Populations We Serve

Adapting the Village Enterprise poverty Graduation model for vulnerable populations.

Group of African women listening to a presentation

Empowering Women

Over 75% of our business owners are women. Why is this important? Seven out of ten of the world’s hungry are women and girls. According to the UN World Food Program findings, women and girls are most affected by neglect in rural, poverty-stricken areas. In East Africa, women are more likely to be illiterate, perform unpaid work and eat less in lean times than men. However, when women are financially empowered, they prioritize things like health care, nutritious food, and education that benefit their families and communities. Increasing the bargaining power of women creates a virtuous cycle as female spending supports the development of human capital, which in turn fuels current and future economic growth. Successful women entrepreneurs also strengthen social justice in the communities where they live.

According to sub-analysis of our Randomized Controlled Trial results, Village Enterprise program households with female participants benefitted more than households with male participants in regards to increases in total asset ownership and consumption as well as access to savings groups.  Moreover, women participating in the Village Enterprise program reported increased standing in the community and subjective well-being including improved mental health and an overall sense of happiness.

Founders Pledge endorses Village Enterprise as a top charity for women’s empowerment. According to Founders Pledge, “Village Enterprise excels at improving the lives of women, and has strong 3rd party evidence that its model is an effective way of addressing extreme poverty.”

Rural Youth

Over 75% of East Africa’s population is younger than 35, and the number is projected to rise. Investing in youth unlocks economic opportunity for decades to come. Most rural youths are unemployed, with few if any economic opportunities in the formal labor sector. In response, Village Enterprise adapted our poverty Graduation program to transform rural youth into entrepreneurs.

In Kitgum, Uganda, Village Enterprise works with multiple partners, including consortia partners GOAL, Voluntary Service Overseas, and Restless Development, on an initiative to equip rural youth to start and run successful agriculture-related businesses. The Mastercard Foundation-funded DYNAMIC (Driving Youth-led New Agribusiness and Microenterprise) increased opportunities for agriculture as a viable economic activity for youth in a region where little formal employment exists.

This program builds on our previous success starting youth-based businesses as implementing partner with FHI360 on the USAID’s Feed-the-Future initiative to reduce poverty and food insecurity. A focus on youth was inspired by the results of a Youth Study conducted in Spring 2014 in partnership with FHI 360 and USAID to identify retention, training, and business selection strategies for our program. This study was a November 2015 finalist of a USAID Collaborative, Learning and Adaptation Case Competition.

UN Refugees in the Village Enterprise program


The refugee population in Uganda nears 1.5 million people and continues to grow due to unrest and civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and South Sudan. Village Enterprise is responding by adapting our microenterprise Graduation program for refugees.

In 2018, Village Enterprise worked with other organizations to conduct a market assessment for microenterprise programming in the West Nile refugee settlements of Bidi Bidi, Rhino Camp, and Palorinya. Following successful completion of the study, we implemented an ECHO Foundation-funded pilot to pair newly arrived refugees with host community members to launch small businesses that promote resilience and reduce aid reliance across three settlements. This consortium also included CARE, Save the Children, and Oxfam. Based on the success of that pilot, we recently entered into a new project as part of the ReHope BRIDGE (Resilient Market Systems Development) project funded by UK Department of International Development (DFID). Village Enterprise also provides support to DFID Innovations Centers in creating Human Centered Design (HCD) approach to improve project outcomes.