Rural India Livelihoods Project

Launched in 2011, the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) aims to link the rural poor in India to sustainable livelihood opportunities and financial services. In collaboration with the Ministry of Rural Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 3ie is working to generate rigorous evidence on the impacts of this large-scale program on livelihood promotion and social mobilization.

Rural India Livelihoods Project

In December 2015, 3ie was commissioned by the Gates Foundation for quality assuring and generating evidence on various aspects of the NRLM. We are conducting impact evaluations, quality-assuring selected evaluations on livelihood interventions and synthesizing and mapping the available evidence on the effectiveness and efficiency of group-based livelihoods interventions. Key lessons from this work are expected to inform the design and expansion of the program.

Under the closely-related Swashakt evidence program, 3ie is also funding the implementation and evaluation of innovative projects to support women's collective enterprises operating in partnership with state rural livelihoods missions.

3ie collaborated with the rural development ministry, the Gates Foundation and the World Bank to conduct a large-scale evaluation across nine states where the National Rural Livelihoods Project (NRLP) was implemented. This report underscores NRLP’s impacts on a range of household and individual level economic, social and empowerment outcomes. Its authors also assess the quality of institutions created by the program. This report is listed on the Indian government’s NRLM website as one of the key documents of the National Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (NRLPS) and can be accessed here.

Links to study outputs

3ie evaluation continues to informs discussions in the Indian Parliament

In response to a question on SHG loans and results of studies on the impact of the DAY-NRLM, India’s new rural development minister, Giriraj Singh, mentioned 3ie's study and outlined its key findings in the Upper House of Parliament on 30 July 2021. This is the second time the study has been quoted in Parliament. 

In September 2020,  the report was cited in response to a question on the details and impacts of funding provided to SHGs under the DAY-NRLM.

In partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, Yale University and Vrutti Livelihoods Resources Centre, 3ie is producing thematic papers using the data collected for the NRLM evaluation.

A full list of publications is available in the Related content section below.


To ensure the findings of our work are easily accessible to those working in the evaluation sector, we have developed factsheets that provide an overview of the data collected through 3ie's evaluation (2018-2019). It includes data from 27,000 households from 1,052 villages across nine states in India.

The full dataset will be made available after 31 December 2021. For queries about these factsheets, please write to

Evidence gap map on group-based livelihood interventions in L&MICs
This map takes stock of available evidence on the impact of group-based livelihoods programmes on economic, social and empowerment outcomes in low-and middle-income countries.

View map | View report | View blog


Synthesis of livelihoods programmes in L&MICs
This report systematically reviews existing evidence from group-based livelihoods interventions in L&MICs with the objective of answering what works, how, why and for whom.

View report | View blog


Process and impact evaluation of a rural development programme in Bihar
3ie has conducted a process evaluation and an impact evaluation of the Women’s Advancement in Rural Development and Agriculture (WARDA) programme, which focuses on household economic welfare, as measured by income levels and women’s empowerment. Technoserve, JEEViKA and the Gates Foundation collaborated to provide technical assistance on this intervention, develop a multi-year roadmap to form and facilitate smallholding women farmers’ producer groups.

View process evaluation report | View media article

Can collectives help overcome challenges facing small and marginal farmers in India?
This brief summarises findings from a literature review that 3ie commissioned to understand how and whether farmer collectives have achieved their stated aims, and to analyse factors affecting their performance. This is part of a wider initiative to build and consolidate evidence on group-based livelihood initiatives in India.

View brief

  • In this Ideas for India article, Anjini Kochar, C. S. Nagabhusana, Ritwik Sarkar, Rohan Shah, Geeta Singh talk about how financial access impacts women’s decision-making role in households.
  • In this Ideas for India article, Chandan Jain, Krishna Kejriwal, Ritwik Sarkar and Pooja Sengupta analyze caste-based differences in self-help groups within the NRLM program. 
  • This Indian Express article recaps a discussion on 'Women Collectives, Changemakers from the ground up' in which Dr Anjini Kochar spoke about financial inclusion. The panel discussion was held as part of the IE THINC Third edition.
  • In this Hindustan Times article, Dr Anjini Kochar examines the reasons behind the low and declining labour force participation rate of women in India. 
  • In this Hindustan Times article, Dr Anjini Kochar explains the persistence for son preference, particularly in private school enrolments in rural India.
  • In a recent IndiaSpend article on the impact of COVID on women's collectives, Dr Bidisha Barooah talks about what needs to change in the existing program design.
  • A new issue brief on ten years of the NRLM published by the Observer Research Foundation, cites 3ie’s evaluation and other work on self-help groups.
  • An IndiaSpend article contextualizes 3ie's evaluation evidence and explores how NRLM, in particular women's SHGs, boost household income.
  • In this Indian Express article, 3ie staff write about the barriers to effective implementation of farmer-producer companies.
  • In an article for the Financial Express, Dr Anjini Kochar explains how the NRLM can help transform women's lives.

Other activities | In addition to these, activities we also collaborated with JEEVikA (Bihar Livelihoods Mission) on a management information system of a sanitation program and conducted some formative research to inform the implementation of Project Mesha, a community-based program for goat rearing. For queries about this work, please write to

Additional reading | Compiled list of World Bank resources on rural growth


3ie's evaluation explained | Impacts of NRLP on women's empowerment

In this video, we describe the main findings from 3ie's evaluation of the National Rural Livelihoods Project. We looked at impacts on a range of household and individual-level, economic, social and empowerment outcomes.