Aarohi was founded by Oona and Sushil Sharma, a rural development specialist and a doctor, respectively in August 1992. With experience of social work in this region, they knew that life in the mountains was uncertain and difficult, but their love for this unique environment encouraged them to stay on.

The name ‘Aarohi’ derives from classical Hindustani music, signifying ascendance or growth…the growth of thought, creativity and harmony.

Beginning with specific development plans in 4 villages, Aarohi set to work with a focus in natural resource management and curative services, eventually adding to this, a livelihoods initiative and a primary school.

Oona, the founding spirit of Aarohi, left us prematurely in 1996. Her direction set the foundation for change, and the processes continued to expand in ever increasing circles to involve more and more people.

The organization is headquartered in Satoli, a village 6,000 feet above sea level, in Nainital District. Its over two-decade journey has been one of trials and tribulations, but also of much excitement and growth.

Once-sleepy Satoli is today a buzzing node of grassroots action that has, in some way or other, touched the lives of over 50,000 people in hundreds of villages.

The area and its challenges

Culturally unique, the region is inhabited by communities which live in harmony with the nature. Farming is household based subsistence farming, with little to no marketable surplus. Over years, they have learnt to manage the fragile mountain ecosystem and cope with the hardships synonymous to mountain existence. The art, the architecture, the agricultural practices, the conservation and management of natural resources, the frugal technologies; the very way of life has been shaped through generations of interaction with these mountains.

The mountain people are amongst the most disadvantaged people, anywhere in the world. Harsh climate, difficult terrain and poor access hamper development in the region. Being away from the centre of commerce and power, the communities here remain on the periphery. Migration is one of the highest in the mountains. Health, especially of the women and children is compromised. Poor infrastructure makes access to services difficult. Oppressive social practices and traditions further reduce the scope for change.

Development work takes a different dimension and scale here.