How Much Can Asset Transfers Help the Poorest? Evaluating the Results of BRAC’s Ultra Poor Program (2002–2008)

The article assesses over a six-year period (2002–2008) the impact of an innovative programme in rural Bangladesh that has assisted extremely poor households—literally the poorest of the poor. The provision of a substantial dose of assets helped produce very positive results, by and large. Vulnerability to downturns on account of negative events, such as illnesses and house damage, resulted in asset losses for several assisted households. Additional measures that reduce vulnerability and risk will help complete the good work commenced by the asset transfer plan. Experience has shown that the poorest individuals are hard to reach with the help of microfinance alone. Other means of transferring cash—including conditional cash transfers, employment-generating programmes, and so on— may also not suffice to move people permanently out of poverty, unless they simultaneously help build resilience, forge connections, and raise confidence. Raising the ability of poor people to deal with the most important sources of risk while concurrently improving their prospects for upward mobility—these are the critical objectives that grass-roots development programmes must serve. Exclusively supporting upward mobility can be of relatively little value, unless the danger of backsliding is simultaneously addressed.

Authors: Krishna, Anirudh; Poghosyan, Meri; Das, Narayan C
Type: Journal Article
Year: 2012