Our mission is to empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice. Our interventions aim to achieve large scale, positive changes through economic and social programs that enable men and women to realize their potential.
Sep 30, 2016

Greater yields, better lives

LEAD farmer members in Tanzania.
LEAD farmer members in Tanzania.

In 2013, BRAC began a project to raise incomes for 105,000 smallholder farmers in Tanzania. How do you break down barriers to the market for thousands of rural, subsistence farmers, most of them women, and improve the quality of the product the farmers offer? Those are the challenges the Livelihood Enhancement through Agricultural Development (LEAD) project, now in its fourth and final year, seeks to address. We are excited to share our progress with you.

To improve the quality of the product offered, BRAC used demonstration farmers and community poultry promoters (CPP) to spread knowledge about modern techniques for corn and chicken production. To accomplish this, more than 600 CPPs have been trained. Additionally, BRAC specifically trained almost 100 community members to become veterinary and agriculture technical experts who are also supporting farmers.

In our last report, we also discussed farmer field days, during which demonstration farmers showcase modern techniques and tools for community members to learn new farming innovations. Nearly 450 field days have been recorded, and the results are stunning:

Corn farmers reported that the following practices were adopted:

  • Line sowing, which helps farmers grow more crops, saw an increase of 56 percent, with 94 percent of farmers participating in the practice after training;
  • Modern weeding techniques swelled 17 percent, to 99 percent after training;
  • Using a crop calendar, which can help farmers keep production costs low, increased 37 percent, with 96 percent using a calendar after training;
  • and fertilizer use jumped 28 percent, to 92 percent after training.

With your support, the LEAD project also created farmer groups, helping them share resources, boost production and improve bargaining power to sell crops at market prices. In a country where few smallholder farmers are able to transition to commercial farming practices, farmer groups can help individual farmers access local, regional and national buyers. More than 8,000 groups have been formed.

Another key factor limiting access to markets for most smallholder farmers is capital. Without cash, farmers cannot gain access to modern seeds and chicks or pay for pesticides and immunizations. We are proud to share that more than 20,000 farmers have financed their businesses with small loans, totaling more than $8 million.

More specifically, 50 entrepreneurs from 12 regions received cumulative investments of $722,375 to support their ongoing businesses. Results show their income increased by 99 percent, their production by more than 50 percent, and that repayment rates are at 99 percent.

Access to cash and new techniques and technologies also paid off. While corn farmers, on average, cultivated slightly less land after receiving trainings, their average yield per acre actually increased 62 percent. The greater yield and better access to markets contributed to a growth of 131 percent in yield sold. Overall, corn farmers earned 78 percent more per farmer than prior to their trainings.

For poultry farmers, the results have been equally inspiring. On average:

  • the number of eggs produced in a month rose 161 percent;
  • the number of eggs sold skyrocketed 362 percent;
  • and the average amount of capital from selling eggs jumped 274 percent.

For poultry farmers, overall, yield and income increased 400 percent and, for corn farmers, 194 percent after involvement in the LEAD project.

Nowhere is this more evident than with Josia, a 40-year-old resident of Kihesa who was previously a carpenter before trying his hand at poultry farming.

Prior to joining the LEAD project, Josia produced roughly 500 chicks each month, despite owning an incubator capable of hatching 1,000 chicks. Due to outdated techniques and disease, many chicks would die, and he would end up with only 200 to bring to market.

After joining the LEAD project in February 2015, Josia received training in modern techniques, access to veterinarians trained by BRAC and took out a loan to expand his business.

With new incubators, access to vaccines and a variety of eggs, Josia began producing nearly 3,000 chicks a month, and lowered the number of chickens that were dying. This increased his income from $183 a month to more than $2,250. After demand skyrocketed, he bought another incubator, and now sells an average of 10,000 chicks a month.

With the growth in business, he has hired three employees to help manage the hatcheries, and he has built a house for his family.

Thank you for supporting Josia and farmers like him in the LEAD project. Together, we are improving the lives of thousands of smallholder farmers in Tanzania, one crop at a time.

A corn farmer in the LEAD program in Tanzania.
A corn farmer in the LEAD program in Tanzania.
Sep 26, 2016

In Nepal, quiet leadership

FCHVs meet in Shyampati.
FCHVs meet in Shyampati.

In the 18 months since the Gorkha earthquake devastated much of the country, Nepalis have joined together to support each other in the recovery. Nowhere is that more evident than with Female Community Health Volunteers.

Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) are a key component to the public health system in Nepal, especially in rural areas of the country. Started in 1988 by the government of Nepal, the FCHV program provides health services to communities, often coordinated through Village Development Committees (VDCs).

Since the earthquake, BRAC has started providing trainings to strengthen the capacity of existing FCHVs so that they can better provide educational, preventive and curative health services to their community members, particularly for mothers and young children in 850 households in the Shyampati VDC in the Kavre district.

Women and girls are an instrumental part of another BRAC program in Shyampati.

The Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) program is one of BRAC's most successful initiatives worldwide. The first of its kind in Nepal, 10 ELA clubs are being set up as safe spaces for adolescent girls, age 13-21, to read, play and socialize. In keeping with the BRAC model, older adolescent girl members will receive training in life skills, livelihoods and financial literacy. They will also have the opportunity to take out small loans.

ELA clubs feature strongly in a one-year pilot project, along with health and sanitation components, that BRAC recently initiated as a step toward rehabilitating the earthquake-affected community.

Sanitation is a real concern in Shyampati, an open-defecation free zone before the earthquake, as community members now are compelled to use the forest to relieve themselves. BRAC continues to make progress restoring and constructing new toilets to replace the 265 damaged in the earthquake.

After a natural disaster, it is often the quiet leadership of women and girls that remains unbroken, a pillar on which communities rebuild. In Nepal, after Gorkha, they are once again providing the foundation. We hope you are as honored as we are to stand with them.

One of the first ELA clubs in Nepal.
One of the first ELA clubs in Nepal.
Aug 8, 2016

Pakistan's education potential

Eman's sister attends a BRAC school in Pakistan.

Over the past two years, you have played a pivotal role in supporting early childhood education in Pakistan. What began as a small pilot project to prepare disadvantaged young children for school, and help achieve universal enrollment and gender parity in primary education, grew to include over two hundred schools in locations chosen specifically to benefit girls and other marginalized student populations.

Historically, children in Pakistan have faced myriad barriers to receiving a quality education, and the country has struggled to make sure every child is in school by the time he or she reaches the primary level (the equivalency of elementary school). To address this shortcoming, BRAC trained local women as teachers, and opened pre-primary schools for children from poor families, especially girls, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

This includes girls like Eman, pictured above, who lives in the Rahim yar khan district. When we first met her, Eman tried eagerly to touch her ear – in Pakistan, successfully reaching it signifies a child is at least five years old and eligible for school.  Eman's older sister is a student at a BRAC primary school. One day, she’ll follow her sister to school.

Thanks to you and BRAC’s participatory education model, almost 6,000 children from extremely poor families, the majority girls, graduated from pre-primary school, resulting in a marked increase in the number of students enrolled in government primary schools. Over the course of 36 months, BRAC opened and operated 200 pre-primary schools in the Haripur, Swabi and Charsadda districts of the Khyber Pakhunkhwa province.

With the project’s end, BRAC is pleased to report that 5,928 children graduated from BRAC’s pre-primary schools, a full 56 percent of whom were girls. Virtually all of those students – 92 percent – successfully made the transition to government primary schools. The vast majority of these students were from poor families and, prior to the establishment of a BRAC school, were not receiving an education. For most, this was because parents could not afford school fees, or because schools were located too far away. BRAC’s pre-primary schools offered free education and were opened in communities lacking schools.

Several factors contributed to BRAC’s success, not least of which was a contextually-relevant early childhood education model. BRAC’s experience adapting programs to suit country-specific needs proved particularly productive in Pakistan. This approach trickles down into other decisions that were equally helpful, like hiring a dedicated staff of locals and mobilizing mothers in the community to provide formal support to the schools and preempt negative perceptions. The project’s low cost of operations and humble profile also found a receptive audience in the community.

Like any project, there were difficulties, too, that provided the opportunity for growth and learning. They included many inherent to working in developing nations; for example, challenges coordinating efforts with the government and the need for more technical education expertise on-the-ground. In addition, this project would have benefited from greater male buy-in, especially with community leaders, to endorse, promote and support the project. These shortcomings will be addressed in future iterations of the program.

Still, in addition to starting students on a lifelong learning journey, early childhood education provides a strong foundation of cognitive and learning abilities, confidence, reading and writing skills and positivity. We encourage supporters of this project to consider supporting our complementary program in Afghanistan: Triggering the Girl Effect. The journey to ensure every child worldwide, regardless of gender or ability, can receive a quality education is, like Eman, still young. It’s also full of potential.


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