Trailblazing cash transfer programme helping strengthen livelihoods in Kenya
A pioneering social protection programme is helping lift some of Kenya’s poorest residents out of poverty, empowering them to establish sustainable livelihoods that benefit the wider community.
The Kenya Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP), now in its second phase, sees the bi-monthly transfer of cash to thousands of vulnerable residents in the country’s arid Northern counties. The Kenyan Government’s response to the severe and widespread effects of the crippling droughts that afflict the area, HSNP aims to provide a lifeline to some of the most destitute households in the region, helping stabilise their incomes and strengthen their livelihoods. To date, the programme has seen the disbursement of over four billion Kenyan shillings in the Northern counties of Turkana, Mandera, Wajir and Marsabit.
The programme, supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade Australia (DFAT), was first piloted in 2008 and has now been scaled up to support over 100,000 households in the region. Oxford Policy Management is the independent evaluator for the programme, assessing its long-term impact on both households and the wider community while also monitoring its operational performance and cost-effectiveness.
Importantly, by giving cash rather than food handouts, the programme aims to build resilience in a sustainable way, allowing households to make choices about how they spend and invest the money. Our evaluation of the pilot phase found that the programme had a significant impact on reducing poverty and enabling households to maintain and build productive assets such as livestock. We also found that many recipients use the transfers to strengthen their livelihoods through investment in income-generating activities.
Over the longer-term this is likely to mean that these households will be less reliant on external support and better able to respond to shocks such as drought without having to resort to negative coping strategies; it is also likely to generate local ‘multiplier effects’ as householders re-invest in their communities, driving further growth and economic opportunity.
Fred Merttens, Senior Consultant at OPM and HSNP evaluation lead, said: ‘Independent evaluation of programmes such as the HSNP is vital given its scale and potential impact. Our work empirically tests the hypothesis that the cash is having significant and sustainable impacts on areas such as poverty, food security and the local economy, as well as providing crucial insights that are helping to improve the programme design. This ensures DFID’s investments are having the greatest possible impact while providing maximum value for money.’
The team is using a mixed-methods evaluation approach to assess the HSNP, conducting a comprehensive household survey complemented by in-depth qualitative research. The insights from the evaluation will help inform ongoing and future programme improvements as well as supporting evidence-based policymaking around social protection in Kenya.