Many scholar and institutions has given different definition of ‘Livelihood’. National Rural Livelihoods Mission adopts the definition developed by Chambers and Conway as relevant to the mission to take forward the livelihoods activities. Livelihood is defined as comprising ‘the capabilities, assets and activities required for a means of living’. Livelihoods is said to be sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stress and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in future, while not undermining the natural resource base.

Livelihoods is

  • A set of economic activities, involving self-employment/wage-employment
  • by using one’s endowments (human and material)
  • to generate adequate resources (Cash and non- cash)
  • for meeting the requirement of self and the household,
  • Usually carried out repeatedly and as such become a way of life’.

Ideally, a livelihood should keep a person meaningfully occupied with dignity in a sustainable manner. The above definition has expanded to included non-economic activities also. It is being explicitly recognized that the endowments could either be own or common endowments. So the above definitions indicates that livelihoods is more than one activity- it is a set of activities which the household uses endowments or assets to take up the activities and these activities provides the means of living or for meeting the requirements for living. Further, the activities are a way of life- they are not one-off activities.


Stabilizing and promoting the existing livelihoods practices of the poor through the three pillars-

  1. Vulnerability reduction and livelihoods enhancement through deepening/enhancing and expanding the existing livelihoods practices and tapping new opportunities in farm and non-farm sectors.
  2. Employment generation for the poor through building skill for the job market outside and
  3. Develop enterprises by nurturing self employed and entrepreneurs at the micro level.


NRLM encourages the delivery of services/entitlements (such as MGNREGS, PDS)    through the SHGs and their federations. The institutions of the poor set aside funds towards vulnerability reduction – food security, health security, etc. Vulnerability Reduction Fund is also used for meeting the emergency needs of the poor and meeting the needs of the ultra-poor and vulnerable households on a differential footing. NRLM promotes and supports Collectives towards Sustainable Livelihoods of the Poor (CSLP) around key livelihoods of the poor. These collectives offer their members access to livelihoods knowledge, skills, technology, market intelligence, risk management products and credit support through their SHGs and Federations to individual members/households.

NRLM, through Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP), is promoting and facilitating scaling-up successful, small-scale projects that enhance women’s participation and productivity in agriculture and allied activities. Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP), launched in 2010-11, is a special programme for livelihood enhancement under NRLM. It is a concerted effort to recognize the role of women in agriculture, to enhance their capacities and increase their income in agriculture and allied activities. MKSP aims to ensure household food and nutrition security of the poor and the poorest of poor.

Its primary focus is on promoting and facilitating the scale-up of successful small-scale projects with the help of NGOs, CBOs and other government agencies across the country. It is envisaged that these projects would emerge as resource centres.


  • Focus on inclusion of the poorest of poor
  • Community Managed Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture practices.
  • Support to various strategies and ways of reducing drudgery of Mahila Kisans.
  • Supporting institutions around agriculture and allied activities to strengthen livelihoods of the poor.
  • Developing a wide pool of community practitioners (CRPs) to ensure participatory service delivery and country wide scale up of best practices.


MKSP promotes sustainable agriculture where the inputs are localized, risks are mitigated, productivity is enhanced, food security is ensured and hence the net income of family is increased. The important objectives of MKSP-Agriculture are as follows:

  • Create sustainable agricultural livelihood opportunities for women in agriculture
  • Ensure food and nutrition security at the household and the community level
  • Improve the skills and capabilities of women in agriculture to support farm-based activities
  • Enhance the managerial capacities of women in agriculture for better management of bio-diversity


MKSP promotes sustainable practices across the entire value chain of NTFP – regeneration, collection, processing & marketing. The important objectives of MKSP-NTFP are as follows:

  • Ensure greater control of the institutions of poor on NTFP value chain
  • Promote regeneration of NTFP species to improve the bio diversity and enhance productivity
  • Build capacity of the community in modern harvesting and post harvesting techniques to increase their income
  • Promote value addition and set up market linkages for NTFP to ensure higher returns


One of the pillars of the Livelihoods promotion strategy of NRLM is nurturing self-employment and entrepreneurship. In this regard, NRLM is encouraging public sector banks to set up Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs) in all districts of the country on the lines of Rural Development Self Employment Institute (RUDSETI) model. National Academy of RUDSETIs is supporting RSETIs in this effort.