14 September 2009

How World Vision helps people earn more

  1. This village vegetable shop in India began as a small enterprise supported by a World Vision income generation program.
  2. In Zambia, Chimboma has become a successful vegetable grower. He, like other Zambian farmers, has benefited from World Vision training.
  3. In Cambodia, a World Vision employee sits among a group of 25 women who are eligible for micro-enterprise loans.

World Vision isn’t interested in short-term solutions to poverty. We are determined to empower people to support themselves so that even after we leave a community, they will continue to develop and prosper.

Increasing incomes is one way to do this.

Higher incomes make people less vulnerable to shocks like natural disasters – and help them break the cycle of poverty by giving their children better opportunities like access to education and healthcare. 

The current situation: progress and challenges

Throughout the world, efforts are being made to eliminate extreme poverty – with success. The World Bank has identified that between 1990 and 2010, people living in poverty (on less than $US1.25 a day) fell from 1.9 billion to 1.2 billion.

While the numbers are heading in the right direction, the challenge is still great.

Women are overrepresented among the world’s poor, making up as much as 70% of the total. And yet, empowering women economically is a great investment, because women are more likely to save money and work to improve their families’ economic wellbeing.

Young people also need more economic opportunities as their numbers are swelling rapidly. Over the next ten years, a record one billion young people will enter the global labour market, 90% of whom live in developing countries. This Youth Employment Network brochure (pdf) has more details about the situation.

UNESCO has estimated that in the Arab States, South and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa an extra 57 million jobs will be needed by 2020 just to stop youth unemployment rising from its already high levels.

How is World Vision helping people earn more?

With decades of experience in the field, World Vision has learned that for economic development to be long-lasting and real, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work everywhere.

Thanks to the support of generous Australians, we focus on five key areas that we believe will have a great impact on improving children’s wellbeing and increasing a community's economic resilience. These are:

  • greater involvement in markets;
  • increasing paid employment;
  • creation/expansion of business;
  • increasing the participation of young people and women in economic activity; and
  • the sustainable use of resources.

How we work with governments 

When it comes to economic development, we’ve learned that working with governments can be as important as working with communities.

Why?Governments have the money, authority and size to make major differences in the economic prosperity of a country. So sometimes World Vision’s role requires advocacy at a national and international level – in addition to our hands-on work in the field.

However we work, it’s always about getting value for money – making sure that supporters’ donations are invested as effectively as possible!

In the Solomon Islands, for example, we worked very closely with the government to roadtest the benefits of early childhood education. The hypothesis was that it would give young children an educational kickstart that would increase the likelihood of them attending further schooling for longer (primary, secondary and tertiary).

It was a great success. Murdoch University has reviewed this program after eight years of operation and independently confirmed the impact this has had on students’ school attendance and achievement versus other children in the Solomon Islands. World Vision has advocated for the government to adopt the program, as they would be better placed to implement it nation-wide.

How we work with communities to improve people’s incomes

World Vision also partners with individual communities across the world to increase people’s economic resilience. Much of this work is delivered through long-term Area Development Programs (which are mainly funded by child sponsorship).

Through these programs, World Vision works hand-in-hand with individual communities to understand their specific economic challenges and identify practical, innovative solutions. These can include:

  • training people in farming practices and natural resource management to increase crop yields and diversify farm incomes;
  • organising producer groups and improving marketing skills to help small businesses grow;
  • providing young people with training and employment support/opportunities;
  • supporting women farmers and business owners;
  • fostering entrepreneurship;
  • facilitating community savings groups;
  • improving access to local and international markets; and
  • providing small loans to create and expand businesses. 

But our economic development work doesn’t stop there. Many of the same principles also apply to our emergency relief work. Ensuring that vulnerable communities are prepared for disasters like droughts, floods or cyclones through our emergency and preparedness fund can help ensure that losses of vital economic assets are significantly reduced.

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