We are enabling those in extreme poverty to forge a way out through secure livelihoods. In 2016 we reached over one million people directly through our livelihood programmes and approximately 4.7 million indirectly.
Two key ways we help to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable communities are through adopting a 'graduation' approach, and by promoting climate smart agriculture (CSA). Concern’s graduation programmes are designed to enable pathways out of poverty for the extreme poor by providing them with a comprehensive package of support (social assistance, livelihood development, access to financial services). Meanwhile our CSA programmes help farmers at the frontline of climate change adapt to its effects.
Concern’s model of graduation
'Graduation' refers to the movement of individuals or households out of extreme poverty and into food security and sustainable livelihoods. The graduation approach was first pioneered by BRAC in Bangladesh in 2002, and subsequently adapted and piloted by Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the Ford Foundation in 2006. Concern has adopted a similar approach in a number of countries since 2008, including Zambia, Haiti, Rwanda and Burundi, and from 2017 will also be piloting the approach in Ethiopia, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). See an overview of our current graduation programmes.
Our graduation programmes not only move individuals, or households, above a certain income/asset threshold and remove them from other vital forms of social assistance, they also address the root causes and obstacles that prevent people from escaping poverty. For example, in Rwanda the programme works with local partners to engage men and boys on women’s empowerment and gender equality; whilst in Burundi it aims to reduce risk and vulnerability through working with communities to develop disaster risk reduction plans.
The approach works by targeting extremely poor households and delivering an integrated package of support. As a result, families have more options for making a living and are more resilient to shocks and stresses.
The model consists of a number of core components:
- Comprehensive targeting: making sure extreme poor households are identified as programme participants.
- Income support: helping programme participants meet their basic needs as they invest in livelihood development activities.
- Technical and business skills training: enhancing human capital and facilitating income generation through small businesses or by aiding access to employment.
- Coaching and mentoring: supporting participants to make plans to meet their goals, encouraging certain behavioural changes and offering guidance on how to address specific problems they faced.
- Facilitating access to financial services and promoting saving: to help extremely poor people manage risk, build resilience to lifecycle shocks and stresses, and reduce the likelihood of having to resort to negative coping strategies.
- Capital/asset transfer: to help participants establish new, or expand existing, economic activities. Most commonly this is used for establishing/expanding a small business but it can feasibly be used to support access to employment.
Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)
The impact of climate change on the most vulnerable
Climate change is now an accepted reality. The earth’s climate is warming, with more frequent, longer-lasting periods of extreme temperatures and more frequent and less predictable floods events and dry-spells.
The communities that Concern works with are on the front line of these climate effects. Whether it be the Sahelian zone of Chad and Niger or the flood plains of Bangladesh, most of the people we work with rely heavily on farming, fishing and livestock rearing for their livelihood and find themselves an increasingly precarious position. For example, many of the farmers we work with must now plant their seeds two or three times in a year because rains fail during the early stages of crop growth and final yields are harshly compromised.
Our CSA programmes
Concern is working with communities to adopt more climate smart agriculture (CSA) practices, helping them adapt their farming systems to the realities of climate change and become more resilient to a less predictable climate. We do this by, for example, promoting the diversification of crop varieties, increasing access to improved farming skills and technologies, and strengthening links with the private sector to facilitate the buying or selling of new equipment such as solar water pumps.
Concern is committed to rolling-out CSA to 600,000 farmers as part of our Strategic Plan (2016 – 2020). We are working with the African Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (ACSAA) to support the African Union to roll out CSA to 6 million farmers in Africa by 2021. In fact, Concern was chosen as one of a handful of international NGOs to join the landmark ACSAA alliance of ten diverse global partners.
Concern’s current agriculture and livelihoods programmes are promoting:
- Drought resistant/short cycle crops and improved varieties of field crops, for example in Chad, Niger, South Sudan.
- Access to efficient water systems for irrigation and other productive activities, for example in Chad and Somalia.
- Conservation Agriculture and other water and soil conservation practices, for example in Malawi, Zambia, Chad and Sudan.
- Agroforestry and tree plantations.
- Improved post-harvest management, for example in Sierra Leone.
- Improved livestock management and access to health and feeding system, for example in Chad, Niger and Somalia
- Farmer Field School, Rural Resource Centre and other participatory and action research extension approaches, for example through the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) project.
- Links with the local market and other private actors to strengthen agriculture value chains.
Concern promotes integrated programmes (agriculture and livelihoods together with other sectors like water and sanitation, gender, education, etc.) to tackle the multiple risks, vulnerabilities and inequalities affecting people in the face of climate change. With this view, Concern's CSA approaches also seek to:
- Increase equity within the community, particularly gender equity;
- Provide nutrition and health benefits;
- Protect the local environment, biodiversity, ecosystems and hydrology;
- Protect the rights of pastoralist and indigenous communities.
- Factsheet – Overview of Concern's work on graduation (2017-2021)
- Operational research – latest findings from Concern's graduation programmes
- Learning paper – Graduating poverty in Zambia’s western province
- Knowledge matters – Graduation special edition
- Blog – Invest in the poorest and your return will be exceptional
- Brief – The potential of conservation agriculture to improve nutrition in Zambia
- Concern in Malawi – Empowering women through conservation agriculture
- Study – Potential for nutrition-sensitive conservation agriculture in Zambia
- Fonkoze review – Sustaining graduation: A review of the CLM programme in Haiti
- IDS resource – Burundi graduation programme evaluation
- IDS resource – Concern Worldwide’s graduation programme in Rwanda
- Dochas Consultation paper on Climate Smart Agriculture
- Braced website
- Big Heart Foundation
- Dutch Government
- German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
- Irish Aid
- Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
- United Nations Population Fund
Our research partner
Accountability is woven into the fabric of all Concern programmes. Learn more about our accountability and transparency procedures and processes, and read our annual report.