About the Project
The Agency for Accelerated regional Development (AFARD) in partnership with Center for Good Governance and Economic Development (CEGED) secured funding from European Commission for a 3-year project – Youth Economic Empowerment Project (YEEP) in Arua, Pakwach and Zombo districts.
The overall goal of the project was, “to contribute to youth inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction in West Nile region of Uganda through sustainable and gainful employment opportunities. The project envisaged impacts included: (i) 25% reduction in the number of youth living below US$ 1.90/day; (ii) 50% increase in asset net worth; and (iii) Improved self esteem and confidence.
The Evaluation Objectives and Processes
The main purposes of the end term evaluation (ETE) were: (a) To assess the status of project progress towards the achievements of the planned goal and objectives using the standard tests of relevance, consistency, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability; and (b) to identify challenges faced and lessons learned, and propose recommendations for replication in future projects.
To meet these objectives the evaluation team adopted the project theory of change used during the baseline study. A 4-phased study approach was used starting with Phase I: Inception that developed the inception report with study tools and work plan; Phase II: Field data collection during which fieldwork was conducted and data was collected; Phase III: Reporting that focused on data analysis and report writing; and finally Phase IV: report dissemination. Data was collected using different methods (document review, individual youth survey, Focus Group Discussions, Key Informant Interviews, participant observations, and cases studies); analyzed using both SPSS (V24) and MS Officer (for content analysis); and finally triangulated into a unified report. Data quality control measures were put in place.
Findings of the Evaluation
The following were the key findings from the various evaluation parameters:
Relevance, Responsiveness, and Internal Consistency (see 3.1)
YEEP project was found to have responded to the high underemployment status of youth who only earned monthly UGX 25,254 (for only the 4 hours they worked daily). This situation made only 39% to own productive assets while 72% were asset poor. The intervention fitted well with AFARD’s current 5-year Strategic Plan (2015-19) and the projects therein under pillars – 2) economic empowerment and asset building; 4) community-led advocacy; and 5) community group strengthening. Nationally, the project contributed to Uganda Vision 2040, National Youth Policy 2001, National Development Plan (NDP II) 2015-20, BTVET Strategic Plan – Skilling Uganda (2011-2020), Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda, Agriculture Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP II) 2015-20, Financial Inclusion Strategy 2017, and National Strategy for Private Sector Development 2017-22. Skilling developed human capital; VSLA ensured financial inclusion; business start-up propelled private sector employment; and agribusiness stirred the transformation from subsistence to market-led agriculture.
Effectiveness (see 3.2)
It was found out that the project was implemented in a participatory manner as 98% of the youth were engaged in self-selecting their youth-led VSLA members; 82% involved in monitoring and learning events and 90% indicating that their feedbacks to the project team were used to improve implementation. Local government officials too were involved in planning and monitoring of the project. The project also provided trainings for 70-80% new youth in the areas of agronomy, entrepreneurship, life skills, financial literacy, agribusiness, leadership and advocacy. In return, many new youth practiced most of the taught life skills (planning for the future, conflict resolution, etc.), GAAP (intercropping, crop rotation and nursery management), and business management (keeping business records and separating personal family and business finances). A robust monitoring system was found in place and all project staff and PSC members played a role of monitoring progress and reporting. Apart from local ordinances, almost all planned project outputs were achieved.
Efficiency (see 3.3)
The evaluation team found that AFARD had a prudent financial policy and control system. Procurement for goods and services were conducted jointly while guaranteeing transparency and value for money. Cost optimization was effected through “agro-input savings” and youth co-funding for inputs. The 05 full time project staff were productively engaged and provided adequate logistics for the delivery of the project results. AFARD and CEGED also exhibited a cordial implementation approach. Within and external accounting and learning was a norm. Meanwhile, the project adhered to EC visibility guidelines through both awareness creation and use of EU logo on assets, documents, etc. And overall, the project per capita cost (€222) was found to be far less than the EU Skills Development Fund estimates (€600). Yet, the youth had already earned €1.73 for every €1 spent on their skills development through their self-employment income generation and VSLA savings (i.e. €0.73 extra).
Outcomes/Impact (see 3.4)
At the time of the study, 87% of the supported youth were employed mainly in own-account enterprises where they worked 6 hours daily and 6 days weekly, earned an average income of UGX 46,664 and had employed other 1,890 youth. 87% were using GAAP and 30% good business management practices. 728 youth from 25 groups accessed fund worth UGX 100,231,000 from local government, NGOs, and private sector firms. However, the ordinance to support youth employment was not addressed at all. Nonetheless, 10% of the youth exited extreme poverty (from 72% – 62%) and financial net worth more than doubled from UGX 1.6 million in 2016 to UGX 3.9 million in 2019. In the same period, with assured jobs and reliable income self-esteem increased from 67 – 96%, food security improved from 69 – 90%, and female youth realized improved empowerment status from 42 -70%.
The other positive impacts that were reported included: improved aspirations and positive attitude towards hard work and self-reliance; Adoption of savings culture and planning for the future; Improved gender relations among female youth; Accumulation of productive assets; Improved uptake of nutritious foods; Improved welfare; and access to government space and funds that initially was a preserve of a few. However, some of negative unintended results included the rise of anti-social behavior among some few supported youth and environmental degradation by youth involved in saloon and restaurant businesses.
The project also added value to its stakeholders. AFARD learned lessons for project development and therefore grant winning. CEGED gained from technical support with enhanced timely and quality reporting. The TVETs got marketed and they increased their enrolment and local governments gained political capital by accessing remote communities where they initially had no projects and youth/community support.
Sustainability (see 3.5)
The project Sustainability hinges on the presence of Young Model Farmers (YMFs) to offer community-based extension advice; the VSLAs for continued access to where to save and access credit; and nurturing the established trust with local government structure to access regular technical backstopping and funds.
Key Project Challenges (see 3.6)
The following challenges were identified as key impediments to the achievement of planned outputs and outcomes: inadequate budget to support a fully-fledged vocational skills training; climate change that reduced agricultural productivity and profitability; cultural constraints that inhibited access to more land for business expansion, lack of clear costing and infrastructure in TVETs, and economy-wide issues related to inflation, a nascent private sector in the region and limited access to business finance.
Best Practices Identified (see 3.7) The ETE identified the following innovative best practices for future replication: Enterprise feasibility analysis to market work for young people; Inclusion of agro-input savings in VSLA model for timely access to improved agro-inputs; holistic and bundled services approach that provides skills with start-up grants and mentorship and market linkages; Inclusive beneficiaries targeting to promote inclusive employment and development opportunities; Youth voice and accountability for youth access to local governance; and participatory management approach.
Lessons Learned (see 3.8) The ETE also identified some lessons, namely: Participatory selection and public vetting of beneficiaries involving all stakeholders reduces biases and corruption in favor of undeserving members; A holistic resource-bundle approach provide a faster opportunity for trainees to join the world of work; To make markets work for youth, there is need to first identify high impact enterprises that can attract them into the world of work then secure private sector support along those enterprises; Guidance and counseling and mentoring should be planned as an on-going activity; Youth-led advocacy is more impacting than when a support agency takes a leading role; Land remains a critical asset for the commercialization of agriculture; Gender awareness is crucial in breaking gender barriers to skills development for socio-economic prosperity; and Young entrepreneurs need post-training support to grow and thrive.
To highly impact youth poverty reduction with decent employment, the following are crucial:
- Maintain holistic resource-bundles approach: Through a multifaceted approach to hard and soft skilling combined with start-up grant as well as post-business start-up support.
- Make markets work for poor youth: By conducting enterprise feasibility study for choosing high impact enterprise and private sector partnership building and capacity building.
- Ensure adequate budget: The Skills Development Fund (SDF) implemented by Enabel and PSFU propose €600 per youth for adequate and quality skilling to occur.
- Adopt climate-smart agriculture: Through for instance climate smart technologies such as small-irrigation, weather-based insurance, as well as agro ecology.
- Engage the community to support youth employment: So that they support the selection of deserving beneficiaries; shun gender stereotype to break gender barriers; provide moral and financial support to trained youth; ensure access to land; and provide reliable local markets.
- Support TVETs: To develop comprehensive budgets and by constructing basic childcare facilities.
Promote linkage banking: So that VSLA members build financial/credit history and access more financial products necessary to support their business growth.
- Provide business growth development support: For young entrepreneurs to thrive through targeted business mentoring and coaching as well as marketing of youth products.
Leverage on local governments youth projects: For youth to access additional fund to boast their enterprises
In conclusion, the evaluation team posits that YEEP was well planned and it achieved its intended purposes. The project took into consideration the needs of the targeted youth, the implementing partners and local and national governments development priorities.
With a robust and participatory programme management approach, the project was able to mobilize 2,500 youth into active savers and investors into primarily (84%) self-employment in agribusiness and non-farm vocational trades. With steady jobs and income, 10% of the beneficiary youth exited extreme asset poverty.
Likewise, majority have aspiration for a good future, positive attitude towards hard work, improved self-esteem, and accumulation of more productive assets. The endless call by local government leaders to the European Commission for further support, manifest the desire to upscale the impressive positive approach and impact of walking with the youth into the world of work.