Ruchinilo Kemp Shares Insights from SBI Youth for India Fellowship


Ruchinilo Kemp, Co-Founder of Kenono Foundation in Nagaland, is dedicated to Community Biodiversity Conservation, Conservation Enterprises, and Cooperatives. Through Kenono Foundation, he actively promotes ecotourism and biodiversity conservation in Nagaland, playing a vital role in environmental preservation and community development.

Recently, Kemp shared his experiences from the SBI Youth for India Fellowship, highlighting the valuable lessons learned and the impact it had on his work towards sustainable development in Nagaland.

Question: How has your SBI Youth for India Fellowship experience shaped your understanding of rural development?

Ruchinilo Kemp: The Youth for India (YFI) is a unique 13-month-long Fellowship programme of the SBI Foundation that aims to provide a framework for India’s aspiring youth to join hands with rural communities, empathise with their struggles and connect with their aspirations. The YFI Fellowship is an excellent opportunity for the educated and urban youth to create a positive change at the grassroots level in rural India. During my stint as an SBI Youth for India Fellow, working in rural communities was a turning point in my life. Once I engaged with the communities, I realised that it was in line with my life’s calling and purpose. I learned and grew profoundly through such interactions. I also realised that this was the best way to utilize my education and capabilities to work in the community. Besides, I have a deep-rooted passion for engaging with social and environmental issues which was a result of the upbringing my parents gave me right from childhood to see the intrinsic value of community engagement as the core purpose of life. Furthermore, the voluntary community biodiversity conservation efforts of my village Sendenyu since 2001 hugely molded me towards my outlook on the environment and sustainability as a central pillar for community development. As I matured, I have witnessed the challenges faced by people in Nagaland and feel a strong desire to contribute to their well-being and development as a youth from the region.In my opinion, the social development sector plays a crucial role in addressing issues and elevating the quality of life for individuals and communities.

Question: In which state did you undertake your fellowship and what thematic areas did you focus on ?

Ruchinilo Kemp: I participated in the SBI Youth for India fellowship program from 2015 to 2016, during which I worked with Seva Mandir, an NGO based in Rajasthan. My fellowship project was on Agri-tech titled ‘Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Agroecosystem’ to provide farmers with a digital interface to report pests and diseases to agriculture experts as well as sharing best practices with fellow farmers. It aimed to provide a digital participatory learning and monitoring and evaluation platform to Farmers, Non-Government Organisations, Research Institutes, and Policy institutions.

Question: As the Co-Founder of Kenono Foundation, what strategies do you employ for holistic community development in Nagaland ?

Ruchinilo Kemp: Kenono Foundation is a community-led organization founded in the year 2022 in Nagaland to usher in a vision of collective ownership and responsibility for holistic community development of forest-dependent communities in Nagaland and surrounding areas. It is promoted by Zunpha Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd. a cooperative movement started by the Rengma Community in 1981. Kenono’s key programmatic area is strengthening the capacities of the local communities for biodiversity and developing ‘conservation enterprise’ models to support local conservation and create precedence for scalability and policy.

Question: Can you elaborate on the specific initiatives you’ve launched for the benefit of local communities ?

Ruchinilo Kemp: At the Kenono Foundation, our work is centred around three key themes: Community Biodiversity Conservation, Conservation Enterprises, and Cooperative Development, exemplified by projects like Strengthening Community-Conserved Areas in Nagaland, the Zunpha Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd., Tseminyu District Green Initiatives, and Tseminyu and Coffee: A Brewing Tango. These initiatives aim to empower communities, promote sustainable business models, nurture environmental harmony, and support economic livelihoods through initiatives like coffee cultivation.

Question: Could you elaborate on your collaboration with local coffee farmers to promote sustainable cash crops?

Ruchinilo Kemp: Our collaboration with local coffee farmers in Tseminyu has turned coffee cultivation into a viable major source of income. The major role of this initiative is to promote sustainable cash crops. Initially, a small-scale endeavour, coffee gained momentum in 2015 with government support. Now, with over 200 farmers and 3.2 lakh coffee plants, it has emerged as a primary cash crop for the Rengma community. We provide market linkage and guaranteed purchase of coffee from the farmers and also provide training and capacity building on the harvest and processing of coffee, supporting both economic growth and biodiversity conservation.

Question: How does the Zunpha Multipurpose Cooperative Society contribute to grassroots-level social development ?

Ruchinilo Kemp: The vision of Zunpha MPCS Ltd. is to be a resource agency and train local communities for entrepreneurship to uplift and empower their lives. It is a youth-led cooperative society with over 70% of members and employees within the age of 35 years. It is a multi-service Coop centre that provides quality products and services to the community and employment opportunities to young people bringing the huge unemployment gap. Its core businesses are manufacturing & production of Garments, Carpentry, Poultry, and Honey, in addition to Service & marketing of Printing Press and Coffee and Custom hiring of JCB, School Bus, and Pick-up. It provides skill and entrepreneurship development training to young people, cooperatives and producer groups to provide our rural and semi-urban populations with a mechanism to mobilise and build business models that will boost specific local and regional needs.

Question: How do you plan to motivate young people to pursue careers in the social development sector?

Ruchinilo Kemp: Over the past two decades, there has been a notable surge in community-driven conservation efforts in our state, focusing on preserving biodiversity, protecting wildlife, and adapting to climate change. This period has also seen a collaborative effort to develop a community development model that integrates the preservation of our natural heritage with the evolving needs of our communities, both economically and culturally. However, the scope for conservation remains vast, with challenges threatening the rapid loss of biodiversity and the fragmentation of community-based conservation initiatives. Inspired by these challenges, I embarked on a journey to empower local communities through conservation exercises. By engaging and involving communities in conservation efforts, we aim to create a sustainable future that balances environmental preservation with socio-economic development. Our vision is to nurture an environment that provides an equitable quality of life in harmony with nature for all its citizens. To my fellow youths interested in the social sector, I encourage you to consider joining the Youth for India fellowship program. The YFI is currently accepting registrations for Batch 12 until May 31st and the interested graduated, or working professionals can login and register through Through this program, you can contribute your passion, skills, and dedication to building a better world for yourself and future generations. Together, we can create meaningful change in the lives of our communities and those in need of our assistance. Just as it has been for me, I believe that if you truly embark on this journey with a clear conviction it will be one of your biggest learning curve, it will transform your life and you will be an agent of change to your community and also to the world

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