Uganda is currently experiencing record levels of refugee influx (approximately 1.1 million refugees), which has brought key donors and actors such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World Food Program (WFP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) together to address the current needs of refugees as well as to develop a strategy for long-lasting solutions to reduce dependence on donor support. To increase the impact of current cash and food assistance, these stakeholders expressed interest in adding a livelihoods and resiliency component in emergency contexts. It is believed that this approach will enable pathways toward self-reliance, while freeing up resources to address the needs of new arrivals.
The AVSI-led consortium is working on a 7-year Activity, whereby 13,200 households (HHs) in Kamwenge District that are economically active, but chronically unable to meet their basic needs without some form of assistance, will participate in an adapted graduation program, with fifty percent coming from the host community and fifty percent refugees from Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement in the same district. The Activity, funded by USAID’s Office of Food for Peace, will be paired with an external impact evaluation using a randomized control trial approach.
The ongoing verification of refugees in Uganda that started on 1 March 2018 was completed on 24thOctober 2018. The exercise has verified a total of 1,091,024 refugee or asylum-seekers. This represents 75.5% of the estimated target of 1.4 million registered persons.
The Graduation Approach seeks to empower ultra-poor households and individuals to reach and maintain conditions of greater economic self-sufficiency and resiliency in a sustainable and time-bound manner. The approach is an adaptation of a methodology (Targeting the Ultra-Poor, TUP) originally developed by BRAC in Bangladesh in 2002), the success of which led the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the Ford Foundation to launch a major initiative to pilot the model in 10 sites in eight countries between 2006 and 2014. These pilots provided an opportunity to rigorously test the Graduation Approach’s ability to create impact across countries and contexts for potential scalability to contribute to the eradication of poverty.
The Graduation Approach is a time-bound (generally 24-36 months) sequence of crosscutting interventions to address the unique challenges of ultra-poor households and the multifaceted complexities of poverty. Project components vary by context but generally draw on elements of social protection, livelihoods development, and financial inclusion to combine support for immediate needs with longer-term human capital investments and outcomes. Components and processes of the Graduation Approach generally include:
While time and cost-intensive, the Graduation Approach’s holistic livelihood promotion approach enables ultra-poor households to graduate and sustain their household’s upward trajectory out of poverty. Six of the 10 CGAP/Ford Foundation Graduation Approach pilots included randomized control trials (RCTs)—conducted in Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan, and Peru. In May 2015, findings from these RCTs were published, providing compelling evidence that the Graduation Approach is cost-effective and leads to statistically significant and sustainable gains in economic and social outcomes for ultra-poor households across diverse contexts. Every group of economic outcomes (consumption, food security, asset, savings, self-employment income) improved significantly relative to the comparison group immediately after the two-year program ended, with further improvements in social outcomes (happiness, stress, empowerment). What is more impressive is that one-year post intervention, nearly all positive outcomes were sustained. With sustained impacts, cost-benefit analysis from the RCTs (+Bangladesh) indicated that the long-term benefits of sustainable livelihoods built through the Graduation Approach among the ultra-poor outweighed the programs’ up-front costs.
With evidence mounting for the Graduation Approach’s ability to break intergenerational cycles of poverty in an impactful and cost-effective manner, there are opportunities to promote further efficiencies and value for money, not only among the ultra-poor within host countries, but also among ultra-poor conflict-affected refugee populations. Today, roughly one in every 110 people is either a refugee, internally displaced, or an asylum seeker—totaling 68.5 million people. Among protracted crises, it has become increasingly common for displacement to last decades, trapping people in a cyclical nature of reliance on external assistance. A paradigm shift from current emergency-only response to a more durable and sustainable solution is needed. The humanitarian system must adapt to meet the ever-growing demand with limited budgets. The Graduation Approach provides one such solution.
Graduating to Resilience (2017-2024) – Adaptation of the Graduation Approach
Graduating to Resilience, a USAID Office of Food for Peace (FFP) funded activity led by AVSI Foundation in partnership with Trickle Up and IMPAQ International, seeks to test the Graduation Approach’s ability to graduate ultra-poor refugee and host community households in Western Uganda from conditions of food insecurity and fragile livelihoods to self-reliance and resilience. Through a cost evaluation and external impact evaluation, the Graduating to Resilience consortium seeks to test three variations of the Graduation Approach to identify the most effective and efficient approach to reach ultra-poor conflict-affected populations. The evidence produced can inform future social protection and humanitarian programming and policy.
The three treatment arms are briefly summarized in Table 1 below, while the components are described more fully and compared to the standard Graduation Approach in Table 2.
Banerjee, A., Duflo, E., Goldberg, N., Darlan, D., et al. (2015, May). A multifaceted program causes lasting progress for the very poor: Evidence from six countries.Science, Vol. 348 (6236).
Innovations for Poverty Action. (2015, September). Building Stable Livelihoods for the Ultra-Poor.
UNHCR. 2017. Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2017.
Table 1. graduating to resilience activity arms
Table 2. standard approach compared to adaptation
From June-August, 2018, Graduating to Resilience conducted targeting exercises to identify eligible beneficiaries for the Activity. As part of this process, the team conducted two pilots and held After Action Reviews (AARs) daily to address challenges as they occurred. The Activity used a two-part Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) approach to identify eligible households, comprised of both Social Mapping and Poverty Wealth Ranking (PWR) exercises. This methodology relies heavily on community participation and engages community members and leaders in beneficiary selection, not only as sources of information but also as partners in gathering and analyzing information. The Social Mapping component involves walking through each village with leaders and community members to physically locate every HH and conduct a brief quantitative survey to assess the wealth of each HH. PWR brings together community members and leaders and allows for representatives to define wealth rankings (extremely poor, poor, moderate, and rich) and place every member of the community into one of the corresponding ranking based on their own wealth definitions.
Pilot Testing of PRA Methodology for Targeting
The Activity team consulted extensively with the external evaluator as well as government stakeholders at all levels to refine the PRA methodology for targeting and ultimately for the identification of eligible households. In Figure 1, the main steps of the process are listed, as well as a quick summary of the results from each pilot.
Figure 1: Summary of targeting Pilots
The table below highlights some key lessons learned and their solutions implemented through the iterative learning process.
Table 1: Summary of Challenges and Solutions
Scaled-up Targeting Approach
After Pilot 2, the revised methodology was used at scale to identify eligible households for participation in the first cohort of the Activity, inclusive of a control group.
The Activity identified 25,140 eligible households through an innovative, participatory, and community-led process. 11,536 (46%) of these households are within the refugee settlement, whereas 13,604 (54%) are from the host community. A total of 195 villages (45 in the refugee settlement and 150 in the host community) have been reached by this exercise. Villages will be assigned as “treatment” or “control”, and from within the “treatment” villages a total of 6,600 households will be assigned to the three treatment arms. An additional 4,400 households will constitute two equally-sized control groups; 2,200 households in the “control” villages, and another 2,200 households in the “treatment” villages. This second control group will allow for the detection and measurement of possible spillover effects from the treatment groups.
Graduating to Resilience targets poor and extremely poor, but economically active households which are also chronically food insecure.
As shown in Table 2, the participatory approach to targeting is resource-intensive, both in terms of staffing and time.
table 2. graduating to resilience targeting results
Table 3. Overview of Targeting Resources and Logistics
Next-Steps to Enrolment
The PRA methods described were not the end of the targeting effort. Once lists of eligible households were completed by the Activity team, they were handed over to the external evaluator for review and preparation for the baseline survey implementation. Subsequently, the external evaluator randomized villages into treatment and control categories and provided those results to Graduating to Resilience. Once baseline data collection is completed, the Activity team will return to each and every village and conduct a public lottery to assign selected households to one of the treatment arms or to the control group.
Figure 2. Pathway for beneficiary enrolment – Graduating to Resilience (Steps 1-3 cover the targeting phase)
Summary Lessons Learned
The lessons learned from the two pilots underlined the importance of the involvement of the local community, especially from the very beginning. Local leaders helped to mobilize community members and to answer questions, reducing the perception of the exercise being a census. The Activity benefited from the deep understanding of locally conceptualized poverty classifications to better align project objectives to reach the extreme poor in both refugee and host communities.
Reliable community lists and mapping of the household locations were difficult in both settings; direct observation through visiting each household should be carried out to ensure that extremely poor households are not excluded. This is essential as households frequently move from one location to another.
In addition to the community engagement, another positive aspect of the targeting process has been the engagement of coaches in the PRA. This early engagement allowed coaches to become familiar with the communities with whom they will work, meet and work closely with Graduating to Resilience staff prior to implementation, and increase their knowledge of the selection process should questions arise at later times. On the other hand, having coaches, numbering just under 200, on board very early on carries a cost implication. As part of the external evaluation, the Activity will conduct a cost-benefit analysis at the end of the activity and will see if this information can be determined. Stay tuned for more information regarding lessons learned from hiring over 260 local staff to fill the coaching and community based trainer positions.
The complexity of the context and the Activity interventions prompted the team to integrate Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting (CLA) best practices into Activity design and implementation.
To do this, the Activity created a comprehensive CLA plan early in the planning process that presents an integrated approach to program-level learning-while-doing. This combines routine monitoring data and analysis alongside a clear plan for regular reflection, feedback loops and adaptive management. Additionally, the Activity is part of Food For Peace (FFP) refine and implement (R&I) approach, allowing one year to learn, modify and plan before implementation. During the refinement year, the consortium has taken tremendous steps to embed CLA methodologies in its day-to-day work such as the aforementioned iterative learning during the PRA. The Research and Learning Advisor works hand-in-hand with Technical Advisors when conducting pause-and-reflect sessions. AVSI leadership calls for both formal and informal before and after action reviews. Lessons are learned daily; information accumulates with each stakeholder engagement or assessment conducted. We, as a consortium, must grow and adjust in response. Examples of our CLA plan in action include the following.
table 1. Refine and ImplemenT schedule
Understanding that local engagement leads to local ownership and ultimately improved development outcomes, the Activity is working closely with key stakeholders during the refinement year, laying the groundwork for ongoing collaboration during implementation. Examples of this collaboration include:
As part of the R&I structure, the Activity will use Scenario Planning to address development challenges that hinge on specific but uncertain outcomes. To do this, the Activity has identified situations that may affect program design and has analyzed these situations to plan adjustments accordingly. Examples of scenarios that may affect program design and implementation include:
interventions should land size decrease
- Land rental access for refugees
- Potential social conflict within the settlement
- Other crop possibilities that require less land
- Other off-farm livelihood possibilities including business and skilled
The first year for Graduating to Resilience concluded at the end of September, but the refinement period was extended by an additional three months until the end of 2018. This additional time will allow for the external evaluator to complete the baseline survey, which must happen before the random assignment of households to treatment arms can be completed. Other important decisions also hinge on findings from the baseline, including in particular the calculation of the consumption support transfer amount.
In our next Notes from the Field (approximately March 2019) you can expect to learn more about:
Welcome to our Notes from the Field, the Graduating to Resilience Activity blog! This set of notes comes directly from our team in Uganda, comprised of AVSI, Trickle Up and IMPAQ International. In it, you will see updates on our progress and gains in learning and knowledge, discoveries and challenges in our commitment to reach the expected results.