Evaluation of the Child Grants Programme in Lesotho

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The Child Grants Programme (CGP) in Lesotho started in in 2009. We conducted evaluations of the programme in 2011-2013 to inform its national scale up and again in 2022 to assess its progress.

In 2009, Lesotho started to implement the Child Grants Programme (CGP), a regular and predictable cash transfer aimed at supplementing the income of poor households to elevate children’s living standards. The CGP pilot started with 1,000 households with children aged zero to 17, covering 2,500 children, in six community councils. Between 2011 and 2013, we along with Sechaba Consultants conducted the first impact evaluation of the CGP which detected positive impacts on households’ food security and children’s health and school enrolment. 

Following the evaluation, Lesotho’s Ministry of Social Development with support from development partners, including the EU and UNICEF expanded the programme nationwide. By 2022, the CGP reached about 47,000 households across all 64 rural community councils in Lesotho and provided regular quarterly cash transfers ranging from LSL 360 to LSL 750 (~£16.33 - £34.02), depending on the number of children in the household. 


Since the last evaluation in 2013, the CGP, as well as the socioeconomic and policy context in Lesotho changed significantly. During this time, the programme expanded coverage to all rural areas; piloted mobile payments; and started linking beneficiaries to a range of complementary services like the Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) bursary for secondary school. The targeting methodology used through the National Information System for Social Assistance (NISSA) to identify qualifying households also underwent revision and expanded to cover the whole country. 

At the same time, Lesotho experienced several shocks, including at least two severe droughts, the COVID-19 pandemic and considerable food price inflation. The CGP transfer amount remained unchanged from 2010–2022 and many key processes relating to communication and case management remained manual despite some investments. As such, a follow-up evaluation was crucial to track the programme's progress; take stock of its impact and determine whether it has been sustained; assess its key implementation and operational processes and systems; and identify further opportunities for improvement. 


The evaluation approach included two mixed-methods workstreams: an impact evaluation and a process review. The impact evaluation adopted a comprehensive and thorough approach integrating both quantitative and qualitative components. The quantitative part utilised a quasi-experimental approach to estimate the CGP's impact. Two evaluation groups were established: an overall treatment group (comprising a representative sample of current CGP beneficiary households) and a sustainability treatment group (a sub-sample of the overall treatment group, consisting only of households previously part of the CGP evaluation). These groups were matched with corresponding control groups. Data was gathered from 1,569 households distributed across 336 villages in 8 districts through household and community level surveys.

Qualitative research complemented the quantitative evaluation, providing beneficiaries' voices on programme relevance, unintended effects, and explanations for quantitative impact results. Six villages were chosen based on criteria such as CGP exposure and payment modality, and geographic location. Focus group discussions and interviews were conducted with beneficiaries and programme implementers.

The process review undertook both operational and design research activities. The former focused on case management, grievances, payments, registration, and enrolment through process mapping. The latter explored the effectiveness of linking beneficiaries to complementary services, the programme’s shock-responsiveness, and the UNICEF-MoSD partnership.


The evaluation findings offered vital information to the key implementing and supporting agencies of the CGP, including MoSD, UNICEF and the EU for decision-making about programme design and operations. 

The evaluation found that a lot of progress in terms of scaling up the CGP had been made and that CGP maintains an important protective role for its beneficiary households with small but significant positive impacts on extreme food insecurity and children’s health. However, the evaluation also showed that rising inflation eroded the transfer value severely, which by 2022 constituted merely 8% of average monthly household consumption expenditure, compared to 21% in 2013. This has decreased the programme’s impact. Past evaluations of the CGP have shown that with a more adequate transfer value, larger and more wide-reaching impacts can be achieved, particularly in the area of children’s education. In 2023 the Government of Lesotho announced that the CGP transfer values would be increased.

In terms of operations and programme delivery, the evaluation identified a range of concrete areas and actionable recommendations for improving the CGP’s effectiveness and efficiency. The mobile payment pilot was identified as an important starting point, but improving the CGP’s case management, complaints, and appeal mechanisms, as well as programme communications should also be a priority. This will also be important to enhance the CGP’s impact by ensuring beneficiaries get paid the full amounts they are entitled to and can access complementary services. Such improvements can also further strengthen the CGP’s positive impact on social cohesion and improve communities’ perceptions of the programme.


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