India’s Mahatma Gandhi Guaranteed Employment programme

The world’s largest works-based social protection scheme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has covered all of India since 2006 and aims at enhancing livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work (Kaur et al., 2017). It also provides improved productive assets and livelihood resources in rural areas, proactively ensuring social inclusion and strengthening Panchayat Raj (local government) institutions. The types of projects included are public works linked to natural resource management (mostly watershed-related projects), improving conditions of assets for vulnerable sections of society, and building common and rural infrastructure. MGNREGA provides a key example for payments for ecosystem services (PES) to learn about successful combinations of social and environmental objectives to achieve political support, resources and scale. At the same time, PES experiences elsewhere can provide MGNREGA with ideas on how to improve long-term environmental impacts on the ground.

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