Microfinance programs often fail to reach the poorest households, whose income is insufficient to consistently service even small loans. Programs that target these “ultra-poor” households are often costly. This research assesses the impact of a “Targeting the Ultra-Poor” (TUP) program of transfers and training in South Sudan similar to a successful BRAC TUP program in Bangladesh. The treatment group received cash transfers in different amounts, while the control group received cash, food, or other liquid asset of equal value to the treated individuals’ cash transfers. The study aimed to find the minimal transfer value necessary to deliver sustained increases in household income, allowing BRAC to cheaply adapt its TUP program to South Sudan.
Researchers found the TUP group reports significantly higher assets and savings, and moved specifically towards livestock. The cash group decreased farming and had a larger long term positive effect on savings and consumption.
As a follow-up, the team received additional funding in 2015 to explore the use of mobile devices for remote survey collection, with a two-fold objective: i) improving the statistical power of the evaluation, and ii) extracting lessons on the potential for remote data collection as a low-cost, high-frequency research and monitoring tool.
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