The Intervention to be evaluated is the “Targeting the Ultra-poor” Program (TUP), a holistic package combining the transfer of a productive asset with structured training, mentoring, a basic stipend, and other complementary services for a defined period aiming to help households break their poverty cycle. The original (TUP) graduation program was designed and implemented by BRAC in Bangladesh and has subsequently been promoted by CGAP and the Ford Foundation.
The program focuses particularly on ultra-poor women, who are able to manage an enterprise but have no productive assets in the household and are not connected to a microfinance institution. The Afghanistan TUP program will take place in 6 provinces and the impact evaluation will take place in the Balkh province only. The intervention is implemented by the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA) through different NGOs in each province where the program operates. In the study villages, the implementation was conducted by the Coordination for Humanitarian Assistance (CHA).
To identify ultra-poor households, the program included a village- and household-level selection process. Program staff first qualitatively identified the poorest villages in the province subject to having availability of veterinary services, financial institutions and social services, and high population density. Once the villages were selected, a Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) was conducted to identify poor households. This included a combination of a community poverty wealth ranking, followed by a verification of the poorest 20% based on this ranking. The verification was conducted by CHA through a short survey, and this was followed by a final verification by MISFA of the eligible households submitted by CHA. The final selection criteria for TUP beneficiaries was based on meeting at least three of the following six criteria checked during the verification:
(1) Household is dependent on female domestic work or begging;
(2) Household owns less than 20 decimals (1 biswa) of land or is living in a cave;
(3) Targeted female is 50 years old or younger;
(4) There are no active adult male income earners in the household;
(5) Children of school age are working for pay; and
(6) Household does not own any productive assets.
Once identified, the ultra-poor households received the various components of the program, which can be broadly categorized into the following:
(1) The transfer of a productive asset in the form of livestock (e.g., cows, goats);
(2) A monthly cash transfers/stiped (AFN 1,000 per month for 12 months);
(3) A training focused on basic concepts of livestock rearing and entrepreneurship;
(4) Fortnightly “mentoring visits” by social organizers, and vet services to:
a. evaluate the asset and related outputs as well as to recommend follow-up actions. Depending on the evaluation of the asset, additional support in the form of food supplement or asset replacement were options for the program participants; and
b. promote activities encouraging improved behavior across a range of dimensions (health, education, female empowerment, financial inclusion, and social cohesion/community support).
A sequenced approach is applied, which is informed by the original BRAC graduation model. The recipient receives support for their livelihood selection, which includes an intensive and repeated consultation between MISFA, the partner field staff and the ultra-poor women so that participants can make an informed choice from different enterprise options. The productive asset transfer is worth AFN 21,000 – 27,500 (approximately 330 - 450 USD). The consumption stipend aims to support the household with basic food needs, initially to replace the potential forgone income or productive time that the TUP recipient spends learning about and initiating their business rather than attending to their usual duties.