This study evaluate the impact of the Jeevika project in Bihar and suggests strategies for further development of community-based development interventions.
Institutional platform of ‘women-based’ community organisations, such as Self Help Groups (SHGs), play an important role in promoting women’s access to livelihood opportunities. Such community-driven interventions operate on the principle of a community (or women) taking control of the development process, resources and decision-channels. One such project, under the purview of the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), is the Bihar Rural Livelihoods Project (BRLP) in Bihar or the Project JEEViKA. This study attempted to understand i) the role of stakeholders in implementing JEEViKA’s livelihoods intervention, ii) how each player influences the success of the initiative, and iii) what factors influence women’s decisions to participate in the livelihoods intervention.
The study was conducted in six blocks of three districts of Bihar. Within each district, two blocks were systematically identified as “intensive” areas by the Project. From each intensive block, four villages were randomly selected, to reach a total of 24 villages. The research objectives of the study were designed to complement the requirements of the JEEViKA officials, as well as to add value to both implementers and policy makers through research findings. In each village, 47 Resource Persons were interviewed, out of which, 31 specialized in farm-based interventions, nine in poultry farming, four in Agarbatti or incense making activity, and three in dairy interventions. In each village, four members of a VO were randomly selected for the interview. 131 VO members from 24 villages were interviewed. In each village, 25-26 SHG members were randomly selected and interviewed, to reach a total of 613 SHG members.
Findings from the study indicate that despite opportunities and systematic community-driven handholding support from the government for more than four years, there is still limited participation of women in the livelihoods programme. While the constraints to the adoption of livelihoods intervention involve factors such as limited access to information, low willingness to take risks, and inadequate resources, it was observed that women’s decisions were influenced by their cultural beliefs, perceived opportunity cost of the intervention, and handholding support they receive from the government. Likewise, despite access to free or subsidized seeds, and other technical support for the kitchen garden, only 4% of women adopted it, as they perceived the technique would require extra time and energy, without actually generating an immediate income.
Overall, insights from the study suggest that the livelihoods intervention programmes promoted by the Project align with the needs of the rural women from marginal families in Bihar. However, well-designed interventions do not guarantee participation and further research is needed to examine barriers and factors that influence women’s readiness to participate in the programme.