The “Graduation” program: Evidence-based support for the 2Seeds model

What do you think of when you hear graduation?

Maybe you picture the end of a school year, a passage into a new phase of life, or an achievement that opens doors. Or perhaps you think of a cap and gown, a diploma, and a celebration with friends and family.

Lately, the word has been used in a different context: development practitioners are buzzing about a new approach to helping the extremely poor graduate from poverty.

A recent study published in Science shows the effectiveness of a comprehensive “Graduation program” and its success in elevating individuals out of extreme poverty. The authors studied programs in 6 countries—Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan, and Peru—that target the poorest members of villages and provide them with the following:

  1. A productive asset
  2. Training on how to use the asset
  3. Healthcare to keep them healthy enough to work
  4. A small amount of food and/or money to support them while they learn to make a living
  5. Access to a savings account
  6. Weekly coaching in topics including overcoming obstacles and meeting savings goals

Using randomized controlled trials, the authors studied the effects of this bundle of interventions on a number of outcomes, including consumption, food security, productive and household assets, financial inclusion, physical and mental health, and women’s empowerment. By the end of the program—usually two years—there were statistically significant gains in consumption, food security, and household assets among the individuals who had received this bundle. Furthermore, when the target individuals were again surveyed a year after the end of the program, the authors found that these gains had been maintained.

At 2Seeds, we take this holistic approach to development. We’ve seen that simply providing our Partners with a goat or cow, or offering them a microloan, doesn’t always advance them on their journey out of poverty. By providing training on how to use their productive assets (such as livestock or agricultural equipment), as well as coaching in business concepts, we give our Partners an opportunity to achieve sustained income generation. Furthermore, by helping them set goals for themselves and start savings funds, we enable them to convert that income into real gains in their quality of life.

In the village of Kwakiliga, we’re seeing our Partners improve their lives through the graduation approach. 2Seeds invested in a productive asset for the members of the Kwakiliga group: 100 chickens and three chicken coops to start their egg production business in 2013. At the same time, training was provided on how to use the asset, including chicken care and nutrition best practices.

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One of the three Kwakiliga chicken coops at dusk

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Mzee Adamu feeding the chickens 

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Within a month of egg production, the group was turning a profit, and within a year, they had accrued $2,500 in group savings, which enabled them to triple their flock of hens in 2014. Now in Kwakiliga, group members divide their profits according to an agreed plan: a portion in group savings for future business investment, a portion in take-home pay for each member, and a portion in each individual’s personal savings fund. Through these personal savings funds, 2Seeds is helping our Partners convert their income into their own vision of maisha bora – the better life – by providing a means for them to work toward tin roofs for their homes, higher-quality seeds for their farms, or seed financing for their own business ideas. One group member is saving for a motorcycle to start his own taxi business!

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Mama Adamu collecting the eggs from one of the Coops.

Additionally, the group has worked through 2Seeds’ business curriculum, which covers a variety of topics including savings management, trade offs, and basic accounting. These trainings, along with coaching and follow-up from Project Coordinators to ensure retention and application of knowledge, help our Partners responsibly manage their business finances and operations for the long-term.

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Mama Mwaka showing off her Business Curriculum graduation certificate!

We’re thrilled to see press and excitement around the graduation program and the value of a holistic, multifaceted approach to development. With over 40% of Tanzanians living in extreme poverty—on less than $1.25 a day—we must consider innovative ways to create opportunities for individuals and families to pull themselves out of poverty. One of the author’s of the paper on the graduation approach, Dean Karlan, says, “[P]overty, and especially extreme poverty, is difficult to eliminate. The poorest of the poor have more problems than just lacking a regular income.” At 2Seeds, we understand the far-reaching effects poverty has on our Partners’ lives in rural Tanzania, and we’re employing elements of the graduation approach—a scientifically proven method to poverty alleviation—to improve these conditions.

Annie Duflo, Innovations for Poverty Action’s Executive Director, says, “Governments, aid organizations, and donors have been looking for something backed by real evidence showing it can help the poorest of the world, and this Graduation approach does exactly that.”

We invite you partner with us, and watch as our Partners graduate from poverty!

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Publication citation: 
Banerjee, Abhijit, Esther Duflo, Nathanael Goldberg, Dean Karlan, Robert Osei, William Parienté, Jeremy Shapiro, Bram Thuysbaert, and Christopher Udry. 2015. “A Multi-faceted Program Causes Lasting Progress for the Very Poor: Evidence from Six Countries.” Science.

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2Seeds Network and Human Capital Development: Why Does 2Seeds Exist?

We get asked a lot, “What does 2Seeds do?”

The answer starts with our purpose as an organization:

The purpose of 2Seeds is to create opportunities for individuals and communities to achieve their full potential.

Why does this matter? First, we believe that extreme poverty and hunger are the products of unfulfilled potential, and that every community has the capacity to be productive and healthy.  For too many people in the world, this capacity is underdeveloped: more than 1 billion people live on less than $1.25 (PPP) per day. In Tanzania, where we work, two-thirds of the population lives in extreme poverty. More than one-third of the Tanzanian population is “food insecure,” meaning they are hungry and undernourished through some part of every year.

Tanzanians call this part of the year njaa-the “hunger season”. When njaa sets in, Tanzanian families struggle to make choices nobody should ever have to make: Do we feed our young children, or those of us doing the labor? Do we pay for school fees or for medicine for our children?”

We do not believe that njaa is inevitable for our Tanzanian partners, friends, and neighbors. We believe that they all have the potential to be more productive, and to sustain that productivity themselves.

Day in and day out, we see and experience the extraordinary resilience, dedication, and faith that our partners have that they can make a better life for themselves.   We see their fervent desire to learn more, their generosity in supporting their neighbors, and their willingness to take risks with people they trust. We experience in every moment our partners’ love for forging new connections, and building new relationships within and across different communities.

There is such great potential in the communities in which we work; we believe that our partners deserve the opportunity to create new, positive choices for themselves: “Which secondary school will our child attend? Will we invest in goats or chickens? Will I be a teacher or a doctor?” These are the kinds of choices that give families the chance to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger, and keep themselves out.

But extreme poverty and food insecurity are not the only great problems we face in our world today. We all face the realities of a changing climate, a tottering global economy, persistent geopolitical conflict, and fractious political systems. We cannot deny the enormity of these issues. Yet we also see individuals and communities filled with the potential to face up to and overcome these great challenges of our time.  In every corner of the world we find smart, compassionate people with strong values and a passion for solving problems. They are confident to take big risks, humble to learn from failure, and driven to build on success. Many are young people, searching for formative experiences to build their skills.

Our businesses, institutions, and communities all need strong ethical leaders to face up to these challenges. All around us, we see people with the potential to be those leaders.

So here grow the two seeds of our current mission:

1) We are helping rural Tanzanian families achieve their productive potential to grow more food and generate more income from what they produce.

2) We are helping individuals achieve their potential as values-driven, results-oriented leaders.

We believe that these two seeds grow well when planted together, that each can be the force that catalyzes the other. We believe that as these two missions grow into another, the primary means to achieving both is the same: Human Capital Development.

Coming tomorrow: Part 2 of “2Seeds Network and Human Capital Developmont – What is Human Capital?”