Rural Futures
Our Story

Over the years of working closely with communities on the ground, the Balipara Foundation and i-Behind the Ink have met and worked with remarkable, determined young leaders who have worked against the odds for their local ecosystems. These youth are extraordinary individuals, taking bold risks and abandoning the safety net of traditional urbanised careers to do something for their communities and the environment. Their commitment and dedication have inspired communities to protect and restore ecosystems and to build new, sustainable businesses for themselves.

About Us

For many youth across the Eastern Himalaya, these high barriers and risks and an ongoing rural economic crisis force them to migrate outward to urban areas for jobs that can support their families. 68% of youth in the Eastern Himalaya live in rural areas and face high levels of unemployment because of limited opportunities and skills. In cities, these young people struggle with high costs of living, little to no social support or community. Many express the desire to return back to their communities and work for them, but lack the resources and means to do so.

Launched in 2022, the Rural Futures Fellowship was co-incubated by i-Behind the Ink & Balipara Foundation in recognition of this twofold need: to create a network of young leaders who can rewild degraded lands and combat the climate crisis across the Eastern Himalaya and to plug the gap between resources and skills and the young people who need them the most. Harnessing their respective strengths, the Balipara Foundation and i-Behind the Ink jointly built a programme that covers the 360 degree development of a young environmental leader.

The Fellowship

The Rural Futures Fellowship is a one of a kind international 18 month immersive training programme in which rural and indigenous youth from four Eastern Himalayan countries are introduced to the philosophy, practice and science of rewilding, regenerative agriculture and community-led conservation practices. Through 6 semesters of intensive training, passionate young environmentalists get hands on learning in the key technical and core skills needed to effectively rewild their lands, co-create solutions with rural & indigenous communities and build key local capacities to restore both forest and agricultural lands.

At the end of their residential fellowship, the Fellows embark on their own entrepreneurial journey, developing their own models and businesses for rewilding and conservation. Over a six month journey, they learn the ins and outs of managing an organization. At the end of the fellowship, Fellows competitively pitch for mini-grants to rewild 100 hectares of land, to launch their journey. Successful fellows will use the grant across the Eastern Himalayas, with continued mentorship from the Balipara Foundation & i-Behind the Ink teams as they embark on their journey as rewilding entrepreneurs.

Scaling for Action

The first cohort of the Fellowship began in October 2023 after an extensive selection process, with a group of 10 Fellows from across Assam, Nepal and Eastern & Central India.

The opportunity for scale

Through the Fellowship, i-Behind the Ink and Balipara Foundation see the potential to seed young leaders who can reverse the story of ecological and economic decline in the Eastern Himalayas. By scaling restoration capabilities, we see the opportunity to scale restoration rapidly – not just through programmes in the North East of India, but across the region and beyond, customized to the specific needs of landscapes and contexts

Transformational Impact

685 hectares of forests, 685,000 trees, 250 households covered through agroforestry impacting the lives of 1250 people. Cumulative restoration potential of over 8000 hectares

Outreach & Inclusivity
A platform for rural & indigenous youth

The Rural Futures Fellowship programme is a platform for youth from rural and indigenous communities across India’s Eastern Himalayas (NER), Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh to grow as a next generation of environmental leaders. It seeks to create young entrepreneurs who can revitalize their communities and landscapes by creating a nature-positive economy, tapping into rewilding and sustainability-based entrepreneurship.


The Rural Futures fellowship is inclusive and seeks to build bridges between people regardless of religion, caste, socioeconomic status, ethnic affiliation, age, gender, sexuality or ability. Our fellows are selected for their drive, their commitment to the environment regardless of educational background, and their vision for their communities.

The Partners

I-Behind the Ink, with their experience in youth leadership programmes, oversees the learning journeys of the Fellows and equips them with the skills to be value-driven, action-oriented leaders who can face the climate and ecological crisis head on. As knowledge partner, the Balipara Foundation and I-Behind the Ink brings its experience in rewilding lands, in science and working closely with rural and indigenous communities for community-led conservation to train Fellows to navigate the practical realities of rewilding landscapes and harnessing support for actioning their visions. The programme is supported by a network of partners, including the Great People’s Forest initiative.

  • How many Fellows does the Fellowship take in one batch?
    The current cohort comprises of 10 Fellows, with plans to increase these numbers the future
  • Who can become a Fellow ? What is the composition of the cohort?
    Candidates from India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh are eligible to apply. The selected fellows will be gender-balanced to maintain gender-diversity.For more information , please go through
  • When was the Fellowship Launched?
    The fellowship was launched jointly by i-Behind the Ink and the Balipara Foundation in December 2022 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, at the 10th Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum.
  • RuFu Fellowship is the part of which Parent Organization?
    While the Fellowship was jointly incubated by i-Behind the Ink & Balipara Foundation, the day to day operations of the fellowship are overseen by i-Behind the Ink, with Balipara Foundation serving purely as a knowledge partner that hosts and trains the Fellows during their residential training period.
  • What are the core principles of RuFu Fellowship?
    Horizontal, democractic, scientific leadership - accept and test all ideas equally, encourage everyone at all levels to share ideas and be owners of projects, ground-up learning & listening to all voices including of "beneficiaries", co-creating for change

    Curious engagement with the world - about nature, about people, asking questions about why things are the way they are and why they work the way they do, belief in equality & equal opportunities for all.

    Preserving and restoring the wild - We believe in working with existing wild spaces to restore habitats through scientific afforestation, blending “manmade” landscapes seamlessly back into “wild” spaces.

    Non-disruption - As part of our commitment to working with wild spaces, we are committed to an ethic of non-disruption both to endemic habitats and wildlife and to communities – seeking instead to work alongside their aspirations and practices to effectively restore habitats and create livelihoods.

    Celebrating Community Aspirations - We work in a participatory, bottom-up manner with communities to ensure that all our projects are aligned with community aspirations for socioeconomic mobility to generate effective impact

    Non-discrimination - As part of our commitment to fairness, diversity and equality, we practice a strict ethos of non-discrimination in all our work spaces, seeking to create inclusive spaces for people regardless of gender, class, race, language, ethnicity, religion, caste, sexual orientation and disability
  • How is the Fellowship different than a Job?
    A fellowship gives a life experience while working and learning on a stipened and not a salary which a job offers. Fellows share a co-living space whereas in a job there is a co-living space does not exist. A fellowship is of a fixed tenure and a job is a continual tenure of employment
  • Why should I join RuFu Fellowship?
    RuFu fellowship enables young people to tap into rewildng and sustainibility based entrepreneurship to revitalize communities, local economies and landscapes. Their personal journey will cultivate their awareness and resilience as future practitioners, through the dimensions of self,society,systems and ecosystems to find a meaningful connection in their entrepreneurial journey. The skill building will be a learning on key technical skills and knowledge that will help the fellows to manage rewilding and sustainable agroforestry in collaboration with local communities as well as manage one's own buissness or organization. Fellows will have hands on opportunities to demonstrate their skills they learn under the guidance of IBTI team and as they pilot their own project with a 10 hectare rewilding project in their community
  • What does RuFu Fellowship looks for in a fellow?
    An ideal Fellow should be asipring, both practically and intellectually, towards environmental sustainability.

    Highly motivated fellows who are ready for working in the field, in remote rural areas, and connecting with communities and social construction of landscapes

    An interest in community-led conservation and management
  • What do the Fellows exactly work on when on the field?
    The fellowship desires rewilding and revegetation. To achieve this, while in the field, the role of fellows would be to to engage in community interaction, mobilisation of resources, building understanding of ground reality,challenges and linkages between nature and economy. In the process of their work they are expected to create a socio-ecological and economical impact
  • What are the eligibility criterias to apply for the Fellowship Program?
    Anybody who has successfully completed 12 years of schooling and is aged between 21-35 can apply
  • Why is the Fellowship Program for 18 months and not 1 year or 2 years?
    The RuFu Fellowship curriculum is designed around one seasonal land restoration cycle, with the Fellows' journey for 12 months following the journey of a rewilding programme from end-to end: from land identification to stakeholder liaison & rapport building to rewilding and agroforestry on the ground. After the 1 year journey immersed on the ground, in the field, 6 months are spent on learning the ins and outs of managing and designing your own sustainable business/organisation and implementing learnings through an entrepreneurial model
  • Rufu Fellowship is part of which parent Organisation?