The Ministry of Rural Development on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Pradan, a non-governmental organization, to serve as a resource and support organisation for the Rs 4000 crore National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), with a special focus on Naxal-affected districts.

Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh said, after signing the MoU, that the scheme will be implemented in some of the Naxal-affected districts of Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha in the first phase.

Pradan, which is funded by the Ford Foundation and Gates Foundation, will extend its support and expertise in the field of livelihood generation. It will be called the NRLM Support Organisation or the NSO.

Currently, NRLM, which presides over 25 lakh women Self Help Groups (SHGs), aims at creating nearly 60 lakh SHGs over the next five years. The NSO will support State and Central NRLM missions to steer these SHGs.

Mr. Ramesh identified three goals in order to help women farmers groups under the Mahila Krishak Sashaktikaran Yojana increase their earnings by reducing input costs: training SHGs by focussing on issues such as sanitation, setting up community kitchens to tackle malnutrition, and putting an end to trafficking of tribal women by providing them with livelihoods.

Over the next three years, the first project aims at helping 18,000 families by producing and marketing Tasar Silk in Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal with a budget of Rs 50 crore.

The second project, the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana, to be implemented in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Odisha, with a budgetary allocation of approximately Rs 20 crore, will benefit almost 18,000 families. With a special focus on sustainable agriculture, it will be led by women-headed households and is estimated to increase the incomes of SHG’s by a significant 15-20 per cent over the next three years.

The third component of the programme will traingirls for alternative sources of livelihood while the fourth will focus on health and malnutrition problems that will be tackled by mobilising local communities.

Mr. Ramesh said that organisations such as Pradan should work in these areas since government agencies often face challenges in implementing developmental projects owing to threats from Naxals.

NRLM is a programme aimed at reducing poverty by promoting livelihood opportunities for the poor in order to improve their access to financial services.

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