February 24, 2022

'Saturation' the Only Way

When you talk with Manoj Agarwal about the secret to success in rural development, he very passionately begins to espouse the ‘saturation approach.’  As one of ACF’s leadership team for Rajasthan & West Bengal Regions, Manoj believes that “if we are to truly see village transformation, every program must reach every household in a village – period.”

And this ethos has been wholeheartedly embraced by Ambuja Cement Foundation, charting a bold vision for each program to reach and impact every single household in its core villages.

Unfortunately, with budget restraints, many development agencies and CSR bodies select villages to work in, but only impact 30-40% of the households in that village.  That, according to Manoj, is not how we will see sustainable change in the long term.

“Reach should not be important in terms of the number of villages an organization works in, but in terms of the absolute ‘saturation’ of each village.” Manoj said.

It’s an approach also being adopted by the Government with top down orders for each scheme to reach every household in rural villages.

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So how does ACF go about program planning, taking into consideration this approach?

“First and foremost, we identify the number of families in need, and then we see how many villages this constitutes.  It is only then that we come up with the budget and required resources to saturate the area – and if we don’t have enough budget, we find someone to pitch in and help.  The Government, or other corporate partners … when it comes to saturation, collaboration is key.” He said.

Unfortunately, very few development organisations are following suit.  “This approach you will rarely find because it requires huge on-ground presence, and a lot of back work – only large organisations like ACF that have the manpower and the grassroots footprint can tackle it.” Manoj believes.

So, when did the seed of this idea and approach first take root?  It all started about 5 years ago when Manoj, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Gram Swaraj’ concept, worked with his team to come up with their own model for ‘saturation.’  Their aim?

·         TANKA to each household (RRWHS)

·         TOILET to each household

·         TRAINING to each households

This ‘TTT’ approach became a simple, but effective vision, and his team went forth with gusto, to implement it on the ground.

And we don’t have to look too far to see an example of its success.  In Kesarpura Village in Rabriyawas, Manoj and his team have made massive progress on ‘Tanka’ by achieving a saturation in terms of water accessibility to 216 households.

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Where once women’s lives were consumed by walking 2-3kms daily to collect drinking water, today every single house has a Roof Rain Water Harvesting System or drinking water distribution system close by – within 0-200metres in fact.  And the results have been transformative.

But of course its not just about one program.  “If we are working in just a few villages or districts, then we should ensure that each and every ACF program reaches each and every household.” He claims.  Painting the picture more clearly, he goes on …

“Sanitation to every household, drinking water for all, access to credit for everyone, employment generation for all, profit increase to all farmers, access to education for every child … and so on “ he exclaims.

“If we can effectively achieve it, I believe this can be a lighthouse model for other development sector bodies to embrace also.” Manoj said.

It’s a bold vision for ACF, but Manoj is convinced that this is the way forward that will best generate on-ground impact and prosperity in the long term equity.

Manoj is the General Manager at ACF heading the team of staff in Rajasthan and West Bengal overseeing to all the community development initiatives. To reach out write to

February 24, 2022

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