Last year we had an independent external evaluation conducted in two of our epicentres, three years after they declared themselves self-reliant. We wanted to know how effective and sustainable our approach is in the long term, and learn how we can improve our work.
What is a self-reliant epicenter?
In Africa, The Hunger Project has set up 131 epicenters, of which 47 epicenters - with more than 717,000 inhabitants - are now self-reliant. The other epicenters are also moving towards self-reliance. All these villages and communities have set their own goals and essential indicators, thereby shaping their own criteria for self-reliance. A self-reliant epicenter continues without The Hunger Project. We no longer invest time, manpower or resources in the area.
A self-reliant epicenter is not self-sufficient. Not every question or need has necessarily been answered yet, but hunger and poverty are clearly improving. Most importantly, the community itself runs the village. And that they can take on new challenges together - even in the event of setbacks - towards the end of hunger and poverty for all.
Post Self-Reliance Evaluation Study.
The Post Self-Reliance Evaluation Study for the Epicenter Strategy was carried out by research agency MDF Training and Consultancy BV, with support from the Dioraphte Foundation and the Swedish Postcode Lottery. Two epicenters were selected for this evaluation - Nkawanda in Ghana and Ligowe in Malawi, both of which became self-reliant in 2016.
This study is a part of The Hunger Project's commitment to providing a critical framework for delivering on its organizational mission. One of the noteworthy manifestations of this is systematic learning from outcome evaluations conducted since 2012, which adds to The Hunger Project's ongoing monitoring and reporting at the output level. With this evaluation, The Hunger Project goes a step further by conducting the first post-self-reliance evaluation to learn from and report on the impact of the The Hunger Project program.
Results and lessons.
The study affirmed the core methodology of The Hunger Project, noting that targeting skills, attitudes and capacity development pays off in terms of sustainable change - declines in poverty and hunger, increased access to education, and girls' empowerment.
The results show that both communities still use the epicenter services they have organized themselves, such as the microcredit counter and the food bank. There are still plenty of challenges in the field of water and sanitation. And there is also room for improvement in the field of gender equality and youth participation.
But the social infrastructure is rock solid. The epicenters still act as a motor for change, guided by the people themselves. The committees - with women in leadership positions - are still functioning. The trained volunteers are successful and reflect together on what they have already achieved. And the number of motivated people who have confidence that they can determine their own future is still growing steadily.
A few of the highlights.
- Hunger and poverty continue to decline structurally.
- Farmers' productivity is increasing.
- More people can read and write and more children attend primary and secondary school (well above the national average).
- The number of child marriages is decreasing.
- Access to credit is crucial for women's empowerment.
- Awareness sessions and training lead to real behavioral change. But improving access to sanitation requires more than just awareness campaigns: people should also be able to afford a toilet.
Learning from the evaluation.
The evaluation also revealed some areas for growth, which we are in the process of evaluating and incorporating into our new and existing programs in the coming years. In any case, these results show us the importance of an integrated approach, but also encourage more and better collaborations with organizations that can strengthen parts of our approach.