Addressing Poverty through Increased Savings:

Evaluating Mobil Technology (Smartphones) Use in Promoting Financial Security for Youth in Ecuador

In 2010, the UC Davis Blum Center for Developing Economies and Freedom from Hunger began working together to complete evaluations of ongoing microfinance programs with partner institutions in Latin America. Students gained invaluable experience through intensive, hands-on, and practical field research, working in Mexico and, then last summer, in Peru. UC Davis graduate and undergraduate student teams completed poverty index assessments and case studies, interviewing hundreds of microfinance institution clients.

Expanding on this partnership, in 2013, UC Davis and Freedom from Hunger are developing evaluation protocol and will be implementing an assessment this summer in Ecuador. Funded by a generous donation from Paul Sack, a San Francisco businessman and philanthropist, a graduate and undergraduate student team will be traveling to Ecuador to evaluate an innovative new initiative launched by Freedom from Hunger entitled, Advancing Integrated Microfinance for Youth (AIM Youth). AIM Youth utilizes SmartPhones to capture savings in the field. A small printer provides a receipt and funds collected are effectively tracked.

Mentored by Dr. Travis Lybbert, a UC Davis faculty member in Agricultural Resource Economics and a leading expert on poverty dynamics and technology transfer and adoption, the UC Davis student team will determine the costs and benefits of this novel program. In addition, they will assess whether text messaging can increase savings by youth and make it easier for them to make regular deposits.  A pilot study is being now completed. Freedom from Hunger’s microfinance partners are implementing a text-messaging system in which youth receive a text message on their cell phones in an effort to reinforce key financial education concepts on managing money and achieving financial goals. The UC Davis student team will design, test and document youth-focused microfinance and financial education services to meet the financial needs of these young people.

Student Team

  • Randall Cass, MS in International Agricultural Development and Fulbright Scholar in Santiago, Chile studying small-scale beekeepers (2011).
  • L. Carolina Tavarez, BA in Spanish with minors in Latin American & Hemispheric Studies and Education. Recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research (2013). Founding director of Ann Prepare Lavni, an initiative in Haiti working to build free bilingual education, class rooms and a library. 

About Freedom from Hunger

Freedom from Hunger is an international NGO (non-government organization) based in Davis, with a 60+ year history of developing, testing and distributing to scale self-help innovations that address the root causes of chronic hunger.  Since the late 1980s, Freedom from Hunger has pioneered and refined its distinguishing contribution to international development, methodology that integrates microfinance activities with other high-impact services such as education (in the areas of health and nutrition, household finances and business management) and health protection.  Freedom from Hunger is distinguished in its field by its focus on self-help solutions for rural, poor populations, by its commitment to rigorous testing and evaluation of its approaches, and by leveraging its resources through collaboration and partnership.