6.3.4 Match Goals with Target Group: Go for High-Impact, Transformative Opportunities When Possible, but More Modest Livelihood Strategies When Necessary

Opportunities generated in rural areas need to be high-impact or transformative if they are to counteract the “pull” of urbanization, for young people who have that option. Small-scale farming and rural, informal employment represent the lowest paid, least secure occupations in most countries. For young people with sufficient literacy, skills, financial backing and/or linkages to urban areas, rural jobs need to be more attractive than urban jobs, because of the many other benefits related to living in cities, including access to basic infrastructure like running water, electricity and the internet, a more vibrant social life for young people, and opportunities to training or different jobs to advance a career. Access to high-impact or transformative rural opportunities may involve higher risk, and/or require better education, more capital, or stronger social networks. Such opportunities may include being involved in modern agribusiness as farmers, technical advisors, input suppliers, processors or wholesalers. Another example is the alternative energy sector, which is expanding into distribution of small-scale solar electricity systems. Due to higher access to education and resources, more mobility, lower domestic responsibility, and gender stereotyping, young men are generally more able to take advantage of such “transformative” opportunities. So, programs focusing on high-impact or transformative opportunities should pay attention to helping promising young women overcome specific barriers to these or similarly beneficial opportunities.

For most very-poor populations, securing a basic but stable livelihood in small-scale agriculture or informal self-employment is, in fact, transformative. Larger numbers of people growing up in rural poverty face pressure or have no alternative to migrating for uncertain urban “work” – more often begging or quasi-slavery - that carries high security and health risks. Often, this population also has more family members to take care of once they become stable, and a weaker support system, so they are less able to take risks on opportunities in more lucrative, newer sectors, regardless of potential rewards. This population tends to focus more on risk mitigation, increasing income and assets through a diverse portfolio of proven activities.

High-Impact, Transformative Opportunities Stories from Camfed12 Zimbabwe Graduates

Runyararo: “Adversity struck for Runyararo when she was a 13-year-old primary school student in rural Zimbabwe. She was top of her class. But when her father was diagnosed with tuberculosis, Runyararo’s chance of finishing her education seemed entirely lost. Her family had no resources to draw on and she was forced to stop school and work in the fields alongside her mother. In a letter she wrote to Camfed in 1993, Runyararo said: "I used to go to school barefooted, with my face full of hunger. If only I get the chance, I will do something great." Camfed covered all the costs Runyararo needed to return to school, including a school uniform, shoes and stationery. She excelled at secondary school and won a scholarship to study medicine at Harare University. Today, Runyararo is a pediatrician.”

Talent: “When Talent was eight years old, her father died. When she was 10, her mother left her and her two siblings in their rural village to look for work. She never returned. Talent's aunt took the children in, but she struggled to earn enough money as a shopkeeper to send them all to elementary school. When Talent graduated from middle school, her aunt told her she couldn't afford to send her to high school.  “She tried to comfort me,” says Talent, “and suggested that I work for a year to save money so I could pay my own way the following year.” But Talent knew this was a temporary solution. What would she do after her first year of school when her money ran out?  She was devastated. “I wanted to change my life through education. I didn't want to continue to struggle, being poor all the time,” she says. One week before classes started, the principal at Talent's school told her she'd been chosen to be supported by Camfed. All her fees, stationery, toiletries (including sanitary ware) and transport costs to and from school would be covered. “The next day, I didn't speak to a soul,” she says. “I spent the whole day praying and thanking God for this amazing news.” With Camfed's support, Talent graduated from high school and was accepted into medical school at the University of Zimbabwe. She's now in her final year and doing well. ‘I don't want to disappoint those who are supporting me,’ she says. ‘Now that I'm in medical school, I have faith the gates to success are wide open. I just have to walk through them.’ ”

Coleen: Coleen, 28, is the fifth born in a family of six children. She lives in Hurungwe District, Zimbabwe, with her parents who are peasant farmers and she is the breadwinner of the family. Coleen was not supported by Camfed through school but she joined Cama in 2007, after learning about it from other Cama members in the district. She suffers from chronic headaches and other difficulties, but these have not stopped her from pursuing her dreams of becoming a successful businesswoman. In 2010, Coleen started a buying and selling business, where she rented a shop and sold a variety of groceries. She looked for a piece of land where she could build a shop and used the profits from her business to purchase the building materials required. In 2011, Coleen’s father retired from work and gave her his pension, as a loan, to assist her with her building project. Coleen received a grant from Camfed of $100, which she used to buy more stock for her shop. So far she has purchased a fridge, a deep freezer, a TV and a generator.  Coleen plans to become a successful businesswoman: "I advise all youngsters to make a life for themselves and not rush into marriage, to work hard and not be taken down by disability. I am not well but l work for myself."


  • 1. Believing
  • 2. every child has the right to an education, Camfed uses a community-based, holistic approach to bring about change in Africa. Camfed educates girls and supports young women to become leaders of change.