Pathways to Empowerment Increases Food Security For 65,000 Women Farmers

Pathways to Empowerment Increases Food Security For 65,000 Women Farmers

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With the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CARE’s Pathways Program is based on the conviction that women farmers possess enormous potential to contribute to long-term food security for their families and substantially impact nutritional outcomes in sustainable ways. Pathways works in six countries (Bangladesh, India, Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana, and Mali) to increase food and nutrition security for 65,000 women farmers, their families, and their communities. A December 2016 evaluation by the New Economics Foundation shows that for every $1 invested, communities get a $31 return on investment.



The Pathways goal is to increase the productivity and empowerment of women farmers in more equitable agriculture systems at scale. Specific objectives include increasing the productivity and empowerment of 50,000 poor women farmers in sustainable and equitable agricultural systems; enhancing the scale of high-quality women-responsive agricultural programming within and beyond CARE; and influencing debates and policy dialog on women and agriculture at local, national and global levels. The program design is guided by a consistent Theory of Change  derived from in-depth analysis of barriers facing women farmers in the six Pathways countries and beyond.


Impact So Far

Using improved agricultural methods, Farmers' Field and Business Schools, new marketing techniques, and lessons on nutrition and gender equality, CARE and the communities we work with have been able to have a huge impact.  Since the program began, Pathways has:

  • Saw a $31 return on every $1 invested: as measured in Ghana, Mali, and Malawi
  • Helped families increase income by $7,240,676 on agricultural yield increases and marketing techniques
  • Mobilized savings: $15,187,867 in savings through Village Savings and Loan Associations
  • Supported access to credit: $1,885,693 in loans through VSLA and an additional $66,736 in loans from formal institutions
  • Grown more food: to be exact, women in Pathways have been able to grow 537,498 metric tons of increased agricultural production.
  • Built women's leadership: women in leadership positions increased from 20-60%, depending on the country.
  • Taught farmers improved techniques: Adoption rates of improved agricultural techniques from 70-90% depending on the practice and country

Perhaps most importantly, Pathways has promoted more equal relationships and decision-making at home.  In all of the project areas, women and men are telling us stories of how they now work together to increase income and food and nutrition security. As a woman in Ghana told us, “This is the first time my husband has given me land to farm my own crops. Over the years any time I asked for land he would tell me that the land is not even enough for him to share with me and that if I were such a great farmer I wouldn’t have left my father’s house to come and marry him. So I thank you people for changing the minds of our husbands.”


How Do We Get There?

CARE's Pathways program is using several innovative approaches to achieve our results.  A couple of our innovations at work are:

  • Focusing on Gender Equality — we know that the face of hunger is largely female, and promoting equality helps reduce food insecurity.  We use our women's empowerment framework to guide our interventions to make sure we are building equality by looking at agency, structures, and relations. Read some approaches for measuring gender equality.
  • Our Theory of Change focuses on 5 "change levers" to help women reach more secure livelihoods: capacity, access, productivity, household influence, and the enabling environment.
  • Farmers' Field and Business Schools — an experiential learning approach that puts farmers at the center of learning, and includes sessions on nutrition, marketing, and gender equality in addition to agricultural practices.
  • Push Pull Approaches — a model that aims to graduate people out of poverty by building their skills and assets, and connecting them to markets.
  • Participatory Performance Tracker — a tool that lets communities assess the changes that have happened and decide what steps we need to take next.
  • Engaging Men and Boys — a framework that helps men and women think about how more equal relationships helps everyone accomplish more.
  • Looking at resilience — Through a generous donation from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, CARE is exploring how to make sure that all of the agriculture and livelihood skills we support are climate-resilient, and that communities have the tools they need to face an increasingly unpredictable agricultural context.


Want to Learn More?

To learn more about Pathways, download the Program Overview, or visit the project webpage. You can also look at the Deeper Dive, or the full endline evaluation.

Download the Project Brief