The contribution of non-governmental organisations to the fight against poverty in Chegutu District, Zimbabwe

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The study explored the contribution of NGOs to the fight against poverty from an asset accumulation perspective. The research was motivated by the paucity of studies in Zimbabwe examining NGOs and poverty reduction from an asset accumulation perspective. The reality in Chegutu District reflects asset challenges emanating from income struggles, vulnerability to economic shocks and infrastructural shortages. Some of the problems are caused by politics and broader poor governance practices in the district and country at large. The study deployed a qualitative approach; given the goal of capturing NGOs’ beneficiaries, staff, and government officials' perspectives, lived realities and experiences. Data to answer the research questions were collected using in-depth interviews, focus group discussions (FGDs) and documentary analysis. It emerged that NGOs in Chegutu District rely more on supply side asset accumulation interventions to fight poverty. They include household economic strengthening (HES), vocational training, community apprenticeship, nutritional gardens as well as service provision, with only referral strategy and lobbying resembling demand side interventions. Several asset accumulation strategies mentioned above generate income (financial assets) in poor households; enabling them to buy food, pay for children's school fees, afford medical care, and meet other daily needs. As households build financial assets, their investments in children's health and education improve, a view supported by many scholars. Guided by a theoretical framing – the Sustainable Livelihood Framework (SLF), which argues that poverty is a function emanating from lack of access to five forms of assets–financial, social, physical, natural, and human (Arun, Annim, and Arun, 2010) –findings suggest the need to widen the framework. NGOs also facilitate the building of informational and psychological assets which are key factors in the process of poverty reduction. This research also established that asset accumulation interventions by NGOs hinge on both institutional and non-institution enablers such as government ministries, partner NGOs, community volunteers and community leaders. The study argues that for NGO beneficiaries to reap benefits from NGO interventions, agency taken to be a component of the SLF human assets in the form of patience, resilience, innovation and thinking outside the box plays a critical role. Asset building interventions by NGOs are not operating without challenges and drawbacks. Asset accumulation at household level supported by NGOs is being slowed by bad governance induced macro-economic challenges such as inflation as well the advent of COVID-19 which disrupted asset accumulation interventions like household economic strengthening, nutritional gardens, and educational support. While the supply side interventions are key in fighting poverty, this study recommends that NGOs need to intermix their interventions with more demand side interventions that include watchdog and advocacy to deal with structural causes of poverty. This may call for NGOs to re-examine their orientation.
A thesis submitted in fulfilment to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, School of Economics & Finance, University of the Witwatersrand, 2022
Non-Government organisation, Asset accumulation, Poverty, Chegutu District, UCTD