Assessment of MLHW Income Generation Activities in Eritrea
Background Evaluation by Norwegian Association of Disabled (NAD) The Norwegian Association of Disabled (NAD) and the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare (MLHW) have cooperated with each other since 1994 in relation to the Ministry's Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program. Under a series of cooperation agreements, NAD has provided support to the CBR program with funds from NORAD and the Atlas Alliance. The CBR program aims to provide equal opportunities for disabled people and change negative attitudes of society towards disability. In 2002 the MLHW initiated a pilot project to establish income generation activities in three (of six) regions in Eritrea as a part of the CBR program. Initially, this consisted of in-kind or financial grants. In 2003 the pilot was expanded to a fourth region and developed further in the direction of a revolving fund scheme (RFS). The RFS program was in its initial stages of implementation at the time of the external study. The study was commissioned to review existing procedures, implementation and documentation of the project, particularly in the areas of administration, financial management, and program monitoring. Purpose/objective The main objectives of the assessment were to:? Review the administration, implementation and, where possible, results of income generation activities undertaken by the MLHW since 2002.? Suggest adjustments to the current RFS and recommend strategies to strengthen income generation activities, enhance the use of the MLHW's resources, and achieve the greatest impact for disabled individuals and their families. Methodology The assessment was undertaken by one external consultant with extensive experience with income generation programs and micro credit schemes. It involved a review of relevant documents, a 7-day field visit to Eritrea in August, and preparation of a report. The field visit included interviews with key stakeholders at a variety of levels (national, regional, sub-regional, village, family/individual). The assessment was based on qualitative and quantitative information gathered by the consultant during the study. Key findings The study concluded that the project has been carried out faithfully in accordance to the guidelines that were prepared. There is close targeting so that the funds only benefit the specified group of persons with disabilities and their families. As far as it was possible to verify during the short assessment, all the clients are operating relevant micro enterprises. These new enterprises are now the main source of income for the family, something that not only improves the general living situation for the family, but additionally and equally important, increases the feeling of dignity for the persons involved Recommendations The future challenges in the project are related to the scale up of the activities and its future sustainability. On one hand it is recommended that the Ministry assists in creating linkages between the most successful clients so that they can benefit from financial services from traditional banks or from micro finance institutions when "graduating" from the revolving fund scheme. On the other hand, it is recommended that options for future long term sustainability of the project be considered. Key questions are whether the MLHW can or should continue to cover all the operational costs of the project either on its own or through external donors, or will the project have to be redesigned in order to generate income from its services to clients. Answer to these questions should be found with reasonable confidence before significant scale up and expansion are planned.