Environmental Benefits of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA-EB)

Project description

Title: Environmental Benefits of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA-EB)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: India
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), Government of India
Overall term: 2013 to 2018

India. Almost half the beneficiaries of MGNREGA are women © GIZ


The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), as the legal basis for a large-scale employment programme for the rural population, is a key element of India's social policy. The programme began in 2006. With a human rights-based approach, it guarantees a secure livelihood for up to 50 million families of underemployed agricultural workers by providing them with a basic income. The beneficiaries of the act are guaranteed at least 100 days of paid work per year. Almost half of those supported in this way are women.

A key goal of the programme is to protect natural resources. It is important that these resources are used in a sustainable manner because of their relevance for ecosystems and agriculture. In the long term this will secure livelihoods for rural people, protecting them against the severe consequences of climate change.

Works currently performed under the MGNREGA often suffer from inadequate technical planning and implementation, with measures often proving unsustainable. For instance, reservoirs have been built which lose their water storage capacity due to natural sedimentation, often after just one rainy season. Afforestation measures fail due to insufficient water supply, and grazing animals destroy young vegetation. In many cases, new facilities are not maintained because their ownership is unclear or there is a lack of incentives.


Village councils (Gram Panchayats) implement MGNREGA measures in good quality and with a lasting impact.

India. Rainwater collection tanks provide for people, animals and vegetation. © GIZ


GIZ is supporting the Indian Ministry of Rural Development and the three state governments of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan in exploiting the enormous potential of their job creation schemes in terms of environmental benefits and protection from the consequences of climate change. It is also looking for ways of improving the technical standard of the works completed, and ensuring they are well maintained.

The project addresses measures related to the three main categories of natural resources: water, soil and vegetation. In so doing, it promotes the inclusion by the Government of India of environmental issues in the selection, planning, implementation and maintenance of works performed under the job creation schemes. At the same time, the project is also contributing to improvements in the MGNREGA management information system. The measures involve the local administrations, the governments of the participating states, the central government and other public institutions and civil society bodies.

Together with its partners, GIZ is:

  • promoting knowledge and awareness of the possible environmental impacts of MGNREGA
  • developing technical designs and guidelines
  • improving the maintenance of MGNREGA works
  • integrating the monitoring of environmental and gender aspects in the programme’s management
  • information system
  • building the capacities of the main actors
  • testing new concepts for improved technical designs, guidelines and selection criteria.
India. New life brought to wasteland in Rajasthan. © GIZ


The works completed to date have led to a gradual rise in the water tables, thereby enabling people to practise farming. Landscaping measures and new areas of vegetation have contributed to a reduction in soil erosion, while soil fertility has increased thanks to the addition of organic matter. This means that rural people can now stay in their home regions without the need to migrate to the cities.

GIZ completed baseline studies in all three states in September 2014. It is now supporting its partners by providing support in the following areas:

  • Provision of training to villagers, employees of NGOs and government officials, in protecting natural resources
  • Categorising, planning and implementation of the MGNREGA-funded works and their effects on natural resources
  • Development of natural resource maps in the pilot areas
  • Support for educational and communication activities related to MGNREGA and its environmental benefits