In Paraguay, not only did a pilot commence in October 2015 for 1,000 families, but Graduation (delivered under the government program “Sowing Opportunities – Family by Family”) has quickly become the country’s main extreme poverty alleviation strategy. Approximately 89% of participants are women. During 2016 an additional 12,000 new families joined the program. The government has already decided to undertake additional scale ups to reach 35,000 families.
In addition to the “classic” Graduation components, families in Paraguay were also connected with businesses to produce needed goods and sell them at a fair price. A Social Trust Fund was established in order to mobilize venture capital to support the productive enterprises developed by participants, which was the first time the private sector has been linked to a Graduation program. The practice has had an important impact in terms of productivity: first, producing families operate under a guaranteed market; therefore, bringing much needed certainty for the families. Second, when possible, families undertake part of the processing. For example, some families were engaged in the production of chamomile, and they were in charge of seeding, harvesting, cleaning, sorting and preparation for taking the product to the plant. Companies also guarantee the goods they need in order to fulfill their requests (a contract is signed between the producer and the company that buys the products). In terms of social impact and inclusion, in Paraguay, the Social Trust Fund is helping to connect the poorest 99% with the richest 1%. Moreover, the crop was planted and taken care of mostly by women, empowering them and putting knowledge and cash in their hands.
Also, a pilot of an urban Graduation strategy started in Paraguay in March 2017, building on three years of successful implementation of rural Graduation projects in the country. Reaching families in the urban areas of Asunción and Central department, the urban Graduation strategy uses the current social protection programs as a launching pad for reaching the most vulnerable urban families and further supporting them in improving their income generation prospects. This is done through the enhancement of participants’ technical and life skills, promotion of financial inclusion, and fostering institutional alliances that, all together, will help participating families to access formal job opportunities or create their own micro-enterprises. Through increasing their income, these families strengthen their resilience, improve their life standards, and, most importantly, define their own paths out of poverty.