Enhancing Community Resilience

Enhancing Community Resilience in Malawi Provides a 2,900% Return On Investment

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A recent study of Village Savings and Loans Associations in the Enhancing Community Resilience Project in Malawi provides a 2,900% return on investment.  The external evaluator estimates that for every $1 invested in VSLAs, the communities receive $29 in benefits over 10 years—and if program success continues as is, it will go up to $34.

CARE is a subgrantee to Christian Aid on the ECRP project, which runs from 2011-2019 with the generous support of UK AID, Irish Aid, and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The return on investment isn’t the only great result. 

What has ECRP accomplished?

  • More than doubled food security: The percentage of families that could go for 9 months on their own food supplies went from 15% to 35%.  The food insecure population in the area dropped by 166,000 (more than 23%).
  • Increased emergency reserves by 50%: The amount of time a family could live off of their food reserves went from 2 months to 3 months on average.
  • Doubled families’ income and capital assets: Families’ income has gone up by 125%, and they the value of their assets has gone up by 151%. 
  • Built the ability to respond to climate change: 40,000 more people are now using at least 3 strategies to adapt to climate change—an increase of 37%).  The most popular strategies are diversifying crops, planting more trees, and using conservation agriculture techniques. Data from 2015 suggests that ECRP families were much better able to respond to the flooding that hit their region hard this year.
  • Protected families against recession: In 2013-2014, Malawi had a variety of economic shocks that raised the poverty rates in relevant districts by nearly 12%.  ECRP beneficiaries saw no rise in their poverty rates, which the evaluator attributes to activities cushioning families from shock.

How did we get there?

  • Using VSLA: VSLA shows up as the most successful, popular, and cost-effective component of the program.  VSLA is a critical component of what the consortium calls a “no-handouts” approach, where instead of buying inputs for communities, the program encourages them to invest the VLSA money into inputs.  While the donor worried that this would make it difficult to achieve program targets, ECRP is dramatically overreaching its goals, and outperforming the peer project.
  • Advocacy: ECRP has been able to influence 11 national policies with 15 publications to date.  The percentage of decision makers who are taking advice and evidence from ECRP rose from 24% at baseline to 85% in 2014.
  • A comprehensive package: The capacity building package includes VSLA, gender training, conservation agriculture, fuel efficient stoves, dietary diversity training, post-harvest management, and agroforestry.  LTS, the external evaluator estimates that the return on the crop-based intervention alone would be $3.17 per $1 invested, compared to the $29 that they see when they include VSLA.

Want to learn more? Read testimony from Enifa Onani, or the article on DevEx.