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Pathways Out of Poverty: Using Value Chains to Move Vulnerable Households Up the Economic Ladder

Jan 28, 2011
institutional sponsor: 
United States Agency for International Development


On January 28, 2011, Margie Brand and Ben Fowler presented “Using Value Chains to Move Vulnerable Households Up the Economic Ladder.” The seminar was the 55th installment of the Linking Small Firms to Competitiveness Strategies Breakfast Seminar Series sponsored by the USAID Microenterprise Development office.

The presenters began by discussing their value chain approach to targeting vulnerable households and how a combination of push/pull strategies works best. They highlighted that pull strategies strengthen value chains to create opportunities for vulnerable households, while push strategies support vulnerable households to participate in value chains. Thus, using a pull strategy alone will not adequately prepare vulnerable populations to be involved in the value chain. Brand and Fowler then took the audience through the four steps they use when working with vulnerable populations:

  1. Identify and Understand Target Population,
  2. Understand Coping & Risk Mitigation Strategies,
  3. Understand Asset and Income Objectives,
  4. Identify Appropriate Intervention Strategies.

The presentation closed with discussion of appropriate types of intervention strategies, and key considerations for value chain practitioners working with vulnerable populations.


Headshot of Margie Brand
Margie Brand

Headshot of Margie Brand

Headshot of Margie Brand

Margie Brand is Project Director for the AED-implemented FIELD-Support LWA LIFT and STRIVE programs funded by USAID. She is founder, and worked for many years as Executive Director, of EcoVentures International. With over 15 years of experience in the field of market, enterprise, youth, and sustainable development, Ms. Brand has worked on projects in over 25 countries through organizations as EVI, the SEEP Network, AED, QED Group, Save the Children, Triple Trust Organization, Banyan Global, and ACDI/VOCA.

A highly experienced trainer and curricula developer, she has developed entrepreneurship, sustainable business, and value chain training curricula now used in over 45 countries around the world. She has run training-of-trainer programs for a number of international consulting firms, donors and non-profits including clients as DAI, Nathan and Associates, and IBM Global. She also consults as Senior Technical Training, Curriculum Design & Knowledge Management Specialist for several USAID projects. She has been the lead facilitator for the Kenya BDS Donor Committee Annual Conference on value chain approaches for the past three years.

Ms. Brand initiated and facilitates the USAID Technical Advisory Group for Economic Strengthening for the benefit of Vulnerable Children and is one of the founding members of the Global Children Youth and Economic Strengthening Network. Ms. Brand has authored several studies and publications on market development and economic strengthening for vulnerable populations. Ms. Brand regularly speaks at conferences and events in different parts of the world.

Born and raised in South Africa, her regional experience spans across North America, Africa, Central & Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Central and East Asia, and the Middle East.

Headshot of Ben Fowler
Ben Fowler
Independent Consultant
Headshot of Ben Fowler
Headshot of Ben Fowler

Ben Fowler is an independent consultant specializing in market development. He has nine years of experience working with NGOs, universities, microfinance institutions, multilaterals and donors across Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South and Central Asia.

Ben has contributed to the advancement of the field through his teaching on value chains for the International Labour Organization and several universities and his contribution to industry publications and academic journals. He is a regular contributor to the Enterprise Development and Microfinance Journal. Ben previously worked for the Mennonite Economic Development Associates and the Aga Khan Foundation.