In July 2018, BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative (UPGI) launched its engagement with the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development (SFSD), Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Egyptian Human Development Association (EHDA), and Giving without Limits Association (GWLA) to achieve their objective of reducing extreme poverty in Egypt. By working together within this coalition, it is their hope to demonstrate the potential of Graduation as a national poverty reduction strategy to the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MOSS) within the Government of Egypt. The pilot is targeting approximately 1,000 rural, extreme poor households in the Sohag and Assiut governorates of Upper Egypt.
Context: Recent estimates show that 27.8% of the population in Egypt lives below the national poverty line (World Bank). The targeted areas of Assiut and Sohag are the two poorest governorates in the country: Assiut has approximately 4.3 million inhabitants, with 66% living in poverty, while Sohag has approximately 4.6 million inhabitants, 65% of whom are poor (UNFPA, UNRCO and Basera). Livelihoods in both governorates are largely agricultural and include the cultivation of cotton, wheat, maize, and sugarcane. This is followed by manufacturing focused on handicrafts and construction in Assiut, and food manufacturing, textile and furniture-making in Sohag. The ultra-poor in Egypt face a worsening outlook driven by rising food prices, an increasingly devalued currency, and a lack of sustainable employment opportunities.
Like all Graduation programs that BRAC partners to create and implement, the design of Bab Amal adapts to meet the challenges of its participants. In the regions of Assiut and Sohag, this means focusing on the household level, where the main barriers to success include a lack of food and nutritional security, skills and livelihood options, poor health-seeking behavior, hygiene and sanitation habits, limited access government support, low literacy levels, limited female participation in the workforce, limited savings access to credit, and a sense of fatalism and dependency. Each intervention within the program plays a complementary role that enables each household to achieve sustainable solutions to the main challenges they face.
Social Protection: These interventions correspond with the main challenges surrounding food security/ nutrition, health, water and sanitation, and child labor and education. Participants who are not already receiving any type of cash transfer or enrolled in the Takaful and Karama (T&K) program will receive a consumption stipend, life skills training on nutritional diversity, health and WASH practices and child education/labor, linkages to local health services and schools, and access to an emergency health fund.
Livelihoods Promotion: Providing sustainable livelihoods that promote income generation and improved economic welfare of vulnerable households is at the core of the Graduation approach. A one-time asset transfer is made to provide greater livelihood options in the areas of livestock-rearing, poultry farming, sewing, clothing trade and shop keeping. Technical and business skills training also accompanies the transfer to generate the necessary knowledge to manage the livelihood and build long-term gains.
Financial Inclusion: These key interventions seek to create saving mechanisms, increase financial literacy and build borrowing capacity among all participants and their households. This is done through the creation of savings groups that meet bi- weekly (up to ten participants per group), training that focuses on financial management and business skills, and microloans distributed via the savings groups.
Social Empowerment: Further integration into the community via life skills training, the creation of village solidarity committees (VSCs) and monthly coaching make up the main interventions for this last pillar of Graduation. VCSs help promote social inclusion and spread messaging on topics of gender equality. Biweekly household visits by a dedicated mentor allow for closer monitoring as well as opportunities for coaching, life skills training and personal engagement.