Lessons from Liberia to scale global poverty reduction – Global issues

A Liberian participates in the BRAC Graduation pilot at her store. Credit: Alison Wright
  • Idea by Adolphus BW Doe (monrovia, liberia)
  • Joint press service

BRAC Graduation Method is a proven, multifaceted set of interventions based on an in-depth understanding of the challenges faced by people living in extreme poverty. BRAC – one of the largest NGOs in the world – pioneered the Graduate approach 20 years ago and is the largest implementing organization, reaching over 2.1 million households families (about 9 million people) in Bangladesh alone.

Key pillars of the Graduate approach include a grant to support participants’ basic needs; productive assets such as livestock, equipment, or seed capital; life skills training, financial skills, business skills; and regular coaching and mentoring. ONE rigorous evaluation of the London School of Economics found that 93% of participants received sustainable benefits seven years after starting the programme. This includes a 37% increase in income, a 9% increase in consumption, a ninefold increase in the savings rate, and a twofold increase in household wealth and access to land for livelihood. Testing in Liberia was conducted from April 2018 to September 2021 and was made possible thanks to generous support from the Netherlands ZIP Code Lottery. Through it, 751 women-headed households in two districts participated and 85% graduated, climbing the ladder of economic self-reliance towards a sustainable future.

At baseline, these women were earning only US$1 per day before they entered the Graduation program, working as a seasonal wage earner, picking cassava and making coal. Low income – or no income – leaves them vulnerable, hopeless or confident. Many have faced domestic violence and been abandoned by their husbands and children’s sole source of income.

Now, they are micro-entrepreneurs who make a living by raising livestock, growing vegetables and running businesses like grocery stores. Of the pilot participants, 88% doubled their income, 96% had access to clean water, 98% had regular nutritious meals, 98% practiced safe hygiene and 100% Regular savings (biweekly) at the end of the program. Households’ housing conditions have also improved significantly, of which 88% of the children benefiting are going to school.

In this transition, Graduate program participants have demonstrated their ability to forge pathways toward self-reliance, as they have access to the right tools and resources. .

The lessons learned from the Liberian pilot are substantial and could facilitate further replication. They are especially strong, like Liberia among the 10 poorest countries in the world.

First, the Graduate method works in Liberia. The probability of poverty decreased sharply from 50% to 31% after the intervention program. Food consumption score improved from 28 to 44.

This is suitable for research by Graduate pilots in six other countries on three continents by Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, among others.

Communities in Liberia are very accessible and enthusiastic to participate. But implementers must focus on making sure it serves those with the highest needs. While more than half of Liberia’s population lives in poverty, 16% living in extreme poverty should be the focus.

Second, reaching people living in extreme poverty must be strategic. How do you find them? First, we asked county leaders to identify locations of extreme poverty. Then we use “participatory rural assessment“To map the size of those communities, the number of households, and the specific clusters within them. From there, we can create a list of households.

With households already identified, we were able to rank them based on economic indicators and administer a questionnaire for the poorest to assess their wealth, savings and food security . Based on the results, a visit to the individual homes confirmed their living conditions.

Third, program design and research tools must adapted to local circumstances. For example, content passed on to program participants must be relevant to the local context. In Bangladesh, participants are often given cows; In Liberia, that’s not appropriate. As a result, a market research was conducted to ensure that the properties being transferred would be reasonably marketable. Such an adaptation is consistent with the Graduate program of experience in other place.

Fourth, understanding and challenge traditional gender norms may be essential to breaking patterns of extreme poverty. In Liberia, the issue of women’s access to land – for livestock and crop production – must be addressed.

In rural areas of Liberia, land is often owned by a few families, who are often initially willing to provide free access to facilitate poverty alleviation. But once they see a woman increase in income, they can claim the rent. We therefore knew from the outset that it had been confirmed in writing that access to the land would be free for at least 5 years.

Fifth, we fully expect that the cost of the Liberia Graduation method may decrease over time. For this pilot, the cost per participating household is $2,000 (US). That matches the overall implementation cost per Graduation household in other countries which is between $300 and $2,000 (US). We estimate in Liberia future costs will be between $1,000 and $1,200 per household.

It is possible to reduce costs in Liberia because primary research results can be more widely applied, as can localization tools. Once the first phase of the method is complete, it is also less labor intensive to extend it.

Scholars outside Liberia estimate that for every dollar spent on a Graduate program, one profit worth $2 – $5 (US), depending on the program design. Returns are heavily influenced by contexts, specific programs, and specific times.

These lessons are affirmative and instructive. They highlight the great potential to replicate the Graduate approach and the opportunity to do so with increasing efficiency. They give reason for optimism that this proven solution could soon be adopted globally.

The author is the Head of the Extreme Poverty Graduate Program and the Interim National Director for BRAC International in Liberia.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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