Theory of Change

iampowerful1 Theory of Change

The Pathways approach is based on a global theory of change that addresses the underlying causes of poverty and women’s exclusion in agriculture in each of the countries of implementation: Mali, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, India and Bangladesh as well as related initiatives in Ethiopia. Across these contexts, CARE has identified five common and closely inter-related domains of change that must be impacted to achieve the Pathways goal:

  • Capacity. Women need the knowledge, skills, self-confidence and conviction required to succeed in agriculture, business and their roles as individuals and members of their households and communities.
  • Access. Women need access to and control over productive assets and services including land, water, tools, inputs and both financial and extension services.
  • Productivity. Women need the opportunity, knowledge and skills required to enhance the productivity of their land through sustainable agriculture.
  • Household Influence. Women farmers need enhanced influence over household decision making, particularly decisions related to the household division of labor, the use of household income and decisions affecting the food women and their families prepare and consume.
  • Enabling Environment. Both formal policies and informal cultural norms and expectations have significant impact on women’s potential. Both must be acknowledge and affected to achieve household resilience and women’s empowerment.

CARE Pathways TOC web 600x445 Theory of Change

The Pathways Theory of Change was developed through a broad review of CARE’s past programming and over 12 months of in-depth analysis in each country of implementation. Accordingly, Pathways ‘looks’ different in each area in which it operates. CARE has built a robust learning agenda around the theory of change and will be testing its validity over the life of the initiative.


While the Pathways theory change defines what needs to happen to achieve our goal, CARE’s Pathways strategy outlines how these changes will be promoted.

The program applies a push / pull strategy, pairing efforts to build the capacity, skills and knowledge of poor women farmers with efforts to realign or enhance public, private, civil society and community resources and behaviors. Combined, these efforts aim to improve the productivity of women farmers and women’s equitable participation in sustainable agricultural systems. Specific intervention areas within this model include:

  • Building and strengthening collectives
    Collectives, including economically-oriented groups such as Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), producer groups and agricultural cooperatives as well as identify-oriented groups such as self-help associations are central to CARE’s approach. Under Pathways, CARE will work to promote collectives that make clear and sustainable contributions to agricultural productivity and women’s empowerment by increasing women’s knowledge and capacity.
  • Promoting access to and influence over the means of production
    Women’s lack of access to land, water and farm implements will be addressed across all CARE’s Pathways initiatives. Increasing equitable access to the means of production is vital to ‘leveling the playing field,’ for women farmers.
  • Promoting the sustainable intensification of agriculture
    Pathways builds on CARE’s experience in sustainable agriculture and climate change adaption and documented declines in agricultural productivity in Africa and India. The Pathways productivity model focuses on improving long-term agricultural productivity and enhancing land quality.
  • Facilitating improved market access and income generation
    Pathways applies a value chain approach to identifying promising market opportunities for poor women farmers and systemic constraints to more inclusive agricultural markets. Interventions focus on enabling households to diversify their incomes and more effectively participate in and benefit from growing markets.
  • Supporting innovation and technology development
    Increasing access to resources and knowledge and improving agricultural practices will only go so far. For women and other farmers across Africa and Asia to reach their potential, new technologies need to be developed or taken to scale – some of which have not even been developed yet. Through Pathways, CARE will continually test innovations in agricultural productivity, financial inclusion, women’s empowerment, nutrition and market access.
  • Strengthening agricultural input systems and services 
    CARE has expertise in building ‘last mile’ linkages with rural communities and women smallholder farmers. Pathways will put this knowledge to work in order to expand equitable access to inputs and agricultural services – and ensuring women farmers in particular are better served with high-quality, affordable, appropriate, and accessible services.
  • Engaging men, boys and elites 
    All too often, agricultural interventions targeting women’s empowerment focus narrowly on working with and for women. CARE’s experience has shown that without engaging men, boys and power holders, these efforts fall far short of transformative change. Pathways strives to do better by integrating specific efforts to engage both women and men, boys and girls, the powerful and the excluded and working across genders to drive results.

Theory of Change Theory of Change