We were surprised recently to learn that, contrary to conventional wisdom, cash grants are the most efficient and effective way to provide emergency relief. If you teach a woman to fish, she’ll be able to feed herself, but if you give her the money to buy her own tackle, she’ll catch the kind of fish best suited to the fishing conditions and her own abilities. We’ve already trained women’s self-help groups (“sangams”) to use sustainable organic farming techniques to increase their land’s yield. Now we’re helping them recover from the COVID’s economic devastation by empowering them to choose the next steps to restore their farms’ viability.
Providing relief via cash grants only works in certain specific situations, but disaster recovery is one of them. More than 300 research studies have proven that giving cash grants to allow participants to solve their own problems is one of the most efficient and effective ways of providing aid.
Working with self-help groups has long been a cornerstone of our theory of change, so we’ve decided to try this out by allowing women’s sangams to decide among themselves how best to spend the $1000 that each sangam will receive: to meet individual needs for supplies or loan repayments; or as a collective, to purchase equipment that can be shared or to start a business.
We’ll be choosing sangams that we’ve already worked with, so we know the women are trustworthy, and we’ll be meeting with them monthly to check in on how they’re doing and to offer advice and support. But the truth is, giving each other advice and support, and making collective decisions about money management, is what sangams do best. So we’re excited to see what comes of it!