The two-year HIV+ Survivors Empowerment Project (SEP) was funded by Comic Relief under their People Affected by HIV programme, starting up in April 2016 and concluding in March 2018. The project was coordinated by SURF and implemented by AVEGA Agahozo, with a focus on the Southern Region of Rwanda – with a budget of £259,465 (towards which Comic Relief awarded a grant of £193,082).
A recently completed independent evaluation of the project, conducted by Maia Gedde and Peter Irunga, concluded:
The original target to secure viable livelihoods, income security and empowerment for 1,063 HIV+ and vulnerable widowed survivors was surpassed, and the project worked with 1,596 vulnerable widowed genocide survivors in 8 districts of the Southern Province in Rwanda (ref year 2 report).
1,382 genocide widows completed IGA training and were formed in 81 IGA Associations, but only 35 groups (475 widows) and 332 individual widows accessed loans of £83,000 – of which there is currently an 89% repayment rate.
From the 1,382 group members trained in business, saving and income generation, 81 groups and 35 of these (with a total of 454 members) received funding from Urwego Opportunity Bank. The total loans disbursed to these groups totalled 78,562,500 Rwanda francs (equivalent to £67,400) through the microfinance partner, Urwego Opportunity Bank (UOB). The amount to pay back including interest is 85,224,878 RWF. The amount repaid so far is 58,233,580. Total amount remaining to be paid including interest 26,991,298 RWF. There is currently an 89% repayment rate and 11% default rate.
We found that the impact of getting a loan resulted in an increase in monthly income by an average of 22,200 RWF (£19) per person per month, which given the context is significant. Over four years a conservative estimate of the increase in income to project beneficiaries as a direct result of the programme is £356,238. The cost of the project £259,465.
The programme also had a significant effect on the lives of HIV+ genocide widows who were either too old or too ill to take part in the IGA activities. 240 HIV+ AVEGA members received nutritional training and support to construct a kitchen garden, or received one-to-one counselling, who did not participate in the IGA component of the project.
The project management with a combination SURF oversight and capacity building for AVEGA was effective and the M&E structures for this project have significantly been improved with more sophisticated data collection methods learning from previous projects.
We can conclude that overall the programme has been a great success, being very well received and making a significant impact in the lives of the beneficiaries, not just from a financial perspective but equally or more importantly, from a social perspective.
Survivors Fund (SURF) has secured funding to extend the project through to December 2018, and work is underway to secure funding to extend the work into 2019 and beyond.