Self Help Groups: some reflections from the field in Andhra Pradesh
February 24, 2011
Speaker: Howard White
Self- help groups in Andhra Pradesh have grown very rapidly in the last ten years. While these groups have helped in channeling substantial funds into villages through donor projects and banks, they have not necessarily improved the livelihoods of poor people.
Drawing from evaluation fieldwork conducted between 2005 and 2007, Dr Howard White, Executive Director of 3ie analysed how self-help groups worked under the Andhra Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Project.
While the monitoring data of the project showed that there was a very high loan repayment rate of 90 per cent and dependence on money lenders had fallen from 39 percent to 15 per cent, the field assessment questioned some of these achievements as some interviewed beneficiaries were saying “Life was better before the Rural Livelihood Programme”.
The coverage of the self-help groups were overestimated as many groups who had ceased to operate were still registered. Many borrowers, particularly the poor, were using the loan for consumption purposes. In addition, the livelihood opportunities for those engaging in productive enterprises presented low and risky returns. “Problems of sick or dying goats was a particularly common problem and surprisingly the project did not have a life stock insurance component”, said Howard White.
There were also serious issues of malpractice and lack of accountability. Village councils maintained the passbooks of the group members and there were several discrepancies in the records. While the passbook would indicate for instance that Rs 5,000 had been lent to an individual, the actual amount received may have been just Rs. 2,000.
Responding to a question on how the project could have been redesigned Dr. White said, “Receiving buy-in from existing local structures and putting in place appropriate fiduciary controls and accountability safeguards would have helped. It would also have been a good idea to have projects on a smaller scale for say 3-4 groups in each village so these processes were manageable and could be better targeted”.
Participants raised the issue of use and suppression of negative evaluations as another evaluation of the programme was commissioned and showed positive results. “It is only by creating an evidence based culture and being open with our donors about what does not work, that we will be able to affect change” Dr. White concluded.
Download Dr. White’s presentation (178.7 KB)