$130 million World Bank aid for 300,000 village homes in NE India

New Delhi : The World Bank Board of Executive Directors today approved a US$130 million credit to finance the Government of India’s (GOI) efforts to empower rural communities in the growth-deficient North East (NE) region to improve their livelihood opportunities.

The North East Rural Livelihoods Project (NERLP) seeks to support the rural poor, especially women, unemployed youth and the severely disadvantaged, in four North Eastern states to improve their standard of living by establishing sustainable community institutions and enhancing their livelihoods.

Despite its rich natural resources and relatively good human development indicators, the NE region lags behind the rest of India in important parameters of growth. Almost 35 percent of its predominantly rural population lives below the poverty line; agricultural productivity is low; and high school drop-out rates and lack of skills have led to high unemployment among the youth.

This low-growth scenario is exacerbated by problems of geographical inaccessibility, protracted insurgency in some areas, and recurring natural disasters. Recognizing the urgent need to put economic growth on track in the NE, the Government of India developed the North Eastern Region (NER) Vision 2020, endorsed by all NE states.

The Vision envisages using a partnership-approach with all relevant stakeholders to make interventions responsive to people’s needs and aspirations for a better quality of life.

The NERLP will be implemented in eight districts of the four participating states- Aizawl and Lunglei in Mizoram; Peren and Tuensang in Nagaland; South, West and 15 Panchayat wards of East District in Sikkim; and West and North Districts in Tripura.

“The Government of India is committed to address the development challenges facing the NE states and we hope that the World Bank’s experience in rural livelihood projects worldwide will help improve livelihood opportunities for the rural poor in the region,” said Roberto Zagha, Country Director, World Bank. “The Project will hinge on people’s participation, and village communities will be helped to design livelihood programs that can improve their lives.”

The Project seeks to develop an institutional platform for the communities, which will help them link up with the private sector, public sector, and civil society and to acquire the institutional, technical, and financial capacity needed for improving their livelihoods. Global development experience shows that absolute poverty can be overcome by equipping a member of the household (especially a youth) with employable skills and job creation.

A separate activity for skills development and job placement has thus been included in the project to ensure that such opportunities are available to the rural poor.

Some livelihood opportunities envisaged under the Project include natural resource management activities such as forest management, non-timber forest produce storage and processing, horticulture, preservation of riverine fishes, water harvesting and recharging of ground/surface water in the villages; Community-based infrastructure activities like upgrading of small agricultural link roads, micro hydro-power schemes, wind-cum-solar mills, to name a few.

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