Alternative Income and Livelihood

Free The Children provides parents, especially mothers, with the resources to generate a sustainable source of income, increase their savings and even start their own businesses.

Women who participate in alternative income and livelihood programming increase their capacity and skills. These skills not only benefit the women who have them, but are passed on to friends and children who can use them in the same way, now and in the future.

Going beyond merely the provision of animals, our alternative income and livelihood programming includes training, support and workshops, and ensures long-term, sustainable solutions to economic challenges.


Today, 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 per day. This kind of crippling poverty forces many parents in developing countries to send their children into the workforce to provide for their family instead of going to school. They can’t afford proper meals, adequate living conditions or even health care if their children get sick. For mothers, the grip of poverty is even worse. Across the developing world, women’s education and literacy rates pale in comparison to those of men. And with household responsibilities keeping them at home, many mothers have neither the mobility nor the means to earn a living.

When mothers are given the education, tools and skills to earn and sustain an income, their children gain access to education, are healthier and are removed from situations of child labour.

With alternative income and livelihood resources and training, women become empowered and proud and act as wonderful examples to their daughters and other girls, impacting everyone. The result is an educated community that is more equipped to lift themselves out of poverty.

Did You Know?

  • About 20% of the world’s population, 1.2 billion people, live on less than $1 a day.
  • 925 million people around the world do not have enough to eat.
  • 98% of the world’s hungry live in developing countries.
  • Women represent 70% of the world’s poor.
  • Women, mostly in rural areas, represent more than two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults.
  • When women have an active role in the economy, this not only lowers levels of women living in poverty, but helps to raise household income and encourages economic development of countries as a whole.


Through implementation of all five Adopt a Village pillars over three to five years, Free The Children aims to improve access and change not only circumstance and opportunity, but behaviour. Ultimately this leads to a change in community status, resulting in long-term, effective and meaningful development.

After building community members’ knowledge of financial principles, leadership and more, which takes approximately one to two years, Free The Children begins changing their financial behaviour and engages them in income-generating activities.

Over time, as a result of these activities, we see growth in annual household income and an increase in the households’ annual savings, resulting in an improvement in the health and welfare of families and entire communities.

Our Alternative Income and Livelihood Projects Include:

Our sustainable alternative income and livelihood projects are different in each Adopt a Village country. They are based on each community’s culture, traditions, resources, habits, climate, environment and more. Projects include:

  • Animal husbandry which includes milking/breeding animals
  • Vocational training
  • Business and financial literacy workshops
  • Leadership and skills training
  • Honey production
  • Artisans projects
  • Girls’ clubs
  • Women’s and Men’s lending circles and support groups

Research shows that our programs have lasting impacts.

A 2011 study on Adopt a Village by Mission Measurement assessed the program on three levels: overall effectiveness, sustainability and cost-effectiveness. The study has found that projects implemented through Adopt a Village have met all three objectives, and Free The Children continues to strive to make its programs effective, sustainable and cost-effective.

Since the creation of the alternative income and livelihood pillar, Free The Children reports:



“30,000”,”women provided with economic self-sufficiency.”




Meet Carmen

Sixteen-year-old Carmen Rocío Daquilema of San Miguel, Ecuador has seen her school undergo some pretty significant changes over the years. The addition of new classrooms made room for Grades 7, 8 and 9 for instance. Handwashing stations and a dining hall were added to help ensure students stayed healthy. A library gave the children of San Miguel new resources for learning and the computer lab, set to open in the near future, will connect them to the world like never before.

All of these Free The Children building projects have helped Carmen receive a quality education but, now that she is in grade nine, it’s Free The Children’s alternative income and livelihood program that will help her continue learning. “After Grade 9 if I want to continue studying to finish high school, I will have to take a bus to another town called Guamote,” she says. “I need the money to be able to pay the transportation to Guamote every day and for school fees and school supplies.”

As jobs are scarce in San Miguel, Free The Children has provided young girls with a means of earning money with the local Girls’ Club. Along with several other girls, Carmen attends club meetings once a week, learning to make recycled paper and to raise guinea pigs. In a period of three months, Carmen went from 10 guinea pigs to breeding and owning 60, which in Ecuador are eaten as a delicacy. Every week, Carmen sells 6 guinea pigs in the market. The money Carmen earns from selling her guinea pigs will be put towards supplementing her family’s income and furthering her education.  The club has added to her personal development, too. “We are also learning about leadership, gender roles and culture and personal development,” says Carmen, adding that she has “learned to talk with more confidence with my peers and say my opinion… I feel much more confident participating in [the community].”