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Evaluation of the Kenya Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP)

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Fred Merttens

Chris Hearle Ed Humphrey Ekundayo Arogundade Elizabeth Gogoi Emma Jones Fred Merttens Marta Marzi

HSNP provides regular, unconditional CTs in four counties: Marsabit, Mandera, Turkana and Wajir. These predictable transfers are supplemented by emergency payments to the rest of the population triggered by drought. It is one of four CT programmes in Kenya, which together form the National Safety Net Programme (NSNP). The NSNP is intended to harmonise these programmes within an integrated system of national social protection. The HSNP is funded by the Government of Kenya, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). In addition, the World Bank’s Programme for Results (P4R) provides funding to the NSNP, to which the HSNP belongs.

Our evaluation of the HSNP provides a comprehensive assessment of the HSNP in order to demonstrate the performance and impact of the programme for the benefit of implementers, funders, other stakeholders, and those interested in CTs more generally. The evaluation findings will feed into on-going programme operations, and future programmatic and funding decisions.


The arid and semi-arid lands of Northern Kenya experience high food insecurity and recurrent periods of severe drought. As a result, families often become dependent on emergency food aid or have to resort to selling off livestock in order to afford food. This weakens their livelihoods and can cause a slide into a vicious cycle of poverty. The Kenyan Government, with support from DFID, established its innovative HSNP in 2009. It aims to address these issues by providing an unconditional, regular source of income that has the potential to stabilise household food consumption and free up resources for sustainable investment in areas such as livelihoods and human capital.

The first phase of the HSNP tested a variety of targeting mechanisms, delivering regular cash transfers to 69,000 households across the four worst affected counties in the region. After this successful pilot period, the second, scaled-up phase of the programme has now begun. During this phase the HSNP aims to reach up to 100,000 households with regular payments every other month. In addition, emergency individual payments will be made to a much wider portion of the population (up to 75%) in the case of severe or extreme drought. The payments are delivered directly to beneficiary bank accounts, and can be accessed using standard bank debit cards from local bank branches and a network of pay agents operating across the programme’s four counties. This project provided an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the programme in terms of its impact at tackling hunger and poverty, its operational performance, as well as its usefulness as part of a wider national protection strategy.

Our approach

We conducted a rigorous evaluation of HSNP Phase 1, finding the programme to be an effective safety net. Our approach to the Phase 2 evaluation differs from that used for Phase 1, reflecting the changing priorities, contexts and evidence needed. The proposed evaluation will assess the impact of the HSNP on the larger community. It also seeks to build on the earlier work, enabling M&E functions to be embedded within the HSNP going forward. This will contribute to programme sustainability and capacity building within the programme team.

The evaluation was composed of four core elements, under each of which were a number of distinct activities:

  • Quantitative and qualitative impact evaluation (including a local economy-wide impact evaluation to provide an estimate of the programme multiplier effect);
  • Operational evaluation (including a process and institutional capacity assessment, a costing study, a process review of the emergency payments system, and operational monitoring of HSNP bi-monthly payment cycles);
  • Policy analysis (including a targeting analysis, microsimulation analysis of different design options for HSNP phase 3, a review of the HSNP registration instrument, and a strategic policy review of the HSNP and its place within the NSNP); and
  • Communications and Learning workstream in order to disseminate the evaluation findings to a relevant group of stakeholders and build knowledge within the Programme Implementation and Learning Unit (PILU) about how to carry forward the evaluation work.

We both devised and delivered each of the above activities in their entirety, including the design of the methodological approaches and tools involved, data collection, and analysis and presentation of the findings.


This evaluation provided crucial information about the impact and performance of the second phase of the HSNP, in order to both support accountability of the programme to its funders (including Kenyan tax payers), and inform the design of future phases of the programme and wider NSNP. The findings generated by the evaluation feed directly into ongoing national policy debates, and help build the evidence base around social protection both nationally and internationally.

Find out more about HSNP:

HSNP homepage

Evaluation of HSNP pilot phase The World Bank and NSNP

BBC World Service covers HSNP: What is the best way of ensuring aid money is used effectively and efficiently?