Combating Poverty, BRAC Liberia Empowers 750 Liberian Women-headed Households Living in Extreme Poverty

Some beneficiaries of BRAC Liberia’s Ultra Poor Graduation (UPG) program in Margibi County posed with staff of BRAC and some local officials of government

Kakata, Margibi County – It was mid-morning on Thursday, August 15, 2019 when Esther Quapoule, a widow in her late 50s received a delegation from BRAC Liberia accompanied by some local Government officials to her village – Horton Farm near Kakata, Margibi County.

Madam Quapoule, affectionately called Ma. Esther was just about to feed her domestic animals – sheep, and thereafter go and monitor her vegetable seedlings on nursery, almost ready for transplanting to the main garden.

The delegation for the joint project monitoring visit comprised of the Margibi County Agriculture Coordinator, a representative of the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection, the Information Officer in the Office of the Superintendent of Margibi County, Hon. Jerry Varney and the Operations Manager of the UPG Program in BRAC A. G. M. Rasheduzzaman.

With support from the National Postcode Lottery (NPL) in the Netherlands, BRAC Liberia is implementing the Ultra-Poor Graduation Program named “Reaching the Last Mile, Ending Extreme Poverty in Liberia”.  

The pilot project’s objective, according to BRAC is to uplift 750 women-headed households living in extreme poverty to climb the ladder of economic self-reliance into a sustainable future over a period of three years.

It is being implemented in two counties – Bong (Gbarnga branch) and Margibi (Airport and Kakata branches) as a pilot for three years.

Madam Esther Quapoule, a widow expressed hope that the UPG program will make a positive impact on her life

And Madam Quapoule is one of several women from the two counties that are benefiting from the UPG program.

According to the project’s Operations Manager, the 750 ultra-poor women were selected following a thorough vetting process (Participatory Rural Appraisal) in 81 communities amongst 3,646 households. A Market study produced a list of market-viable enterprises – livestock rearing (goat, sheep or pig), mixed vegetable production, and petty trade, from which each of the women were given the option to choose. They were then given enterprise specific training and the assets were transferred.

Madam Quapoule chose sheep domestication as her main asset, and mixed vegetable cultivation as her associate asset. She has already been given her 3 animals and with BRAC’s help, has built a stable/shelter to keep the animals.

In addition, she has been supplied with the mixed vegetable seeds and the seedlings are on nursery, almost ready for planting.

Like other beneficiaries in her category, she was supplied with wheel barrow, spraying can, shovel, hoes, and cutlasses, watering can, rain booths, etc. In addition, she was given financial assistance to start the vegetable garden. The program is also giving her bi-weekly food support to compensate for the waiting time before the business starts making profit.

Speaking to FrontPage Africa, she explained that following her husband’s death, she had to take care of her two grandchildren who lost their parents to Ebola. Life was unbearable for her until BRAC came and restore her hope of living.

“All of this is just a dream. BRAC came and gave all these things free of charge just to help me and my family graduate from poverty. I am so happy and I have a reason to live after all the things I have gone through,” Madam Quapoule said.

She planned to manage the garden and her domestic animals well and following harvest, to send the children to school and change the roof of her house.

Another beneficiary, Theresa Sumo, 41 and a mother of nine girls told FPA that she chose pigs domestication as her main asset and soap making as her associate asset. She was given three pigs, two females and a male. With support from BRAC, the pig pan has already been built and the animals are flourishing in their new home.

Ms. Sumo expressed hope that her new ventures will be successful so that she will stop working for people almost every day and even be able to have all her kids attend school. “I am really hoping that these pigs and my soap business will prosper. I was really frustrated because many days, we barely got enough food to eat. With the business, food money, plus the savings and loan, I see life changing for me. “The BRAC staff can visit my house every week to talk to me on how to make my business grow and to keep my family safe”, said a hopeful Ms. Sumo.

A. G. M. Rasheduzzaman, Operations Manager of BRAC-Liberia’s Ultra Poor Graduation (UPG) program explains the intervention is intended to lift 750 Liberians from extreme poverty

The delegation toured several towns and villages meeting with beneficiaries. On each stop, Mr. Rasheduzzaman and Margibi County’s Agriculture Coordinator, Musu Tuahyounn, along with BRAC Branch Coordinators would encouraged the beneficiaries to take proper care of their respective enterprises.

Addressing a group of beneficiaries in Gbwekpolosue, Mr. Rasheduzzaman, the Program’s Operations Manager admonished them to properly manage their businesses in order to bring about positive change in their lives.

“The essence of this program is to eradicate poverty. We want your lives to change. So, in the next two years, we want you to improve your lives. If that happens, you will be happy and we will also be happy with you,” he added.

Meanwhile, in the two counties, BRAC has distributed 795 pigs to 265 women, 180 sheep to 60 women, 11,300 grams of mixed vegetable seeds to 113 women and established small businesses for 214 women.

About the Ultra-poor Graduation Program

The UPG program aims to place the ultra-poor on an upward trajectory from poverty by equipping them with the skills, tools, and confidence to succeed long after completing the program.

The approach, commonly referred to as the “Graduation approach,” is a two-year project built on five carefully sequenced interventions: food support/cash transfer, savings, an asset transfer, technical skills training, and regular life skills coaching. 

“These interventions are specifically tailored to the unique set of challenges faced by the ultra-poor. By harnessing the power of human enterprise and developing the awareness and know-how of the ultra-poor to develop a vision and plan for the future, the Graduation approach empowers the poor to propel themselves from poverty,” BRAC said in a statement.

“The Graduation approach draws on the most relevant aspects of social protection, livelihoods development, and financial inclusion to deliver results by combining support or immediate needs with longer-term human capital and asset investments. The objective is to protect participants in the short run while promoting sustainable livelihoods for the future.”

So far, in the two counties, BRAC has distributed 795 pigs to 265 women, 180 sheep to 60 women, 11,300 grams of mixed vegetable seeds to 113 women and established small businesses for 214 women.

A beneficiary with one of the pigs in the newly constructed pig pan

In addition, BRAC has transferred inputs and supported the construction of 636 shelters for animals and small business, benefiting 636 participants, trained 751 project participants in enterprise development: small business management, Livestock rearing and crop production.

It has also transferred small enterprises – at least two each to 751 ultra-poor women, supplied 5,650 grams of vegetable seeds and farming tools to 113 project participants and transferred cash/consumption stipend  of L$15.00 (per person) to 751 participants.  

With the World Bank’s 2016 announcement that 54 percent (2.1 million) of Liberia’s population living below the poverty line, many are hoping that this intervention by BRAC, when fully harnessed will have a positive impact on the lives of these underprivileged women and their families.