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VSLAs: Addressing the Evidence Gap on Child-level Outcomes

by on Jun 6, 2013  |  posted in Youth  |  1 Comment
Evidence of the important role of savings in strengthening the economic status of poor households continues to grow, but there is a large knowledge gap on how Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs)—a common intervention to promote savings—affect the well-being of children. Two current research projects—the STRIVE Mozambique project implemented by Save the Children and managed by FHI 360, and the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC)  New Generation project in Burundi—aim to shed further light on this important topic.

Both STRIVE Mozambique and New Generation implemented and tested VSLA interventions and “VSLA Plus” (VSLA as well as complementary interventions).  The research projects compared results at the household and child levels among groups participating in different interventions as well as comparison groups.

STRIVE Mozambique, funded by the USAID Displaced Children and Orphans Fund (DCOF), sought to improve nutritional outcomes for children under the age of five by expanding the amount and quality of food they eat. Save the Children facilitated savings and income earning opportunities in communities by mobilizing village savings and loan groups (VSL) and promoting a rotating shared labor scheme called Ajuda Mutua (AM) that increased the amount of labor available to participating households. The project reached over 10,000 participants in 583 groups and had three distinct treatment arms in separate districts: VSL only, AM only, and VSL and AM in combination.  All three treatments were offered in communities benefiting from a Food Security through Nutrition and Agriculture (SANA) Multi-Year Assistance Program (MYAP).   Save the Children measured household and child-level impacts through a quasi-experimental evaluation. The main research question was whether caregiver participation in the program affected children’s nutrition.  To that end, program effects on income, assets, social capital, food security and diversity (at both household and child levels), and child anthropometry were measured.

Quantitative results show substantial positive effects from all program arms on key household-level indicators including months of food security and income and asset growth. The VSL-only arm was found to increase food diversity, both at the household and at the child level.  Despite a universal increase in food security, no reduction in the prevalence of child malnutrition is found as a result of the programs. Researchers continue to explore the likely reasons. Exploration of the role of social capital is also ongoing.  Peer-reviewed results will be published later in 2013.

New Generation also focused on improving the well-being of vulnerable boys and girls.  The project incorporated both a VSLA intervention (involving the establishment of VSLAs and provision of standard VSLA training, as well as provision of entrepreneurship and financial literacy education)  and family-based discussion sessions. Overall, 1,595 households benefited from the project.  The project aimed to determine the impact of the VSLA intervention on household economic outcomes and child protection and wellbeing outcomes, and to assess the added value of the discussion sessions on child protection and wellbeing.  Key outcomes measured included household consumption expenditures, poverty rate, household assets, spending on children, child labor, discipline practices, child mental health, parent-child communication, family wellbeing, and child wellbeing (measured based on indicators defined by children and families).

Findings from the research showed that the VSLA intervention had a significant impact on household economic outcomes but little impact on child and family outcomes. The added family-based discussion sessions decreased harsh physical and verbal discipline by caregivers but, according to household surveys with caregivers, had little impact on parent-child communication, child labor, family functioning, family problems, child wellbeing, or mental health. The results from this evaluation are an important contribution to the growing evidence related to VSLA and family-based interventions in low-income and conflict-affected settings.  However, the findings reveal that there is still much to learn to determine which interventions are most needed and result in the greatest improvements to child protection and wellbeing outcomes.

The final report on IRC’s New Generation project is available here.

Preliminary results from both research projects were presented at a thematic research session on “Outcomes for Children of Savings Groups Programs” at the 2013 annual Savings Group Conference in March.

Click here to view the SG 2013 presentation made by FHI 360, and visit the following link to learn more about the STRIVE  project:  http://microlinks.kdid.org/library/strive-factsheet.

Click here to view the SG 2013 presentation made by IRC.

Updated findings from both projects will be presented in the SEEP Network’s June 6 event/webinar, “Children, Youth, and Economic Strengthening (CYES) Seminar: Economic Strengthening Programs as Drivers of Child Well-being.”

1 Comment

[…] VSLAs: Addressing the Evidence Gap on Child-level Outcomes June 6, 2013 by Lindsey Parr […]

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