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Uganda Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) programme

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Fred Merttens

SAGE, Alex Hurrell, Emma Jones, Fred Merttens, Maham Farhat, Marta Moratti, Michele Binci, Ramlatu Attah, Sean O'Leary, Simon Brooke, Sope Otulana

We were engaged to design and implement an impact evaluation of the SAGE cash transfer programme, under the Uganda government’s Expanding Social Protection programme. The impact evaluation adopted a mixed method approach, employing a quantitative household panel survey and qualitative research to assess impact and evaluate operational effectiveness of the programme across eight out of 14 pilot programme districts.

The quantitative household panel survey useed a quasi-experimental approach to estimate impact and comprised three rounds of survey over four years including baseline. The impact evaluation focuseed on the core impact areas of reduced material deprivation, increased economic security, reduced social exclusion, and increased access to services. It includeed impact on consumption expenditure and nutritional status of under-fives. The qualitative research focuseed on impact on empowerment and social cohesion.

The operational effectiveness assessment drew on both indicators generated through the quantitative and qualitative research and indicators provided by the SAGE programme’s internal operational monitoring systems in order to feed into the programme’s Learning Framework.

Outcomes

Our evaluation found that SAGE programme achieved its core objective of supporting beneficiary households’ basic consumption and assuaging poverty. It has helped households to retain and build their productive assets, and it has reduced their vulnerability by supplementing their natural coping strategies in the face of shocks. It helped to increase health expenditure for senior citizens and  improve health outcomes for some households. The SAGE programme may have had positive spill-over effects in the local economy, in the form of increased demand for labour and stimulation of local commodity markets.

While direct impact of SAGE on further fields, such as education or access to financial services, seems minimal, it has positively contributed to both intra- and inter-household relationships within communities. The evaluation also showed that SAGE had slightly different impacts depending on the target group, whether senior citizens or vulnerable families.

The fact that SAGE has not significantly impacted areas beyond basic consumption implies that it is unlikely to prove transformative: it has made an often vital difference to beneficiaries’ lives, but due to the relatively low value of the transfer (around 12% of total household consumption expenditure), its potential to affect livelihoods and local markets, as well as enable transformative investments in education, and thereby alter the welfare trajectories of households over the longer term, is somewhat curtailed.