Impact Assessment

Promoting Sustainable Livelihoods for Women & Vulnerable Groups in Chiradzulu District Project Effectiveness Review, Impact Assessment, Oxfam, 2014

    Under Oxfam Great Britain’s (OGB) Global Performance Framework, a number of projects are randomly selected each year for a rigorous assessment of their effectiveness. The ‘Promoting Sustainable Livelihoods for Women & Vulnerable Groups’ project carried out in Chiradzulu District in Malawi was one of those selected for review in the 2012/13 financial year. This project was implemented between 2009 and 2013 in collaboration with the Centre for Alternatives for Victimised Women and Children (CAVWOC), and aimed at empowering vulnerable people – especially women – through engagement in production and facilitating access to markets.

    The project’s main activities involved facilitating the creation and capacity-building of approximately 180 village savings and loans (VSL) groups in 81 villages. A number of households in the same areas have also been supported in horticulture production, while others formed groups and received support in the breeding of pigs. In addition, the partners have worked to raise awareness and reduce the acceptability of gender-based violence in the project areas.

    The Effectiveness Review adopted a quasi-experimental impact evaluation design, comparing a members of a randomly-selected sample of VSL groups with a sample of women in nearby communities where the project had not been implemented. The survey questions allowed the project’s impact on various dimensions of women’s empowerment to be evaluated, as well as outcomes relating to households’ access to and use of credit, agricultural production, and indicators of material wellbeing. At the analysis stage, the statistical tools of propensity-score matching (PSM) and multivariable regression were used to reduce bias in making comparisons between the supported and comparison households.

    The results provide evidence that the establishment of the VSL groups has led to members making regular savings, and has had a positive impact on the availability of credit in these communities. Many of the loans were reported to have been used for productive purposes – and indeed the survey data show increased engagement among VSL members in petty commerce, as well as an increase in the amount of fertiliser being used. Those supported in horticulture production, as well as the VSL members more generally, produced a wider range of crops than households in the comparison communities, and generated revenue from agricultural production that was several times higher than they would have done otherwise. It appears that this has not translated into major improvements in household wellbeing (or at least, not yet), but there are indications of a small improvement in indicators of food security and dietary diversity. The study also elaborates on findings in terms of women’s empowerment.

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