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Economic Strengthening for the Very Poor (ES4VP)

Provision interventions involve the direct provision of food, cash, assets, and other essential needs to destitute or very vulnerable households.  Provision interventions include several commonly used
social protection mechanisms. One such mechanism consists of social transfers, including cash transfers, food transfers, and other transfers to boost basic consumption. An important challenge here is to avoid creating dependence on donor-funded transfers, while simultaneously facilitating households’ upward movement along the pathway.



In 2011, DFID published an  ‘evidence paper’ on cash transfers, synthesising the current globl evidence around effectiveness of cash transfer programs.  The paper  articulates how there is convincing evidence from a number of countries that cash transfers can reduce inequality and the depth or severity of poverty. There is an increasing volume of research into how cash transfers might support ‘graduation’ from poverty for those of working age. There is robust evidence from numerous countries that cash transfers have leveraged sizeable gains in access to health and education services. Cash transfers also have a proven role in supporting specific vulnerable groups (people living with HIV and AIDS, orphans and vulnerable children).

However, transfers have had less success in improving final outcomes in health or education as they cannot resolve supply-side problems with service delivery (e.g. access to health services etc). Evidence from Bangladesh and Ethiopia suggests that transfers are unlikely to achieve graduation without complementary interventions (e.g. skills training or agricultural extension) to promote livelihoods. Cash transfers therefore need to be complemented by ongoing sectoral strategies to improve service quality making the case for systemic intervention to ensure that households can graduate to the next level  and eventually move away from needing transfer services.

Food Transfers

Food transfers can be part of a government funded social transfer system aimed at the most vulnerable segment of the population or can refer to food aid during emergencies, such as drought, war or natural disasters. Other types of food transfers include supplemental and emergency feeding, school feeding, food for work, food subsidies and vouchers.

Cash Transfers

Cash transfers intend to support basic needs of household members, particularly children. Appropriately designed Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) require engagement in specific behaviors to access the transfers such as regular school attendance by children or mandatory health checks. Unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) are, like CCTs, direct cash payments to eligible households that are believed to also improve children’s nutrition and health, but without the same requirements of CCTs. Cash transfers, both conditional and unconditional, have been supported by strong evidence for positive outcomes related to poverty, health, nutrition, and education.

Asset Transfers

Physical asset transfers can include household durables (e.g. shelter, cookstoves, etc.) or productive assets (e.g. livestock and poultry, seeds, tools). They can increase a household’s food production for consumption or sale.

Labor Schemes

Food for work schemes offer food as payment for work, often as part of small and large infrastructure projects. The World Food Program maintains food for work schemes as part of strategic transitions from relief to development after emergencies, including natural disasters and violent conflict.

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in India is a safety net for the rural poor aimed boost income by offering up to 100 days of unskilled manual labor per year on public works projects at the minimum wage.