Systems-Level Change in Niger: Women and Girls Are Better Off Today Than in 1991

Few development programs have a decades-long lifespan and impact. CARE’s Mata Masu Dubara model (MMD) has been rolled out since 1991, championing women's leadership and economic empowerment in Niger. Originally conceived as savings and credit groups, the model has evolved over the years to address women’s groups demands to have better access to public health services, improve nutrition, receive technical training and participate in civic and electoral processes, among others.

In 2023, CARE initiated a ground-breaking systems evaluation of MMD groups in Niger to explore the actual influence the groups have on women’s and girl’s voice, leadership, economic autonomy and climate justice, published in a May 2023 report. A complementary mixed-methods evaluation conducted from July to December 2023 explores the influence of MMD on women and girls’ maternal health, early and forced marriage, education and nutrition, in partnership with the Government of Niger.

Using CARE’s pathways of systems-level change, combined with qualitative and quantitative data, the study explored four dimensions of change for each one of the topics mentioned above: 1. Advocacy to influence policies and programs; 2. Changes in social norms; 3. Supporting social movements; 4. Strengthening systems and social responsibility. Today, CARE Niger serves 33,795 groups with 865,000 women and girl members. In Maradi, Zinder, Dosso and Tahoua 1,378 women and men answered a survey; 314 women and men participated in focus group discussions and individual interviews.

Are women and girls of Niger better off in 2023 than they were in 1991? Yes. While the review noted progress made towards more gender equity for girls’ education, access and use of sexual and reproductive health services and more attention paid to the welfare of pregnant and breastfeeding women, early and forced marriage still persists. Leveraging the power of MMD groups and other trusted community leaders (teachers, principals, MMD female leaders, religious leaders) to design interventions to curb early marriage would yield tremendous benefits. Indeed, early marriage robs girls of 9% of their future income.

Through MMD, women of Niger have found their voice, been elected to parliament in record numbers (over 30% in 2021), and participate in local decision making processes as town councilors and local representatives. Acting both at the program, local level and the national, influencing one, CARE, its partners and networks of MMD groups will continue to create a better, safer, more prosperous environment for Nigerien girls. (86 pages) Read More...

Variations in Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) Practices: An Assessment of Dynamics and Impacts in Zomba and Mangochi Districts – Titukulane Project

This assessment investigates variations in the practices of Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) in Zomba and Mangochi districts. While the VSLA model has been transformative in promoting financial inclusion and community empowerment in rural areas, there have been noticeable deviations from the CARE VSL methodology, commonly referred to as the standard methodology. With Titukulane's support for these VSLAs, it becomes imperative to comprehend the reasons and implications behind these changes.

The rapid assessment was instrumental in understanding the VSLA practices across selected districts. Qualitative data on the VSLA methodology variations were randomly drawn from 8 out of the 19 Traditional Authorities (TAs) where Titukulane is implementing interventions. Within this sample, the assessment encompassed diverse voices from VSLA members, Community Development Agents, Village Agents, and Titukulane staff. The research utilized a rapid assessment approach to gain a comprehensive overview of the VSLA practices in Zomba and Mangochi in a time-efficient manner. This methodology was chosen for its ability to capture immediate, relevant insights without necessitating the extended time frame typical of more intensive research methods. The rapid assessment prioritized direct interactions with participants, ensuring their experiences and perspectives were central to the data collected. This direct engagement proved invaluable, especially when exploring sensitive topics related to financial practices and internal group dynamics. Through this approach, the assessment aimed to offer a nuanced understanding of current VSLA practices and the motivations underpinning their variations. In the context of this study, variations refer to the distinct differences in approaches, outcomes, or practices observed among the groups, while deviations denote departures from the expected or standard methods prescribed by Titukulane, potentially indicating unique adaptations or challenges faced by certain groups.
Key Findings: VSLAs in both districts have adopted varied practices. Some VSLAs, for example, emphasize equal shares for every member, while others note disparities in contributions. Lending strategies, such as offering loans to non-members, also emerged, aiming to bolster financial inclusivity. However, such innovative strategies sometimes come with their own set of challenges, like difficulties in accurate record-keeping or financial strains from settling older debts using newer contributions. External influences, cultural beliefs, and regional dynamics also play key roles in these variations. Below is a complete list of the variations and deviations noted in the two districts:

• Shares and Savings: While some VSLAs continue to advocate for standardized shares per member to ensure equality, others experience disparities due to inconsistent contributions. For instance, in some groups members are allowed to purchase more than 5 shares at a time, with some purchasing up to 100 shares.
• Loan Practices: Innovative loan practices, including lending to non-members, aim to enhance financial inclusivity.
• Documentation and Record-Keeping: Challenges in maintaining accurate records are pervasive, with different approaches to record-keeping observed.
• Emergence of Digital Financing Platforms replacing cashboxes: In younger VSLA demographics, there's a rising adoption of digital financing platforms, such as Airtel Money and TNM Mpamba. However, this shift poses challenges for older members, who are less familiar with digital technologies.
• Religious and Cultural Adjustments: Deep-seated religious beliefs influence some VSLAs to refrain from charging interest.
• Influence of External Entities: VSLAs display adaptability and responsiveness to external influences, including NGOs and community initiatives.
• Group Dynamics: Many VSLAs have larger membership counts than recommended, possibly reflecting community resource pooling. Read More...

Community-led Resource Mobilization & Early Warning Systems Process Assessment: Titukulane Project

This report examines the motivation and willingness of Village Civil Protection Committees (VCPCs) and communities to mobilize resources at community level for Disaster Risk Management (DRM). To do this, a participatory action research (PAR) approach was utilized, facilitated by SWOT analyses, in combination with focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informant interviews (KIIs). The findings revealed that communities had prepositioned resources to prepare for disaster response as part of risk reduction. Participants identified their ability to mobilize themselves as a community; to mobilize funds and food; well trained and knowledgeable structures, good agricultural practices, and good governance as major strengths. Opportunities for resource mobilization included enterprise, piece work (ganyu), irrigation farming, access to safety net programs, and youth participation. Weaknesses included the disorganization of some community structures, lack of support or political will from community leaders and the government, lack of accountability from VCPC members, and reluctance to adopt improved agricultural practices. Community-based early warning systems, although available, are insufficient to provide effective risk reduction for natural disasters. There is a lack of documentation concerning indigenous early warning systems, which impedes the development of effective and contextual strategies for risk reduction. The recommendations include increasing awareness among traditional leaders, defining resource mobilization structures, documenting guidelines and transactions for transparency, investing in early warning infrastructure and capacity building, documenting indigenous early warning signs, and intensifying watershed restoration and conservation to increase disaster preparedness. Read More...

Unlocking the Potential of Women-led Micro & Small Enterprises: Lessons from Pakistan, Peru, and Vietnam

Micro and small enterprises (MSEs) are the economic backbone of most economies worldwide, increasing employment and reinvesting in local communities. In emerging markets, there are 365-445 million micro, small, and medium enterprises. However, 80% of women-owned small businesses with credit needs are either unserved or underserved, representing a $1.7 trillion USD financing gap.

CARE’s Ignite program, launched in partnership with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, focused on supporting micro and small enterprises, especially those led by women, in Pakistan, Peru, and Vietnam
between 2020 and 2023.

Ignite took a market-based approach to service delivery that was sustainable and scalable by working with over 35 local partners across the three countries, 11 of which were core service delivery partners. These partnerships opened up much-needed access to financial and digital resources, while building entrepreneurs’ business capacity and networks.

Ignite set out to reach 3.9 million entrepreneurs in three years with $5.26 million USD in grant funding from Mastercard. The program exceeded initial goals, reaching more than nine million entrepreneurs, and unlocking access to $154.9 million USD in loans. More than 150,000 entrepreneurs were deeply supported with loans, critical support services, and training.

The commercial value in supporting women-led MSEs is irrefutable. Global data continues to show this and,
together with Ignite financial service provider partners, CARE has proved it. Despite this, gender bias continues to permeate throughout financial institutions the world over. CARE is calling on all financial service providers to read the proof in this report that women are better financial clients, to support the drive for 100% financial inclusion for women, and to invest in reaching this goal. Read More...

Baseline Survey for Supporting and Enhancing Resilient and Viable Employment Opportunities (SERVE) Project

The Supporting and Enhancing Resilient and Viable Employment Opportunities (SERVE) project seeks to ensure a resilient, sustainable, gender equitable and inclusive entrepreneurial environment that increases dignified and fulfilling work opportunities for predominantly female youth (PFY) in agricultural value chains in ten districts namely Rulindo and Gakenke in Northern Province; Kayonza, Rwamagana, Ngoma, and Kirehe in Eastern Province; Nyamagabe, and Huye in Southern Province; and Nyabihu and Rubavu in Western Province by 2027.

CARE Rwanda commissioned a baseline survey whose objective was to carry out a complementary survey among the total population of 14,569 targeted Individuals/ MSEs profiled at the start of the baseline and set baseline values along which the project will be assessed.

The survey adopted a mixed methods methodology and employed quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection which included: Literature Review, 374 Household Surveys of Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) owners, twelve (12) Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) with officials of implementing partner organisations and fifteen (15) Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with MSE owners in the ten districts. Read More...

SERVE Rwanda Value Chain Analysis 1 – Agricultural value chain analysis for SERVE

As of November 2023, agriculture employs 48 percent of the total labor force in Rwanda (NISR, 2024). Within this sector, the gender gap in productivity persists, with female-man-aged farms 11.7 percent less productive that male farms. The SERVE project identified four key factors behind this productivity gap: namely; poor business practices, difficulties in accessing agricultural lending, heavy reliance on informal sector lending, and cultural and social norms preventing women and youth from entering and succeeding in the agriculture sector. Addressing these challenges, the SERVE project, aligned with the Mastercard Foundation Young Africa Works strategy, is led by CARE International in collaboration with partners such as DUHAMIC-ADRI, PFTH, AMIR, and Urwego Bank. Over five years, SERVE aims to establish a resilient, sustainable, and gender-equitable entrepreneurial environment in the agricultural sector across ten districts in Rwanda.
With a focus on fostering inclusive growth for youth-led agricultural Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs), SERVE aims to enhance productivity, access to finance, entrepreneurship, and market linkages in selected value chains. Simultaneously, the project aims to influence policies and social norms to reduce barriers and enhance equity, particularly for female youth. Collaborating with government ministries, civil society organizations, and the private sector, SERVE leverages strategic alliances to develop tailored financial products, bridge the gendered digital divide, and connect female youth with mentors and potential buyers.
Targeting approximately 45,500 female youth, including refugees and those with disabilities, SERVE emphasizes strengthening existing employment opportunities and generating new ones within the agricultural sector for individuals aged 18 to 35. Entry points include existing Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) and Farmer Groups (FG), primarily comprising young people, as well as exploring youth cooperatives and collective agribusi-nesses outside the VSLA network.
The aim of this report is to provide a comprehensive market analysis of the targeted value chains of tomatoes, chili, green beans, and poultry, as well as four additional potential value chains. This includes evaluating the current status of gender mainstreaming, and climate adaptation and mitigation efforts across all nodes of the prioritized value chains, as well as a critical examination of existing and projected agricultural financing and environmental policies and climate adaptation plans for National Determined Contributions to be able to set a strategic transformational plan for the prioritized value chains. The report provides information on existing opportunities and constraints across the targeted value chains and about current advantages and challenges within the chosen value chains. The report recommends solutions to overcome obstacles and provide information for practical implementation strategies. Read More...

Proyecto Máxima Perú: Rompiendo barreras, construyendo negocios

El proyecto “Máxima: Rompiendo barreras, construyendo negocios”, es desarrollado con el apoyo de Fundación Citi y tiene como objetivo que las poblaciones refugiada y migrante venezolana, quechua hablante, amazónica y afroperuana (así como migrantes de estos tres grupos) de zonas rurales y periurbanas de Lima, Ica, Huancavelica, San Martín y otras regiones del Perú, tomen mejores decisiones financieras para optimizar sus emprendimientos y economía familiar, considerando las barreras de género y culturales. Además, busca formar y/o fortalecer liderazgos en habilidades digitales, habilidades blandas e igualdad de género.

El proyecto Máxima tiene 2 componentes:
- Programa de capacitación en educación financiera y empresarial en español y en quechua para fortalecimiento de las competencias financieras.
- Acceso a información sobre productos financieros (ahorro, crédito, seguros, billeteras digitales) a través de campañas informativas de Inclusión Financiera en español y en quechua.

A través de estas acciones, el proyecto Máxima tuvo como meta atender a 3,500 personas con diferentes perfiles emprendedores: ideas de negocio, nuevo negocio y negocios en crecimiento. Al menos el 75% serían mujeres. Read More...

Savings and Credit Groups for Food Security and Ecosystem Sustainability in Tanzania: Endline Evaluation

The "Savings and Credit Group for Food Security and Ecosystem Sustainability (SGFSES) in Tanzania" was a CARE-WWF Alliance’s project implemented in Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), focusing on the Great Ruaha River region. The initiative aimed to address climate vulnerabilities, improve livelihoods, and enhance ecosystem services. Among other interventions, the project promoted sustainable production of Irish potatoes and common beans, crucial for community livelihoods, but vulnerable to climate shocks. Challenges such as water and land shortages, deforestation, and weak governance had affected productivity and adaptation options.

Implemented from June 2021 to December 2023 in Iringa and Mufindi Districts, the project targeted 21 villages. Its primary goal was to enhance the household income of 5,000 farming families, particularly empowering women, directly impacting 22,500 individuals and indirectly benefiting at least 50,000 individuals within the Great Ruaha watershed.

The project employed traditional approaches like Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA), Farmer Field and Business Schools (FFBS), and Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), along with Integrated Land and Water Resource Management (ILWM) integrating income-generating and market-engagement strategies with natural resource management and sustainable agriculture practices so that both communities and ecosystems thrive.

The endline evaluation utilizing OECD criteria to assess the relevance, coherence, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, and sustainability of the project. It measured the achievements of this integrated conservation and development compared to the baseline three years earlier.
The endline evaluation found that the project surpassed its targets, reaching 7,029 households (51% female-headed) with a total of 10,961 direct beneficiaries (55% women, 34% youth) across all 21 project villages. In another words, the project impacted directly 33,739 individuals from 7,029 households. This represents 141% of the target set by the project at its beginning. Findings from FGDs and KIIs, showed that the project improved well-being of these communities by enhancing equal opportunities for men, women, and youth. The project enhanced meeting of basic needs such as food, housing, clothing, health services, and education expenses.

They participants increased productivity of staple crops like maize, common beans, sunflower, and Irish potatoes which notably contributed to reliable food sources and increased income for the communities. These crops served for both food and income. The endline survey found that the average productivity of the common bean increased from 331.3 kg acre-1 to 633 kg acre-1 which is an increase of 91% compared to the baseline. This achievement surpasses the LOP target of 30% increment by 61%. Furthermore, the average productivity of Irish potato increased from 1,435.5 kg acre-1 to 7,500 kg acre-1, which is 423% of the baseline or 393% of the LOP target of 30% increase.

The average number of months that surveyed households were able to provide sufficient food to their families was 7.4 at endline, up from 4.0 months at baseline. This is an increase of 85% from the baseline. The achievement surpasses the Life of Project goal of a 20% increase by 65%. On average, 83% of households experience adequate food provisioning during the crop-harvesting period (May to November), 42% experience hunger during the planting and crop growing season (December to April). 83% of the surveyed households report consuming three meals a day for most of the year, 86% of respondents were not worried about facing food shortages throughout the year. For those households that do not have adequate food provisions throughout the year, they tend to reduce their meals to two a day between December and April. Communities regard having two meals a day during the lean period as an improvement, as food was sometimes insufficient for one meal among some families in the past.

The endline evaluation drawn lessons learned that emerged from the data are:
- The implementation of VSLAs have helped the village land use committee, village environmental committee members and village council leaders to get into engagement with conservation activities.
- The Alliance-promoted VSLA-based AMCOS model has several benefits: in addition to attracting farmers with its core collective marketing promise, the requirement that all AMCOS members should also be VSLA members both accelerated VSLA group formation and enhances trust in leaders, a critical component of successful AMCOS.
- The planting to avocado trees, being one of potential trees for income generation and conservation of natural resources comes with a number of challenges. The first is it high water usage especially at the early stages of growth. The fruit tree have attracted large investors, who have been seen to open up large farms in forested lands. This has the risk of causing deforestation and drought in the near future, as the virgin land is turned into production land.
- The Alliance-piloted CSI model holds significant promise: Collective Investment trainings have not only supported VSLA groups in investing together but also have supported the individual members in starting their enterprises.
- VSLA members are confident to speak out on the enterprises which are destructive to environment in front of other members compared to period before the CSI training.
- VSLA members can see the benefits of individual and group investments that are made.
- Women have been in front line in undertaking collective investments activities at a group and individual level, which has resulted into family stability and reduced GBV issues as they also have something to contribute to their families. Read More...


The Feed the Future Ethiopia-Livelihoods for Resilience Activity (L4R) is a 6.5-year USAID project led by CARE, with the goal of improving food security for 97,900 chronically foodinsecure households in multiple Ethiopian regions. It aims to achieve resilient livelihoods through four main objectives. Zerihun Associates was contracted to and conduct an Endline Assessment using mixed methods, and managed data collection of the endline, ensuring quality through rigorous processes. Despite challenges, Zerihun Associates successfully gathered data from 1802 out of 1849 sampled households. However, the study faced limitations due to external factors, seasonal variations, and methodological inconsistencies, potentially impacting findings' comparability. Using both cross-sectional and panel data, the study reveals a mix of success and challenges.
Devaluation of the birr during the project period, combined with rising inflation and cost of inputs, negatively impacted household’s net inflation-adjust income over time. While in unadjusted terms net incomes increased 154%, when adjusted for inflation, net incomes experienced a 19% decline among cross-sectional households from baseline to endline. At endline, there was an increase in the proportion of households earning income from crop and livestock production and transfers and other sources, but a decline in households earning income from off-farm and wage employment, compared to baseline. There was a slight increase in the average number of income sources per
household between baseline and endline (1.5 and 1.7 sources respectively).
Household Assets
The longitudinal analysis of household assets among both cross-sectional and panel data reveals a generally upward trend in overall household asset values and, particularly, in livestock assets over the period from the baseline to the endline. When adjusted for inflation, the overall asset value showed a 43% increase in the cross-sectional data and a 25% increase in the panel data. Livestock assets consistently played a pivotal role in this growth. This rise is particularly notable given the challenging economic conditions, including conflicts.
On-Farm livelihoods
The cross-sectional analysis on household livelihood activities, specifically focusing on Value Chain (VC) engagement, reveals a complex pattern of participation over time. Initially, there was a promising uptick in households engaged in at least one prioritized VC, increasing from 49.5% at baseline to 71.0% in Year 3. This was followed by a decline, reaching 45.9% by the endline. However, there was a slight increase in households engaged in two or more prioritized value chains between baseline and endline, increasing from 38% to 40%. Read More...

Development Initiative for Northern Uganda (DINU) Mid Term Evaluation

This Assignment was commissioned by CARE DENMARK – the Lead Partner of the Consortium of five (5) Partner Institutions (namely, CARE; Catholic Relief Services (CRS); Gulu Agricultural Development Company (GADC); Dynamic Agro-Pastoral Development Organization (DADO); and SORUDA) – to carry out the Mid-term Evaluation (MTE) of the “Inclusive Market-based Development for Smallholder Farmers in Karamoja, Teso and Acholi Sub-regions” Project – implemented by the Consortium. The Project is supported by the European Union (EU) – under the Supervision of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), through the 11 Project Area District Local Governments of: Abim, Kotido, Karenga, Kaabong, Moroto, Amudat, Nakapiripirit, Nabilatuk, Napak; as well as Katakwi and Kitgum – in partnership with other stakeholders – on behalf of the Government of Uganda.
The Overall Objective of the Mid-term Evaluation (MTE), was to: “review the implementation of the project, since its inception – with the aim of generating evidence towards promoting project performance improvement, accountability, learning and evidence-based decision-making and management”. In particular, the Evaluation was intended to: “assess results achieved to date in comparison with the outcome indicators outlined in the Project Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning framework”. Accordingly, the MTE report documents: the background to the Assignment; the general approach to work and methodology employed; Project design (including relevance and coherence); as well as Project management systems, processes and operational environments. It also documents: Project performance and effectiveness during the period under review – up to its mid-term point; as well as the identified major achievements; challenges; constraints; risks; weaknesses and threats that characterized the Project. Lastly, it, further, documents resource management and efficiency in Project implementation; project “impact”; sustainability of Project Interventions and outcomes; the major conclusions; recommendations for the way forward; as well as lessons learnt – over the period under review. Read More...

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