Cash transfer programmes all over the world have been used as a major social protection intervention to improve the livelihood of the extremely poor and vulnerable people. Ghana joined the community of nation’s using the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme in 2008, which has made tremendous impacts on the lives of its beneficiaries over the past eight (8) years.
The LEAP Programme which is Government of Ghana’s flagship social protection programme, provides the means for cash transfer to the extremely poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable people in society. The programme targets the extremely poor segment of the Ghanaian population that belong to the following four (4) categories: Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC), the Elderly sixty-five years and above without support, Persons with Severe Disability without Productive Capacity, and Pregnant Women and Children under One Year. Eligible beneficiaries, who are objectively identified through a well-coordinated targeting process, are paid regular cash grants every two months using the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System (GHIPSS)’s E-zwich platform.
The programme design also makes provision for beneficiaries to be linked to complementary services – e.g. the linkage of all LEAP beneficiaries onto the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) free-of-charge.
The Programme seeks to reduce poverty by increasing consumption and promoting access to services (Health, Education, and Complimentary Productive Services) and opportunities among the extremely poor and vulnerable.
The LEAP Programme is well situated under the National Social Protection Policy that was launched in June, 2016. This is done with the view to empower and provide a safe haven for the beneficiaries through a well-coordinated programme managed by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP).
The number of beneficiary households has gradually increased from 1,654 in 21 districts when the Programme started in 2008 to the current 213,048 households in 216 districts in the ten regions of Ghana and this covers over 34 per cent of the extremely poor population of 2.2 million.
LEAP beneficiaries have countless success stories about the improvement they are experiencing as a result of their being enrolled onto the LEAP cash grant.
Madam Elizabeth Amedoadzi who lives in Kpotame community in South Tongu district of Volta region was enrolled onto the LEAP Programme in 2011. She has been able to save part of her cash grant and started grasscutter farming about five years ago. Today, Madam Amedoadzi has 21 grasscutters. Proceeds from her grasscutter business are used to supplement her monthly LEAP cash grant.
Madam Jennifer Adjei is a single mother of six children in Nyankamasue-Barrier, a community in Juaboso district of the Western region. She has been able to use her LEAP cash grant to start a doughnut ‘boflot’ business in 2015. According to her, ‘I had no income and my household had virtually nothing to eat until I was enrolled onto the LEAP Programme. I receive GHS 106.00 per LEAP payment cycle. A year ago, I approached a Baker and paid 50.00 cedis to undergo apprenticeship with her for some few months. After the next payment cycle, I decided to use part of the grant to purchase flour, sugar and other ingredients to set up my own baking firm after I graduated from the apprenticeship. I am able to bake two bags of flour every week and make profit to cater for my six children in school. I encourage all beneficiaries to save a little out of their grants and invest into other profit making ventures for the future’.
Abdul Rahman, a caregiver of two disabled children in Tamalgu community in Karaga District of the Northern region indicated that the LEAP cash grant has been of tremendous assistance to him. According to him, life was challenging prior to the enrolment of his children on LEAP. But now, he is able to feed the children and take care of their needs. He has also invested part of the cash grant into his farming activities.
Another beneficiary, Madam Beatrice Mensah from Wamahinso community in Asutifi North District takes care of four grandchildren that her deceased daughter left behind. She has used the cash grant to start mushroom farming. She uses the proceeds to take care of the four children.
Madam Afua Afriwa is an 82 year widow in Komenda Edina Aguafo Abirem Municipality of the Central region. She also takes care of three orphans left behind by her deceased daughter. She and her grand children’s living condition was bad prior to their enrolment onto the Programme. She lived in a building roofed with bamboo. However after her enrolment onto the LEAP Programme, she has been able to save part of her money and roofed her building with aluminum roofing sheets. She is able to take care of the educational needs of her grandchildren. One of them has completed Junior High School. She now feels happier.
A number of researches conducted by independent organisations indicate that the LEAP Programme is improving everyday lives of extremely poor and vulnerable families in Ghana. A qualitative research conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in seven (7) African countries including Ghana on the impact of cash transfers on Local Economies (the Transfer Project – from Protection to Production) in 2012 indicated that the LEAP cash transfers encouraged income generating activities, which in many cases stimulated livelihood improvements and better off households were able to make productive investments.
It also indicated that cash transfer under the LEAP Programme has increased investment in household economic activities, particularly in female headed households. The LEAP cash transfer has also increased social capital and allowed beneficiaries to re-enter existing social networks. Households are seen as more financially trustworthy to reduce debt levels and increase credit worthiness.
For instance, a recent independent survey conducted in 2015 by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), Ghana clearly showed that the LEAP Programme is improving everyday lives of poor and vulnerable families in Ghana. The CDD survey looked at the contribution of the LEAP Programme to the living conditions of the beneficiaries in terms of social services (household access to health, food and educational services), economic benefits and civic participation and community social relationships.
In terms of education, the survey revealed that the LEAP Programme has contributed to about 12 per cent increase in school enrolment of children of school going age in LEAP beneficiary households. LEAP assisted beneficiary households to meet the educational needs of their children including purchase of text books, school uniforms, bags among others.
In terms of access to health, the CCD-Ghana findings revealed that 67 per cent of beneficiaries were registered on the NHIS through the LEAP cash grant while 72 per cent of LEAP beneficiaries indicated that they purchase drugs prescribed by medical practitioners, using the LEAP cash grant.
LEAP cash grant is also helping beneficiaries to meet their food consumption needs. The beneficiaries stated that food situation has improved in the LEAP households. This is evident in 75 per cent of beneficiaries who stated that household food situation has improved tremendously as they are able to buy staple food for household consumption, which used not to be the case prior to their enrolment onto the LEAP Programme.
Another significant improvement in the lives of the LEAP beneficiaries is their ability to purchase agricultural implements and inputs such as cutlasses, spraying machines, fertilizers and pesticides for their farming activities. LEAP contribution to payment of household debt has improved.
The beneficiaries are able to save part of their cash grant to meet future needs. The LEAP cash grant has also assisted the beneficiaries to improve social networks and participate in communal activities thereby improving their social status. They now feel confident to participate in family and community meetings.
The CDD findings also revealed that LEAP has contributed to a reduction in school absenteeism and acted as motivation for children to be in school. 66 per cent of LEAP beneficiaries stated that school attendance has improved, while 65 per cent stated that children were much motivated to attend school after their households were enrolled onto the LEAP Programme. 65 per cent indicated that school absenteeism has decreased after the receipt of the LEAP cash grants.
It is worthy of note that the LEAP Programme has assisted 13 per cent of adults in beneficiary households to enroll in adult literacy and education programmes. This is an unintended impact of the LEAP Programme.
The CDD-Ghana’s research findings underscored the impact assessment conducted by the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) and the University of North Carolina in 2012, which revealed that the LEAP Programme has positively impacted on the education of children in beneficiary households in terms of enrolment, grade repetition and absenteeism among others.
According to the ISSER North Carolina research findings, LEAP has increased school going among secondary school aged children by 7 per cent and reduced grade repetition among both primary and secondary aged children. Among primary aged children, LEAP has reduced absenteeism by 10 per cent.
The LEAP Programme has also helped beneficiary households to reduce their out- of- pocket expenses and increase their desire to seek preventive as well as curative healthcare when sick.
The provision of cash transfers has also enabled beneficiary households to make improvements in sanitation facilities and hygiene practices at home thus improving the overall health environment where a child lives.
In conclusion it is important to reiterate that the LEAP Programme was developed with the main objective of increasing consumption and providing complimentary services – health, education and productive inclusive. The evidence of various independent impact assessment outlined above,and also from the success stories of the beneficiaries themselves captured above, clearly demonstrates that the LEAP Programme has made and is continuing to impact the lives of its targeted beneficiaries and this is very well on the way to the full realization of the programme objectives.
BY Dzigbordi Kofi Agbekpornu
[NATIONAL MANAGER- LEAP PROGRAMME]-Ministry of Gender,Children and Social Protection|