Policy expertise

Evaluating a cash transfer programme in Zimbabwe

Policy Area
CARE International
Dec 2016-May 2017
OPM contact

From 2015 to 2017, Zimbabwe faced the repercussions of severe drought driven by one of the strongest El Niño events of the last three decades.

The objective of the Cash First project was to enhance the food security of vulnerable and drought-affected households in four provinces. The project began providing transfers in September 2015 and was extended beyond its initial proposed completion date (March 2016) when the drought continued. A monthly transfer to each household was initially $5 per each household member and subsequently increased to $7 in August 2016, with households on average receiving $615.63 across 17 payments.

In association with Humanitarian Outcomes, we were commissioned to undertake an independent evaluation of this project.

Low rainfall during the consecutive planting seasons of 2014/15 and 2015/16 led to two years of substantially reduced harvests and decreased water availability. The drought reduced households’ subsistence production and income, limited livelihood options, constrained access to food and resulted in livestock deaths. As a result, the president of Zimbabwe declared a state of national disaster on 2 February 2016.

Based on July 2016 ZimVac findings, an estimated 4.1 million people were projected to be food insecure during the lean season between January and March 2017, with the highest numbers in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces. CARE International and WVI in Zimbabwe implemented the DFID-funded project ‘Emergency Cash First Response to Drought-Affected Communities in the Southern Provinces of Zimbabwe’ from August 2015 to April 2017. The project transferred an estimated $40.9 million to 73,718 households (representing 400,279 people) through mobile money, reaching drought-affected households selected through a community-based targeting approach.

This DFID-funded cash transfer programme creates a prime opportunity for learning to inform humanitarian agencies, donors and the government because it is the first large-scale humanitarian cash transfer programme in Zimbabwe, and the first in Zimbabwe to use mobile cash transfers for an extended period. Indeed, this is one the longest uses to date of mobile money in a humanitarian programme globally. 

This was a qualitatively-led mixed methods evaluation that included:

  • primary qualitative data collected by the evaluation team;
  • analysis of secondary quantitative data collected by the implementing agencies; and
  • a review of documents, reports and assessments on the impacts of the drought, the cash transfer programme and other relevant humanitarian programmes.

The evaluation assessed the programme following the OECD-DAC humanitarian evaluation criteria, while adding a strong emphasis on lessons learned. It looked at the appropriateness of the response design and effectiveness and impact of the programme as it was implemented.  

The evaluation findings showed the mobile money transfer programme to have been well suited for addressing the impacts of drought and enabled people to meet their immediate needs. With our focus on looking forward to future projects, these findings and lessons learned will be able to positively inform and shape future cash programming in the area and globally.

Assistant Consultant