Learning from a livelihoods project
The Western Orissa Rural Livelihoods Project (WORLP) was designed to alleviate poverty and
reduce vulnerability in four of the most disadvantaged districts in Orissa, India. Using a Sustainable
Livelihoods Approach the project demonstrates important development impacts which are found also
to enhance climate change resilience and adaptation.
WORLP, a partnership between the Government of Orissa
and the UK’s Department for International Development
(DFID), started in 2000 and is still on-going. It has
had a substantial impact on poverty, with a 30 per cent
reduction in the number of poor households recorded in
the project districts. Approximately 15,000 households
or 72,000 people have moved above the poverty line.
Much of this success can be attributed to enhanced
levels of financial, human, natural and social livelihood
assets. Five successful strategies of the project can be
Project strategies and impacts
1. Empower the poor. Participatory approaches were
used to engage with poor and very poor people, to
empower and inform them. This created an enabling
environment for them to make informed choices for
their long-term well being.
2. Build human capacity. Substantial technical support
to increase skills in both farm and non-farm activities
helped people to strengthen and diversify livelihoods.
Crop yields increased significantly, often 50–100
per cent. Lean season food deficit days and stress
migration have significantly reduced.
3. Build institutions for the poor. Over 5,000 self-
help groups with over 65,000 members were
supported. The increased number and strength of
SHGs increased social cohesion, reduced people’s
vulnerability, and increased the opportunity for
collective action in case of climate-related shocks.
4. Provide access to resources. Ensuring appropriate
entitlements to land and water resources enabled
poor and very poor people to benefit from
opportunities and invest in their future.
5. Manage natural resources. Community water
harvesting technologies enabled better water
management, reduced fluctuations in, and raised,
the groundwater table and improved hydrological
conditions. This in turn enabled the expansion of
aquaculture and agriculture. The gross land area
cropped increased by around 16 per cent, with
cropping intensity up by 10 per cent.
The self help group ‘Maa kamalini’ is for widows
are better able to cope with anticipated hazards and
adapt to a changing environment.
Improved command over resources increases the
strategies available to prepare for climatic change, such
as soil and water conservation or investment in resistant
agriculture. Diversifying incomes increases resilience
to climate shocks through ensuring alternative sources
of food and income when the main source fails. SHGs
increase the opportunity for collective action to address
the impacts of climate change.
The project is also now incorporating new initiatives
to help build adaptive capacity to climate change,
principally through Climate Change Schools, based upon
the successful model of Farmer Field Schools.
In conclusion, there is much that can be learned
from the field of poverty alleviation about reducing
vulnerability to climate change and enhancing capacity
Natural Resources International,
Aylesford, Kent, UK.
Reducing vulnerability to climate change
Climate change risks in Western Orissa are considered
substantial, with increasing variability of rainfall,
extended dry spells and droughts, and flash floods
during the rainy season. Whilst WORLP was not
designed with any climate change adaptation objectives,
all the interventions described above helped reduce
vulnerability, by ensuring that poor and very poor people
Impact Assessment of Western Orissa Rural
Livelihoods Project, by Sambodhi and Winrock
International, 2008, available, along with many other
publications of potential interest, on the WORLP
website: www.worlp.com .