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What is Tearfund’s approach to economic empowerment?

Our vision is to see marginalised and vulnerable people who are living in poverty become economically empowered and able to fulfil their God-given potential, even in times of crisis and while sustainably caring for the environment.

Our impact

Gender inequality

Women are disproportionately excluded from markets, paid less than men, and have less access to assets such as land and finance. They do the bulk of unpaid farm and household work, leaving less time for market activities. 

Women’s economic empowerment is beneficial to women, their families, their communities and to national economies. As such, Tearfund strives to enable men and women to work together as equally-valued partners so that everyone can flourish.

Our approach to economic empowerment

We aim to develop innovative evidence-based interventions to enable the sustainable economic empowerment of people living in poverty. We do this in four main ways.

1. Cash and voucher assistance (CVA)

Tearfund uses cash and voucher assistance, alongside our local partners in: 

  • humanitarian crisis response work, to help people meet their basic needs. 
  • crisis recovery programmes, by using cash vouchers to generate start-up income-generating activities.

2. Self-help groups (with Church and Community Transformation)

We believe that people living in poverty can be agents of their own transformation rather than just recipients of aid. That’s why we set up self-help groups in some of the poorest communities. Self-help groups:

  • have 15 to 20 members, who all commit to saving a small amount of money weekly
  • give low-interest loans to members for education, healthcare, and small businesses
  • are often women-only, fostering supportive relationships and acting as safe spaces
  • encourage members to become drivers of economic, social and political change
  • Tearfund and our local partners now have over 39,000 SHGs in sub-Saharan Africa, with almost 800,000 members.

3. Agriculture and markets

Many small farmers are mainly subsistence farmers, usually not growing enough to feed their families or to sell in the market. We work with local partner organisations to give these farmers sustainable access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food by:

  • equipping them to sustainably produce more food and grow a more diverse range of crops
  • helping them to access fair markets and sell at fair prices
  • adapting and building resilience to climate change while reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions

4. Environmentally and Economically Sustainable (EES) Livelihoods

We work with our local partner organisations to develop economically sustainable social enterprises that:

  • recycle waste and support waste pickers
  • provide solar energy and training
  • sustainable farming

We aim to create models which can inform our wider advocacy for sustainability, both nationally and internationally.  


Our economic empowerment work: in-depth

You can find out more about why and how we focus on each of these key areas on our partner website, Tearfund Learn. Tearfund Learn provides free access to our research and resources from over 50 years of experience in international development.

Read more on Tearfund Learn

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