Evaluating the Women’s Advancement in Rural Development and Agriculture programme
Publication Type: Other evaluations
Region: South Asia
Sector: Rural Livelihoods
3ie evidence programme: National Rural Livelihoods Mission Programme Author(s): Stuti Tripathi, Pooja Sengupta, Priyanka Dubey, Francis Rathinam, Marie Gaarder Institutional affiliation(s): International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) Grant-holding institution: 3ie Main implementing agency: TechnoServe India Sex disaggregation: No Gender analysis: No Equity focus: No Study type: Process evaluation
Purnea and Muzaffarpur districts in Bihar, India
Women’s advancement in rural development and agriculture (WARDA) is a technical assistance programme that works with JEEViKA and its self-help groups (SHGs) platform to economically empower smallholder women farmers and increase their agricultural income through market-led interventions. WARDA intervenes at multiple levels, including: (i) supporting women-owned farmer producer companies (FPCs); (ii) building the capacity of women to engage in the production and sale of high-quality agricultural produce and (iii) strengthening the ecosystem through greater private sector participation and improved capacities in government institutions.
Evaluation design and methodology
A mixed-methods approach was used wherein the team conducted 102 interviews and 12 focus group discussions with major stakeholders and programme participants. In addition, MIS data from TechnoServe and a programme results tracker were also analysed.
Primary evaluation questions
The main objective of the process evaluation was to document programme implementation fidelity, including identifying any enabling factors or implementation challenges that affect WARDA’s potential for sustainability and scale-up.
Overall, WARDA effectively leveraged JEEViKA’s SHG platform to revitalise the defunct FPCs and disrupt the traditional value chain by introducing important innovations in the procurement process.
When measured by FPC crop procurement and profit, the WARDA model has seen varied levels of success across the districts of Purnea and Muzaffarpur. In Purnea, where WARDA worked primarily on the maize value chain, the FPC reported higher procurement and profits.
WARDA successfully strengthened capacities of JEEViKA and FPC staff through training programmes as well as day-to-day facilitation and hand-holding support.
The programme was also able to help FPCs establish effective market linkages by facilitating contracts with institutional buyers and setting up systems and processes for the procurement, transportation and storage of produce.
WARDA was also able to improve the FPCs’ access to institutional credit by increasing the creditworthiness of FPCs.
Financial sustainability for FPCs remains a distant goal, with JEEViKA subsidising FPC’s human resources cost, including the large community cadre, which is critical to FPC operations on the ground.
Though JEEViKA’s commitment towards building sustainable FPCs has been a crucial enabling factor in reviving FPCs under WARDA, administrative issues like staff turnover and delays in payment to the community cadre have adversely affected the project.
The contractual nature of JEEViKA staff, the large number of vacant positions, and other claims on JEEViKA staff time are factors that, in addition to capacity, limit its ability to deliver on WARDA objectives.
Socio-economic norms that restrict women from either becoming FPC shareholders or participate in FPC activities remains a challenge, despite a long history of SHG movement in the state.
Despite efforts from JEEViKA and TechnoServe to encourage active involvement of producer group members in FPC decision-making, it seems it will take a long time before community women are equipped with the skills to handle FPC operations. A more gender-inclusive approach for the programme may be more rewarding in the longer run.
FPCs continue to remain heavily dependent on its stakeholders, and continued technical support from TechnoServe and JEEViKA remains essential for its day-to-day functioning.