In the last 30 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut by more than two thirds. Despite this momentous progress, and with the recent increase because of COVID-19, nearly 1 in 10 people still live below the global measure of extreme poverty, the majority of whom are smallholder farmers and their families in rural sub-Saharan Africa.*

Parents everywhere are driven by a dream — for their children’s lives to be better than their own. Yet millions of people in the most impoverished parts of the world are smallholder farmers who lack access to the knowledge, capital, markets, technology, and information they need to build thriving businesses.

Economic empowerment is not an end in itself, but a tangible expression of God’s love that radically changes the lives of children and families today — a transformation that lasts for generations.

World Vision’s fully integrated, proven approach to economic empowerment equips hardworking men and women to move from surviving to thriving. Join us to help hardworking families break the cycle of extreme poverty for good.

*World Bank – Updated estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty: Looking back at 2020 and the outlook for 2021, 11 January 2021.

Why it matters

Millions of these farmers have never had the opportunity to learn to save, work together, or improve their farming practices. Most have never been able to open a bank account or get a loan. Many are unaware of how to handle floods, droughts, market fluctuations, and other emergencies that can cripple their businesses. Most have developed a worldview rooted in feelings of powerlessness and lack of self-worth. And they are at the mercy of an unpredictable climate, destructive cultural practices, and corruption.

All of this leads to persistent, generational poverty — as parents are unable to improve their incomes, the vicious cycle of poverty is perpetuated in the lives of their children.

Our partnership with you, as brothers and sisters in Christ, gives World Vision the privilege of reflecting God’s love to hardworking families who have endured desperate circumstances, helping them move from poverty to prosperity. 

We met a Rwandan woman farmer...she said, 'I thank God, World Vision, and this project because with what I have been taught, and what I know now, I am not in poverty anymore, … and I will never go back!’ 

Robin Phillips Retired lawyer, WV donor


Our Approach

The outcomes of World Vision’s empowered worldview and end-to-end systems approach have been remarkable.

World Vision’s life-changing THRIVE model empowers parents economically to break the cycle of poverty and sustainably improve their family’s education, health, food security and nutrition, and shelter.

THRIVE — Transforming Household Resilience in Vulnerable Environments — focuses on family-level change and is proven to dramatically increase household incomes, resulting in stronger and more self-sufficient families. Its program interventions systematically and comprehensively address the underlying causes of vulnerability, allowing families to sustainably progress out of poverty and into prosperity.

One of the greatest obstacles to breaking free from the cycle of poverty is when a person is dependent upon others for bringing, creating, or sustaining his or her well-being. In response, World Vision’s integrated approach starts with training on a biblically Empowered Worldview based on the understanding that each person is created in the image of a loving and redeeming God, is accountable for their actions, and has the power to shape their own future. As of September 2020, over 70,000 smallholder farmers have been trained.

This approach is critical in helping people make wise investments in their family and business with their income. The most vital force for development comes from within, as people seek to know how God is calling and empowering them to change the world around them for the better.

Building on the empowered worldview, we focus on three key areas of farming:

  • End-to-end business systems of farming: The farm is a business, and for the business of farming to succeed we must address the entire chain of issues facing the farmer. So we begin with savings groups*, progress to organizing farmers to work together, systematically improve their agricultural value chain, ensure they have access to financial services, and support them in improved market access. 
    *As of January 2021, globally World Vision has supported over 63,000 savings groups with over 1.5 million members and a total saving of $25.6 million. The groups are made up of 78% women.

  • Natural resource management: Second, the farm is an ecosystem and sits within a broader ecosystem. To succeed, especially as weather and rainfall patterns change, we help the farmer manage their on-farm soil, vegetation, and water management. We also help them and their neighbors manage and rehabilitate trees* and forests, watersheds, and grasslands.
    *As of September 2020, over 8.6 million trees have been rehabilitated or planted by THRIVE farmers. 

  • Emergency and situational awareness: Finally, the farmer manages investments and risks and needs information to deal with shocks, emergencies, and change around them*. We work to get the farmer the information about weather, market prices, animal and plant disease, and the like so they can proactively manage their risks.
    *As of September 2020, over 23,000 THRIVE farmers are using Early Warning Systems.

Watch the video: This educational video describes each aspect of the THRIVE model. Includes testimonials from smallholder farmers about how their lives are being transformed.



Download a one-page document about the THRIVE model

Aggregate incomes for communities that embrace and employ World Vision’s THRIVE model have risen significantly — double or more. Families who have participated in all aspects of the model in Tanzania saw their incomes grow 400 to 600 percent in many cases.

These hardworking farmers finally have the ability to consistently feed their children nutritious food; send them to school; cover bills for basic healthcare; build a house made of brick with a metal roof instead of mud, sticks, and straw; and reinvest in their businesses.

They are building strong relationships by working together to get out of extreme poverty for good. They’re no longer just surviving; they’re thriving. 

Sustainable Livelihoods

World Vision’s community-led THRIVE model enables vulnerable families to adapt and succeed, ultimately progressing out of poverty so parents and caregivers can sustainably and resiliently provide for their children.

Sustainability means smallholder farmers and pastoralist families will be empowered to move to higher levels of income and improved education, health, and overall well-being as World Vision programming transitions out of the community.

Resiliency means these families are able to withstand or recover quickly from droughts and other emergencies, since the journey upward from extreme poverty to an improved well-being is not without interruptions. A resilient family can absorb stresses, adapt to a changing environment, and transform risks into opportunities. 

VisionFund International
World Vision is unique as a global development organization — we have an in-house microfinance network, VisionFund International which is the largest Christian owner-operated microfinance organization in the world.

Rural communities are often underserved by financial institutions, leaving the poorest people unable to access basic financial services from banks. VisionFund steps into these areas — 28 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe.

VisionFund’s 7,100 staff come alongside more than 1 million vulnerable people each year with microloans, savings, and/or insurance. These borrowers typically lack collateral, steady employment, and a verifiable credit history.

With an average loan of $462, VisionFund clients — 70 percent of whom are women — can generate enough income to make them financially self-sufficient to provide a better life for their families. 

Despite the massive disruption caused by COVID-19, VisionFund still saw an impressive 91% repayment rate, which allows us to continuously recycle capital back into communities so we can provide more people with access to loans.

The innovative use of technology is key to bringing down delivery costs and providing flexible solutions for clients. VisionFund services include a cashless mobile phone banking solution in addition to a tablet-based solution that makes loan and savings account application processes paperless.

Here are some highlights from 2020:

  • 1 million microloans distributed in 28 countries
  • $577 million in loans disbursed to small farmers and community members
  • 62% of clients are in rural areas and 39% are smallholder farmers
  • $462 average first-time loan
  • 3.6 million children impacted


2020 Highlights


microloans disbursed in 28 countries


in total balance of savings by THRIVE farmers


trees planted or regenerated by THRIVE farmers

News and Stories

Our team of experts

Christopher Shore
Chief Development Officer, Economic Empowerment
Adrian Merryman
Chief Development & Impact Investment Officer
Mona Davies
Senior Program Manager, Food Security and Livelihoods