UPNRM wins ‘Best Innovation in Financial Services’ award at 5th Global Sustainable Finance Conference, at Karlsruhe, Germany

Providing financial services to India’s agricultural sector, improving livelihoods and enabling food security is no longer a distant reality. Since 2007, the Umbrella Programme for Natural Resource Management (UPNRM), jointly implemented by National Bank of Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD), KfW and GIZ, has positively impacted the lives of nearly 300,000 people. The programme won the ‘Best Innovation in Financial Services’ award - for its innovative and sustainable loan financing model - at the 5th Global Sustainable Finance Conference held at Karlsruhe, Germany on 11th June 2015. The award recognises UPNRM’s unique NRM-financing model. It was presented on behalf of Lord Mayor of Karlsruhe, Dr Frank Mentrup, to NABARD’s chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala and GIZ India’s Natural Resource Management (NRM) Programme Director, Sabine Preuss.

Mr Arshad Rab, CEO of the European Organisation for Sustainable Development commented, upon conferring the award, “Today we honour, recognise and celebrate the success of GIZ and NABARD for their joint success in the Umbrella Programme for Natural Resources Management. We congratulate them for their achievements and hope that this prestigious award will further enhance their efforts in serving rural communities in India while preserving the natural environment. Please allow me to take this opportunity to wish Dr Harsh Kumar Bhanwala all the success in further positioning NABARD as an exemplary institution for embracing sustainability.”

As part of the German cooperation’s mandate on utilising diverse instruments flexibly to achieve development targets and developing innovative solutions, UPNRM showcases a shift in rural financing from a grant based to a loan based approach, while also keeping natural resource management as the core thrust area.  

The programme looks at enhancing investments in rural areas, creating business opportunities and enabling rural communities to sustainably utilise their natural resources. It also provides capacity building support tailored to the specific needs of the rural communities who are otherwise excluded from traditional bank financing. Innovative and scientific farm practices, increased market linkages, and access to credit that boosts production, and income are just some of the concerted efforts under UPNRM.

In the case of Dayanand Patil, a progressive farmer from Kolhapur district of Maharashtra, training in sustainable sugarcane initiative (SSI) along with adoption of drip irrigation system proved to be a game changer. “I used to reap about 60 MT (metric tonne)/acre of sugarcane using flood irrigation. But with the twin interventions of drip and SSI cultivation my yield has increased to 92MT of sugarcane per one acre.”

The programme covers a wide range of sectors and subsectors such as agro forestry, integrated animal husbandry, new and renewable energy, small-scale biogas plants, energy efficient pump sets, organic farming, sustainable medicinal plant cultivation/collection agriculture etc. Some selected prominent examples of innovative technologies under UPNRM are: improved cultivation practices such as system of rice intensification (SRI); enhanced water use efficiency, micro-irrigation practice like drip irrigation; organic farming by using non-chemical inputs like vermicomposting, tank silt, bio-fertilisers etc.

The long standing development cooperation between NABARD and German Development Corporation (GDC) has been a key contributor in NABARD emerging as an innovator in the natural resource management, influencing policy at the national level, and improving lives at the grass root level.

By January 2015, NABARD has supported more than 250 rural businesses under UPNRM with investments totalling EUR 61 million, in 21 Indian states and one union territory. Only six per cent of this has been allocated as grants, used primarily for capacity development measures. NABARD recently initiated collaboration between UPNRM and commercial banks in order to encourage further dissemination of the loan approach. The programme ultimately hopes to achieve one loan project per village. In view of India’s size, this would mean around 600,000 loan projects.