Special Evaluation/Report

AESA: Effectiveness of the Training to the Beneficiaries by Adopting Improved Technologies Provided by the USAID-AESA Project and their Economic Benefits

Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) has been implementing the USAID Agricultural Extension Support (USAID AESA) project in partnership with CARE Bangladesh and mPower. To materialize this aim, in addition to other approaches, the project created 3,878 village level farmer producer groups (FPGs) around production and marketing of six prioritized value chains – jute, chili, mung bean, beef fattening, dairy and fish. These groups have been working together to demand and receive extension services and training, as well as collectively purchasing inputs at lower prices and aggregating supply to negotiate better prices for their products.

This report assesses the effectiveness of such training with respect to adoption by farmers and impact to farm productivity. Read More...

5 Game Changing Initiatives for Transformative Agricultural Extension

The USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity (AESA) project is a key part of Bangladesh-centered Feed the Future (FtF) initiative addresses this challenge. Implemented by the Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) with technical partners CARE Bangladesh and mPower Social Enterprises Ltd., the goal of the project which started at late 2012 is to strengthen the existing extension system in southwest and central Bangladesh to sustainably improve food security and nutrition for smallholder farmers. This translates to the enhancement of access to and utilization of agricultural extension services by smallholder farmers – both women and men. Key interventions under this project works to build capacities and creating support to a demand-driven extension system, synergized by the use of ICT. Geographically distributed in the central and southwest Bangladesh, the project operates in 12 districts, covering 26 upazilas, under Jessore, Khulna and Barisal regions as primary intervention areas.

This report identifies 5 game changing initiatives for transformative agricultural extension. Read More...

Public and Private Extension Agents’ in USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity (AESA) Project

The USAID Agricultural Extension Support Activity (AESA) has been implanted since October 2012 with the primary objective of increasing farmers' access to improved agricultural extension services leading to increased household income, nutritional status and food security for 112,000 participating farmers.

The project has attempted to strengthen the public and private extension service provision in the project areas. This report is an assessment of the capacity and performance of the public and private service providers, the quality of services they are providing and whether the linkages between service providers and beneficiaries were functioning properly. Read More...

A-Card Preliminary Assessment Report

For smallholder farmers (SHFs) with limited savings and assets, agricultural spending is largely facilitated through two credit models, the micro-finance and bank models. The banking system while enabling access to credit at low interest rates of 9-10% average, has failed to reach 80% of SHFs; as SHFs lack collateral and have limited understanding of various procedural complexities. Micro-credit Programs (MCPs) due to high interest rates of between 25-31%, smaller loan sizes and inflexible and short repayment periods have also failed to address needs of SHFs. Furthermore, since both formal (bank) and informal (MCP) credit is extensively cash-based, there is a tendency for its use in nonfarming activities, negatively impacting agricultural productivity and profitability.

To address these challenges, A-Card was designed to digitalize and re-engineer Micro-Finance to enable formal financial Inclusion of smallholder farmers (SHFs). A-Card model was designed by Mr. Bidyuth Mahalder, Chief of Party of the AESA Project and USAID reserves its IP rights. It was piloted in three USAID’s Feed the Future districts of Bangladesh by three implementing partners-Dhaka Ahsania Mission, Care and mPower. A-Card is a debit card specially designed for SHFs, which facilitates financial access to credit for digital purchase of farm inputs at low interest rate (10%), no collateral requirement and flexible payback period (6 month tenure).

This evaluation was conducted in October-November 2017 on A-Card holders who took and repaid their loans before May 2017 in order to assess the product’s impact on productivity and profitability. The evaluation also involved one to one interviews with 200 SHFs, key informant interviews with 5 input retailers and 2 MFI agents who were all part of A-Card to assess the overall impact beyond productivity and profitability and recommendations for A-Card. Read More...

Assessing the Impact of Digitally-Enabled Microcredit for Smallholder Farmers

mSTAR/Bangladesh, working with the Agriculture Extension Support Activity (AESA) led by Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM), conducted pre and post assessments in Faridpur district to understand the impact that a micro-credit product (called A-Card) delivered to smallholder farmers through Bank Asia’s agent banking had on participating farmers, associated ag-input retailers, and other relevant stakeholders, as well as to understand what further action can be taken to improve uptake of these services.

This report includes findings from the pre and post assessment surveys, beginning with farmers and retailers’ demographic information, including age, sex and education; as well as their mobile phone ownership, access and usage patterns. It also examines the knowledge and perceptions that stakeholders have of digital financial services (DFS), in addition to their perceived benefits from A-Card, associated challenges, and opportunities to scale up. In addition, this report includes some findings from a separate survey conducted solely by AESA. It concludes with recommendations based on the findings and feedback from stakeholders. Read More...

USAID – AESA: A-card Progress and Prospects

Financial constraints are more pervasive in agriculture and related activities than other sectors, reflecting both the nature of agricultural activity and the average size of farms. Despite the rapid development of financial services, a majority of smallholders worldwide lack access to the key services they need to compete and improve their livelihoods.

This report identifies the A-card process pilot in Bangladesh. The A-card is a brand new micro-credit mechanism aimed at providing smallholder farmers financing to digital purchase of farm inputs at a low cost. Read More...

Evaluation of ICT Component of the Agricultural Extension Support Activity

The Institute for Computing in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was charged with evaluating the information and communication technology (ICT) component of the Agriculture Extension Support Activity (AESA). Funded by USAID and implemented by the Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) Program at the University of Illinois, Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM), CARE, and mPower Social Enterprises of Dhaka, the goal of AESA is to strengthen extension and advisory services in Bangladesh.

This evaluation addresses the important questions connected to this project and identifies the extent to which ICT related goals were reached. Read More...

AESC – Model Towards Strengthening Agricultural Extension Service in Bangladesh

In order to sustain the productivity in the agricultural sector in Bangladesh, there is a need to cope with rapid population growth, limited land base, and climate change effects, through the adoption of appropriate technologies, skills and knowledge.

Accordingly, USAID-AESA project has introduced agricultural extension services towards strengthening this service. This report provides an assessment of the performance of the AESC-Model. Read More...

Women’s Economic Empowerment through Gender Transformative Approaches – Evidence from CARE’s Experience in Middle East & North Africa

CARE defines women’s economic empowerment (WEE) as the process by which women increase their right to economic resources and the power to make decisions that benefit themselves, their families and their communities. Our Theory of Change (as discussed in CARE’s WEE Strategy Document) outlines three conditions necessary for genuine and sustainable economic empowerment for women: increased capabilities, decision-making power and an enabling environment. An integrated approach across all three conditions is required to achieve genuine and sustainable change. Increasing individual women’s capabilities can lead to temporary increases in their economic opportunities and income. However, women’s economic empowerment can only be achieved through also transforming unequal power relations and discriminatory structures.

This Learning Brief is created to provide practical learning and present existing tools applied by CARE Country Offices (COs) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to encourage a more gender transformative approach to WEE and livelihood programming. This is highly relevant for practicioners from the whole sector working on economic empowerment and livelihood porgramming in fragile settings anywhere in the world. This document can aid a better understanding of gender transformative concepts by livelihood staff, as well as better understanding of the principles of sound economic empowerment by gender staff. This Learning Brief contains many practical insights and allows practicioners to understand how theory and frameworks can have an impact on the actual programming and results on the ground. The Hub encourages teams and practicioners to use this Brief, and the different overviews and examples provided, to reflect on their own work on gender integration, and take steps to move beyond gender responsive programming towards a truly transformative approach for our impact groups.

Learning insights incorporated in the document are based on the learning accumulated by CARE MENA Country Offices (COs) in the last five years under our women’s economic empowerment/livelihood programming. It focuses on two main components of WEE gender transformative programming: economic advancement and gender equality, along with approaches related to engaging men and boys. The evidence of these lessons learned is based on: 1) revision of documentation of more than 12 long term and short term WEE/livelihood programs implemented by CARE in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, West Bank & Gaza, Caucasus and the Balkans, 2) interviews with key informants including gender champions from these COs along with other global CARE gender experts who collectively searched for answers to questions in the themes of gender transformative approaches in WEE programming. Read More...

Pilote d’Apprentissage sur la réplication des AVEC (VSLA multiplier Learning Pilot)

Pour mieux comprendre l’effet multiplicateur des modèles de réplication de FaFa Wa, une proposition pilote d’apprentissage a été soumis au fond flexible des départements Programs et Operations Internationales (IPO) et Programme pour le Partenariat et l’Apprentissage (Program Partnerships and Learning : PPL) et a obtenu un avis favorable.

Ce pilote d’apprentissage a pour but de comprendre :
1. L ‘ampleur (%) de l’effet multiplicateur des FaFa Wa sur la composition des groupes et les résultats découlant de la participation des VSLA après la fin des projets ;
2. La performance de groupements après la fin des projets (positive ou négative) ;
3. L’effet multiplicateur du modèle de réplication de l’initiative ‘’Bombe des Catalyseurs’’ sur la composition des groupes, et les résultats découlant de la participation des FaFa Wa.

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