The deep wrinkles on Marwa’s face make her seem older than 40. Her bitter smiles are reminiscent of the hard times she has seen. She is often sick and cannot work well. She is, however, slightly happier, having found a new glimmer of hope in life. Marwa pats a cow that she recently received from the Targeting the Ultra Poor (TUP) program. “I hope that the cow I got will deliver a calf and by selling her milk I can improve my living conditions,” says Marwa. “I hope I can earn enough to put something to eat on the table.”
The TUP program is part of the Afghanistan Access to Finance Project implemented through the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA). The project aims to build institutional capacity to improve access to credit of micro, small, and medium enterprises. The Afghanistan Access to Finance Project is being supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.
Nationally, the program, which began in 2015, has provided assistance to 6,725 families. It aims at ‘graduating’ participants from safety nets programs to income-earning activities, linking them with microfinance programs. Building on the lessons learned from pilot programs and international experience, the TUP program provides beneficiaries a three-year package of inputs, including the transfer of productive assets (such as livestock); training (classroom and practical work); a subsistence support (monthly stipend as short-term income support); and basic healthcare through community-based health workers.
It is envisaged that the TUP program will be replicated in 20 districts across five provinces and will reach 7,500 households (representing an estimated 52,500 people) by its end in 2017.
The TUP program operates in four districts—Dehdadi, Dowlatabad, Kholm and Nahr-e-Shahi—in Balkh Province. MISFA has contracted a non-governmental organization, the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA), to implement the program in Balkh.
Meeting basic needs
Families eligible to participate in the TUP program include those who either have no means of earning an income or earn so little that they are unable to meet their basic needs. Through the program, these families are offered an opportunity to use livestock as a way of generating enough income to meet their basic needs.
“We never have enough food to eat and my children are always hungry,” says Khuban, 30, a resident of Yakabagh village. “One of my children is sick and I have not taken the child to the doctor because I cannot afford it. The first time I milked my cow, I gave it to my children to drink. Then I sold some milk in the market so I can earn enough money to provide for my family.”
The training and workshops for participating families cover topics such as how to raise and care for livestock, meeting hygiene requirements, improving living standards, and finding markets to sell products. As the families covered by the program generally do not have the resources to visit healthcare centers for medical care, they are introduced to local healthcare centers, and program staff work with the centers to ensure their cooperation with the families.
With funding from the international community, The TUP program was first piloted in 2010 in Bamyan, which then expanded to Badakhshan Province, covering 400 ultra-poor families in Bamyan and 800 in Badakhshan. The program is now being rolled out in five provinces, including Balkh. The majority of the families in the pilot programs have seen their economic condition improve. “I remember a woman in Bamyan Province who had nothing to feed her children,” says Matin Izedyar, MISFA communication and information director. “Her life has improved because now she has a job and provides food for her children.”