FY 15: Evaluating the Effectiveness of PRM Livelihoods Programs in Ethiopia and Burundi (Social Impact, Inc.)

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
January 29, 2016

This evaluation was performed between August 2014 and August 2015 and the final synthesis report was submitted on 8/27/2015.

Purpose of the Evaluation and Questions Addressed

One of PRM’s objectives is to assist refugees in becoming as self-reliant as is feasible so they can meet their needs and those of their families. Social Impact, Inc. (SI) conducted a year-long evaluation of refugee livelihoods programs PRM funded through six non-governmental organizations (NGO) partners in Ethiopia and Burundi between FY 2009 – FY 2013. In Ethiopia, beneficiaries were primarily from Eritrea and Somalia, while in Burundi beneficiaries were returned refugees. In addition to evaluating the performance of PRM partners, the report provides tools and guidance for monitoring refugee livelihood programming with an emphasis on the extent to which self-reliance has been achieved. The evaluation focused on the following questions about PRM livelihoods programs:

  • What types of assistance/programs were provided?
  • Who are the recipients of assistance/programs?
  • Were PRM-supported programs designed and implemented using best practices?
  • What was the impact of the programs/assistance?


The research began with a global analysis of best practices and lessons learned in designing, implementing and monitoring refugee livelihoods programming. The review also included analyzed grey and white literature, documentation provided by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and NGO partners, and interviews with sectoral experts. A two-person team conducted field evaluations in both countries. In Ethiopia, six out of 25 refugee camps were visited and parties interviewed included three NGOs, UNHCR, and government officials. In Burundi, the team traveled to four provinces interviewing returned refugees, three NGOs, UNHCR, and local village authorities. Collecting data in Burundi was highly challenging due to the long lag time between the conclusion of livelihood programs and the date of the evaluation, the political environment in the lead up to elections, and the dispersed nature of the population. SI subsequently produced country reports for Burundi and Ethiopia as well as a synthesis report.

Key Findings

Livelihoods programs have the immediate goal of increasing household assets and economic potential, as well as restoring dignity and independence. Livelihoods programming for refugees benefits not only the individual refugee, but the local economy and host populations, which may in turn give a favorable impression to host governments who may otherwise repress refugees’ social and economic mobility. SI determined that, in the case of the sampled beneficiaries, self-reliance in a host country does not necessarily transfer back to the country of origin, where many returned refugees settle in disadvantaged urban settings. The evaluation also noted several program areas needing improvement. There was little evidence that the livelihoods programs evaluated helped participants meet needs or improve livelihood security. Programs reviewed were multi-sectoral, with livelihoods being only one component. The evaluation assessed that implementing partners did not place sufficient attention on the livelihoods aspects of the programs. In addition, few women were involved and training programs were focused on trades traditionally dominated by men. There was also a lack of diversity in the types of programs and many programs did not help refugees meet their basic needs. Furthermore, programs lacked sustainability due to the one-time nature of activities and the absence of sufficient, on-going support, particularly for individuals who are more vulnerable. Another significant finding was that implementers largely did not use comprehensive baseline data and market assessments for program design and implementation, nor engage in adequate interim monitoring and evaluation.


SI recommends that PRM assess NGO livelihood proposals based on their understanding of both the needs of refugees and local market. Four key themes must be considered before designing or funding livelihoods programs:

  • Clarify what a livelihoods program is, what the goals are, and why such a program should be supported;
  • Understand the wider context for livelihoods programs in camps;
  • Utilize best practices in the design and implementation of livelihoods programs; and
  • Ensure adequate staff and budget.

PRM’s Monitoring & Evaluation

  • Require NGOs to develop and maintain a performance monitoring plan, including a comprehensive baseline assessment from which to measure the project’s progress;
  • Conduct more frequent, non-planned on-site visits in order to gain a more realistic perspective of daily livelihoods programs.

Use of Recommendations

Immediate steps have been taken in response to the findings, including substantially changing PRM’s guidelines for NGOs applying for PRM funding for livelihoods projects, as well as revisions to PRM’s standardized livelihoods indicators. The reports have prompted conversations with UNHCR’s livelihoods and evaluation experts on ways to improve livelihoods program design, implementation and monitoring.

Additional information on PRM’s use of the evaluation recommendations can be found in the PRM Livelihoods Evaluation Action Plan.

Links to Evaluation Reports