JEEVIKA: A Journey towards Empowering Rural Poor
Authors: Kirti, Pankaj Kr. Mandal and Mukesh Kumar

Rural men and women, especially in poor households engage in diverse and multiple activities to improve their livelihoods by maximizing income generating activities, while minimizing vulnerability and risk and achieving other household objectives (improved health, nutrition and education etc.). These activities may include farm, non-farm and other nonagricultural activities, often linked with other activities carried out by rural as well as non-rural households. The effectiveness and profitability of these diverse livelihood systems will vary depending on the general development environment, each household member’s access to and control of the asset base, their productive and reproductive roles and responsibilities, their capabilities and their linkages with other rural and urban sectors (Geetha, 2007).

The rapid changes at the macro level that India witnessed since the early nineties has contributed to the instability of the livelihood systems of the poorer section of both rural and urban households. While the benefits of globalization process have largely accrued to the urban sector growth the rural sector has been left behind. Slowdown in agricultural growth and productivity, changing cropping patterns, increase in distress migration, changing consumption patterns, government policies favoring industrial houses, among others have seriously undermined the food and livelihood security of the poorer households. An integrated, multidimensional and holistic approach to poverty eradication efforts is crucial to preserve and enhance the livelihoods of the poor.The government of India and various State Governments have been implementing various programmes for rural uplift. However, rural poverty and unemployment still persist in the country. This problem is becoming severe and acute. Considering the gravity and intensity of the problem, many Voluntary Development Organizations (VDOs) have come forward with different programmes for the rural poor in the country. These agencies undertake various innovative programmes and schemes to address the issue of poverty and unemployment prevailing in our country (Vijayachandran and Harikumar, 2006).

The developmental organizations around the world are acting as agencies for bringing changes in less developed areas. The United Nations and its millennium development goals, the World Bank and other international agencies act as global agencies of action. While at national level the Government of India along with the state governments is also planning various programmes for development of marginalized and of rural areas. The synergy between state and society has been identified as catalyst for development by experts (Evans, 1996).

Any macro initiatives targeted at increased employment and income generation opportunities or that of social interventions like education or health is likely to impact the poverty scenario. However, this trickledown theory has very limited impact of addressing poverty. Thus, poverty alleviation demands programmes that aim to directly help the poor, instead of the entire population. Considering this, the government had launched various poverty alleviation programmes such as Swaranjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) and Bihar Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (BREGP), Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) etc. Programmes directly targeting poor families and supporting their livelihoods promotion hold a major promise to trigger pro-poor growth. However, the past record of implementation of these programmes has not been very successful and the pro-poor growth that they were supposed to generate has actually not taken place.

There was a significant shift in focus when in 1999 the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) was transformed to Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY). The strategy of self employment through organizing poor into Self Help Groups (SHGs) became the cornerstone of the new strategy. An overview of the implementation of SGSY over the last ten years throws up a mixed picture. There is a widespread acceptance in the country for the need of SHGs as a pre-requisite for poverty reduction. In the last 10 years about 250 lakh rural BPL households have been organized and brought under the SHG network. However, it has also brought into focus shortcomings like vast regional variations in mobilization of rural poor, insufficient capacity building of beneficiaries, insufficient investments for building community institutions, weak linkages with the banks leading to low credit mobilization, lack of repeat financing and lack of dedicated manpower to implement the programme. The focus on single livelihoods activity has not met the multiple Livelihoods requirements of the poor. Furthermore, several states have not been able to fully utilize the funds received under SGSY, indicating a lack of appropriate delivery systems and lack of building necessary absorption capacity among the rural poor. Absence of aggregate institutions in the form of SHG federations precluded the poor from accessing higher order support services for productivity enhancement, marketing linkage, risk management, etc. The rural poverty situation in India is highly complex and greatly differentiated by geography, demography and social class. Nearly 60 percent of the rural poor households are concentrated in the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. These states lag behind several others not only in terms of per capita income but also in human development outcomes. The share of employment in agriculture and allied activities ranges from 68.9 percent in Bihar to 60.6 percent in Uttar Pradesh. Agriculture is predominantly small holder based in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. Notwithstanding the preponderance of small holder agriculture, the yields of most crops in these states are low compared to all-India average crop yields.

Bihar is one of the poorest and most populous states in India. On Human Development Index, Bihar stands at the bottom among the Indian states. The per capita income of the state is the lowest in the country and ranked as 7 th poorest with 42.56% of its population below poverty line. The literacy rate is 47.53% that is much below the national average of 65.4%. Demographic indicators like birth rate and infant mortality rate are also high which reflects poor social service delivery. Less economic opportunities due to limited infrastructural development etc. leads towards highly disadvantaged social and economic conditions.

Taking cognizance of the enormity of problem, the government of Bihar has initiated a project Jeevika-Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Project in six districts of Bihar viz. Nalanda, Gaya, Khagaria, Muzaffarpur, Madhubani and Purnia in 2007.Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project or JEEVIKA (which means livelihood in Sanskrit) is implemented by Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (BRLPS), an independent society of Government of Bihar with support from the Government of India, Government of Bihar and the World Bank with a financial outlay of Rs.9200 Crore (nearly US$ 2 billion). The organization has been designated as the State Rural Livelihoods Mission (SRLM) to rollout National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) in Bihar.

Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project (BRLP) is an ambitious project of the Government of Bihar for the alleviation of poverty in the State. The objective of the project is to provide right & equal opportunities for livelihoods for rural community especially poor. Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society under overall Framework of National Rural Livelihoods Mission to scale up the JEEVIKA model of poverty alleviation through-out the all 534 blocks of 38 district of Bihar in a phased manner. Over a period of 10years, State Rural Livelihood Mission mandate is to mobilize 1.25 crores rural House Holds into 10 Lakhs Self Help Groups, 65000 Village Organizations and 1600 Community Level Federations. Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society through the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project (BRLP) aims to improve rural livelihood options and works towards social and economic empowerment of the rural poor and women. The BRLP intervenes with the community through the following four themes or programmes: Institution and capacity building, social development, microfinance and livelihood interventions.

The project is based on developing a multi-tiered, self-sustaining model of Community Based Organizations (CBO) who manages their own development process. The strategy is to buildup horizontally a large number of primary level women based SHGs of rural poor. The project first capitalizes these SHGs through investing a part of the Community Investment Fund (CIF) in order to supplement the savings of the groups. The groups are linked to the commercial banks for low cost loans. In the next stage, these primary level SHGs are federated at the village level to form Village Organizations (VO). The VOs receive funds, a large part of which is spent on meeting the food and health expenses. In the next level, the VOs have formed a cluster and block level community institutions. These federations are responsible for promoting livelihood activities. Lastly, a set of service providers is positioned through partnerships, who establish linkages with resource agencies for implementing the plans and ensuring economic and social empowerment of poor people.

Focus is being given on intensification and diversification of the multi–sectoral activities for strengthening the existing livelihoods activities and also initiated new activities. A large number of specific farm and non-farm based livelihood activities being undertaken and provided the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in each sub-sector. A majority of the non-farm sector activities occur in smaller geographical clusters with specific caste based community groups employed in them. Among agro based intervention system of crop intensification, Participatory varietals selection and promotion programme, dairy, poultry, beekeeping, makhana, fisheries are being covered and among non-agro based interventions such as agarbatti -making ,textile, handicraft etc. are being practiced in project covered area. Social transformation in the rural sector has got a significant place in the rural development project. It has been said that despite achieving a great success these projects could generate a little life among the rural people. There are hundreds of developmental projects to reach crores of farmers in lakhs of villages which are involved in rural livelihood promotion.

The aforesaid information reveal that livelihood development programmes play a crucial role in mobilizing and motivating the rural poor to take different interventions. The efforts for programmed changed are going all over the world. But it is important to look back and find out the effects these programmes are creating at ground level. It is important to know the effect of these programmes on rural life, other than achieving the envisioned targets


1. Geetha, K. (2007). Impact of Bharatiya Agro-Industries Foundation (BAIF) Programmes on Livelihoods of women beneficiaries in north Karnataka. M.Sc. (Agri.) Thesis, Univ. Agric. Sci., Dharwad.

2.Evans, P. (1996). Government action, social capital and development: reviewing the evidence on synergy. World development, 24(6), pp.1119-1132.

About Author / Additional Info:
My self is Assistant Professor cum Junior Scientist at Department of Agricultural Extension and communication
Ranchi Agriculture College, Birsa Agricultural University, Ranchi, Jharkhand