Climate-smart agriculture techniques help people in ECRP communities provide food for their families all year round. Conservation agriculture, including mulching, making manure, minimum tillage, crop rotation and association, and post-harvest management have been used by more than 37,000 households so far. ECRP has set up 41 community irrigation schemes benefiting more than 12,000 households, while seed systems and agro-forestry are also used to ensure the maximum impact on harvests.
Village savings and loans (VSL) groups, where villagers start their own small bank, saving and lending to members with interest, have helped communities build sustainable, resilient livelihoods. People use the money to improve their homes, buy essentials or invest in business ideas or agricultural inputs, such as better seeds. In particular, women (who make up 65% of those reached by ECRP) have embraced the groups, in which almost 55,000 ECRP households participate.
ECRP communities are better prepared for disasters thanks to early warning systems, improved access to weather forecasts and village civil protection committees (VCPCs). When torrential rains in 2015 caused massive flooding in southern Malawi, these strategies were integral to preventing greater loss of life and in identifying immediate and longer term recovery needs.
To counter deforestation and potential landslides and flooding, people in ECRP communities are learning to replant trees – more than 270,000 since the programme began. ECRP has also supported more than 23,000 households to access affordable, clean energy (fuel efficient stoves, solar lights and sustainable charcoal).
Within ECRP, there is an increasing number of people (now up to 78%) involved in at least three of its main activities. This synergy is critical.
Six ECRP interventions (VSL, agro-forestry, conservation agriculture, post-harvest management, early warning systems and seed systems) have more than 25,000 households involved.
The consortium approach, a multi-year timeframe and the initial investment in delivery systems have all been essential in enabling ECRP to expand its outreach beyond expectations. ECRP has so far exceeded direct beneficiary targets by 39% and continues to deliver the depth of impact expected.
By the end of 2015, ECRP had already beaten end of programme targets for VCPCs, early warning systems, irrigation and conservation agriculture, while VSL had exceeded its 2015 milestone by 33%.
Specialist studies to test particular elements of ECRP’s theory of change have shown it is impacting vulnerable communities in line with its design and business case.
One study – comparing the experience of flood-affected ECRP beneficiaries with non-beneficiaries in the same areas – found that ECRP beneficiaries were more likely to have received warnings and taken action on them. They also had a greater knowledge of potential sources of support, a wider range of coping mechanisms and were more likely to access post-flood funds for recovery.
Despite a trend of increasing food insecurity in ECRP target districts, food security among ECRP beneficiaries has increased, with 48% of beneficiaries now food secure for 12 months and 60% for nine months compared to 12% and 51% respectively in 2012.
In terms of sharing lessons learned and influencing policies, ECRP has produced a large number of information and communications materials using radio and print media and supported numerous policy and programme design processes. There is tangible evidence that lessons from ECRP have been used by other stakeholders.
For 2015, the two consortiums under the ECRP banner received their third consecutive A+ rating from the programme donors.