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What is the objective and outline of the project ?

The objective of BRLP is to enhance social and economic empowerment of the rural poor in Bihar. This objective is sought to be accomplished by improving rural livelihoods and enhancing social and economic empowerment of the rural poor; developing organizations of the rural poor and producers to enable them to access and better negotiate services, credit and assets from public and private sector agencies and financial institutions; investing in capacity building of public and private service providers and playing a catalytic role in promoting development of microfinance and agribusiness sectors. How does the Project work? The core strategy of the BRLP programme is to build vibrant and bankable women's community institutions in the form of self help groups (SHGs), who through member savings, internal loaning and regular repayment become self sustaining organizations. The groups formed would be based on self savings and revolving fund and not on a single dose of community investment fund (CIF) funds for association given as a subsidy. The primary level SHGs would next be federated at the village, by forming village organizations (VOs), then at a cluster level, to become membership based, social service providers, business entities and valued clients of the formal banking system. Such community organizations would also partner a variety of organizations for provided back end services for different market institutions such as correspondents for banks and insurance companies, procurement franchises for private sector corporations and delivery mechanisms for a variety of government programmes. How the project is managed? The Project implements its activities through a block implementation team based in the Block Project Implementation Unit. The efforts of the various BPIUs in a district are coordinated by a District Project Coordination Unit. Overall the Project is managed by a State Project Management Unit based in Patna What is microfinance? "Microfinance" is often defined as financial services for poor and low-income clients. In practice, the term is often used more narrowly to refer to loans and other services from providers that identify themselves as "microfinance institutions" (MFIs). These institutions commonly tend to use new methods developed over the last 30 years to deliver very small loans to unsalaried borrowers, taking little or no collateral. These methods include group lending and liability, pre-loan savings requirements, gradually increasing loan sizes, and an implicit guarantee of ready access to future loans if present loans are repaid fully and promptly. More broadly, microfinance refers to a movement that envisions a world in which low-income households have permanent access to a range of high quality financial services to finance their incomeproducing activities, build assets, stabilize consumption, and protect against risks. These services are not limited to credit, but include savings, insurance, and money transfers.

What is a livelihood? The definition of 'livelihood' has been extensively discussed among academics and development practitioners (see for instance Ellis, 1998, Batterbury, 2001; Chambers and Conway, 1992; Carney, 1998; Bernstein, 1992; Francis, 2000, 2002; Radoki, 2002). There is a consensus that livelihood is about the ways and means of 'making a living'. The most widely accepted definition of livelihood stems from the work of Robert Chambers and Gordon Conway: 'a livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources) and activities required for a means of living'(Carney, 1998:4). Ellis (2000) suggests a definition of livelihood as 'the activities, the assets, and the access that jointly determine the living gained by an individual or household'. Wallman (1984) who did research on livelihoods in London in the early 1980s approached livelihoods as always more than just a matter of finding or making shelter, transacting money, and preparing food to put on the table or exchange in the market place. It is equally a matter of the ownership and circulation of information, the management of social relationships, the affirmation of personal significance and group identity, and the inter relation of each of these tasks to the other. All these productive tasks together constitute a livelihood. For an anthropologist such as Wallman livelihood is an umbrella concept, which suggests that social life is layered and that these layers overlap (both in the way people talk about them and the way they should be analysed). This is an important analytical feature of the notion of livelihoods. One feature that these definitions and interpretations share in common is that they eloquently underline the generally accepted idea that 'livelihood' deals with people, their resources and what they do with these. Livelihoods essentially revolve around resources (such as land, crops, seed, labour, knowledge, cattle, money, social relationships, and so on), but these resources cannot be disconnected from the issues and problems of access and changing political, economic and socio-cultural circumstances. Livelihoods are also about creating and embracing new opportunities. While gaining a livelihood, or attempting to do so, people may, at the same time, have to cope with risks and uncertainties, such as erratic rainfall, diminishing resources, pressure on the land, changing life cycles and kinship networks, epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, chaotic markets, increasing food prices, inflation, and national and international competition. These uncertainties, together with new emerging opportunities, influence how material and social resources are managed and used, and on the choices people make. Why focus on villages and not cities? The majority of the world's poor are rural, and will remain so for several decades. Poverty-reduction programmes must therefore be refocused on rural people if they are to succeed International Fund for Agricultural Development 'Rural Poverty Report 2000/2001 Fact Sheet - The Rural Poor'

While it is the city images of sprawling shacks and slums, children playing on rubbish-strewn railway lines and countless beggars lined up at traffic lights which shock visitors to India, 70% of Indians still live in the rural countryside - where absolute poverty remains widespread. The scale of rural poverty in India remains daunting; a population comparable with the whole of the United States living, and dying, on less than a dollar, about 50p, a day. Most rural villagers are landless labourers; they are dependent on selling their labour during seasonal peaks where rewards are minimal and opportunities are few; the rest of the year they have no regular income. Targeting the rural poor is not just about 'poverty alleviation' - it is about revitalizing village communities and giving young people hope and reasons to stay in their villages. Every year millions of young villagers, usually men, migrate to the cities to seek work, draining talent and energy from the villages, and increasing the stresses on the urban infrastructure. Our Implementing Partner in Orissa claimed: 'Before the training, migration from these villages was a regular feature, but after the training, there has been 100% check on migration of the artisans trained, many of whom are also making their own houses as well as other buildings with local materials'. Jeevika Trust trained 1,200 artisans, including women, in low-cost building skills. Why focus on women? Poverty is not gender-neutral; women enjoy less access to, and control over, land, credit, technology, education, healthcare and skilled work. International Fund for Agricultural Development 'Rural Poverty Report 2000/2001 Fact Sheet - The Rural Poor' Women are routinely discriminated against in India but have a vital role in not only changing their own futures but the futures of their families and the communities around them. Rural women face multiple tasks on a daily basis to secure the lives of themselves and their families. Women typically play a critical role in the financial livelihood of their families, looking after any livestock or crops but also ensuring the domestic duties are completed. Yet women, once empowered by working together in self-help groups and micro-credit groups, have shown they can slowly but surely break free from age-old discrimination and total economic dependence, gain respect, voice their opinions, manage their own micro-enterprises and revitalise their villages. If a woman is able to teach her family to boil water before drinking it, she can protect them against many water-borne diseases. If a woman is able to rear a goat that produces milk and kids she can not only provide a valuable source of nutrition for her family, but is able to pass on the offspring to other families in the community.

What does poverty mean in rural India? It is hard for us in the developed world to relate to the misery faced by hundreds of millions of people in rural India on a daily basis. Women and children especially bear the burdens of family existence. For the more than 280 million people living below the poverty line in rural India this poverty means: Poor access to water and nutrition... women and children walk for miles to find and carry back water for drinking, cooking and washing... 138 million rural people do not have access to clean and safe water Poor access to affordable shelter... from relentless sun and beating monsoon rain... Poor access to health services, health education and sanitation... not knowing 2how to fight off waterborne diseases or be able to prevent malnutrition... 629 million people live without proper sewage systems Poor access to literacy... unable to access written information or to educate children in villages far from the closest primary school... over 50 % of all Indian women cannot read or write, and far more in rural areas Poor access to participation in village decision-making... powerless to claim and exercise human and constitutional rights or to have any say in village affairs Poor opportunities for income generation... not being able to build, or even dream of, a different economic future; no prospect of an escape from discrimination and dependence This is the other face of India. Villagers' access to water, shelter, health, food security, literacy and human dignity is more fragile than ever.