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FEATURE STORY

Light After Darkness: Afghanistan's Poorest See Hope for Brighter Future

August 22, 2016


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A widow shares a smile of gratitude. Women like her who had no other source of income have benefitted from this program. They are now able to fend for themselves and their families.

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

Story Highlights
  • Raising livestock provides ultra-poor rural families an opportunity to earn a livelihood and become entrepreneurs.
  • The Targeting the Ultra Poor (TUP) program which is part of the Afghanistan Access to Finance Project implemented through the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan, aims to move participants from safety net programs to income-earning activities, and links them with microfinance programs.
  • The Access to Finance Project is supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

Nahr-e-SHAHI DISTRICT, Balkh Province, Afghanistan – Bibi Gul, 40, holds her cow’s halter and smiles at the congratulatory clapping from a group of women. With a stooped back, she quietly takes slow, labored steps, leading her new cow to stand by a wall next to several other women waiting for their cows.

“I am very happy because I just received a cow today,” says Bibi Gul. “I want to take good care of her. By selling her milk I can improve my living conditions.” She lives in a house with nine family members in Qezelabad village in Nahr-e-Shahi district in Balkh Province. Her life had taken a downturn when she lost her husband. Due to social stigma, she is unable to work outside the house. The only thought that consumes her is feeding her six small children. “When a woman, particularly a widow, wants to work outside her house, people stigmatize her,” says Bibi Gul. “For this reason, I cannot work outside my house.”

Bibi Gul received the cow through the Targeting the Ultra Poor (TUP) program. Today is a bright day for her, coming after a long, dark time. She calls it the light after the darkness. She hopes to work and put food on the table for her children. “I want to slowly improve my living conditions by taking care of this cow,” says Bibi Gul. “If I get the opportunity, I will also establish a small enterprise.”

The TUP program is part of the Afghanistan Access to Finance Project  (AAFP) implemented through the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA). The project aims to build institutional capacity to improve access to credit for micro, small, and medium enterprises. The Access to Finance Project is supported by an amount of US$50 million through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

Nationally, the TUP program, which began in 2015, has provided assistance to 6,725 families. It aims at “graduating” participants from safety net 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. 


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The TUP program operates in 4 districts of Balkh province where a non-governmental organization - Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA), has been contracted by MISFA to implement it.

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

" From now on, I can have a better life through managing my livestock, and I will at least be able to send my children to school.  "

Zainab

TUP program beneficiary, Qezelabad village

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The project aims to build institutional capacity to improve access to credit for micro, small, and medium enterprises.

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

Create opportunities for better lives 

It is envisaged that the TUP program will be replicated with the World Bank’s support under the Access to Finance Project in 20 districts across five provinces and will reach 7,500 households (representing an estimated 52,500 people) by its end in 2018.

The TUP program operates in four districts—Dehdadi, Dowlatabad, Kholm and Nahr-e-Shahi— in Balkh Province, where a non-governmental organization, Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA), has been contracted by MISFA to implement it.

“People’s traditional ideas of women’s role in society have led to many women staying at home and living under the poverty line,” says Mohammad Rashed Sekandari, the Balkh CHA provincial coordinator. “By distributing livestock to those women, we create opportunities for them to improve their living conditions by working from home.”

Women, like Zainab, 45, with no other means of income have everything to gain from the TUP program. A widow with three children, she hopes that the four goats she has received from the program will lead to a brighter future.

“In order to feed ourselves, we used to go to the desert every day and collect the remains of wheat seeds from the reaped rain-fed wheat,” she says. “From now on, I can have a better life through managing my livestock, and I will at least be able to send my children to school.” 



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