2014 Annual Report Executive Summary

Below is the text of  the Pathways Program 2014 Annual Report Executive Summary.

CARE’s Pathways to Empowerment Program goal is to increase the productivity and empowerment of poor women smallholder farmers in more equitable agriculture systems at scale. Pathways is implemented in six countries (Mali, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, Bangladesh and India) and guided by a unifying theory of change focused on five change levers: increased capacity and skills; expanded access to services, assets, and inputs; increased productivity; greater influence over household decisions; and a more enabling environment for gender equity, both within communities and in extension and market systems.

The program is a flagship initiative through which CARE strives to achieve three inter-related objectives:

Objective 1: Increase the productive engagement of 52,000 poor women in sustainable agriculture and contribute to their empowerment

Objective 2: Enhance the scale of high-quality women-responsive agriculture programming at CARE

Objective 3: Contribute to the global discourse that surrounds women and agriculture.

This report presents progress achieved during the first year of program implementation. Prior to the reporting period, CARE completed a 9-month program inception phase (November 2011 / September 2012) and a 15-month contextual analysis and program design phase (July 2009 / December 2010), both supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Implementation Progress Update

Pathways Milestones 2014 Annual Report Executive Summary

Pathways Milestones Progress 2014

Milestones: All milestones for the reporting period have been achieved or are on schedule. Milestones shown as ‘not current activity’ are activities that do not fall under this reporting period. At global level, 44% of all Pathways life-of-project milestones have been completed, 48% are on ongoing and 8% will not be initiated until later in the program lifecycle.

Objective 1 Progress: Objective 1 is the primary focus of CARE’s investment in Pathways, representing approximately 70% of the total budget and all programming in the six countries of implementation. During the reporting period, all Pathways countries completed at least one agricultural cycle. The report therefore includes both results and process updates.

The current reach of the program is 47,595 poor women smallholder farmers, representing 91.5% of the total target 52,000 women smallholder beneficiaries for the program. Participants are members of 2,583 pre-existing groups that have been strengthened over the past year through Pathways activities. Key results and progress by change lever include:

Lever 1: Capacity: Producer groups gained capacity on multiple fronts in all countries. Major activities included the development and adoption of an integrated “Farmer Field and Business School” or FFBS model across the bulk of the program. The FFBS is a platform for building producer capacity on sustainable production practices, business management, market literacy, financial management, nutrition and gender equity. All Pathways teams developed group-level capacity building plans, 720 (52% women) community-based trainers were trained on the FFBS or similar models[1] and all participants went through an initial training cycle.  

Lever 2: Access:  Pathways work on access focuses on improved inputs, extension, land, output markets, finance and post-harvest technologies. Gains have been made in all areas. Some specific areas of note include:

  • To improve access to inputs, teams took a range of approaches, all of which included some degree of linking groups to existing public sector schemes, community-level replication and private sector solutions. Improving input access is a driving priority for Y2 implementation
  • Access to output markets were enhanced by Pathways-supported groups to establish 209 marketing committees in four countries, comprised of 788 members 85% of which are women. Although too early to tell in all value chains across countries, where these groups are in place, Pathways is registering improved prices and improved incomes from agriculture.
  • Gains in access to land have included approximately 3,760 hectares of newly accessible land for 4,954 producers in three countries alone (Bangladesh, Mali, Malawi). Pathways expects progress in this area to accelerate as an MOU with Landesa begins to yield results in India and Tanzania, and technical assistance from Landesa is applied to strengthen existing work in Mali and Ghana. 
  • Access to extension. Investments made in community-based trainers (CBTs) across the program have been instrumental to improving access to extension. In Ghana, for instance, the average extension agent-to-farmer ratio is 1:1500. The ratio within Pathways is 1:24. In Tanzania, the typical ratio is 1:3000/5000. The Pathways ratio is 1:91. A focus on reducing the agent-to- farmer ratio through both public and private channels while promoting sustainability is one focus in the year ahead.

Lever 3: Productivity: Due to the agricultural seasonality and reporting cycle timing, not all the countries have yield data to report. However, where data are available, Pathways has consistently seen positive gains. In Ghana, soybean yield / hectare grew by 237%, in large part due to adoption of practices promoted by Pathways. In Mali, CARE’s work to promote SRI on the demonstration plots has shown near 130% increases in rice yields compared to traditional practices (from 3MT/ha to 7MT/ha). In India, although full yield data is not yet available and the region weathered Cyclone Phallin during the reporting period, approximately 50% of the program’s 344 lead farmers report adopting practices promoted by Pathways. Across all countries, these gains are supported by the investments Pathways has made to establish a total of 716 demonstration plots and improve producer access to inputs, information and services.

Lever 4: Household Influence: In all of the Pathways countries, the focus in the reporting period has been building CBT capacity on gender, facilitation skills, and internalizing the concepts related to gender discrimination and empowerment. Teams have started to use the FFBS gender tools, starting with the issues of land access and division of labor. As the tools are heavily dependent on facilitation skills and conceptual clarity, teams are still refining materials and exploring other media and platforms for holding gender dialogues. Documentation of dialogues is also a thrust of countries’ gender strategies, moving forward.

Lever 5: Enabling environment: Pathways has pursued positive change in the enabling environment through a common set of channels, tailored country by country to the specific constraints and opportunities. These strategies have included: a) identifying and training male change champions for gender equality; b) training CBTs on gender issues and supporting their own transformation; c) influencing community structures by engaging leaders; d) enhancing women’s leadership positions; e) promoting collective action; and f) working in partnership with formal institutions. Progress across the program has been substantial, starting with building CBT capacity and identifying male champions. One particularly powerful illustration of CARE’s approach to addressing structural gender biases comes from Bangladesh, where Pathways has helped 7,077 women day laborers to lobby for equal wages. The results are a 42% increase in daily wages representing an estimated $994,886 / year and a 50% reduction in the gendered wage gap.

Objective 2 Progress: Pathways Objective 2 aims to influence other programs across CARE’s country networks. Gains in this area have included CAREs Malawi and Mali adopting the Pathways theory of change to inform the national food security program; CARE Ghana securing funds from both private donors and CIDA to expand Pathways to new areas; the Pathways program informing CARE India’s strategy and successful proposals to Cargill, Sodexo and the AXA Group; and CARE Bangladesh integrating the FFBS into a new USAID-funded initiative targeting 200,000 smallholders. Pathways has also built collaborations with similar AusAid and CIDA-funded CARE programs operating in seven countries, worth $15 million USD.  Pathways continues to be a key fundraising priority for CARE.

Objective 3 Progress:  Pathways Objective 3 aims to influence the global discourse on women’s empowerment in agriculture and ensure the program is informed by external stakeholders at multiple levels. Key points of progress on this front included Pathways being showcased at a range of external events including the World Food Prize, the American Evaluation Association Annual Conference and the First Ladies Summit in Tanzania. Pathways has been featured in various external industry publications, and to date, the program’s own communications platform has generated over 30 blog posts and 173 subscribers.

Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning: Substantial energy was invested ensure a number of common tools were fully designed and rolled out. CARE adapted the Participatory Performance Tracking Tool developed under the Gates-funded, CARE-implemented Strengthening the Dairy Value Chain project in Bangladesh to facilitate portfolio-level performance tracking of all collectives across the program. Annual review studies have been initiated in all countries to track specific household gains, and CARE has begun developing a mobile-based application for remote monitoring with Dimagi via support from the Cisco Foundation and USAID. The Pathways learning agenda has also made gains in the past year, with emphasis on collectives and empowerment in particular.

Program Management: Pathways has undergone managerial changes, including the resignation of the Pathways Team Leader and Program Managers in Tanzania and Mali. Recruitment is underway for both posts. The Pathways Senior Technical Advisor for Sustainable Agriculture is acting as the Interim Team Leader to ensure continuity of leadership while the hiring process is underway (position will be filled by February 2014). Improved managerial and communication systems and structures put in place have helped ensure a smooth transition. Additionally, the CARE and partner teams are augmented via external partnerships with, among others, Yale, Cornell, TANGO, Coady, Landesa and Dimagi. 

Priority Ares for the Coming Reporting Period: Drawing on lessons learned and program progress, the following areas represent specific priorities of focus for the coming reporting period: building the capacity of and incentives for CBTs; improving input supply systems; deepening strategies for climate change adaptation; building gender capacity and engaging men and boys; and ensuring the sustainability of program-supported partnerships.

[1]In India and Bangladesh, Pathways teams have adopted models similar to the FFBS but adapted to specific contextual factors and the collectives with which the program is engaging. In contrast to the African Pathways countries, where Pathways groups are largely if not exclusively outgrowths of Village Savings and Loan Associations, the groups in Bangladesh are evolutions of women’s empowerment (EKATA) groups and in India the groups are evolving from Self-Help Groups and other collectives.