Rural Development

Reached 70,000 villages in India, training 227,895 rural youth

Any country’s progress is directly connected with rural development. Lasting rural transformation can be achieved only with a holistic approach, one that considers and integrates all aspects including economic, social and environmental. For any change to be sustainable,  it has to begin from within. In rural development programs run by The Art of Living, the emphasis is on empowering the local communities and making them the torch-bearers of change. The ‘Youth Leadership Training Program’ (YLTP) gives youth the skills, motivation, and abilities to initiate and lead service projects in their own villages and communities based on their needs. It is this combination of personal inner strength, as well as skills and leadership training that enables them on the journey of rural development.


The fulcrum of the rural transformation of The Art of Living in India is the empowerment of the rural youth leader, called ‘Yuvacharya.’ These are bright young men and women drawn from the same rural milieu and developed on multiple facets by the Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP).

This gives them the skills, motivation, and abilities to initiate and lead service projects in their own villages and communities based on their needs. It is this combination of inner strength as well as skills and leadership training that enables them on the journey of rural development.

Yuvacharyas leverage The Art of Living model of development called the 5H:

  • Health – physical, mental, financial, and environmental
  • Homes for the homeless
  • Hygiene
  • Human Values
  • Harmony in Diversity

The 5H catalyzes social transformation and aims to eradicate poverty, misery, and disease and to ensure peace and harmony in rural and tribal areas worldwide.

Impact in India

70,000 villages in India


227,895 rural youth

trained through Youth Leadership Training Program

165,000 free stress-relief workshops

conducted, benefiting more than 5,688,000 people

90,200 hygiene camps

Conducted, benefiting 7,869,900 people

27,427 medical camps

benefiting 577,400 people

3,819 homes

built, impacting the socio-economic conditions of families

62,000+ toilets

built, improving the health of local villagers

1,199 bore-wells

built, offering a regular supply of water

1000 bio-gas plants

built, offering alternate fuel solutions

55 model villages


65,000+ people

across 16,500 households benefited from solar lighting

98 solar entrepreneurs

trained, providing clean energy to 4,000 rural families

Rural Transformation Service Projects

  • Rural Electrification
  • Holistic Development
  • Community Work
  • Sanitation & Hygiene
  • Youth Leadership
  • 360 million people in India i.e. roughly 40 percent of rural households do not have access to electricity. A majority of these people rely on kerosene and other fuels to meet their lighting needs, which is hazardous to both their health and to the environment. Every year 2.2 million litres of kerosene is burned for lighting, emitting approximately 5.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Traditional fuel combustion, the primary source of indoor air pollution, causes between 300,000-400,000 deaths per year in India alone.

    Initiated in 2012, The Art of Living’s vision to ‘Light a Million Homes’ is an on-going campaign inspiring individuals and corporate partners to work with us to bring clean and affordable lighting solutions to un-electrified homes and villages in India and in Nepal.

    The Light a Home follows an integrated approach that combines multiple elements of rural transformation including building rural entrepreneurs. While there is still a journey to be completed, smiles are already lighting up thousands of faces as they begin to experience the benefits of this project.

    Some highlights:

    Assam: India’s largest solar battery charging station launched to power 287 houses on a remote island in Dibrugarh, Assam in December 2016. With women heading the implementation, the portable solution has been installed on a sandy island.

    West Bengal: India gets its solar-powered village in Bengal through the Light a Million Homes project. This is India first de-centeralized solar electrification project.

    • Arunachal Pradesh: 33 homes light up in the remote regions
    • Jammu & Kashmir: Two schools fully electrified after the 2014 floods
    • Tamil Nadu: A remote tribal settlement of Kodamban Kombai in the Nilgiri forest was electrified for the first time
    • Karnataka: Three remote villages on the border of Karnataka and Goa got electricity for the first time in their history
    • Maharashtra: Solar lamps provide portable electricity to nomadic laborers who are migrants and travel from place to place

  • The rural development program aims at developing a village and addressing their specific socio-economic problems. This development comes from empowering the individual and creating sustainable solutions.      

    KAPSI: Creating Change at the Grassroots

    Life has changed completely for Dadasaheb Khatar, a farmer who lives in Kapsi village on the dusty two-lane Phalton-Satara highway. His days of waiting are over. He no longer looks out for the tankers from Phalton that used to bring them 12,000 liters of water every two days for his cows, his family, and his fields. He now gets water from one of the many check dams built in his village by volunteers of The Art of Living. Kapsi is one of 1,200 villages in Maharashtra that has been transformed on many fronts due to the tremendous efforts put in by The Art of Living volunteers.

    With a population of approximately 1,700 people and no industrial activity even in the nearby villages, drought conditions from 2000 to 2003 had put the village back by almost 20 years. Dr. Madhav Pol, an Art of Living teacher, decided to take charge. Taking inspiration from the 5H program designed by Gurudev, he, along with the sarpanch (the village heads) and a few villagers, decided to tackle the problem at its roots. And today, the village is prospering.

    “What could be better? Today there is water everywhere. The water tables have risen and when we think of our previous situation, it's unbelievable. What could be better for a farmer than having enough water?”

    - Dr. Madhav Pol, Art of Living Project Coordinator

  • Empowerment of a community begins with the individual. Through the leadership programs, the aim is to strengthen each person, bring out their potential and inspire community service. There are several examples of entire communities being transformed through our programs.  

    Nouvelle Vie Haiti

    Nouvelle Vie, a new generation of Haitian leadership, which had the vision to innovate and create sustainable solutions in the spirit of selfless service.

    Already crippled from the long-term effects of poverty and environmental disasters, Haitians suffered greatly from the trauma of the January 12, 2007 earthquake.

    Recognized as one of Haiti’s top leadership development programs by the World Bank and UNICEF and partly funded through USAID, Nouvelle Vie offered empowerment, environmental, and social programs to 150-200 community members every month for 5 years, hosting a rooftop demonstration garden and developing 20-30 volunteers as future leaders and trainers.

    The program ran from 2007-2012, powered by dedicated volunteers and Art of Living teachers. Committed to programmatic sustainability and local leadership, Nouvelle Vie Haiti trained a team of 19 participants as leadership trainers. Since July, 2011, these Haitians leaders have been serving their communities through leadership, Art of Living's trauma relief and empowerment workshops, and sustainable community development initiatives, reaching about 2,000 people since 2012.

    Our Impact


    youth leaders trained


    leaders trained as trainers


    community members gain trauma and empowerment skills


    youth trained in sex education


    vulnerable children mentored by the community


    children and adults learn to grow their own food

  • A 2003 study by Mumbai-based SNDT University found that of the 1,017 rural women interviewed, only five had toilets at home. Others used fields and open spaces for defecation. This prompted The Art of Living to take up toilet construction as one of the key elements to social intervention initiatives.

    Manek Chaudhari, an agriculturist, was cheated out of his business. Bitter, he left home and turned to gambling. On returning after 3 years, his friend enrolled him to the Youth Leadership Training Program and he felt the negativity in him was scrubbed off.

    Manek began teaching in villages and raised awareness about the need for toilets. Villagers resisted, as toilets in the village might mean the village gets dirty (they had been using the vast expanse of nature outside their villages as their toilets for centuries.) The concept of closed toilets and drainage had to be explained to them.

    Earlier, only 3 – 4 homes had toilets. Through this project, all homes were provided with toilets.

    “It was difficult for ladies who used to wait till sunset so that they could go in privacy. The toilets are a blessing for the women of the village,” shares Govind Bhai, a villager from Surat.

    Bhavesh Patel and his team constructed close to 400 toilets in different villages of Umarpuda Thaluka in Surat district as per the government’s plan.

    In 2007, The Art of Living was invited by the government to help with the implementation of the Rajiv Awas Yojana to build 60 houses in Khoutharampura.

    “Where to relieve ourselves was not a choice at all. When we use fields and open spaces for defecation, we are always subject to fear of being shouted at, exposed to indignities and insulted. Many of our perennial health problems vanished after we got this toilet.” - Gangamma, one of the beneficiaries for a scheme under which 175 toilets were built.

    • Toilets story - MH (300+ built in 20 days)
    • Sanitary napkin dispensers installed in schools (on March 8th Women's Day - 2017)
  • Developing local leadership is an important component of the 5H program. Through the leadership programs, youth are encouraged to develop their skills and abilities and take responsibility for their communities.

    This time, in Africa

    The 1st Saka iSouth Africa (Building South Africa project) team conducted the first youth leadership training program in the last week of November 2004. Youth came from far and wide from  Cape Town, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, & KwaZulu Natal, with 40 of them graduating as youth leaders.

    The Breath Water Sound Workshop teachers and children yoga teachers are working in the townships of South Africa.  Our Saka iSouth Africa leaders were trained not only in leadership but were also exposed to further training in organic farming, communication and self-esteem, project management, proposal writing, UBUNTU, democracy & citizenship, waste management, and much more to make them the very best leaders that they can be.

    5H Service and upliftment projects such as operating a computer training facility, pickle making business, mosaic project, organic gardening, etc. were undertaken by youth leaders in the townships.