NAHR-E-SHAHI DISTRICT, Balkh province – When Shukria’s husband died in 2009, she was left alone with four little children in a rented house in Nahr-e-Shahi district in Balkh province with no support or money. Having no job skills made it difficult for her to provide food for her children.
“When my husband was alive, we had a rented house, but after his death, I wasn’t able to afford the rent, and there was no one to help us,” says Shukria, 40, trying to control the tremble in her voice. She vividly remembers the misery when she felt hopeless. Every day she went to Mazar-e-Sharif’s city streets to beg; it was her last option to survive. “We were very poor. One day we’d have something to eat, the next day nothing,” she recalls.
In 2016, Shukria’s life took a turn when she received a cow and a calf through the Targeting the Ultra Poor (TUP) program. She now lives in a mud house in nearby Qazelabad village, taking care of her livestock and a tire repair micro business. “Now I’m not begging,” she says. “Thank God! I have money and a cow. I’m so happy.”
The livestock management training from TUP taught Shukria to care for her cow properly. The cow produces milk daily, and gave birth recently. After the program ended, in 2017, she sold one of her cows for 33,000 afghanis (about $450) and invested the money in a small kiosk for repairing punctured tires, where her 18-year-old son works. Following TUP support, Shukria now has the income to support her family and send her two young daughters to school.
Sughra, 34, is another TUP beneficiary from Qazelabad village, who also received a cow and a calf in 2016. Her husband, 40-year-old Zarif Shah, is a laborer who has been able to find work for only two to three days a week. They faced constant difficulties when they did not have enough income. Their lives were transformed after they received the livestock and TUP support. The hard times have passed, and they now own a cow, two calves, and four lambs.
Most importantly, the support has helped them overcome their isolation and given them the confidence to participate in local community meetings and other social occasions. “The cow has benefited us a lot and improved our livelihood,” says Zarif Shah. “People are including our family now and they invite us to their events.”
Sughra, who is the primary TUP beneficiary, has 10,000 afghanis (about $137) in her bank account. She and her family can afford to live a better life and pay for the children’s schooling and other expenses. “Previously, I wasn’t even able to buy a chicken. I used to walk all the time when I wanted to go somewhere. If my children got sick, it was my brother or sister who would take them to the doctor,” says Sughra, a mother of five. “In the future, if the program can help other poor families as well and help them earn an income, that will be very good.”