Ethiopian cattle herders walk their cows near the nothern town of Adwa, on November 19, 2005
Miami (AFP) - Giving the poor goats, chickens or cows and offering regular training in how to make a living has helped improve conditions in five countries around the world, researchers said Thursday.
Known as the "Graduation" program, the effort was under way for three years in Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan and Peru.
Just under half of the households in the experiment had daily per capita consumption of less than $1.25.
Some 21,000 adults were given livestock, job training, life-skills coaching and health information during regular follow-up sessions, said a report on the program in the journal Science.
Overall, "the experiment produced a five percent increase in per capita income, an eight percent increase in food consumption, a 15 percent increase in assets, and a 96 percent increase in savings, compared with similar groups of people not enrolled in the program," said the study.
Honduras was the only country that did not see wealth gains, likely because most people there were given chickens, and a large fraction of the birds died from illness.
The "Graduation" program concept was first tried in Bangladesh by a large non-governmental organization known as BRAC.
The idea was to see if providing a multi-pronged approach to alleviating poverty, also known as a "big push."
The sites chosen in the six nations studied for the report in Science were part of an effort led by the Ford Foundation and Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), or the Graduation Program Consortium.
Scientists conducted a randomized controlled trial to compare the results of the poverty program to similar families in each area who were not given such assistance.
"The results show that three years after the intervention, hunger is down, consumption is up, and income is up," said co-author Abhijit Banerjee, professor of international economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
"It seems to be an improvement that happens and stays intact," Banerjee added.
"They are happier, too."
The article in the journal Science was co-authored by scientists at Yale University and Princeton University.
Other co-authors included the US non-profit group Innovations for Poverty Action, the University of Ghana-Legon, the Catholic University of Louvain and the University of Ghent in Belgium.