D’souza and Roshan Rai since 1996. Sailesh Sharma has joined us as of 1st April 2008.