Vsla

Women’s economic empowerment in emergency contexts: Niger case study

While discussion of the ‘Humanitarian, Development and Peace Nexus’ continues within the sector, there remains debate as to whether women’s economic empowerment is a luxury, or even feasible in humanitarian contexts where the priority is to keep people alive. Increasingly, however, humanitarians are seeing interventions aimed at women’s economic empowerment in emergency contexts as a key tool to increase protection and support people in crises to live in dignity. CARE set out to analyse whether financial inclusion strategies like community-led savings groups may in fact represent a way to not only respond to crises, but also to build resilience against them, even in highly fluid contexts.

In June 2018, CARE teams conducted fieldwork in two areas where it is implementing ongoing humanitarian interventions. CARE organised focus groups and interviews with communities and individuals in Diffa and Konni where it has delivered humanitarian assistance. The interventions combined blanket cash distributions, and the establishment of savings and credit groups which also provided women with life skills and business training to set up small businesses.

Within a crisis setting, combining a savings group structure including income generation support with humanitarian assistance such as food and non-food items (NFIs) helped women not only to meet basic needs in a more sustainable way, but also improved their independent access to and control over money.

During emergencies, providing women with humanitarian cash to cover basic needs allowed women in savings groups to continue saving and to invest in income generating activities (IGA), rather than using up capital on food.

If crises continue to hit, the positive impact of savings groups set up in emergencies can become strained. In this case, further cash interventions can preserve small businesses.

Membership of savings groups and receipt of IGAs and life skills training increased women’s income and confidence. Membership of a savings group provides psychosocial benefits to women who are suffering anxiety, depression or trauma by providing a social network that meets and talks regularly. Read More...

Kore Lavi Safety Net Beneficiary Resilience Assessment

As part of its mandate, the Kore Lavi program has developed and established a food voucher-based social safety net model for the poorest households in conjunction with the Haitian Government – through the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST). This Resilience Assessment contributes to a stronger understanding of the current food security and resilience situations of the most vulnerable program beneficiaries.

Based upon the data collected, the social safety net members – which is considered as the study sampling universe – are mainly affected by Illness, death and drought, respectively. The experiences shared by the respondents also revealed that they often face several types of shocks and stressors simultaneously.

The food voucher had a very positive impact and helped a lot during each key moment: before the shock or stressor affected the respondent, immediately after, sometime after and now. In the different stories that were shared, a certain number of respondents mentioned that they have no other means to ensure their food security - other than the Kore Lavi food vouchers. With regard to the food vouchers indirect contribution, it is important to highlight that 59% of
respondents used the money they saved to pay school fees and 28% to pay medical fees. 36% save it in their Village Saving and Loans Association (VSLA). Yet, there is also an emerging group that used the money to invest in agricultural endeavors and start-up income generating activities.

When comparing the three main types of assets (personal, social and physical-financial resources), it could be observed that especially vulnerable respondents tended to rely on social resources. Generally, the respondents used more negative coping mechanisms that compromise their food security like eating less or less preferred meals per day (58%), reducing expenditures related to household needs (32%), producing charcoal (33%), reducing agriculture production area (20%) and livestock (19%) or selling assets.

The study identified that 22% of VSLA members followed resilient pathways versus 16% of non VSLA respondents. In almost all the signifier questions, there were found small differences between both groups, but not as much as it was initially expected by the Kore Lavi team. Read More...

Kore Lavi Title II Program Haiti – Midterm Evaluation

This reports presents the findings, conclusions and recommendations related to the Kore Lavi mid-term evaluation.

DESCRIPTION OF KORE LAVI. Kore Lavi’s Theory of Change holds that positive and lasting transformation must happen within interrelated domains: (1) where the effective social safety net programming and complementary services reach the most vulnerable populations and protect their access to food while building self-reliance; (2) that achieve breadth and depth in behavior and social change needed to tackle under-nutrition among vulnerable women and children; and (3) that institutionalize accountability, transparency and quality of delivery for mutually reinforcing social protection programs under the leadership of MAST.

EVALUATION METHODOLOGY. The evaluation employed three data collection methodologies: document review, key informant interviews, and focus group discussions.

PRIMARY FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS.
At the time of the MTE, Kore Lavi had completed data collection in 16 communes demonstrating the ability to adapt and innovate to address the initial data quality problems that existed at the beginning of the program.

In terms of its implementation on the ground, the food voucher scheme is operating well in identifying voucher recipients and enrolling them in the program, distributing food to beneficiaries via paper or electronic vouchers, recruiting and managing the network of collaborating vendors, enforcing policies governing the scheme and overseeing operations. Food received by beneficiary households from both paper and electronic vouchers is inevitably shared with non-household members, including neighbors and even strangers. The VSLA scheme has effectively provided a mechanism by which large numbers of vulnerable women and men living in program communities can save and access small loans at reasonable interest rates to invest in their businesses or children’s education or for other purposes.

SO3 social behavioral change communications interventions are, on the whole, well designed and well implemented. Care Groups, moreover, appear to be an effective methodology for mobilizing women and communicating critical SBCC messages. Community health agents and Lead Mothers play a critical role in SO3 activities. While they are, for the most part, doing a good job and are satisfied with their roles, they also have a number of legitimate concerns related to the lack of monetary compensation and reimbursement for expenses incurred. The program has done a good job identifying and reaching the targeted women and infants.

Kore Lavi has taken a holistic approach to gender integration from design to implementation and has made a conscious and good faith effort to integrate gender considerations in each of the four program SOs.

Kore Lavi has prioritized information management and has demonstrated a clear institutional interest in improving knowledge and learning.

Read More...

Village Savings and Loan Associations as Economic Drivers

Exploring impacts of Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) at micro level to understand their potential to contribute to the Tanzanian economy

Savings-led microfinance innovation aims to improve access to financial services in remote areas, especially among women. CARE International has been the leading innovator in the field and has initiated Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) programmes across Tanzania. CARE aims to increase members in Tanzania to 8 million by 2025 with the vison to help improve the national economy. CARE thus commissioned SFTZ to carry out a study that investigates the potential of VSLA contributions to local and national economies.

METHODS. The study was implemented in six villages in Mufindi district, Iringa region; four of which were assigned as treatment and two as control. Treatment villages had 9 to 15 NGO-facilitated VSLAs, and control villages had only two comparable VSLAs.

RESULTS. Analysis of the data at the village level did not provide evidence that VSLA initiatives have contributed to large-scale economic growth except for one risk mitigation sub-indicator. A number of issues hindered the village-level comparison: First, microfinance savings groups were also present in control villages. Secondly, the penetration of savings groups within all treatment villages was low (below 30%, except for one village).

However, at the household level, VSLA membership showed significant impacts on a number of micro-level measures of economic growth. VSLA households had higher household savings, drew on VSLA savings to overcome negative impacts of household shocks, attained greater food security and more diverse diets, achieved better agricultural and business outcomes, and enjoyed greater economic status. Although these differences cannot be directly attributed to the VSLA programme without before-and-after comparisons with a meaningful control group, the positive household impacts suggest that a VSLA programme scaled to a high density within each village could have a positive impact
on the local economy. Read More...

Mid-Term Strategic Review of the Livelihoods for Resilience Activity

CARE commissioned a Mid-Term Strategic Review (MTSR) of the Livelihoods for Resilience Activity to formulate recommendations for the remaining life of the project to increase effectiveness in achieving sustainable impact. The Livelihoods for Resilience Activity is being implemented in 27 Woredas in the three regions of Tigray, Amhara, and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples and is just over the midway point in its five-year life from December 5, 2016, through December 3, 2021. The purpose of the Livelihoods for Resilience Activity is to reduce food insecurity and increase resilience for 97,900 chronically food insecure households that are enrolled in the fourth cycle of the Government of Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP4), enabling them to graduate with resilience from the PSNP4.

The MTSR for the Livelihoods for Resilience Activity was a formative evaluation exercise intended to provide guidance on ways to improve the effectiveness of the program in achieving intended impact.

Relative to the four global learning questions for the MTSR (see page 4), the MTSR found that the model that the Livelihoods for Resilience Activity is implementing is effective for achieving graduation with resilience, but because frontline delivery is constrained by the number of staff, their technical capacities and the degree of supervision and support that they receive, interventions are not always going deeply enough to ensure behavioral change. The program is empowering women both economically and socially through the VESA platform, but there are significant variations between regions; and outside of the VESA, there is some evidence to suggest that women’s empowerment has not yet been well incorporated, especially in value chain participation and MFI linkages. Progress is certainly being made in transferring ideas and knowledge to PSNP counterparts, but that has not yet translated into practice mainly because of resource constraints. Key approaches that need to be added or strengthened in the coming two years include expanding frontline delivery capacities, expanding efforts to ensure that strategies and approaches are well understood by implementation staff at all levels in all partners, ensuring that women’s empowerment is included in all approaches by all partners, and looking for new ways to facilitate access to jobs, either through self-employment or wage employment, for youth from PSNP households.

The Livelihoods for Resilience Activity is already doing some very nice work in starting to achieve sustainable impact. The project has strong potential to be recognized as a “great” project if it can make some adjustments.
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Safe Schools for Girls Project Midline Evaluation

Throughout the past two decades, Rwanda has made significant efforts to improve the coverage of education to ensure that all Rwandans have access to quality education through the completion of secondary school. Despite policies to increase access to basic education and increase enrolment rates, dropout remains a key issue, especially in secondary school where female students tend to have lower completion rates than male students.

To promote better educational, social, and economic outcomes for students, CARE Rwanda established the Safe Schools for Girls (SS4G) Project. Operating in the Southern Province of Rwanda, the SS4G Project provided holistic support--including academic resources, financial literacy training, and sexual and reproductive health education, and leadership training--to students to address obstacles to secondary education. As the SS4G project passes its mid-way point in 2019, CARE Rwanda commissioned this evaluation to assess trends and changes over time in students’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to the intervention aims, in order to better understand areas that were performing well and identify those that needed revised efforts. Read More...

Better Environment for Education Project Endline

Throughout the past two decades, Rwanda has made significant efforts to improve the coverage of education to ensure that all Rwandans have access to quality education through the completion of secondary school. Despite policies to increase access to basic education and increase enrolment rates, dropout remains a key issue, especially in secondary school where female students tend to have lower completion rates than male students.
To promote better educational, social, and economic outcomes for students, CARE Rwanda established the Better Environment for Education (BEE) Project. Operating in the Western Province of Rwanda, the BEE Project provided holistic support--including academic resources, financial literacy training, and sexual and reproductive health education, and leadership training--to students to address obstacles to secondary education. As the BEE project neared its conclusion in 2019, CARE Rwanda commissioned this endline evaluation to assess trends and changes over time in students’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to the intervention’s aims. Read More...

Addressing Root Causes Project in South Sudan

The Addressing Root Causes (ARC) project that started in September 2016, aims at tackling the root causes of armed conflict, instability and irregular migration in South Sudan by increasing community resilience to conflict-related and economically-induced shocks in 19 payams in Jonglei state in the counties of Pibor, Twic East, Duk and Bor. The project has distinguished three outcomes areas: Economic Resilience, Peaceful Conflict Resolution and Social Cohesion which are expected to be mutually reinforcing and when all are combined and stregthened together, the beneficial effects will contribute to more resilience and a culture of peace.
This mid-term review was conducted to assess the progress of project implementation since September 2016, and document best practices and lessons learned to inform key stakeholders on future activity design, programming, and implementation. Primary data was collected using household survey, key Informant Interviews and Focus Group Discussions with the targeted communities. Combined with the FGD, a Social Norm Analysis Plot (SNAP) framework was applied as it was considered best suited to measure changes in social (gender) norms.
Key findings from review indicate access to loans and training of VSLA groups is empowering women and youth in the targeted communities to engage in IGAs and micro-enterprises, thereby broadening their livelihood and resilience options and creating market linkages with traders across different ethnic communities. Further, more women and youth reported being confident to participate in economic opportunities and possess relevant tools and skills; and the role of women and youth is being appreciated in contributing to meeting household needs, thereby reflecting the conflict and gender transformation in the targeted communities. It should however be noted that more VSLAs have been formed and are engaged in IGAs and micro-enterprises in Duk and Twic East compared to Bor and Pibor.
Also, peace committees are appreciated and recognized by the targeted communities for facilitating and using peaceful mechanisms to mitigate and resolve intra and – inter community conflict and reconcile past grievances. Most project beneficiaries also reported increased collaboration with each other, and feel have more positive relationships and trust within and beyond their community. Read More...

Pathways Project End of Project Evaluation Report

Pathways aimed to increase productivity and income in equitable agriculture systems. CARE innovated an effective Theory of Change to address real issues affecting rural women farmers by providing them with capacities in agriculture; access to inputs, extension services and markets; empowerment to influence decisions; and an enabling environment for growth.

Pathways has met and, in most cases, surpassed targets set in its M&E framework. In the words of women themselves the project has worked very well, focusing on groundnuts and soybean as high-value cash crop substitutes for tobacco because of their high potential for markets, ability to replenish the lost soil fertility and strong nutritional value. It has grown from working with 9,000 to 14,282 farmers (hosting a population of 71,410 people), organising them into 1,528 groups. Women provide leadership to most of the groups after being transformed to become successful wives, farmers and entrepreneurs who can make independent decisions and speak in public.

In 2015 alone, collective sale revenues from groundnuts and soy amounted to MK128, 601,938 (US$233,821.7) and rose to MK854, 356,267 (US$751,511) by the end of 2017. Contract farming organized by the project contributed US$34,233 to these revenues. In 2014, the project conducted 188 community-wide gender dialogue sessions and reached out to 9,654 people, 7193 female and 2464 male, helping them to internalize and address gender inequalities. Men have generally started looking at women as partners in agriculture and development that is cementing marriage bonds and creating an enabling environment for women to succeed. Along with this, CARE Malawi linked women farmers to key players in the groundnut and soy value chains to help them excel.

As a consequence, by December 2016 a total of 246 farmer groups had accounts with OIBM and other banks through which they saved MK49, 175,577 and 6 VSLs accessed two group loans worth MK4,800,000 (US$7,804.88) which they invested in agriculture, business and VSL activities. VSLs profited and shared out US$871,178 in the year, with more benefits seen in 2017 when savings accumulated to US$3,756,435 e.g. earnings of MK47, 489.32 to MK204, 769.33 per household on average. In turn, per capita household monthly incomes and expenditures doubled by the time the project closed in December 2018. Although agricultural productivity continued to decline over the project life due to poor weather conditions, Pathways farmers remained food secure and continued to eat at least two meals a day. Household dietary diversity (HDDS) and women intra-household food access (AHA) data from this evaluation found levels of consumption to be acceptable and typical of food secure households. These results showcase that Pathways beneficiaries have grown their incomes, assets and food availability in the face of the changing climate and are better off even in difficult years. Read More...

ADVANCING WOMEN’S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT THROUGH FORMAL FINANCIAL SERVICES FOR SAVINGS GROUPS (LINK UP)

LINK Up, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed to link 10,000 Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) to formal financial institutions; building financial inclusion in Kenya and Tanzania, assessing the impacts of access to formal financial services on VSLAs and their
members and determining whether serving such groups presented a viable business case for financial service providers (FSPs).

Over the course of this program, LINK Up partners have opened 13,165 group savings accounts and have served approximately 322,000 members, 81% of which were women.
To implement LINK Up, CARE partnered with four financial service providers; co-designing and copromoting group products and alternative channel solutions tailored to the needs of savings groups and their members. The collaborations resulted in the creation of four new group-focused products and a host of innovations in the mobile and agent banking solutions deployed to deliver those products. Read More...

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