Introduction to the TREE methodology

Training for Rural Economic Empowerment (TREE) is an approach to developing projects and long-term programmes that provide training to enable poor women and men to have greater control over their lives.

Training: builds skills and knowledge of women and men;

Rural: designed specifically for people in less developed, fragile and vulnerable contexts where access to services and economic opportunities is limited;

Economic: focusing on economic and employment opportunities;

Empowerment: for individuals and communities.

The short-term objective of programmes developed using TREE is to improve the incomes of participants through wage-or self-employment, individually or as part of a group or cooperative. The long-term development objective is sustainable improvement in the quality of life and self-reliance for the entire community.

TREE’s strength is its comprehensive and community-based approach to developing and delivering training programmes. A TREE project will:
  • Identify realistic local income-generating opportunities; skills gaps and other barriers before developing any training;
  • Involve the local community and social partners in identifying opportunities, barriers and ways to overcome barriers;
  • Include (or provide links to) post-training supports, including access to technologies; access to financial services; helping in the formation of groups, associations and cooperatives; and more;
  • Develop linkages and pathways that provide opportunities for people to address the challenges of informal work and take steps to transition to formal employment.
  • Leave an ongoing legacy in the form of local expertise in identifying economic opportunities, experience in delivering community-focused services among training providers and business services; and self-sustaining local economic organizations and cooperatives.
A TREE project will work on three levels: micro, meso and macro. While a micro-level focus will have an immediate, beneficial impact on those directly involved, engaging the formal training and business development systems (the meso level) and the broader governmental and economic environment (macro) helps ensure a lasting impact and potential replication.
  • At the micro level, training and post-training activities developed and delivered through the TREE approach will be relevant to local economic opportunities and will reflect the needs of trainees and the context in which they will be seeking economic activity or employment. The challenges faced by different trainees (women, persons with disabilities, members of disadvantaged groups, etc.) must be understood and reflected in the content and delivery of training.
  • At the meso level, the TREE approach will involve training and business development service providers in the design and delivery of its programme. The training system includes formal and non-formal training centres, qualifications frameworks and prior learning recognition, while business development services include financial services including micro credit, technical assistance and market information. A TREE training programme may use formal system locations or instructors, lead to nationally recognized certifications, and link graduates to existing or specially adapted post-training support.
  • At the macro level, government and civil society actors including employer and worker organizations can enable or limit the potential for success in TREE’s approach to community-based development Ensuring that these actors are aware of and if possible supportive of the TREE approach is an important part of project development.
The TREE programme design and delivery require an understanding of several fundamental issues.
  • Gender, gender roles and social expectations have a major impact on women’s and men’s economic activity and ability to gain and improve control over their lives and their incomes. Programs must be developed with the participation of women and men, and with the intention of benefitting women and men
  • Climate change and other environmental risks have a disproportionate impact on people who are poor and those closely dependent on ecosystems. Increasing resilience and addressing the challenges posed are critical for effective programs.
  • Persons with disabilities, particularly in poor and rural contexts, face multiple additional barriers to achieving control over their own lives and increased economic well-being.
  • Exceptionally fragile contexts include internal and internationally displaced persons and migrants; post- and active conflict states, natural disasters and pandemics. Fragile contexts more broadly tend to feature divisions between and among communities, and governance mechanisms that marginalise some communities. These create and worsen challenges for poor women and men.
  • TREE’s approach is rooted in a rural context characterised by low population numbers and/or density, limited access to services, infrastructure or extensive economic opportunities, and high reliance on primary sector occupations and industries. The approach may also be relevant in contexts where some or all of these characteristics are present.
The TREE methodology was developed over more than 20 years of experience in many countries of the world. It reflects the ILO's experience in developing and delivering training interventions intended to address the needs of women and men in the most challenging circumstances: where there is a lack of obvious employment or income-generation potential, where people may lack basic skills, and where there are significant social, economic or cultural constraints that limit the potential of individuals and groups. Drawing on the lessons learned, the TREE methodology sets out 5 key processes to aid in the development and delivery of an effective programme:

Launching a TREE programme

  • Broad environmental assessment
  • Identifying stakeholders and partners
  • Capacity building for partner organizations
  • Establishing TREE management and governance

Assessing economic opportunities and training needs

  • Involving local communities and beneficiaries in the assessment process
  • Data collection and analysis on local economic and labour markets.
  • Participatory identification of economic opportunities and training needs
  • Development of feasibility studies, training proposals and post-training plans

Training design, organization and delivery

  • Design and prepare training, select and train trainers
  • Selection of beneficiaries
  • Inclusive training delivery
  • Monitoring trainee participation and progress

Post-training support for micro-enterprise and wage employment

  • Organize delivery of post-training support
  • Access to wage employment
  • Microenterprise development
  • Pathways out of informality

Monitoring, evaluation and documentation

  • Performance monitoring
  • Exit and sustainability