The UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government of India have signed a US $ 105 million financing agreement for a project for Uttarakhand that aims to double rural incomes, reaching over half a million families across the state, a statement from IFAD said on Monday.
It will be done by supporting smallholder farmers, agricultural labourers, and micro and small agribusinesses to start and expand competitive businesses and focus on food production that is climate-resilient.
The Rural Enterprise Acceleration Project (REAP) project builds on the successful Integrated Livelihoods Support Programme (ILSP), which closed in 2021. ILSP helped over 6,50,000 rural people across the state to find sustainable livelihood opportunities, by organising producer groups into self-reliant cooperatives known as livelihood collectives.
Because these livelihood collectives work on scale, they are better positioned to ensure a robust value chain, as well as to access information, credit, technology, and markets.
“Nearly 60 per cent of households reported that their incomes increased by half or even doubled because of ILSP interventions. Rural entrepreneurs are agents of change – they have the potential to accelerate innovation and create wealth. By investing in them and creating the right environment for their businesses to thrive, we help people build prosperous lives for themselves, their families, and their communities,” said Ula Demirag, IFAD country director, India.
Uttarakhand is an extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts and prone to extreme weather events, with cloudbursts and heavy rainfall causing floods and landslides. Based on the ILSP project success, REAP will leverage livelihood collectives to achieve its objectives and will aim to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change by promoting climate-smart agricultural practices, as well as by incorporating measures for efficient use of water.
REAP also aims to address the high rates of migration from Uttarakhand, both seasonal and long-term, because of a lack of job opportunities. “During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, more than 4,20,000 migrants returned to their hometowns and villages because they lost their jobs elsewhere. The project will provide access to technology, finance, and business development services to boost self-employment and wage-employment opportunities for young people,” the statement said.
Sachin Kurve, secretary, Rural Development Department, Government of Uttarakhand, who signed the loan agreement on behalf of the state government, said: “Our goal is to help small-scale farmers adapt their production systems to the changing climate, by prioritising agricultural practices that are more resilient to weather related shocks. At the same time, we invest to bring agricultural production in the state to industrial scale, so that farmers can access markets and we accelerate growth and create employment through value addition.”
“The project will also promote non-farm sectors such as handicrafts, tourism, etc., to diversify the rural economy. It will benefit 560,000 rural households,” he said.