New Delhi, Jan 14 (Agencies): The World Bank on Friday approved a USD 162.7 million (about Rs 730 crore) loan to Rajasthan to help improve livelihood opportunities in 17  districts of the state.

The funding for the Rajasthan Rural Livelihoods Project will help improve economic opportunities for rural communities, especially women and marginal groups, in 9000
villages of the state, the World Bank said in a statement.

The project aims to help the state government raise income levels for some 400,000 rural poor households in Rajasthan, it said.

It will channel funds for income-generating activities through some 33,000 Self Help Groups (SHGs), link selected SHGs to markets and also help develop skills for unemployed rural youth, it said.

According to Venu Rajamony, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, this project with the World Bank is building on the successful livelihood initiatives undertaken in India to provide mechanisms by which rural households can improve their  overall economic well-being.

"Global experience has shown that while general growth of the economy helps reduce poverty, it needs to be complimented by specific strategies designed to expand opportunities for the poor," said Roberto Zagha, World Bank Country Director for India.

The credit is provided by the World Bank's fund for the poorest, the International Development Association (IDA), and has 35 years of maturity and a 10-year grace period, it said.

Besides, the multi-lateral funding agency has also approved USD 7.98 million additional finance for an ongoing watershed development project in Uttarakhand that will help rural communities increase agriculture productivity as well as rural incomes through a  decentralised watershed management approach.