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The Transfer Project is a multi-country research initiative to provide rigorous evidence on the impact of large-scale national cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa. The project provides technical assistance in the design, implementation and analysis of Government programs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Programs are nationally owned and implemented by Government, and there is focus on dissemination of results to national stakeholders, as well as regional workshops to allow for cross-country learning and capacity building.

The project aims to generate evidence from largely unconditional transfers across both social protection and productive domains. Innovations in questionnaire design allow for examination of non-traditional outcomes, including safe transition of adolescents into adulthood and local economy impacts. The evaluations exploit the expansion of programs to construct delayed entry comparison groups, paired with randomized or quasi-experimental longitudinal designs. Multiple countries include nested longitudinal qualitative components to explore and explain impacts.   

Key partners include UNICEF Country Offices, the regional office of East and Southern Africa, national implementing agencies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Save the Children UK, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

The Transfer Project is a multi-country research initiative to provide rigorous evidence on the impact of large-scale national cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa. The project provides technical assistance in the design, implementation and analysis of Government programs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Programs are nationally owned and implemented by Government, and there is focus on dissemination of results to national stakeholders, as well as regional workshops to allow for cross-country learning and capacity building.

The project aims to generate evidence from largely unconditional transfers across both social protection and productive domains. Innovations in questionnaire design allow for examination of non-traditional outcomes, including safe transition of adolescents into adulthood and local economy impacts. The evaluations exploit the expansion of programs to construct delayed entry comparison groups, paired with randomized or quasi-experimental longitudinal designs. Multiple countries include nested longitudinal qualitative components to explore and explain impacts.   

Key partners include UNICEF Country Offices, the regional office of East and Southern Africa, national implementing agencies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Save the Children UK, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

LATEST PUBLICATIONS

The paper provides an examination of the relevance of ethics to poverty reduction. It argues that linking the shared values that define the social arrangements and institutions, which we refer to as ‘ethical perspectives’, to the emerging welfare institutions addressing poverty in developing countries provides a window into these processes of justification at a more fundamental level.

AUTHOR(S)

Armando Barrientos; Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai; Daisy Demirag; Richard de Groot; Luigi Peter Ragno
In sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest region in the world, the number of cash transfer programmes has doubled in the last five years and reaches close to 50 million people. What is the impact of these programmes, and do they offer a sustained pathway out of ultra-poverty? In this paper we examine these questions using experimental data from two unconditional cash transfer programmes implemented by the Government of Zambia. We find far-reaching effects of these two programmes, not just on their primary objective, food security and consumption, but also on a range of productive and economic outcomes. After three years, we observe that household spending is 59 per cent larger than the value of the transfer received, implying a sizeable multiplier effect. These multipliers work through increased non-farm business activity and agricultural production.

AUTHOR(S)

Sudhanshu Handa; Luisa Natali; David Seidenfeld; Gelson Tembo; Benjamin Davis
This paper revisits the relationship between income and happiness and estimates the impact of a social cash transfer programme on individual subjective well-being. Social cash transfer programmes provide consistent, non-contributory income to targeted, poor households. In Latin America, they are usually conditioned on measurable behaviours, but in sub-Saharan Africa they tend to be unconditional.

AUTHOR(S)

Kelly Kilburn; Sudhanshu Handa; Gustavo Angeles; Peter Mvula; Maxton Tsoka
This Brief summarizes the proceedings of the Know Violence Roundtable examining the evidence on the role of social protection in reducing childhood violence hosted by UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, 12-13 May, 2016.

AUTHOR(S)

Sarah Cook; Naomi Neijhoft; Tia Palermo; Amber Peterman
In 2010, the Zambian Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health began implementation of the Child Grant Programme with the goals of reducing extreme poverty and breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty. The impact of the grant was explored across a range of outcomes for women over the medium term (two to four years). One of the difficult aspects of assessing this evidence is the myriad of indicators used to measure ‘empowerment’. For example, researchers have used indicators ranging from women’s intra-household decision-making to social networks, land or asset ownership, and interpret all these as ‘empowerment’, making it difficult to draw conclusions. The analysis is complemented with qualitative data to understand the meaning women and men place on empowerment in the rural communities. Although more evidence is needed to understand how cash transfers can empower women in Africa, women’s savings and participation in small businesses were seen to have increased, giving them more autonomy over cash and improving their financial standing.

AUTHOR(S)

Amber Peterman; Luisa Natali
The paper investigates the assumption that giving cash as part of social safety nets targeted to women will lead to their empowerment. There is a perception that both conditional and unconditional cash transfers will lead to changes in intra-household power dynamics, but the evidence to support this to date is mixed. This evaluation of Zambia’s Child Grant Programme uses mixed methods to examine the four-year impact on women’s household decision-making, empowerment and overall household dynamics.

AUTHOR(S)

Juan Bonilla; Rosa Castro Zarzur; Sudhanshu Handa; Claire Nowlin; Amber Peterman; Hannah Ring; David Seidenfeld
Findings show that the CGP enabled poor women to save more cash and that the impact is larger for women who had lower decision-making power at baseline. The results support the proposition that cash transfers have the potential for long-term sustainable improvements in women’s financial position and household well-being by promoting savings and facilitating productive investments among low-income rural households.

AUTHOR(S)

Luisa Natali; Sudhanshu Handa; Amber Peterman; David Seidenfeld; Gelson Tembo
Approximately half of all mental health disorders begin by age 14, and three-quarters by age 24. Among adolescents, depression is one of the leading contributors to morbidity, while suicide and interpersonal violence are among the leading causes of mortality.

AUTHOR(S)

Audrey Pereira
Vulnerable populations in sub-Saharan African countries often face high levels of food insecurity which disproportionately affect households living in poverty and children are particularly at risk. This review of eight social cash transfer programme evaluations has shown that cash transfers have an impact on several different dimensions of food security.

AUTHOR(S)

Lisa Hjelm
A common perception surrounding the design and implementation of social cash transfers is that those targeted to families with young children will incentivize families to have more children. To date, however, research on unconditional cash transfer programmes in Africa (including Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia) have demonstrated no impacts of cash transfer programmes on increased fertility.

AUTHOR(S)

Tia Palermo; Lisa Hjelm
This is the first study from sub-Saharan Africa examining the relation between cash transfers and fertility using a large-sample social experiment design and reporting fertility histories of individual women. The findings are important because they provide strong evidence that a social protection programme targeted to families with young children does not create the unintended effect of increased fertility.

AUTHOR(S)

Lisa Hjelm; Tia Palermo
Unlike conditional cash transfers, unconditional transfers have the potential to impact all beneficiary household members across a range of productive and social domains. After two years, research shows that the Zambian Child Grant Programme has led to strong positive impacts in investment and diversification of income-generating activities, food security, and asset accumulation.

AUTHOR(S)

Audrey Pereira
The paper uses data from a quasi-experimental evaluation to estimate the impact of the Ghanaian Government’s unconditional cash transfer programme on schooling outcomes. It analyses the impacts for children by various subgroups – age, gender, cognitive ability – and finds consistent impacts. There are differences across gender, especially on secondary schooling, with enrolment significantly higher for boys 13 years or older. For girls, the effect of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme is to improve current attendance among those who are already enrolled in school (across all age groups). The authors found a significant effect on the expenditure on schooling items such as uniforms and stationary for these groups, which helps to explain the pathway of impact because these out-of-pocket costs are typically important barriers to schooling in rural Ghana and most of Africa.

AUTHOR(S)

Richard de Groot; Sudhanshu Handa; Mike Park; Robert D. Osei; Isaac Osei-Akoto; Luigi Peter Ragno; Garima Bhalla
According to the 2008-2009 Kenyan Demographic and Health Survey, almost a third of the women of reproductive age were married before they reached their 18th birthday, and more than 75 per cent had their first child by age 24. The role of poverty in influencing adolescent fertility has been well documented and social cash transfers (SCTs) have been recommended as a successful reduction strategy. This Research Brief examines a study comparing two groups who had and had not received unconditional cash transfers. The authors identify four factors through which such cash amounts affect adolescent well-being: increased investment in girls’ education; delay in girls’ sexual debut; improved mental health and increased aspirations for girls; and increased household economic stability.

AUTHOR(S)

Amber Peterman; Audrey Pereira
Over the past decade, more than a dozen government-run cash transfer programmes have been launched in sub-Saharan Africa as part of national social protection strategies. Recently there has been increased interest in examining whether such programmes reduce interpersonal violence, including between partners and against children. In this Research Brief we discuss different approaches that have been implemented in evaluations supported by the Transfer Project.

AUTHOR(S)

Tia Palermo
Over the past decade, more than a dozen government-run cash transfer programmes have been launched in sub-Saharan Africa, and there is growing evidence of their ability to improve a range of development outcomes. However, setting the size of such transfers is possibly the most important programming decision to be made. This Brief highlights some of the issues to consider.

AUTHOR(S)

Sudhanshu Handa; Benjamin Davis
Among policymakers, a common perception surrounding the effects of cash transfer programmes, particularly unconditional programmes targeted to families with children, is that they will induce increased fertility. Yet results from an evaluation of the Zambian Child Grant Programme indicate there are no programme impacts on overall fertility. In addition, among young women under 25 years and among women who have access to family planning, fertility actually decreased and use of modern contraceptives increased.

AUTHOR(S)

Tia Palermo; Sudhanshu Handa; Amber Peterman; Leah Prencipe; David Seidenfeld
This paper aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the impacts of cash transfer programmes on the immediate and underlying determinants of child nutrition, including the most recent evidence from impact evaluations across sub-Saharan Africa. The paper finds that the evidence to date on the immediate determinants of child nutrition is mixed with respect to whether cash transfers can positively impact growth-related outcomes among children, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

AUTHOR(S)

Richard de Groot; Tia Palermo; Sudhanshu Handa; Amber Peterman; Luigi Peter Ragno
Many of the coping strategies the rural poor use to cope with failed harvests and other negative income shocks, such as reducing food consumption, selling off productive assets, and pulling children out of school, can mire households in poverty traps – the self-reinforcing conditions that cause poverty to persist. This study investigates whether cash transfers enable households facing weather and other negative shocks to avoid coping strategies that lead to poverty traps.

AUTHOR(S)

Kathleen Lawlor; Sudhanshu Handa; David Seidenfeld; Zambia Cash Transfer Evaluation Team
Evidence based on independent studies from different programmes across the world demonstrates that cash transfers can have an impact on a wide range of development domains. But does this evidence mean that cash transfers are the silver bullet or best solution to alleviating poverty?

CO-AUTHOR(S)

Sudhanshu Handa; David Seidenfeld; Benjamin Davis; Gelson Tembo; Zambia Cash Transfer Evaluation Team
The risk and time preferences of individuals as well as their subjective expectations regarding the future are likely to play an important role in choice behaviour. A large-scale survey in Kenya shows that cash transfers alone do not appear to impact time discounting or risk aversion, but they do have an important impact on subjective well-being measures and on future perceptions of quality of life.

CO-AUTHOR(S)

Bruno Martorano; Sudhanshu Handa; Carolyn Halpern; Harsha Thirumurthy
The Chile Solidario programme is an avant garde conditional cash transfer (CCT) in the Latin American context, introducing innovative features aimed at addressing specifically the multidimensional nature of poverty. At the household level we find that the programme has a significant impact on lifting families out of extreme poverty and that it does not have disincentive effects on labour market participation.

CO-AUTHOR(S)

Bruno Martorano; Marco Sanfilippo
MORE PUBLICATIONS

Project team

Richard de Groot; Jacob De Hoop; Lisa Hjelm; Michelle Mills; Luisa Natali; Frank Octhere; Tia Palermo; Audrey Pereira; Amber Peterman; Leah Prencipe


Partner organizations

FAO - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Save the Children Fund UK

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Videos

Addis Ababa cash transfer project workshop

Books

From Evidence to Action: The Story of Cash Transfers and Impact Evaluation in Sub-Saharan Africa,


Blogs

Cash For Free: Who's In The Driver's Seat?

Turning cash into goats. The cash transfer effect in Tanzania

Cash transfers and improved child nutrition: where did all the impacts go?

Connecting the dots between social protection and childhood violence: a neglected research agenda

Can cash transfers prevent intimate partner violence?

Cash transfers: What’s gender got to do with it?

More on Cash Transfers to Reduce HIV among Adolescents

What is the role of cash transfer programmes in achieving zero hunger in sub-Saharan Africa?

Violent beginnings: The critical window to prevent intimate partner violence

Cash transfers and fertility: new evidence from Africa

Evidence from Africa shows cash transfers increase school enrollment

Cash transfers in Africa generating evidence on the impact

It’s Payday! What a cash transfer looks like in Ghana

Doing impact evaluation in a remote region of Ghana

Giving girls a chance


Journal articles

Impact of cash transfer programs on food security and nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa: A cross-country analysis

Social networks, social participation, and health among youth living in extreme poverty in rural Malawi

Effects of a Large-Scale Unconditional Cash Transfer Program on Mental Health Outcomes of Young People in Kenya

The impact of Zambia’s unconditional child grant on schooling and work: results from a large-scale social experiment

Unconditional government social cash transfer in Africa does not increase fertility

How does a national poverty programme influence sexual debut among Kenyan adolescents?

Time Discounting and Credit Market Access in a Large-Scale Cash Transfer Programme


What's new stories

Major international conference on youth and gender


External website

The Transfer Project


Conferences & Meetings

Social Protection and Childhood Violence: Expert Roundtable

The Transfer Project Workshop 2016

Social Protection “Plus” Workshop