Kakata, Margibi County — Three years ago, Nancy Tokpa, 45, a mother of 4, and resident of Gwekpolorsue village in Margibi County struggled to get food for her family in the past but she now stands as the breadwinner of her family three years after being part of the BRAC Liberia Ultra-Poor program.
Ma Lorpu as she is commonly called is among 700 plus women who have graduated from Extreme poverty under the BRAC Liberia Ultra-Poor program in Kakata, Margibi County over the weekend.
The women from Bong and Margibi County are now climbing the ladder of economic self-reliance.
Ma Lorpu told FrontPage Africa: “Before BRAC could come into our village I was on the coalfield packing coal for people before my children could eat. They were not going to school but now all of my children are in school.”
“I never had money to buy a single pig; it was BRAC Liberia that gave me three pigs based on my own choice of the type of business that I wanted to do,” explains Ma Lorpu. “I started with three pigs, one male, and two females. BRAC Liberia also helped me with food for the pigs.”
Ma Lorpu says she received L$70,000 from the sale of seven pigs. Now, she also has four pigs on her farm.
BRAC Liberia’s Ultra-Poor program aims to place the ultra-poor on an upward trajectory from poverty by equipping them with basic skills, tools, productive assets, and confidence to succeed long after completing the program.
The program was a three-year pilot project funded by the National Postcode Lottery of the Netherlands. It was implemented under the theme, “Reaching the Last Mile, Ending Extreme Poverty in Liberia”.
Ultra-Poor women, who are the beneficiaries of the program, were given livestock, small business or grocery stores, mixed vegetable seeds, and tools, along with enterprise-specific training.
They were also trained in the administration of the Village Saving Loan Approach (VSLA) to promote the culture of savings and enhance asset diversification.
Another woman, Mary Flomo, 57, mother of 6, told FrontPage Africa: “We want to thank God for what BRAC Liberia has done for us. We have learned to save, manage our business well, now eat nutritious foods, practice safe hygiene, and keep a clean environment.”
“BRAC Liberia also taught us about family planning, child trafficking, the danger of child marriage, and how to prevent the coronavirus disease”.
Like Mary, Ma Hawa Mulbah, 62, is another beneficiary and a resident of Horton Farm, Canta’s community in Margibi County. The widow had a very difficult time taking care of her children but with the help of BRAC Liberia, she now owns a grocery store and engages in charcoal production.
“I’m better off now because I eat well and can help my children and grandchildren,” Ma Hawa said at BRAC Liberia Ultra-Poor Graduation program.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Adolphus B.W. Doe, the Program Manager for the Ultra-Poor program disclosed that the program is built on “four core pillars”.
He named social protection, livelihoods promotion, financial inclusion, and social empowerment as the four pillars of the program.
“Today, we are here to celebrate the achievement of the first cohort of women who have worked so hard over the last three years. Their hard work and commitment to learning have given each of them a new story. They have graduated from ultra-poverty, and are climbing the ladder of economic self into a sustainable future,” Mr. Doe expressed.
Doe stressed that theft of assets, especially animals, the poor quality of seed for the participants with mixed vegetable enterprise, and the Coronavirus were some major challenges the women were faced with during the program.
Despite the trials, Mr. Doe says over eighty-five percent of the 751 women who have graduated from extreme poverty are on the path to a sustainable livelihood. He added that the number of women with more than one income source has increased from 11 percent at the start of the Ultra-Poor to 98 percent at the end of the program.
Mr. Doe disclosed: “The number of households consuming nutritious meals at least three times a week has increased from 10 percent to 95.6 percent now.”
He added: “Access to safe drinking water has also increased from 85 to 97 percent. Also, 99 percent of participants school-aged children are now attending school compared to 42 percent at the start of the program.”
He assures participants of access to loans through BRAC Microfinance to further improve their businesses. Mr. Doe added that in the next six months, the project will conduct an impact evaluation and share learning with stakeholders.
Mr. Doe added: “We will also continue our engagement with donors and the government for funding opportunities to scale up the program across the country”.
Serving as guest speaker for the program, Margibi County District #3 Lawmaker, Representative Ellen Attoh-Wreh praised BRAC for the program. She told the women to be patient and consistent in achieving their dreams.
“Because you were focused and patient today you have a success story, you are now an asset to society,” she added.
Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Gender Social and Protection Alice Johnson Howard praised BRAC for helping rural women to stand on their own financially.
Madam Howard managed to reach out to some of the women in Gwekpolorsue village in Margibi County to see for herself some of the activities the women are engaged in.
“We want to say thanks to our partner BRAC, because the government is there for everybody but the government is not in all of these corners, that is why we got partners -government works with partners,” Madam Howard said.
Also, Roosevert S. Kla-Fleh, is an Assistant Minister for research, policy and planning at the Ministry of Gender and social protection.
He told the women that they are key in driving the developmental agenda of Liberia no matter where they found themselves.
Kla-Fleh praised BRAC for reaching out to women especially in the rural areas.
“The pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development plan is to move 1millon citizens out of poverty. Your graduation here shows the impact of moving over 700 households (3,500 people) out of poverty. That means, even if we had a target of 1million, as we stand today, we can no longer say it is still 1million because BRAC has promoted 3,500 people,” he said.