Promoting Inclusive Markets and Financial Systems
The Impact of Cash and Food Transfers: Evidence from a randomized intervention in Niger
Interest in providing cash transfers for food assistance has been increasing in recent years. Cash transfers have known advantages relative to food transfers with respect to timeliness of delivery (Gentilini 2007; Lentz et al forthcoming).The other potential benefits and drawbacks of each form of transfer, across a range of criteria, depend on the context and objectives of the program (Upton and Lentz 2011). It is widely supposed that--as predicted by economic theory--recipients would prefer to receive cash; provided that cash transfers integrate the transaction costs involved in obtaining a comparable food transfer, recipients can better meet their diverse needs with a cash transfer. However, there is little rigorous evidence on the comparative impacts of cash and food transfers on food security and food related outcomes. There are numerous studies on the impact of cash transfers (see summaries in Fiszbein et al 2009 and DfID 2011) and numerous studies on the impact of food transfers (see Margolies and Hoddinott 2011). However, as Hidrobo et al (2012) note comparisons of these impacts is confounded by differences in program design, the magnitude of the transfer, and the frequency of the transfer.
This paper contributes to our understanding of the impact of cash and food transfers on household food security. It uses a randomized design implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP) in the Zinder region of Niger. Niger is an appropriate venue for such a study. Following a famine in 2005, it has become a significant recipient of food assistance (WFP 2012). There are sharp seasonal dimensions to food insecurity in Niger and our evaluation design allows us to assess whether the impact of food and cash transfers varies by season.