Fostering Business Viability and Environmental Sustainability
Exploitation and degradation of productive resources like land, water and forest negatively affect the livelihood of India’s 450 million rural poor, who are mostly dependent on agriculture. The conventional response to the degradation had been large scale, state sponsored grant programmes. With the realisation that government money alone will not be able to solve the problem; the challenge is to link rural livelihood development with environmental sustainability in a way that allows economic growth through sustainable management, rather than exploitative usage, of precious resources.
UPNRM’s objective is simple yet challenging; reduce poverty by creating livelihood opportunities, increasing farm income, strengthening the agriculture value chain and conserving the natural resources.
Poor people are ready to invest in natural resource-based businesses. Yet, many vulnerable sections of the society (scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women, etc.) remain excluded under the existing private and public financing mechanisms.
The Way Forward - Private Investment in sustainable livelihood activity
To achieve environmental-friendly economic growth across all strata of society, UPNRM supports projects that link natural resource management with livelihood improvements of the rural poor. The Programme’s tailored loans and partnership facilitation supports the Government of India’s thrive to incentivise and augment private sector investments:
(1) “Credit Plus” Facility - Better services than conventional financial products:
The UPNRM ‘credit plus’ facility provides a mixture of financial and technical support comprising of capacity building, marketing, infrastructure support and risk mitigation strategies like insuring assets and the life of the borrower. By ensuring economic viability and sustainability, the risk of loan default is reduced.
(2) Public Private Partnerships (PPP) – Partnering for inclusive and equitable rural investments:
UPNRM supports partnerships between public sector agencies and corporates that link rural businesses (farmer, rural business organisation, etc.) to existing value chains.
Five years after NABARD, with the support of GIZ and KfW, started piloting the approach of shifting natural resource management away from seeing NRM as government’s responsibility and grants to personal responsibility and loans, we can say it’s been a success. UPNRM is -
1) Far reaching: 142 projects have been sanctioned under UPNRM covering more than 271,000 people, in 3,272 villages across 16 states and 1 union territory of India. These numbers are growing every month.
2) Pro-Poor: UPNRM interventions have increased the average annual household income of the beneficiaries by 73% or Rs. 21,200. This provided 55% of the beneficiaries, who lived below the poverty line, a chance to exit the vicious cycle of poverty.
3) Environmentally sustainable: UPNRM improved soil quality and moisture holding capacity in over 21,000 acres of land by introducing environment friendly technologies and practices in agriculture, forestry and associated sectors.
4) Gender-friendly: 56% of all project beneficiaries are women.
5) Inclusive: Around 73% of all UPNRM beneficiaries are from scheduled castes and tribes and other backward castes.
6) Climate Friendly: One of the agro-forestry projects, being implemented by Patneswari Agriculture Cooperative Limited (PACL) in Koraput district, Orissa, has been registered as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is expected to mitigate 33400 tons of carbon dioxide annually.
7) Multi-Sectoral: UPNRM provides financial assistance in the fields of agriculture, agro-forestry, agro-processing, animal husbandry, drinking water, efficient irrigation, fisheries, ecotourism, medicinal plants, marketing of agri-products, non-timber forest produce, organic farming, renewable energy, seed production, System of Rice Intensification (SRI), waste management.
8) Engaging the private sector: Five projects have been sanctioned in public private partnership mode, a model that has not been so far tested for rural development, e.g., the provision of clean water in remote villages in partnership with Waterlife India Pvt. Ltd.