In the last 25 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut by more than half. Despite this momentous progress, 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 Forecasts Global Poverty to Fall Below 10% for First Time, October 2015

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. 

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.

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 of farming: First, 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 June 2019, based on reports from 36 National Offices, WV has supported over 53,000 savings groups with over 1.25 million members and a total saving of $27.5 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 forests, watersheds, and grasslands.  

  • 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.

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 7,500 staff come alongside more than 1.1 million vulnerable people each year with microloans, saivngs, and/or insurance. These borrowers typically lack collateral, steady employment, and a verifiable credit history.

With an average loan of $626, 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. 

And with a repayment rate of over 97.8 percent, we are continuously recycling 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 the 2018 VisionFund Annual Report:

  • 1.37 million microloans distributed in 28 countries
  • $727 million in loans disbursed to small farmers and community members
  • $453 average first-time loan
  • 4.1 million children impacted

An Integrated solution

Through decades of experience in microfinance, value chain development, farmer-managed natural regeneration, and emergency management, World Vision has proven success with a fully integrated approach. When you invest in economic empowerment, you’re addressing other areas that help tackle the root causes of poverty.

CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP Our empowered worldview approach shifts mindsets to an understanding that every person is created in the image of God, has great value, and has the power and responsibility to move from dependency to dignity.

GENDER We identify and address harmful social norms in power and decision-making in communities. Building trust, equitable gender relations, conflict prevention and resolution, and valuing all children provide a foundation for resilience.

WATER As incomes increase, families gain more exposure to water, sanitation, and hygiene enhancements. By assisting families with various water collection methods, they also can improve household gardens for improved income and better nutrition.

MOTHER AND CHILD HEALTH Producing nutrient-rich food at the household level, especially among food-insecure communities, is essential for enabling families to lead healthy lives, lessening the risks of malnutrition and infection.

CHILD PROTECTION We specifically work with families and communities to support parents’ desire to turn their new financial ability into improved child well-being by managing their finances in a way that reflects the love of God with the protection and development of children.

EDUCATION We empower children to flourish with a quality education that parents can now afford with an increase in income. 

ADVOCACY By equipping citizens to understand their rights, we can advocate for improved policies and hold governments accountable for their commitments. This opens the way for enduring institutional changes that reduce poverty.

INNOVATION Our approach encourages collaboration, education, and the use of technology, all of which contribute to an innovative society. Communities that innovate can spark systemic changes that have a lasting structural impact to reduce poverty.

FRAGILE STATES We are testing our THRIVE model in at least one fragile state, where communities are more vulnerable to economic crises. We will focus on strengthening livelihoods and equipping these communities with safety nets, such as savings groups, to increase resiliency.

Once you see the ability World Vision has to make an impact, it just makes you want to give more. It’s snowballing in a good way, and we just think it’s so much fun to be part of that.

Sherree Funk National Leadership Council Member and long-time World Vision Partner

The key to ending extreme poverty is to enable the poorest of the poor to get their foot on the ladder of development. ... The poorest of the poor are stuck beneath it. They lack the minimum amount of capital necessary to get a foothold, and therefore need a boost up to the first rung.

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University



2018 Highlights

microloans disbursed in 28 countries
in loans disbursed to small farmers and community members
savings group members

News and Stories

Our team of experts

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