Vicente Ferrer (1920-2009) and Anna Ferrer (1947) founded Rural Development Trust in 1969 in Ananthapuram, in the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh.
Vicente Ferrer landed in Mumbai, India, in 1952 for the first time, and he immediately felt connected to the plight of rural farmers. In 1956, he was ordained as a priest and spent the next 12 years dedicating himself to supporting the farmers, digging wells and building community grassroots teams. But his untraditional methods made him suspicious, and he was ordered to leave the country in 1968.
On April 29, 1968, more than 30,000 rural people marched over 150 miles from Manmad to Mumbai to demand the government to allow Vicente Ferrer to stay in India. That July, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took a stand to support him and his work in the country. He ended up returning to his homeland in Spain while he awaited news from India.
In 1969, he returned to India with the government’s blessing and established the Rural Development Trust in Ananthapuram in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh. In 1970, he left the priesthood, and in the same year he married Anne Perry, who worked as a journalist covering the protests and who would soon become a fundamental pillar to the project.
The couple faced huge challenges in those early days. Located in one of the driest regions in India, Ananthapuram barely supported its inhabitants. For the rural poor, just getting basic nutrition was a daily struggle. They also endured extreme discrimination in a society deeply divided along caste, tribal, and gender lines.
The organization’s main concern was helping the district’s poorest families find work and gain access to food. The founders paid special attention to the most marginalized communities, including dalits; people with disabilities, and women and girls. This focus on the severely underprivileged continues to this day.
1969 – 1970
Vicente and Anne Ferrer founded Rural Development Trust in Ananthapuram.
1970 – 1975
Implemented Food for Work Programme with funding from CASA.
Started Community Organisation, Health and Land Development programmes.
Sponsorship programme with Action Aid; began Education and Cultural programmes.
Launched the Women Sector.
Aide et Accion (AeA) collaborates in the sponsorship programme.
Constituted Women’s Core Team; RDT starts organising people with disabilities into associations and Self Help Groups.
Launched Fundación Vicente Ferrer (FVF) in Spain.
Inaugurated Anantapur Sports Village and upgraded the sport for development programme.
RDT sets up base in the regiosn of Srisailam to work with Chenchu tribes.
Opened the Resource Mobilisation Centre in Mumbai and initiated the Seva Hundi project as part of ‘India for India’.
Reinitiated strategic planning.