Cash transfers improve food security
ZIMBABWE’S Harmonised Cash Transfer Programme (HCTP) has improved food security and reduced reliance on food gifts among its beneficiaries, a research report published by UNICEF last week shows.
The programme, which is a social protection initiative, is a UNICEF-sponsored unconditional cash transfer initiative, whereby beneficiary households receive a bi-monthly cash transfer that varies with household size.
On average, the transfer value is about 20 percent of total pre-programme household consumption expenditure.
Eligibility is based on food poverty and the labour-constrained status of households.
A study by Garima Bhalla for the UNICEF research office found that food security among the beneficiaries had improved since the programme started in 2011.
It found that the cash payouts allowed beneficiaries to diversify their food basket and rely less on gifts.
“The cash transfer has strong positive impacts on food security and diet diversity scores.
“This additional cash allows them to approach the market to diversify their food basket and to diversify own-production across food groups,” reads the report.
“The cash transfer has led to an increase in cereal purchases, fruits, pulses and legumes, dairy, fats and sweets also see a significant increase in consumption.
“Interestingly, gifts as a source of food have significantly decreased across several foodstuffs. Cash is used to obtain more food from the market and rely less on food gifts,” the report asserts.
The study also found that “being labour constrained weakened food security, but had no impact on value of food consumption in the pre-harvest period”.
In 2016, approximately 815 million people were chronically undernourished globally. In recent years, food security has worsened in some parts of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa.
In Zimbabwe, latest UN estimates show that about 45 percent of the total population is undernourished.
The post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda has declared ending hunger and achieving food security as the second of its 17-goal agenda, to be achieved by 2030.
While cash transfers are the principle component of social protection in developed economies, they play a far more limited role in developing economies.
According to the International Labour Organisation, more than 80 percent of the population in developed nations is covered by one or more forms of a cash transfer programme.