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Developing Block-level Plans for Livelihood Promotion through NREGA - Examples; Advice

by ruchita last modified Jan 31, 2014 10:04 PM

May 22, 2009

Following is the extracted text posted as a consolidated reply, to the Work and Employment Community of Solutions Exchange, to the query received from Jagveer Singh, Samajik Prerna and Gramin Vikas Sansthan (SPGVS), Tonk, Rajasthan on May 22, 2009

Dear Members,

I work with Samajik Prerna and Gramin Vikas Sansthan (SPGVS) that works on Natural Resource Management, Reproductive and Sexual Health, and Agriculture Development in Tonk and Jaipur districts of Rajasthan.

The organization has been working in 32 villages of Malpura, Phaji and Dudu blocks. The area we work in is predominantly rainfed with only one assured crop a year with an average land holding of 2-3 hectares. Besides agriculture, livestock rearing is another major occupation of the people in our region. The area is marked by a poor vegetative cover with dry and loose top soil layer susceptible to wind erosion, poor agricultural productivity, degraded pasturelands, lack of water/fodder for livestock and mass migration.

We have focused on pastureland development and on promoting agricultural practices like seed selection. We also worked for development of water resources and set up village level management committees to ensure proper use of surface and ground water. We function through a Block Level Task Force (BLTF) that is responsible for executing the work in the villages. The BLTF has now been approached by the Sub-divisional Officer (SDO) to help prepare a plan to use National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) for livelihood promotion of the villagers in these three blocks. Once we submit the plans for the three blocks, we will train Panchayat functionaries for proper implementation of the plans.

In this context, we request members to let us know:

  • Given the occupation and land type in the region, how can we best use NREGA for maximum livelihood enhancement of the people in the area?
  • What can be the basis of prioritizing activities like development of water sources for animals, pastureland development, development of water bodies for irrigation, planting fodder trees for animals etc.? 
  • Your inputs would help us in preparing practical block level plans for using NREGA for livelihood promotion and enhancement.

Summary of Responses

Natural Resource Management (NRM) and Micro enterprise development are two broad livelihood approaches where the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) funds can be used effectively. The Block level livelihood plans for Tonk and Jaipur Districts of Rajasthan can focus on these approaches. The plan can include specific Theme-based livelihoods for agri-allied activities such as dairying or value-added processing of a local product where economies of scale are realized. They can also incorporate a Natural Resource Management (NRM)-focused Watershed Approach. The watershed approach practiced by development organizations such as Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN) and BAIF Development Research Foundation are especially beneficial for rainfed areas such as Tonk and Jaipur. The Agriculture Research Centre/Krishi Vikas Kendras can also serve as resource institutions for guidance in selecting best possible interventions specific to the agro-climatic conditions of Tonk and Jaipur districts.

The agriculture or livestock based interventions can include works that are given top priority in NREGS. These are water conservation, water harvesting, irrigation canals, land development, orchard development drought proofing and afforestation. The plan can factor in the special provisions for SC/ST families in NREGS so as to effectively utilize these in the works taken up with such families.

Micro enterprise-based livelihoods for individuals or groups can be promoted using NREGS funds. This was done in Madhya Pradesh. This fund can also help to provide value addition services like marketing or skill trainings that provide a livelihood option as in Tamil Nadu. Skill training along with placement services for people who do not want to pursue any entrepreneurial activity is yet another livelihood option.

The selection of a specific approach in a livelihood promotion strategy at Block level is merely the beginning of developing a livelihood plan. The selection of activities is an important aspect of the process of planning and implementing. The needs and opinion of the people must have a decisive say in this. A participatory process that includes members from various groups and categories within the community may be initiated. Other village-level stakeholders such as the Panchayat members and the NREGS functionaries may also be encouraged to be part of this participatory decision-making. Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) is a well-known method to engender participatory decision-making processes in the community. It is a way to know about the various community groups as also the resources available in the village. It helps the planners to listen to the entire spectrum of community’s voices including those of the socially excluded and financially disadvantaged. It is important to consider how the proposed activity is likely to affect dalits, women and other marginalized groups before deciding on them. Some specific PRA tools that can be used in this exercise are:

Participatory Livelihood Mapping: This would help to prioritize the works implemented under NREGS. These can be activities to promote new livelihoods or strengthen the existing ones. New and innovative livelihood activities after assessment of the resource base of the village or the skills of the people may be taken up for promoting technical know-how, investment support, marketing linkages etc.

Wealth Ranking: This helps identify the poor and the poorest in the village

Problem Tree: Provides an understanding of the cause and effect relation and ranking of issues
After incorporating people’s voices in the plan, inputs from technical experts and development practitioners with experience in livelihood promotion may help to improve the plan. However, apart from identifying and prioritizing these specific livelihood activities, it is important to have an estimate of the labor force available for a year, the ratio of labor and material component in the project, and the availability in the NREGS allocation for the area for both. Activities should be planned as per budget allocation and flow of funds. The plan should take cognizance of the staff shortage in NREGS. It should factor in the possible consequences of lack of adequate human resources for project implementation. It should also have a component for monitoring of the NREGS activities. The best way to achieve proper monitoring is for villagers to demand transparency and accountability from the NREGS functionaries. The villagers, in turn should be informed of the various activities and provisions of the NREGS through awareness campaigns.

To conclude, attention to the following five issues is crucial for developing successful block level plans:

  • Participation of communities in the process of deciding the priorities.
  • Inclusion, access and control of marginalized, such as dalits, women, disabled and others to work and assets created.
  • Proper planning for labor and material used in absolute amounts as well as their proportion in the financial budget.
  • Factoring in for the shortage of technical staff in the NREGS machinery of the Government and if possible having contingency arrangement.
  • Community oversight of NREGA

Related Resources

  • Implementing Integrated Natural Resource Management Projects under the National Employment Guarantee Act (from Mohd. Adil, Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), Hyderabad)
  • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) West Bengal - A Study of Sustainable Livelihood Models, Report by Karthik Raghavan, Niki Singh, Saswata Das, Shardul Bist, Subhamoy Das, Unnati Gajjar, Veena Singh, Vibha Singh; Mudra Institute of Communications, Entrepreneurship Development Cell; September 2008. Available at (PDF 9 MB). Analyzes the effectiveness of the sustainable water harvesting models proposed to Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) to get befitted into the NREGA scheme.
  • Livestock Development for Sustainable Livelihood of Small Farmers, Report; by Mr. N. G. Hegde BAIF Development Research Foundation; Pune. The report outlines the major challenges facing the livestock development sector in India and suggests strategies for livestock development for benefiting small farmers.
  • NREGA Must Create Sustainable Livelihood, Say Indian Experts, Press Release; 22 May 2008. Available at Stresses on the need to develop region specific guidelines and planning processes for succesful implementation of NREGA with active involvement of people and panchayats.
  • Implementation of NREGA - The Rajasthan Experience, Powerpoint Presentation; by Mr. Ram Lubhaya; Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department, Government of Rajasthan Available at Captures the achievements as well as the drawbacks in the implementation of NREGA and stresses on the significance of decentralized planning processes.