Sustainability

Study on the sustainability of GRAD structures and outcomes

This study conducted by PDCR aims to better understand the sustainability and functionally of the processes and elements of GRAD-I as well as the different actors and structures supported and established by the project. And as such this report will focus on VESAs, household/value chains, agro-dealers, FEMAs/Cooperatives, micro-franchise, multi-stakeholders platform and access to finance after the project ended and will cover the period from December 2016 until September 2019.

Background
The Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development (GRAD) project (hereafter referred to as the project) was a five-year USAID-funded project which began in December 2011 and ended in December 2016. Its strategic objective was to graduate a minimum of 50,000 chronically food-insecure households from the Ethiopian Government’s (GoE’s) Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). Additionally, it aimed to increase each household’s income by $365 by the project’s fifth year in 16 Woredas in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR). During the implementation of the project combined “push” and “pull” model into a complete and integrated package of interventions and within this model the project at times established and/or the above-mentioned actors.

Methodology
Accordingly, desktop reviews of relevant documents including the project final evaluation, suitability and exit plan as well as a variety of reports were undertaken. The study team collected quantitative and qualitative information from 330 VESAs, 1,066 households, 188 saleswomen, 21 agro-dealers, 31 FEMAs/cooperatives. Furthermore, it consulted with representatives from multi-stakeholder platforms groups, Woreda FSTF, MFIs/RuSACCOs and participating wholesalers linked to the project.
Key findings:
VESAs:
56% of the VESAs established and supported by the project are still active as members were able to benefit from their membership, improve their saving and loan management, improve loan repayment mechanisms, were able to share out on time and at critical times, have structured and transparent management committee. These groups develop their members’ social capital, have a strong sense of trust, have benefited from their family’s support. The active VESA have reasonable membership size, common interest and have managed receive continued support.
42% of the VESAs established are inactive as members lost confidence and the interest right after the project ended. Members did not clearly understand the value of the VESAs, some faced internal conflicts, others such as the groups in Sidama and Gurage Zones were affected by drought and security issues. Overall, the inactive VESAs have received less support especially those established in the later part of the project. On a positive side, in Tigray few groups dissolved their VESAs as there was no needed since they now have started saving at banks and can access credit from MFIs.
2% of VESAs have transformed into RuSACCOs. Those who managed to this transformation was encouraged by some of their members who already were also member to a RuSACCO. The VESAs were not encouraged due to RuSACCO’s principle that supported individual membership to join already established RuSACCOs; and groups would rather retain their VESA as they feel they have full control and do not want to lose their social capital.
Active VESAs were formed on a voluntary base and were given adequate briefing about the purpose of the group. In contrast, the inactive VESAs members were mainly selected and groups were formed by project staffs.
Active VESAs remained together and have not sought to split into smaller groups as they value the social capital created within the group and prefer to work as a one team. Dissimilarly, 53% of the currently inactive groups did separate to form smaller groups, mainly due to internal conflicts, dissatisfaction regarding members selection methods and lack of management skills amongst the leadership.
Across all study areas, all VESAs were found have bylaws and in the case of Tigray and Amhara regions, some groups internally agreed and have amended their bylaws articles related to saving amounts, loan repayment mechanisms and interest rates reflecting their needs.
Active VESAs have successfully built social cohesion, capital, are a safe and fertile environment for training, social and cultural norms discussion platforms that may impede development drives and contribute to food security (e.g. gender inequality, infant feeding practices, etc.).
On average 61% of the active VESAs have been able to increase their savings size while only 13% reporting a decrease. Those who reported a decrease was directly associated to their inability to save as family expenses have escalated and they were unable to generate more income in order to save.
In all the study areas, the groups have paid share out every year in May and June. Their average value of liquid savings during the last share-out was 28,282 Birr with an average group share out of 1,444 Birr ($51) and an internal loan size of 26,649 Birr.
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