The Kudumbashree Story

Community Network

Malappuram CDS Model

The Alappuzha CDS model was essentially a town based one. The Malappuram CDS model applied the same strategy for community organisation for the Community Based Nutrition Project (CBNP) and the Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP). A common feature with Alappuzha was UNICEF support; the project started functioning in Malappuram district from September 1994. Replication or application of the Alappuzha model posed a challenge as the Malappuram project covered both urban and rural areas; and within rural, the project had to cover some of the most backward areas of the state.

The Malappuram projects had ‘involving the community in the developmental activities to the point that they themselves took the initiative’ as one of the objectives. It also wanted to ‘build the necessary flexibility in the schemes to respect the perceptions and priorities of the community’. Another objective was stated as ‘sensitising front line workers and other government officials across the sectors to the needs and aspirations of the community.

Clearly, the promoters of the project had built in the community development angle into the project and had selected the CDS route for its implementation.

The Government of Kerala and UNICEF, while deciding to extend the town based model of Alappuzha CDS to the rural areas of Malappuramdid not attempt a mere replication of the model.

The Malappuram model had the following distinct features

  • A five tier structure
    1. NHGs
    2. ADS at ward level
    3. CDS at local government level
    4. Block level CDS
    5. District level CDS
  • Pronounced role of a promoter
    • The district level CDS, a registered charitable society
  • A common platform of people and bureaucracy
    • District collector was the head of the district CDS

The community mobilisation processes were characterised by the following factors

  • Large number of dedicated volunteers from the Total Literacy Mission of the Government of Kerala took key role in community mobilisation and building up of community organisation
  • UNICEF played a catalytic role, similar to the one in Alappuzha
  • Continuous support by NABARD
  • A massive training programme developed and supported by the UNICEF and the UPA Cell, and implemented with support from the Loyola Extension Service, Government of Kerala’s Health Department, and NABARD.

Structure of the Community Organisation


  • Neighbourhood groups of 20 to 40 risk families
  • Due to the diverse nature of the area covered by the project, there were NHGs with just 10 families; on the other extreme, there were NHGs with 50 to 70 families.

Five member NHG Committees with

  • President
  • Secretary
  • Volunteer (Health)
  • Volunteer (Education)
  • Volunteer (Infrastructure)

Area Development Societies (ADS)

  • Federations of NHGs at ward level

The five member committee of all the NHGs within the ADS constituted the General Body of the ADS.

ADS had a Governing Committee comprising the following members:

  • Chairperson
  • Vice Chairperson
  • 7 members
  • Ward member and ICDS supervisor are members of ADS without voting rights.

Panchayat CDS (PCDS)

  • The key link in the organisational structure of the rural CDS system
  • CDS General Body comprised all chairpersons, vice chairpersons, and member secretaries of ADSs in the local government.
  • PHC Medical officer, CDPO, village level worker, and school headmasters of the panchayat were members of PCDS. 

Block CDS

  • All PCDS presidents and member secretaries in the block constituted the CDS at the block level.
  • Block Development Officer (BDO), panchayat secretaries, block engineer, extension officers, local works engineer, assistant education officers and mahilasamajam presidents were ex officio members of the block CDS.
  • A paid Block Coordinator was available for coordination

District CDS

  • All block CDS presidents, town CDS presidents and member secretaries were members.
  • Coordinators of CBNP and Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) Coordinators were honorary members.
  • District CDS was registered as a charitable society.
  • CDS presidents and vice presidents elected from among block and town CDS presidents.
  • District collector was ex officio chairperson
  • District coordinator was member secretary


The NHG volunteers along with three functionaries – Associate Panchayat Coordinator and two Community Organisers per panchayat – constituted the mainstay of the Malappuram CDS structure.

The CDS Model Spreads

Certain important landmarks in the evolution of the CDS system at a larger scale, beyond Kerala have been the following.


  • Prime Minister’s Integrated Urban Poverty Eradication Programme (PM UPEP)
  • Leads to the extension of the CDS Model to 345 Class II Towns in the country; Nine towns in Kerala were selected under the programme.


  • Swarna Jayanti ShahariRozgarYojana (SJSRY) announced in the 50th year of independence.
  • As a unified urban poverty eradication programme replacing NRY, UBSP, and PM UPEP, SJSRY’s emphasis was on self-employment and wage employment for urban poor.
  • Scheme incorporated some of the important aspects of the CDS system.
  • Urban poor identified on the basis of the non-economic criteria followed in the Kerala CDS model; the criteria were used after rationalisation.
  • CDS made nodal agency for implementation of SJSRY



The references to the CDS Model and process in the guidelines of SJSRY showed the increasing recognition that the model had gained in delivering programmes for the improvement of the quality of life of the poor and in empowering women.



The five tier structure of the Malappuram CDS had raised doubts about its sustainability. The block CDS was seen by many as redundant in the structure. The district CDS was functioning more like an NGO promoting and supporting SHGs. Eventually, the community organisation in Malappuram got rationalised into a three tier structure. The advisory committees at the ADS and CDS levels did not work in many places, and slowly became defunct.

The thrift and credit societies (TCS) within the CDS system emerged as a mainstay of the system in several places. While RBI’s guidelines on commercial bank lending to informal SHGs helped in establishing bank linkages, NABARD’s experience since 1986 in working initially with the credit management groups of MYRADA, and later with the SHGs helped NABARD in taking a more supportive role, especially in training support, in both Alappuzha and Malappuram.

Urban Poverty Alleviation Fund Scheme 1994

After the decision to extend the CDS project to cover all the 94 Grama Panchayats and five Municipalities in the district, the next big leap for the CDS concept was the Urban Poverty Alleviation Fund Scheme of 1994. The Government of Kerala set up a State Urban Poverty Alleviation (UPA) Project Cell for the implementation of the scheme by extending the CDS project to all the urban local governments of the State. The State Government earmarked funds for the programme under Section 284 of Kerala Municipalities Act; UPA fund was earmarked in every municipality for the scheme.

Every municipality had to form a municipal level UPA Cell and set aside two percent of the estimated annual revenue for the UPA scheme. UPA Fund was designated as the point of convergence for all the funds that the municipalities received under the centrally sponsored schemes such as Environmental Improvement of Urban Slums (EIUS), Nehru RozgarYojana (NRY), Low Cost Sanitation (LCS) programme etc; all the funds under other urban poverty alleviation schemes of the central and state governments were also credited to the UPA Fund.

Project Officer of UPA scheme was designated as the member secretary of the CDS. Activities of the UPA Cells were coordinated by the State level UPA Project Cell.

On formation of Kudumbashree Mission, the State UPA Cell was merged with the mission. It was with the government order approving the new byelaw for the CDS system under Kudumbashree in 2008 that the current CDS system fell in place.