Poverty Reduction and Capacity Building through Livelihood Skills Training - EXPRO

Country Profile: Ethiopia


94,101,000 (2013)

Official languages

Amharic; English (there are more than 75 officially recognised regional languages, e.g.: Tigrinya; Oromifa; Tigre; Harari; Agaw; Afar)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1.25 per day)

31% (2011)

Total expenditure on education as % of GNP

4.74 (2010)

Youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years, 2015)

Female: 67.8%
Male: 71.13%
Both sexes: 69.5%

Adult literacy rate (15+ years, 2015)

Female: 41.1%
Male: 57.2%
Both sexes: 49.1%

Statistical sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitlePoverty Reduction and Capacity Building through Livelihood Skills Training (EXPRO)
Implementing OrganizationMinistry of Education (Government of Ethiopia), Regional Education Bureaus (REBs), Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) commissions and DVV International (a German NGO).
FundingDVV International
Date of Inception2000


The project aims to establish model Community Skills Training Centres (CSTCs) in geographically and socio-economically diverse environments to provide systematic skills training to educationally disadvantaged people. The model CSTCs are intended to develop into:

The programme’s principal aim is to alleviate poverty and thus to actively contribute towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Background and Context

Ethiopia is the most populous state in the Horn of Africa and one of the world’s poorest countries with a real per capita GDP of US$ 90. About 87% of its population live in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture; more than 56% live in absolute poverty; and 70% of the adult population are functionally illiterate and unskilled. One in every two adults cannot read or write and the situation is worse still in the rural areas and for young and adult women. Furthermore, children and youth living in rural areas have little access to education or skills training programmes, and the overall quality of education in rural areas is generally low due to poverty and limited investment and resources. In addition, the drop-out rate for children and youth leaving the education system after the primary school level is very high and many school leavers fail to acquire adequate literacy or vocational/livelihood skills.

The Government of Ethiopia considers the education sector to play a crucial role in driving development and transformation as well as reducing poverty and empowering citizens. As a result, the Government has prioritised the development and provision of access to primary education to children under 15 years and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to out-of-school youth and adults who have completed grade 10 and above. Furthermore, the Government also offers literacy courses and basic skills training in CSTCs to people who left school prior to grade 10 or who have received no education at all.

Over the past decade, however, the Government has provided only marginal support in the field of Adult and Non-formal Education (ANFE). It was not until recently - notably, after the Dakar Forum on Education for All (EFA) and the formulation of the new Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) - that non-formal education gained stronger political support and began to be viewed as an alternative route to basic education. At the same time, livelihood-oriented adult non-formal education initiatives and activities carried out by NGOs and community-based organizations have been recognised for their role in promoting development and alleviating poverty.

Nonetheless, only a small number of NGO-initiated adult education programmes are operating at the community level and most, particularly those in the remote rural areas, are neither effective nor sustainable. Furthermore, most of these programmes continue to prioritise and provide literacy education and skills training without addressing the need for an integrated functional literacy or livelihood training programme that encompasses critical areas of adult education such as civic, cultural, or environmental education, or the broad field of continuing education. Not do they (adequately) equip learners to establish a livelihood or carry out economic activities after they have completed a course of training (e.g. open businesses or carry out income-generating activities/projects (IGA/Ps)). In general, these ANFE programmes are constrained by a severe lack of resources and qualified personnel.

It is in this context that DVV International – which has been assisting the basic skills training programme of the Ministry of Education and some regional education bureaus since it started working in Ethiopia in 1995 – initiated the EXPRO programme. Its main aim is to provide non-formal vocational training to specific target groups, such as youth, especially school drop-outs who have no access to the formal vocational training system as an alternative route to a vocational qualification. In 2002, DVV International undertook a comprehensive study on “skills and literacy training for better livelihoods” in Africa on behalf of the World Bank in order to assess the effectiveness of education and training programmes for the poor. One of the general findings was that programmes that concentrated on livelihood activities appear to be more successful than programmes that focused exclusively on literacy education. Hence, the current programme aims to promote adult literacy using a livelihood approach which simultaneously promotes social empowerment, income generation, community development and vocational training.

The EXPRO Programme

Picture 1: Energy Saving Oven/Stone

Picture 1: Energy Saving Oven/Stone

The EXPRO is a nationwide, integrated educational programme which combines literacy training with livelihood, health and entrepreneurial skills training (see pictures 1 to 4). The programme started in 2000 and endeavours to provide adults and out-of-school children with the opportunity to learn and receive training in non-formal education centres. The project was developed through a cooperation between the Ethiopian Government (Ministry of Education), Regional Education Bureaus (REBs), TVET commissions and the DVV country office. The involvement of several partners in the formulation and development of the project enabled it to reflect and capture the fundamental needs of both the nation and the individual beneficiaries within the communities. The project has evolved over the years in response to the practical demands and needs of the beneficiaries as well as the lessons that have emerged as the project was implemented. Moreover, strategies and methods are constantly being refined as new developments emerge.

Picture 2: PRA Course - Literacy

Picture 2: PRA Course - Literacy

Picture 3: Pottery Training

Picture 3: Pottery Training

Picture 4: Carpentry Training

Picture 4: Carpentry Training

Source (pictures 1 & 2): DVV International

Project Objectives

The project aims to:

Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

The programme is currently being implemented by the Regional Education Bureaus (REBs), Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) commissions and one women’s association in six regions/federal states of Ethiopia through a network of trained trainers. The training takes place in the seventeen (17) officially recognised Community Skills Training Centres (CSTCs) which have been developed to date.

The EXPRO programme targets youth and adults who have either: failed to complete primary or secondary education (i.e. who left school before completing grade 10 or lower); have no access to formal vocational or higher education; or have received no education at all. However, preference is given to poor people from rural areas with particularly high rates of poverty. Trainees undergo intensive literacy and skills training for a minimum of one to two months. The intensive training strategy has enabled the programme to train 1000 people annually.

Guiding Strategies and Principles

Programme activities are based on strategies and methods which have proved successful in different contexts. These include:

Programme Impact and Challenges


Organisation to be contacted for information


The following are key challenges that the programme is currently facing:

Lessons Learned

Providing skills training is one major way of improving the livelihoods of poor people. Whether literacy education should be included in skills training or provided separately has still to be decided. The results of an impact evaluation of a three-year pilot programme show that an adult education approach of this kind does help to reduce poverty. The reactions from target groups, local stakeholders, adult and non-formal education experts, administrators and concerned politicians have been predominantly positive and encouraging. Politicians and administrators committed to poverty reduction should consider the EXPRO model for large-scale implementation, and multi- and bilateral donors are requested to provide support.



Dr Bernd Sandhaas
DVV Regional Office East Africa
P.O. Box 34743
Addis Ababa
Email: iiz.dvv (at) telecom.net.et