Enhancing equitable access to opportunities in Ghana
Around 28.5% of Ghanaians live in poverty and 14.7% are in extreme poverty (The World Bank, 2008) for not having the possibility to meet their essential living requirements by being, therefore, deprived of nutritional, health, educational, and economic opportunities. Then, how do we reduce poverty and enhance human capital development? The Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme is a critical policy in Ghana that aims to tackle these problems, and, therefore, it is important to analyze how it achieves its objectives, overcomes challenges, and creates opportunities.
Protecting 2.2 million people living in extreme poverty
The LEAP programme is implemented by the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, and it provides cash transfers and health insurance to indigent households (currently 8.4% of the population) to alleviate short-term poverty and encourage long-term investments in human capital development (Thorne at al., 2014). The LEAP programme can cover 2.2 million people living in extreme poverty, especially orphans and vulnerable children, people with severe disabilities, and people over 65 years of age (Davis at al., 2016). Its primary objectives are to reduce extreme poverty and enhance equality by increasing consumption and promoting equitable access to services and opportunities. The LEAP programme achieves these objectives by improving essential household consumption and nutrition among children under 2 years of age, people with severe disabilities, and people who are over 65 years of age; increasing access to health care services among children below 5 years of age, people with severe disabilities, and people who are 65 years of age or above; increase school enrollments, attendance, and retention among children between 5 and 15 years of age; facilitating access to complimentary services, including welfare and livelihood (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2013) by building social capital for disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.
These vulnerable households received between 8 Ghanaian Cedi (GH₵) and 15 GH₵ per month, depending on the number of eligible beneficiaries per household, representing an average of 11% of the beneficiary consumption per capita (Thorne at al., 2014). This infusion of cash has tripled from a minimum of 24 GH₵ (US$ 12.5) per beneficiary each month to a maximum of 45 GH₵ (US$ 24.6) bi-monthly for 4 or more dependents (Thorne at al., 2014) to bolster Ghana’s urban and rural economy. The households beneficiaries have increased their purchasing power and spent around 80% of their income at retail stores and for household expenditures. However, this implementation of cash transfer has been intermittent since, over 24 months, households have received only 20 months of cash transfers (Thorne at al., 2014). There is a gap in cash payments of 4 months that hinders households from increasing their consumption to support the economy through purchases in village stores, period markets, and outside the village stores. Therefore, the programme makes sure that households survive and meet basic food requirements. In 2013, food insecurities were significantly reduced for LEAP families by 25% (Davis at al., 2016), especially for those households headed by women. Furthermore, the LEAP programme has increased the primary consumption of food by 0.88 GH₵, and food eaten in the local villages by 1.99 GH₵ (Davis at al., 2016).
The LEAP programme also enables families to access health care services. Around 90% of LEAP families have enrolled in the Health Insurance Scheme (HIS) as the enrollment increased by 25% (Davis at al., 2016) since the start of the programme. This critical feature of the LEAP programme also enabled to increase the number of children between 1 and 5 (16%) and 6 and 17 (34%) years of age enrolled in the HIS (Davis at al., 2016). Also, children in the age group between 6 and 17 years old protected by the LEAP programme are less likely to be ill by 5% (Davis at al., 2016), which is vital since these healthy children can attend school regularly. It has enabled families to maintain their health by covering 7 GH₵monthly (Davis at al., 2016), especially to protect children. Another visible consequence of the programme was the increase in school enrollment and regular school attendance, and it has reduced 1-week absenteeism by 13%. The LEAP programme has helped children between 13 and 17 years old to enroll in secondary school by 7% (Davis at al., 2016) if we compared with households who are not protected by the LEAP programme. It has also helped girls to enroll in secondary school by around 88% (Davis at al., 2016) and enhanced their ability to attend and remain in school by reducing inter-generational poverty and enhancing their livelihood and school opportunities for future generations.
According to qualitative research from the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection in 2020, LEAP families can spend more on school textbooks and school meals. Hence, we can see that the LEAP programme is lifting families out of poverty and transforming their lives in a positive way. These LEAP families are empowered to use their cash to increase loan re-payment by 33.8% (Davis at al., 2016). In 2013, some families spent 10.8% (Davis at al., 2016) of their cash for investment activities, including household items or vegetable gardens. Since 2014, the LEAP number of beneficiaries has expanded from 1,654 to more than 140,000 households (Davis at al., 2016). In December 2015, the LEAP programme protected over 271,000 households in 10 regions through monthly cash transfers (Thorne at al., 2014). The Government scaled-up social protection investments by increasing the budget from 8 million GH₵ in 2013 to 38 million GH₵ in 2015. The LEAP programme has been funded by the revenue from the Government of Ghana along with funding from the World Bank.
Scaling-up social protection initiatives for pregnant women and mothers
The LEAP programme can protect people in all Ghanaian districts. Implementing the programme in other countries will enable to create equity and equality, especially for pregnant women, mothers, and women with infants and show the programme as a positive example to implement social protection policies and shape a new dialogue on international development, social inclusive transformation, and equity and equality where all people in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities are being protected, not just a few. From 2016, as a positive result, additional resources were allocated for the LEAP’s expansion to more households through a new initiative known as LEAP 1000 and additional initiatives to protect all households from sliding back into poverty in Ghana. The LEAP 1000 is an enhanced and vital component of the LEAP programme, integrated into its existing operations, to support and provide cash grants to households with pregnant women, mothers, and women with infants aged between 0 and 12 months for three years (Davis at al., 2016). The project has been implemented through a UNICEF partnership with the Government of Ghana with funds from the United States Agency for International Development. (Davis at al., 2016). In mid-2016, the LEAP programme protected 84,257 pregnant women, 388,494 mothers with orphans, and 179,069 women who had a pregnancy in the last 12 months (Davis at al., 2016) and were living in extreme poverty. Protecting also children aged from 1 to 3 years old (Wodon, 2012) is essential to lifting them out of poverty and supporting all women, mothers, and women with newborn children, for up to three years.
The LEAP programme also protected 17,983 people with disabilities and 252,000 people who are over 65 years old and are not working and living in extreme poverty. It is an essential social protection programme, and keeping it expanding would generate substantial benefits and purchasing capacity for all people living in extreme poverty and injustice in the country. When enhancing purchasing capacity for beneficiaries occurs, the cash transfers that beneficiaries receive will lead to relatively large income multipliers of 2.50 GH₵ (Davis at al., 2016). It means that every 1GH₵transferred to households that are in extreme poverty has the potential to increase other related economic variables by raising the local income of beneficiaries by 2.50 GH₵. The cash transfers would also enhance the production of crops by 0.27 GH₵, and 0.16 GH₵ per GH₵ transferred, respectively (Davis at al., 2016). Through the LEAP programme, these cash transfers can protect 2.2 million beneficiary households nationwide in 254 districts (Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, 2020) to achieve greater equality for peace. Achieving greater equality for peace means that all people in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities do not slide back into poverty and injustice and increase their income every decile.
In conclusion, through the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, the Government of Ghana has created social protection interventions to protect 23 million people in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. Since poverty and vulnerability are multi-dimensional and require inter-sectoral stakeholder collaboration, creating sustainable social protection interventions will enable all beneficiaries to be protected and achieve the greater equality for peace that we all want to see.
Food and Agriculture Organization. (2013). Qualitative research and analyses of the economic impacts of cash transfer programmes in sub-Saharan Africa: Ghana Country Case Study Report.
Davis, B., Handa, S., Hypher, N., Rossi, N. W., Winters, P., & Yablonski, J. (2016). The Transfer Project, Cash Transfers, and Impact Evaluation in Sub-Saharan Africa. From Evidence to Action, 1-14.
Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (2020). LEAP Programme. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from http://leap.gov.gh/about-us/objectives/
Thorne, K., J.E. Taylor, J. Kagin, B. Davis, R. Darko Osei, and I. Osei. (2014). Local Economy-wide Impact Evaluation (LEWIE) of Ghana’s Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme.
The World Bank (2008). Sixth Poverty Reduction Support Credit.
Wodon Q. (2012). Improving the Targeting of Social Programs.