‘They helped me to be so courageous’: Hand in Hand partnership with CARE boosts confidence, incomes

Women who completed Hand in Hand’s joint-programme with CARE in Afghanistan say they have higher incomes, more confidence, increased mobility and greater decision-making power inside and outside of the home.

The findings, reported during a series of focus groups conducted in December 2020, come as part of a wider evaluation of the project, designed to test what happens with programmes that target women’s social empowerment, courtesy of CARE, are blended with programmes that target their economic empowerment, courtesy of Hand in Hand. Launched in 2018, the 22-month project concluded in November last year.

Economic empowerment

All the project’s members – a greater number than expected – completed Hand in Hand’s business and skills training. Those who needed it also received extra training literacy and numeracy. With their training complete, members received start-up toolkits to help launch their businesses (think sewing machines and thread for tailors or chickens, coops and feed for poultry farmers). The rest was up to them.

By the time the project concluded, 1,101 enterprises had been launched, 11 percent more than the target of 990. What’s more, members had hired 117 of their neighbours as employees, bringing the total number of jobs created to 1,218.

Monthly net incomes rose to an average of AFN 2,152 (US $28), in most cases starting from zero. It was enough to lift the average member above the national poverty line.

Social empowerment

The benefits of the programme weren’t only economic, however. Speaking to Hand in Hand Afghanistan evaluators during a series of post-project workshops, members reported improvements in a number of key areas. Here’s just some of what they had to say.

On mobility: “I can feel positive changes in both my household and in my community. Indeed, this project changed in my life. For example, I did not go outside much before my participation in this project but after my participation I become a well-known person in my area. I also became a social person by regularly attending group meetings and vocational training classes. Now I’ve started going to my relative’s houses and participating in their events, and I’m going to the market to buy raw materials for my enterprise too.” – Participant 6, Dehmiskin focus group

On decision-making and confidence: “I can decide on health issues in my family, on my enterprise, on buying food, buying cloths, registering children in school and more… During the two years of the project I received several trainings and they helped me to be so courageous. Before, it was our men who sold our eggs and milk at the market, but now I can decide where to sell them, how much to sell them for and how should I spend my money.” Participant 4, Dehmiskin focus group

On involving men in training: “[Before the project] women could not raise their voices and when they wanted to go out. people had negative thoughts about them. That’s changed since men and women both started attending meetings.” – Participant 7, Khulm focus group

Recommendations

Evaluators – and focus group members – made a wide range of recommendations for improving future programmes. Prioritising enterprises that maximise returns while minimising labour was one of them, with members pointing to poultry farming as one example. Caring for chickens only takes two or three hours a day, they said, and chickens lay eggs all year regardless of season. In a context when most men down tools during the harsh winter months, this was seen as especially valuable.

Evaluators also recommended involving more men in future programmes in order to change their attitudes about women’s work.

For more information about the programme, please click the link below or contact Hand in Hand International Programme Development Manager Isabel Creixell.

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By the numbers

1,101 enterprises

 

1,218 jobs

Average income: AFN 2,152 (US$28)

Hand in Hand joins calls for people-, planet-driven recovery at C7 Summit

“We, the representatives of over 200 civil society organisations from around the world have come together at this crucial moment in history to call on the leaders of the G7 to agree a bold and ambitious policy agenda that puts people and planet at the centre of the world’s recovery.”

So begins the communique from Hand in Hand Afghanistan Chair Seema Ghani and other leaders who gathered this month at the Civil Society (7) Summit. The two-day meeting, hosted by industry group Bond, aimed to help shape the agenda at this year’s G7 meeting in Cornwall.

Among other recommendations, the communique calls for governments to “Build Forward” from the pandemic sustainably and inclusively based a new, green economic model. It also calls for the G7 to close the global gap in funding for vaccines and build an early detection system for future pandemics.

To read the full communique, click here.

Hand in Hand CEO elected to SEEP Network board

Hand in Hand International CEO Dorothea Arndt has been elected to the Board of Directors of the SEEP Network, the leading global network for NGOs working in women’s economic empowerment, representing millions of savings groups members worldwide.

Dorothea joins a Board of Directors that includes senior leaders from some of the biggest names in the sector, including Habitat for Humanity International, Oxfam, the Mastercard Foundation and more.

“Each of the individuals shares a strong sense of commitment and bring a wealth of experience and knowledge from their respective roles and as members of the network,” the SEEP Network said in a statement.

Dorothea said: “I look forward to advancing SEEP’s disruptive collaboration among members. Each member organisation brings a unique lens to our goal. We only succeed together.”

Established in 1985 with USAID support, the SEEP Network was originally focused on promoting enterprise development and microcredit. Today its 100-plus member organisations, active in 150 countries worldwide, also specialise in agriculture, resilient markets and women’s economic empowerment.

Hand in Hand looks forward to participating in SEEP’s plans to leverage its members’ collective power to foster greater collaboration around funding opportunities and influence government policy.

A letter to our supporters and friends

Dear friends of Hand in Hand,

Those of you who know me know I am not given to hyperbole. Sentiment and pathos aren’t really my thing. And yet, as I look back on 2020, I find myself overwhelmed by the generosity and steadfastness of Hand in Hand’s donors and partners. In this most challenging of years, a heartfelt thanks is in order.

To old friends who stuck by us or upped their support. To new friends who at a time of great personal uncertainty found room in their hearts for people living half a world away. When the world came to a standstill you stood behind us.

Here’s just some of what you did:

  • As individuals, responded within 15 minutes – on a Sunday – to an email about our emergency response.
    As corporate donors, responded within 24 hours to pledge emergency funds.
  • Removed agreed restrictions on your funding, with an instruction to support our existing programme members whatever it took.
  • Bid in our first-ever online auction, and got your friends to do the same.
  • Went public with your stance not merely to maintain your charitable giving in 2020, but to increase it.
  • Enabled Hand in Hand trainers to distribute soap, sanitiser and face masks to nearly 100,000 poor and vulnerable people in hard-to-reach villages and camps.
  • Supported our programme members to create more than 250 jobs a day since June, even when a quarter of their small businesses had ground to a halt and more than 39 percent had used up all of their savings during lockdowns.

Last but not least I want to extend a huge thanks to our frontline colleagues in the network, who every single day displayed a humbling level of determination and bravery. “It’s a very heavy responsibility and we feel a sense of fear. If someone has the virus, it’s difficult,” said Hand in Hand Afghanistan trainer Zahra way back in March, as confusion reached its peak. “On the other hand, it’s a pleasure to help our people, who are really in need and live in poverty.”

As the virus continues to circulate across the globe, need and poverty will not be in short supply in 2021. An immense amount of work awaits us. Still, we can be proud of what we have achieved so far. And thanks to your outstanding generosity and our network colleagues’ prowess, we can go even further in 2021. For example, together, we plan to double our outreach year in Kenya, quadruple it in Tanzania and launch our first private-public partnership in Afghanistan.

But before then, have a restful, restorative holiday season and a happy, healthy new year.

Yours,

 

 

Dorothea Arndt
CEO, Hand in Hand International

Hand in Hand teams up with IKEA Foundation on planet-positive agriculture

With the right mindset, turning a profit and restoring the environment can be one and the same. That’s why Hand in Hand and the IKEA Foundation are teaming up to help smallholder farmers in Kenya become leaders in planet-positive agriculture, equipped with the training and tools to lift themselves out of poverty, reverse environmental degradation and show their neighbours there’s a better way to farm.

The problem

Agriculture employs 70 percent of the rural Kenyans and contributes 26 percent of the country’s annual GDP. But most farmers lack the money, skills and tools they need to get the most out of their land and are forced to use practices that damage the environment, make the soil less fertile and threaten the future of their food systems.

Already, more than a third of Kenyan farmers grow crops on degraded land, costing the national economy an estimated US $1.3 billion a year. Unless we act now, more land will be damaged and productivity will continue to fall, breaking the backbone of Kenya’s economy while causing untold damage to its food systems and natural environment.

Our solution

With support from the IKEA Foundation, Hand in Hand will train 1,600 smallholder farmers in regenerative and circular practices to increase productivity and reduce poverty.

Regenerative agriculture favours practices such as crop rotation and using organic fertilisers that help restore soil and water systems, ensuring farms remain sustainable long into the future. Circularity means reusing essential resources like water and natural fertiliser, cutting down on agricultural waste and encouraging vibrant local economies, independent from global demand. Together, they comprise a transformative approach to agriculture that does good for farmers and for the environment.

To help take this transformative approach to scale, Hand in Hand will generate evidence and spread project learning to its network of 250,000 smallholder members countrywide. At the same time, it will empower its core group of 1,600 planet-friendly farmers to be grassroots advocates for regenerative and circular practices at the local and regional levels.

The three-year, US $2.5 million project concludes in September 2023.

Why the IKEA Foundation is supporting the project

The IKEA Foundation is supporting Hand in Hand to test, share and scale up planet-positive farming methods so that smallholder farmers can earn a decent income and protect the planet, while laying the foundations for future efforts to promote this approach to farming across Kenya.

By the numbers

Project goal: 1,600 members trained in planet-positive agriculture

Project duration: 3 years

Project cost: US $2.5 million

The Hand in Hand online auction is here!

That’s right, folks.

Starting today, you, your friends, your family, your friends’ families and your families’ friends – and your enemies – can bid on a huge range of super-cool items, from wine and original art to designer bags and wine to holidays, e-bikes and wine.

“Interesting,” you say. “But can I enter a raffle to win a stunning Orbit No. 1 diamond necklace from Swiss jewellers Montluc?”

Boom.

And that’s not all. Every time you bid or buy a raffle ticket, you’ll be helping women in some of the most challenging places on Earth beat the odds and succeed as entrepreneurs, which is literally impossible to argue with.

So go ahead. Finish Start your Christmas shopping or treat yourself to a presumably well-earned gift. Then forward our auction site to every single person in your address book, twice.

Happy bidding!

Let’s do this

Hand in Hand named ACT Charity of the Year for third year running

It’s being billed as the Association of Corporate Treasurers’ ‘(Not the) Annual Dinner’, but for the third year running Hand in Hand International most definitely is the Charity of the Year.

On Wednesday 11 November the ACT’s membership will not meet in a packed ballroom in London’s Mayfair to ring in the premier networking event in the corporate finance calendar. Instead, they’ll meet online as the event goes virtual – including a live online auction in support of Hand in Hand.

Funds raised on the night will go towards Hand in Hand’s Fund for Fearless Women, helping vulnerable women beat the odds and succeed as entrepreneurs, lifting their families and their communities out of poverty.

Hosted by business leader and BBC presenter David Meade, the event features an address from Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Research: poverty rate doubles as coronavirus grips Kenya

When Kenya recorded its first case of coronavirus on 12 March, the government wasted no time in acting: within 72 hours strict lockdown measures were in effect, and inter-county travel bans, the closure of open-air markets and a countrywide 9pm to 4am curfew soon followed.

Now, original new research from Hand in Hand is providing perhaps the most detailed look yet at how the smallholder farmers and microenterprise owners that power Kenya’s informal economy, in particular women, are struggling to cope.

The findings, which come as the government of Kenya yesterday extended its curfew by 30 days even while loosening some travel restrictions, paint a bleak picture of shuttered businesses, dwindling savings, and a country with a long road to recovery.

But they also sketch a roadmap to recovery, capturing the areas where our members – and the 11.8 million Kenyans who work in the country’s informal economy – most need support.

The results

In late-May, Hand in Hand staff surveyed 579 Self-Help Group members and 197 borrowers from our Enterprise Incubation Fund, almost 80 percent of them women, to find out they’d been affected by the lockdown. Respondents were randomly selected from 21 branches spread out across the central and southern portions of the country.

How were their businesses coping? Their savings and debt levels? What steps were they taking to adapt? What assistance did they need, financial and otherwise?

Here’s what they said.

 

83% living in poverty

Poverty

Before coronavirus forced Kenya into lockdown, 44 percent of sampled members lived below the poverty line of US $1.90 per person per day (Countrywide, the poverty rate is 36 percent.) Eight weeks into lockdown, that number had almost doubled, reaching 83 percent. 

 

25% of businesses closed

Business closures

A full quarter of respondents’ had been forced to close their businesses. In some areas, that figure was as high as 40 percent. Transport and manufacturing were the hardest-hit sectors, with just 55 percent and 67 percent of Kenyan microenterprise owners still managing respectively. Agriculture, where 78 percent respondents of still had work, and retail, where 75 percent did, were faring best.

 

67% drop in income

Business income

Even when businesses managed to stay open, the picture was bleak: regardless of sector, location or gender, the average drop in business income was 67 percent. Not surprisingly, then, respondents identified low business incomes, a lack of customers due to market closures, and low demand as their most pressing challenges. Rising prices for farm inputs and a lack of affordable transport were other common themes.

 

69% drop in savings

Savings

Before the lockdown, 5 percent of respondents had no savings. Eight weeks later, that figure had shot to 39 percent. Just over half of all respondents, 54 percent, said they’d spent at least some of their savings on household needs including food. An almost equal number, 52 percent, had put at least some towards keeping their businesses running. Five percent were using their savings to pay off loans.

For almost all of them, time was running out. Five weeks ago when the survey was conducted, only 14 percent had a rainy day fund that would last more than a month.

 

54% plan to take out a loan to restart their business

Financing

Forty-two percent of members had no outstanding loans. Among the 58 percent who did, Self-Help Group savings funds and Hand in Hand’s Enterprise Incubation Fund were the two most common sources of credit. Both groups said financing to restart their businesses was their most important requirement, citing an average loan size of KES 27,200 (US $260). Zero-collateral loans, grants and even food donations were requested with no prompting.

Other ways we can help

Financing was our members’ number one requirement – but it wasn’t their only one. Eighty-four percent said they need personal protective equipment including face masks, gloves and soap to reopen. Farm inputs such as new seeds, training to help businesses survive during lockdown, and help accessing markets were also requested.

And then there were members who needed no help at all. Nine percent of respondents said they’d made strategic adaptations to their businesses, ranging from sourcing inputs locally to circumvent transport restrictions to more directly marketing their products door-to-door. In one case, a woman in Nairobi said she was working to make her handmade goods available on an e-commerce platform.

To learn more about this report and how Hand in Hand is adapting our programmes to help our members recover, please contact Hand in Hand International Head of Programmes Amalia Johnsson.

Hilti Foundation, Hand in Hand announce major recovery project

From coronavirus to climate change, poverty to food security, humanity’s greatest challenges prove that we, the global family, depend on each other.

Now, a new partnership between The Hilti Foundation, Hand in Hand International and thousands of smallholder farmers across East Africa proves that when our global family comes together, no challenge is too big to overcome.

Launching this month thanks to a US $4.2 million investment from the Hilti Foundation, the three-year project aims to reach 24,000 farmers across Kenya and Tanzania, creating almost 17,000 enterprises and 22,000 jobs. Members will be trained to run some of the most profitable agri-businesses in the region, then recruited into its most robust value chains, helping them rebuild from coronavirus and stay thriving for years to come.

Focusing on dairy, poultry and high-margin produce, the project is the second between Hand in Hand and The Hilti Foundation, bringing the overall number of farmers reached by the partnership to 40,000. Changes to women’s decision-making power in the home will be measured. And climate-resilient practices such as topsoil regeneration, biodiversity and rainwater harvesting will be emphasised throughout.

“The Hilti Foundation was committed to expanding our partnership with Hand in Hand before the outbreak of Covid-19. In the context of the global pandemic, our program in Eastern Africa has become even more relevant: enabling smallhold enterprises in rural areas to grow into flourishing businesses creates economic and social development for entire regions.” said Werner Wallner, The Hilti Foundation CEO.

Dorothea Arndt, CEO of Hand in Hand International, said: “Covid-19 is already leaving a global economic crisis in its wake. As we switch from saving lives to saving livelihoods, organisations like Hand in Hand will be crucial in leading the recovery. And strategic partners like The Hilti Foundation, committed to creating opportunities for people to take their lives into their own hands, will be more important than ever before.”

For more information about the project, please contact Senior Partnerships and Project Officer Dan Browne.

By the numbers

 

24,000 smallolder farmers

17,000 enterprises

22.000 jobs

Research: coronavirus fuels food security crisis in Afghanistan

Spent savings, sold assets and a high and growing dependence on food aid. That’s the picture for thousands of families in north Afghanistan according to new, original research from Hand in Hand.

The findings underscore reports from the IPC and others that that conflict, joblessness and coronavirus are combining to plunge the country into crisis, with 11 million Afghans – more than a third of the population – now classified as acutely food insecure.

Conducted earlier this month, the survey asked community leaders from eight villages in Balkh Province how coronavirus was hitting their communities. The findings will help guide Hand in Hand’s efforts as we move from delivering soap, chlorine, face masks and virus prevention to training to 65,000 vulnerable people in the north of the country, to helping our members lead the economic recovery and remain food secure.

Most residents in the villages we surveyed have been forced from their homes by Taliban violence, and today live in tents provided by the UN. Others are returnees from surrounding countries. The vast majority, 80 percent, were considered poor and vulnerable even before the coronavirus brought the economy to a halt.

Here, according to our research, is where they stand today:

  • Most households depend on short-term day labour, which has completely dried up due to lockdowns.
  • Many male household members (parents, youth) have migrated to Iran and Turkey looking for work.
  • Dependency on food aid is high. Resources are extremely limited. As settlements rather than camps, these areas fall outside of humanitarian aid, and government support programmes are very short term.
  • Most households have used up savings and are selling key assets such as livestock to feed themselves.
  • Women are especially vulnerable: domestic violence has increased in many households, as have the risks of robbery in households where male members have migrated.

Hand in Hand wants to help thousands more women and their families stand up to Afghanistan’s food crisis by joining the country’s poultry value chain and producing and selling eggs.

Requiring little space and operational from home, poultry farming is ideal during a lockdown. And because most chickens are imported from outside Afghanistan, it’s one of the few value chains in the country whose worth has actually increased since March. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s a direct source of nutrition for women and their families at an incredibly precarious time.

To find out how you can help, contact Hand in Hand. Or you can donate today.