Research Topics



EPAR Technical Report #283
Publication Date: 12/11/2014
Type: Literature Review

Donors and governments are increasingly seeking to implement development projects through self-help groups (SHGs) in the belief that such institutional arrangements will enhance development outcomes, encourage sustainability, and foster capacity in local civil society – all at lower cost to coffers. But little is known about the effectiveness of such institutional arrangements or the potential harm that might be caused by using SHGs as ‘vehicles’ for the delivery of development aid.  This report synthesizes available evidence on the effectiveness of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in promoting health, finance, agriculture, and empowerment objectives in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Our findings are intended to inform strategic decisions about how to best use scarce resources to leverage existing SHG interventions in various geographies and to better understand how local institutions such as SHGs can serve as platforms to enhance investments. 

Suggested Citation:

Anderson, C. L., Gugerty, M. K., Biscaye, P., True, Z., Clark, C., & Harris, K. P. (2014). Self-Help Groups in Development: A Review of Evidence from South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. EPAR Technical Report #283. Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, University of Washington. Retrieved <Day Month Year> from

EPAR Presentation #280
Publication Date: 08/12/2014
Type: Data Analysis

This poster presentation summarizes research on changes in crop planting decisions on the extensive and intensive margin in Tanzania, with regards to changes in agricultural land that a farmer has available and area planted in the context of smallholders and farming systems. We use household survey data from the Tanzania National Panel Survey (TNPS), part of the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study–Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS – ISA) to test how much the agricultural land available to households changes, how much farmers change the proportion of land decidated to growing priority crops, and how crop area changes vary with changes in landholding. We find that almost half of households had a change of agricultural land area of at least half a hectare from 2008-2010. Smallholder farmers on average decreased the amount of available land between 2008 and 2010, while non-smallholder farmers increased agricultural land area during that time period, but that smallholder households planted a greater proportion of their agricultural land than nonsmallholders. Eighty percent of households changed crop proportions from 2008 to 2010, yet aggregate level indicators mask household level changes.

EPAR Technical Report #19
Publication Date: 02/06/2009
Type: Literature Review

Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are generally defined as geographically delimited areas administered by a single body, offering certain incentives (duty-free importing and streamlined customs procedures, for instance) to businesses that physically locate within the zone. This literature review provides a baseline analysis of SEZs and their potential impacts on smallholder farmers in SSA. Criticism on SEZs is distinctly divided between those who criticize on social or environmental grounds versus those who question the economic impact of SEZs. SEZs are often criticized based on perceived negative socio-economic impacts—particularly their negative impact on women, labor, and working conditions. This review includes several country-specific studies that find evidence that SEZs actually have higher environmental standards and higher worker satisfaction than outside the SEZ. Most responses to criticisms do note, however, that the case studies’ results are not necessarily generalizable to SEZs throughout the world. The literature review includes key elements of successes and failures pulled from the case studies of SEZs in SSA. Though the evidence is insufficient to conclusively determine if smallholder farmers receive direct benefits from SEZs and their associated agroindustrial contracts, this review finds that resources provided to farmers (credit at rates lower than bank rates, technical or managerial assistance, pesticides, seeds, and fertilizer on credit) tend to be concentrated among larger farmers. The report concludes with a note on donor involvement as well as recommendations for further research.