Seva Mandir, a renowned Non-Government Organization working towards sustainable development in rural communities, has been awarded the Elinor Ostrom Award for its exceptional efforts in conserving commons in southern Rajasthan.
The Elinor Ostrom Award, named in honor of the late Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, aims to acknowledge and promote the work of practitioners and scholars involved in the commons domain. As shown in Ostrom’s work, commons are lands with limited resources within a community; Her research showed that these limited resources were best used when communities came together and cooperated to maintain and utilize their common lands. In the process, Ostrom’s work highlighted the value of community trust and collective action, ideas that are now at the heart of Seva Mandir’s work in the conservation and management of forest, waste, and agricultural land in Aravalli tribal communities.
Seva Mandir worked directly with villagers to end encroachment on community lands, facilitating the protection and restoration of 11,000 hectares in 700 villages, while generating 11,000 tons of fodder (enough for 2,888,000 cattle) and removing 3 lakh tons of carbon from the air, all while helping building community relationships through peaceful dialogue.
These successes allowed Ajay Singh Mehta, a distinguished member of Seva Mandir's Board of Trustees, and Ronak Shah, the Chief Executive of Seva Mandir, to represent the organization at the award ceremony on June 23 in Nairobi, Kenya. The ceremony, which is part of the prestigious IASC Conference, showcased some of Seva Mandir’s work from the past 55 years to the over 400 scholars, practitioners, and partners who flew in from around the world to attend the event.
Ronak Shah, during his acceptance speech, quoted “working on the commons is close to the soul of Seva Mandir. I want to thank all our supporters, donors, staff, and volunteers, especially the tribal communities and village people we have worked with for over five decades. This Award is a reminder for the world to make such communities the partners/ torchbearers in conserving the old commons like lands, as well the new commons like the climate.”
Receiving the Elinor Ostrom Award serves as a testament to the unwavering commitment and dedication of Seva Mandir in conserving commons in Rajasthan. This recognition not only acknowledges the organization's accomplishments but also provides an opportunity to inspire and collaborate with neighboring organizations and government entities to prioritize the sustainable conservation of common lands in the region.
Seva Mandir remains steadfast in its mission to empower communities, protect the environment, and create a better future for generations to come. With the Elinor Ostrom Award as a catalyst, Seva Mandir aims to continue its impactful work and drive positive change in Rajasthan and beyond.