Rural livelihood investments in human capital take two major forms:
Capacity building for empowerment—participatory planning, budgeting, managing finances, etc.; and
Building skills for employment—either increasing and refining current skills in farming or other current jobs or building new skills to broaden employment options.
Each activity fills its own purpose, but both are critical to the success of rural livelihoods programs.
Capacity Building for Empowerment
Providing training and other more innovative types of capacity building (e.g., community-community peer learning and exchange) equip communities with the range of functional, entrepreneurial, administrative, technical and social skills to manage their groups and investments, develop their products, participate in planning, monitoring and decision-making forums, etc.
Building Skills for Employment
The rural poor have limited options when it comes to earning income, but the majority of rural poor still rely on agriculture and natural resources for their living. Depending on the country, that source of income can be diminishing. For instance, Latin American and European countries are urbanizing, while most economies in East and South Asia are transitioning from an agriculture to urban economies, which means that jobs once available in agriculture are no longer there. The strategy for the rural poor, therefore, is to:
- Invest in farming to become competitive; or
- Move out of agriculture.
To increase agricultural competitiveness, rural livelihoods provides technical support for small-holder farmers to increase their productivity, diversity the crops, and get better prices from markets.
The Sujala project in Karnataka, India organizes communities to manage their watershed and natural resource base, while introducing new crops and technologies to help increase production options.
In Andhra Pradesh, farmers in the project have organized and are adopting non-pesticide management agriculture. The institutional development and access to affordable finance help them adopt new practices that are actually lowering input costs while maintaining or increasing yields.
For those that want to or need to move out of farming, livelihoods programs also provide training in other sectors—agribusiness, retail, manufacturing, services, construction, etc.
In Tamil Nadu, the Vazhndhu Kaatuvom Project has forged partnerships with companies like Nokia and private construction companies to provide training and employment for villagers, especially youth.
In Andhra Pradesh, youth employment efforts have connected villagers to jobs as security guards, air hostesses, and more.
Focus on Youth
Many livelihoods programs focus their training and employment efforts on youth within the village, which are often defined as anyone between the ages of 18 and 35. This is often the largest under- or unemployed group within rural villages. Youth can be divided in several subgroups: skilled, unskilled, disabled, those willing to move from the village for work, and those who do not want to or cannot leave the village for work.
Some projects—Gemidiriya, Vazhndhu Kaatuvom, Social Investment Program, and Andhra Pradesh Rural Poverty Reduction—have developed youth databases specifying the skills, locations, training needs, and employment interests that help projects quickly send information to the appropriate village organizations when training and employment opportunities emerge. In Gemidiriya, this database will be incorporated into the ITSHED, a Web site designed to link rural villages to markets.
An innovative aspect of livelihoods projects that have reached an impressive scale is the development of community professionals (CPs). These are villagers that have proven to be especially strong on community mobilization and the functioning of local institutions. The projects provide them with extra training, so they can provide support to new communities or communities that are need of extra handholding support—some now join World Bank supervision missions to collect data and assess progress of other villages. In some projects, when a CP is hired to help another community the Village Organization in their home village receives a fee, which can be reinvestment in village development. In the Gemidiriya project, the CPs have organized into Community Professional Learning and Training Centers (CPLTCs) at the district level, which are coordinated by a National Community Professional Learning and Training Center.
Training to operate construction equipment in Tamil Nadu, India