Improving Women’s Financial Independence Through Income-Generating Activities & Micro-Credit Programs
Challenge: Limited opportunities for rural women in poverty
Limited educational and employment opportunities for rural women in Malawi makes it particularly difficult for them to lift themselves out of poverty.
Findings: Altomare, A (2016) The Effect of Microcredit on Women’s Empowerment
Research was conducted to establish whether cash or livestock based microfinance programs have a greater impact on women’s empowerment in the Chilumba area of Karonga District, Malawi. Baseline wealth surveys were conducted across the five microfinance groups supported by NGO Determined to Develop, to reveal the economic benefits of these programs. Following this, a mixed-method approach was used to establish individual interviews with 37 women from a revolving goat group (livestock program) and group interviews with four income generating activity (IGA) groups (cash programs). Women’s empowerment was measured using indicators of self-confidence, financial confidence, autonomy in decision making and perceived contribution to the community. Highlighted differences between cash and livestock programs were noted where individual empowerment was evident in the livestock program, with members of the goat group scoring well in financial confidence and self-confidence but not social capital. Meanwhile, IGA groups performed much higher in social capital reflecting the collaborative nature of their program. Overall both types of programs indicated positive signs of empowerment in line with their respective goals, although livestock programs were perceived to be more sustainable by survey participants. Findings can be used to develop program outcomes, including profits for all groups and social interaction within the goat group. Further research is also recommended to make conclusions based on income and wealth data.
Solution: Women’s Business Groups
To address the identified need for women to have more financial independence, D2D assisted in the development of several women-run income generating and revolving micro-credit activities. In the process, D2D delivered group members with training on business skills, record keeping, and management that are both useful for their participation in the activity and are easily transferable. D2D staff overseeing these projects produced a toolkit for income generating activities (IGA) and revolving goat groups, to provide a resource for members and supporters of these groups.
In 2018, D2D handed over all women’s IGAs and microfinance projects to group members. Given all of the necessary training, resources, and start-up capital needed to continue operations themselves, the members of these groups have taken complete ownership of the projects and are continuing to make income, increasing their financial independence.
Establishment of School Feeding Programs to Improve Nutritional Intake
Challenge: 42% stunting rate for children under five years old in Malawi
Access to healthcare and access to food are basic human rights. However, hunger is a very real problem for many children in Malawi. There is a high prevalence of under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies and the stunting rate for children under 5 in Malawi is 42% (2015 World Food Program), a figure that has not improved for many years. Schools have a high dropout rate for a number of reasons, and many of those who do attend school walk far distances to and from on empty stomachs. This not only affects a child’s health, but also their concentration levels and performance in class, and contributes to the number of children dropping out of school.
Findings: After identifying the challenge, D2D conducted research to gain a better understanding of the issue, nutritional requirements of school-aged children, and the feasibility of running a school feeding program.
Inadequate nutrition in the first years of life can interfere with brain development and can lead to neurological and behavioral disorders as well as learning disabilities later in life. There is considerable evidence illustrating that infants exposed to good nutrition and adequate psychosocial stimulation have increased brain function than those raised with a lack of nutrition. Nutrition in the early years of life can have a profound effect on children’s health status as well as their ability to learn, think analytically and socialize with others, and their capacity to adapt and change. Good nutrition is also critical in avoiding and surviving childhood diseases. In situations of inadequate nutrition, the body spontaneously ranks survival first and growth second and cognitive and brain development last.
In Malawi, schools feeding programs are sometimes established in schools, usually run by foreign charities or non-profit organizations, but are not required. These programs are sometimes the only meal students will eat in a day. The food typically consists of a porridge, either maize with sugar and oil, or a fortified porridge called likuni phala, and is offered either before, during, or after the classroom sessions.
D2D contacted non-governmental organizations and hospitals running feeding programs in Malawi, as well as nutritionists, to inform the project. Research regarding recommended daily allowances for children concluded that the quantity per child should be as follows: 45 grams of maize, 7.5 grams of sugar, and 1.5 grams of salt. Likuni phala, although a more expensive option, ensures children are gaining nutritional benefits, as opposed to just a full stomach. Using a product that has added nutritional value helps to fight stunting, malnutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies and ensures a focus on the long-term issues as opposed to just the immediate need. Research concluded that each child in a feeding program would need 50 grams of likuni phala per day.
Solution: Implementing Feeding Programs at local schools which give students nutritious meals everyday
From 2015-2017, D2D was responsible for developing and managing feeding programs for 2 local nursery schools and 2 local primary schools. Feeding program committees were established, made up of community members, care givers, parents and relevant members of the community, to ensure oversight and community involvement in this project.
The programs were extremely successful. In the two years of operation, over 2.5 million meals were provided to students.
Optimizing Environmental Efforts to Combat Deforestation
Challenge: Rapid and widespread deforestation in Malawi
Findings: Kuminecz, C (2017) Exploring Successful African Models of Community Reforestation, Applications Toward New Reforestation Efforts in the Chilumba Catchment Area.
Through interviews and observations, this study investigates deforestation and how it can best be countered by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Determined to Develop (D2D) in the Chilumba Catchment area of Malawi. D2D recognizes the need to confront the harsh implications of deforestation, such as fuel depletion and environmental degradation. The investigation found that communities play a large part in the success of environmental projects, reforestation is not the only means to combat deforestation, and NGOs must foster a relationship with the Forestry Department to ensure successful environmental projects. In culmination of the information collected and analyzed in this study, a recommendation was formed detailing how D2D can optimize its environmental efforts.
Mitigating the Effects of Climate Change on Natural Resources
Challenge: An increase of unpredictable weather patterns impacting the daily lives of Malawians
Findings: Foster, J (2017) A Community Needs Assessment of Environmental Projects and Opportunities, Including GIS Mapping of Community Environmental Resources, with an Emphasis on the Mitigation of the Effects of Climate Change.
Climate change is a complicated issue and there are many factors that are affected by it and a lot of possible solutions to aid in mitigating its effects. This report covers how natural resources in Malawi have been affected by climate change and what that means for the people living there. The resources include forests, grasses, water, crops, livestock, and human health. In exploring how those resources have been transformed by climate change, overpopulation and overexploitation become patterns as well. As the changes are examined, efforts of other non-governmental organizations are explored as well. Recommendations are made for Determined to Develop throughout each section on common strategies other NGOs are using to approach each area of change.
NGO Support for Government Agriculture Services
Challenge: Delivering effective extension services so that farmers can increase their yield and profit. Failing agriculture extension services resulting in decreased yields and profits.
Findings: Dibadj, A (2017) Impact of Direct Support of Government Institutions in the Chilumba Catchment Area
Research determining which private and government agricultural services are available in the Chilumba area of Karonga, Malawi and their direct impact on farmers. Agricultural Development Extension Officers (ADEOs), NGOs and Ministry of Agriculture workers were interviewed face-to-face using a structured interview questionnaire and assistance from a local extension worker to establish this while also enabling a better understanding of the relationship between private and public sector agricultural services in the T/A Wasambo area. Twenty-nine farmers were also interviewed with an interpreter to determine how agricultural services affected their households. Respondents were selected through snowball sampling with no more than three farmers being interviewed per village, following which responses were written down and later recorded in Microsoft Excel for analysis. Findings revealed that the 47% public sector vacancy rate for AEDOs was attributed to poor working conditions where NGOs could offer better pay and working conditions. The high vacancy rate resulted in employed public sector AEDOs being responsible for a catchment of 1500-2000 households each, an impossible number of households to visit. Consequently only 59% of farmers in the study had ever been reached by an AEDO, despite farming techniques received from AEDOs being reported by farmers to be of most use. Outreach and education were emphasized by both public and private sectors but farmers were more concerned with feeding their families than understanding issues such as climate change. Moreover, farmers stated that the Malawian market was unsustainable with unfair prices and a saturation of the same crops such as cassava, maize and rice. On these bases it is recommended that NGOs working to improve the agricultural market provide inputs (soft loans) and a market to sell at a reasonable price while ensuring farmers have produce to sell. If NGOs were to sponsor an AEDO or provide them with a motorbike they could work more efficiently and combat vacancies. Better communication between NGOs and the Ministry of Agriculture would also improve efficiency in working towards shared food security goals.