The transformative journeys of cash for work champions


When we spoke with Akosua Konadu, a 37-year-old mother of six children, about her farming and soap-making business, we discovered a disheartening reality. Despite her hard work, she had been unable to save any money due to the meagre income from her table-top business and the financial burden of caring for her large family.

Prince, a 19-year-old residing in the Ashanti Region, faced a different predicament. While he managed to save some money from his tailoring business, he couldn’t use it for its intended purpose. As the sole breadwinner, his savings were continually depleted to cover the daily needs of his family. Furthermore, Prince was deeply concerned about the dire state of the roads in his community. He laments: “The bad state of the roads poses great risk to pregnant women, for instance, who sometimes lose their lives and that of their babies due to delays in reaching the nearest clinic located many kilometres away”.

These challenges faced by Akosua and Prince are precisely the issues the GrEEn project aims to address. Supported by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) implements the project, utilising the Local Climate Adaptive Living Facility (LoCAL)  and its internationally recognised tools to channel climate finance toward local government interventions.

The project focuses on providing economic opportunities to thousands of young people, women and returning migrants. It achieves this by investing in climate-resilient infrastructure, such as culverts, feeder roads and mechanised boreholes, while simultaneously offering short-term employment opportunities to women, youths and returnees. The project also promotes financial inclusion through partnerships with financial service providers (FSPs).

In Ghana, the Cash for Work initiative is implemented in six districts in the Ashanti Region and four in the Western Region. Last year, 837 individuals consisting of 221 males and 616 females benefitted from the programme. Through collaboration with SOS Children’s Villages Netherlands, beneficiaries received training and support to identify economic opportunities within the green economy that aligned with their personal preferences and potential in their localities. To enhance access to and utilisation of financial services, UNCDF supports financial service providers (FSPs) in developing customer-centric financial services and providing financial education, leveraging digital innovation for the cash-for-work beneficiaries.

Prince working at the site of a climate-resilient infrastructure

Akosua and Prince are just two examples of individuals whose challenges and concerns have been addressed through the programme. Their experiences with the Cash for Work initiative demonstrate how individuals and communities can be empowered by tackling issues of unemployment, low income, and inadequate infrastructure.

Akosua learned about the Cash for Work opportunity through a local announcement. She understood that the programme offered short-term employment while contributing to the construction of much-needed climate-resilient infrastructure in her community. By participating in the programme, Akosua not only earned wages but also received training in life and employability skills, as well as coaching and mentoring support. Additionally, beneficiaries were educated on the importance of saving toward their goals. Through UNCDF’s partnership with Ecobank, beneficiaries like Akosua were able to open Ecobank digital Xpress accounts, ensuring secure receipt of their payments.

Reflecting on the most significant benefits she gained from the opportunity, Akosua emphasises the importance of the savings education she received. “The education on savings was very important for me. It enabled me to put aside all the money I earned from the programme, which was about US$100, and I put it into my soap-making business. The account they opened for us was very good. Because if, for instance, I had put it under my bed, I would have used it for non-important things. But with it being in my account, I do not have the urge to withdraw it anyhow and it’s also safe with the bank.”

Prince, on the other hand, was driven by a strong desire to address the dire consequences of inaccessible roads in his community. Joining the Cash for Work programme provided him with the opportunity to contribute to the construction of culverts and accessible roads while earning a steady income. As he engaged in this work, he witnessed first-hand the tangible benefits of these interventions for his community. The construction of culverts effectively managed rainwater, reducing the risk of flooding and protecting homes. This not only minimised threats to the community, but also potentially saved lives as well.

Beyond the community benefits, Prince also had personal aspirations for improving his livelihood. Through the SOS training on setting savings goals, he was able to save the money earned from his work on climate-resilient infrastructure. The convenience and ease of his Ecobank digital wallet facilitated the process of keeping and managing his earnings.

The stories of Akosua and Prince exemplify the transformative impact of the Cash for Work programme. By addressing critical community needs and empowering individuals, the programme provides economic opportunities to vulnerable groups and fosters sustainable development. Through comprehensive skills training, income generation and savings education, individuals can improve their livelihoods, contribute to their communities, and build a brighter future.

Additionally, the success of the Cash for Work programme depends on a collaborative ecosystem. While the efforts of the UNCDF are crucial, the contributions of partners and stakeholders are equally important. For instance, Ecobank’s partnership on the project has facilitated the opening of digital savings accounts for the beneficiaries, enabling them to manage their earnings and plan for the future effectively.

However, the programme has encountered some challenges in promoting financial inclusion. Some beneficiaries face difficulties in accessing and utilising digital financial services due to limited financial literacy and awareness. To address this barrier, the partnership with Ecobank includes financial education to help beneficiaries understand the benefits and functionalities of the financial services offered.

Ensuring the long-term sustainability and impact of the Cash for Work initiatives can be challenging. UNCDF addresses this challenge by continuously collaborating with local authorities and stakeholders to ensure the post-programme sustainability of the infrastructure projects and the continued economic opportunities for beneficiaries.

The GrEEn project, with its inclusive and locally-led climate adaptation initiatives, has made significant contributions to building resilience and fostering sustainable development. By empowering individuals and communities to overcome challenges and create positive change, the Cash for Work programme serves as a model for inclusive and impactful interventions in the fight against poverty and climate change. Its proven success and impact demonstrate the potential for transformative change when communities are engaged and empowered.

>>>the writer is a Communications and Knowledge Management Analyst

Leave a Reply