Piloting Ultra-Poor Graduation in Uganda

Piloting Ultra-Poor Graduation in Uganda

What is it?

The Ultra-Poor Graduation programme was pioneered by BRAC in 2002 and implemented in Bangladesh where it is known as Targeting the Ultra-Poor (TUP). Since 2007, 1.9 million households have ‘graduated’ in Bangladesh. With funding from Cartier Philanthropy, supported by the Medicor Foundation, BRAC has decided to implement the Graduation programme in Uganda through a pilot project, specifically in the Luwero District and Karamoja Sub District, both areas of great deprivation.

Ultra-Poor Graduation in Uganda is streamlining in order to target extreme poverty amongst youth. Uganda is a country of the young and boasts the youngest population in the world: 77% of the population. However, opportunities in Uganda do not reflect and cater to the youth and as a result, 18% of Ugandan youth are not in employment, education or training. TUP is a project aimed at elevating Ugandan youth out of poverty by investing in their training and well-being in order to, after two years, leave them with a sustainable livelihood proffering financial safety and a healthy household.

How does it work?

Appropriate participants are selected by the community; those that stand the most to benefit from the programme: the young and destitute. Once a participant has been chosen, they receive two types of assets: typically a main, high-value asset which will generate  long-term income (e.g. a cow for milk), and an associate asset which provides small but reliable income to alleviate immediate needs (e.g. five chickens for eggs). This ensures the participant is able to protect both assets and diversify their income.

Once the participant has chosen an enterprise (a choice of livestock, agriculture/nursery and non-farm enterprises) they are given formal training in that area. In addition, they are also trained in managing their assets to generate a steady income. Once this initial training is over, the participant is eligible for grants/soft loans.

The participants are also provided with mentors who operate on weekly/monthly visits on which they monitor the progress being made, distribute weekly stipends and provide training and lessons on family planning, health and financial best practices. Each participant is provided with diet charts and an individually tailored healthcare plan depending on their condition (pregnancy, breastfeeding, in case of any illness).

Committees such a Savings and Loans Groups are also formed in order to integrate beneficiaries of the Graduation programme into society, where they have previously faced marginalisation as a result of being ultra-poor. By re-entering the participants into their communities it enables the programme to be more successful as the participant forges beneficial links to various people, builds confidence and improves their social quality of life.

The aim is for the participant at the end of the two years to have access to a clean water supply, be in possession of at least two income streams, have acquired a skill which can provide employment and be in the position to save 40% of their income, amongst other criteria. Once this has been achieved, the participant is deemed to have graduated and exits the ultra-poor category.


So far, 3000 ultra-poor Ugandan youths have become participants of the programme. As consistent with the majority of Graduation programs globally, around 70% of them are women. The project has already been running for two years, with the first beneficiaries receiving their assets in April 2017. These first beneficiaries are now halfway through the programme, with 94.4% of them successfully having two income sources from livestock, pottery trades and/or poultry businesses.

Youths who graduate the project will be able to increase their incomes, improve their own health as well as that of those around them, and employ financial and saving skills to withstand economic shocks or health crises. Ultra-Poor Graduation is a programme which raises the most vulnerable youth in society out of poverty, and allows them to flourish within their communities, setting them up with skills that will last a lifetime.

An article by Nadja Popovic

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