Many families in Negros Occidental, a largely agricultural province nestled in central Philippines, were hit hard by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020. Trading and transportation were disrupted during the months-long lockdown to stem the spread of the disease.  
This could have a devastating effect on the rural poor who rely mostly on daily wage for living.  
But Maria Corazon Gaylon, a former canteen worker and a part-time laundrywoman, survived the economic fallout that nobody saw coming.  
Corazon is one of the beneficiaries of a graduation pilot project that builds on the stong foundation of social assistance to help the poor build economic resilience through sustainable livelihood interventions.

She was given two pigs and five sacks of feed after receiving technical and business skills training. After raising the pigs and selling them off for profits, Corazon opened her own small store. She also raised some free-range chicken and turkey in her backyard. When the lockdown was enforced, her neighbors flocked to her well-stocked store to buy basic necessities.  
During the pandemic, households with food production livelihoods were able to feed their own family as well as supply the community with food, when the local markets were shut.
In 2018, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), with technical support from international development NGO BRAC's Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative, launched a pilot project in five municipalities in Negros Occidental, including the municipality of Murcia, where Corazon and her three children live.  
The DOLE graduation pilot provided eligible households with a comprehensive, time-bound, and sequenced set of interventions that included livelihoods promotion, social protection, financial inclusion, and social empowerment. The project coordinators frequently mentored and monitored the livelihood progress through bi-weekly visits for coaching sessions.
Aside from providing livelihood assets, the project also gave technical training including guidance on business planning and management, saving, preparing for emergencies, budgeting and record keeping, payment of debt and interest, and business diversification.
The monitoring and remote check-in enabled quick assessment and support to the evolving vulnerabilities of the households. Pilot beneficiaries demonstrated high knowledge retention rates for positive behavior change in health, nutrition, and hygiene practices.

 The project coordinators were able to monitor and help the households through the use of text messages and phone calls, giving them regular health and safety information and continued guidance in their livelihood projects.  
“Thank you so much to BRAC, DOLE and ADB. This livelihood program has helped change our lives. Certainly, it was a huge help for us,” Corazon added.

The implementation of the pilot project was funded by three ADB technical assistance: Unlocking Innovation for Development (TA 9017-REG); Deepening Civil Society Engagement for Development Effectiveness (TA 9592-REG); and Enhancing ADB Support for Social Protection to Achieve the SDGs (TA 9534-REG).  
ADB has also partnered with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to implement an impact evaluation study through several ADB technical assistance. There are four TAs being used for baseline and endline impact evaluation: Developing Impact Evaluation Methodologies, Approaches and Capacities in Selected DMCs – Subproject 1 (TA 8332-REG); Developing Impact Evaluation Methodologies, Approaches and Capacities in Selected DMCs – Subproject 3 (TA 9402-REG); Mainstreaming Impact Evaluation Methodologies, Approaches, and Capacities in Selected Developing Member Countries (TA 9940-REG); Enhancing ADB Support for Social Protection to Achieve the SDGs (TA 9534-REG).