Main Findings reports of the RDP impact assessment study
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CitationMustafa , S., Ara, lshrat, Moshin, M., Banu, D., & Kabir, A. (1995, February). Main Findings reports of the RDP impact assessment study. Research Reports (1995): Economic Studies, Vol - IX, 33–59.
Introduction The 1993-94 Impact Assessment Study (lAS) of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) has been carried out by BRAC's Research and Evaluation Division, with consultancy assistance from the Centre for Development Studies, Swansea. RDP's Impact on the Material Well-Being of Members Overall, the IAS results indicate a consistent movement along the path to greater wealth and expenditure, according to loan size and membership age. While there are undoubtedly other non-RDP factors which influence the real level of wealth of different households, the main finding of the analysis is that when RDP households receive substantial amounts of credit over a long membership period significant changes become measurable. In addition, the results show that RDP is impacting on less well off (low endowment) households to a comparatively greater degree than better off households; and furthermore they imply that the focus on (generally poorer) female members is more effective in bringing benefits to BRAC's target group than would be the case with a higher proportion of male membership. RDP's Impact on Vulnerability and Coping Capacity Changes in the nature of household assets, with increases in the monetary value of productive (revenue earning) fixed and working capital, along with investment in housing structures, suggest both greater economic security and an improved standard of living for "older" members of RDP. Such enhanced security is confirmed most clearly by the reduced seasonal fluctuations in income, expenditure, food consumption and stocks for those members who joined RDP more than two and a half years ago, and have received over Tk 7,500 of cumulative RDP loans. These findings clearly indicate that seasonal vulnerability of such households has decreased markedly. In addition, the evidence concerning enhanced coping capacity is generally positive. There is a trend to "withdraw" from the informal credit market, the average amount • of credit taken by "older" members declines, and the use of both RDP and informal• loans for consumption or hardship purposes decreases with length of membership, just as households experience improvements in their material well-being and ability to weather seasonal lean and peak periods. Changes in Women's Lives While dramatic changes are not evident, there are some (more gradual) changes which BRAC has brought about in female members' lives. After receiving loans women's status has increased within the household. Some have experienced greater mobility. Many of the members involved in BRAC "sectoral" programmes have gained more control over their income, and the ability to decide about how (and how much) to • save and spend on themselves and on their children. However, from the experience of the case studies the majority of rural house-bound women have few opportunities to use loans by themselves without some assistance of male family members. Unless BRAC provides women with necessary support services close to the bari, they have few alternatives other than to hand over part or all of their loans to male kin, which .often means they cannot exercise full control over their loans and credit based resources. The length of involvement with BRAC appears to have little bearing on the degree of change that women experienced. It may be argued that RDP field staff can have little influence on what goes on within a household. Institution Building It is acknowledged that institution building is a lengthy and complex process. The main findings of the case studies are not very encouraging. High rates of turnover, confusion and dissatisfaction about savings and GTF rules and procedures, and the strong emphasis on credit operations and discipline has limited the extent to which members value their VOs as potentially autonomous support groups. In general, discipline and enthusiasm is more evident in the newer and female VOs. This is due primarily to the fact that such discipline is seen as a pre-condition for applying for credit. Over time, such discipline declines, ideal procedures become less common, and meeting attendance becomes more erratic. VOs rarely undertake additional activities in a collective manner, or independent from BRAC's initiative, suggesting that they are not progressing to semi-autonomous institutions. Moreover, the frequent rule changes, combined with the frequent transfer of staff, have created a degree of uncertainty for members. In many VOs, leadership has developed as an instrument through which field staff maintain repayment discipline. The operation of the peer group joint liability mechanism is commonly at the level of the whole VO rather than at the level of small 5-6 member groups (these rarely exist in older VOs). It is therefore apparent that VOs are primarily valued by members, and operate as, credit groups. In the few cases in which VOs have acted as a collectivity in the past, their success appears to have been connected to high levels of staff motivation. One VO which had been established during the Outreach period - when staff interaction was more intensive - reported a history of attempting collective activities. These have ceased, and many members have left, during more recent years under RDP. The Non-Formal Primary Education Programme After a second or third cycle of an NFPE school the degree of VO involvement (measured by the number and proportion of member-children attending) tends to decline. However, VOs' retain a pride in, and link with school affairs, which implies that they remain a key benefit for VOs. The schools provide a highly valued service to poorer families; perceptions of school quality are overwhelmingly positive. Except for the issue of religious curriculum content, few criticisms were voiced during group interviews. Examples of conflict are rare. The key example of this is the need to ensure priority (or "first choice") to poorer households during school enrolment - which can be done by carefully organised and phased child selection. However, the case studies also show that NFPE schools are not exclusively "poor peoples' " schools, but tend to include children from all wealth classes. This, in effect, is a result of the schools' perceived qualities - they are attractive to those outside of BRAC's target group.