The Hand in Hand approach sees job creation as a highly effective development tool, where micro-entrepreneurs are key drivers for economic growth and poverty reduction. The model provides support for a comprehensive approach to job creation, incorporating the following four key elements:
The initial stages focus on establishing SHGs/CIGs where members receive basic training in subjects that include group dynamics and the importance of savings and financial discipline. The formation of strong groups is one of the keys in the HiH model as our experience shows that strong groups are powerful building blocks for success, especially for women as they find a voice through sharing problems and responsibilities. Many of the members are illiterate so Hand in Hand trainers facilitate learning through pictures, parables, activities and role play. Social mobilization is the starting point for all HiH Af operations.
Groups are formed from existing structures and based on common demographics, social cohesion and income generation opportunities. Groups develop a constitution outlining group rules, behaviours and goals; elected leadership and regular attendance by the majority of the group members are required. The SHGs effectively become the savings and credit access vehicles for HiH Af’s support. Community Development Councils (CDCs) act as entry points to the community while mobilizing groups, to secure local ownership and coordination.
A group typically consists of 10-20 members, either exclusively women or exclusively men. Trainers regularly meet their groups to enable group support and individual coaching. Savings is an integral part of the model, and a culture of group saving and lending is a pre-requisite to moving forward in the program. Joint, internal savings is often the first step in group formation and allows members to pool regular and discretionary savings and use the funds to make short-term loans to individual members, thereby allowing them to immediately put their skills into practice through savings-based borrowing that is used for economic activities.
Once groups are formed and basic group management training are completed, members are trained in Microfinance, BDS and market driven vocational skills as below.
Microfinance training module:
Development Services (BDS) training module:
Vocational Skills Training
In addition to the BDS training there is need to build vocational skills of the potential entrepreneurs in order to enable them to start a successful enterprise. Therefore HiH Af also focuses on supporting and providing market driven vocational trainings to SHG members including but not limited to:
In Afghanistan 66% of people are illiterate and lack of literacy and numerical skills have proven to severely limit the impact of the training. HiH Af has therefore added literacy and numeracy trainings as a complementary part of the HiH model it is implementing in Afghanistan. Although adding time and costs for HiH Af, this will substantially increase the effectiveness of the training and ensure that results are more sustainable.
Soon after mobilization and group formation, the life skills training will be offered on needs basis to members for a period of 4 to 9 months. The curriculum and training material is compiled using materials from different sources and adapted to serve needs and fulfill the purpose of offering training.
Most of the SHG members who complete the enterprise development module are motivated to start new enterprises or enhance existing ones. A majority of these members are, however, constrained by lack of capital to start or enhance the enterprises. For most, access to the internal group savings is enough to meet their needs, but the some will over time need access to additional finance. In an effort to overcome the financial challenge facing its members, HiH Af has identified two approaches through which its members can access credit. Members are considered eligible to access credit directly through HiH Af’s Enterprise Incubation Fund (EIF), or, indirectly through links to other existing MFI partners once they fulfil basic requirements.
A dedicated EIF has been set-up for credit expansion and building up a credit history of group members. Applying a pro-poor approach, the Fund will be available for qualified members and intended solely for income-generating activities. The EIF provides initial credit where MFI partners may be unwilling to provide credit until a track record has been established by the SHG members. It will offer Sharia-compliant products following Islamic financial principles, including interest-free loans but with cost-covering access fees in order to move towards financial sustainability of the operation.
Once borrowers have established a track record they will be transitioned to established microfinance providers thereby reducing the demand on the EIF itself, which can be kept relatively small while continuing to serve its vital catalytic role. HiH Af will coordinate its work with the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA) and Afghanistan Microfinance Association (AMA) and cooperate with its main partners, with a view to apply emerging best practice and align with identified priorities, policies and plans.
HiH Af is providing support to the local economic development of rural communities in Balkh Province. Social mobilization, basic business training, vocational training, and access to credit have greatly enhanced rural producer groups’ product quality and quantity. However, given a limited customer base, village and district level markets are usually unable to absorb the increased production output by HiH Af’s SHGs.
HiH Af seeks to expand the market opportunities of HiH Af’s SHGs by creating linkages between rural villages and districts to the regional trading centres in Mazar e-Sharif and Kabul. HiH Af will strengthen the SHGs negotiating position with buyers and decrease logistic costs through the formation of organizations such as Common Interest Groups (CIG)/Producer Groups, cooperatives and business associations in different clusters. HiH Af’s beneficiaries can retain more value by working together to negotiate better deals, share transportation and logistics service costs, and capture larger work contracts than what would be possible by a single individual or SHG.
HiH Af is working on value chain upgrading across all the economic sectors its members are engaged in. The bulk of HiH Af beneficiaries are active in agriculture and livestock production. They represent the lowest rung of their value chain, and the lowest percentage of the end product’s value. Value chain upgrading activities seek to create more value for beneficiaries through primary processing (e.g. sorting, milling, spinning wool, weaving cloth). For Afghan silk, carpets, and other high value products, HiH Af seeks to develop marketing and branding of goods so that domestic and international markets can differentiate higher quality Afghan goods from poorer quality products.
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