Lesotho Child Grants Programme (CGP) Impact Evaluation
The Lesotho Child Grants Programme (CGP) is an unconditional cash transfer program targeted to poor and vulnerable households in Lesotho. By providing beneficiary household quarterly payments of between M360 (US$ 30) and M750 (US$ 65), the primary objective of the CGP is to improve the living standards of Orphans and other Vulnerable Children (OVC) so as to reduce malnutrition, improve health status, and increase school enrolment among OVCs. An independent evaluation of the CGP programme was commissioned by GoL and UNICEF to Oxford Policy Management (OPM) between 2010 and 2014. The evaluation employed a mixed-methods approach, combining rigorous quantitative tools and qualitative methods. The overall purpose of the evaluation was to establish the efficacy and efficiency of the CGP. In particular, it had three core objectives: i) to evaluate the welfare and economic impacts of the pilot amongst those who benefit from it; ii) to evaluate the cost and operational effectiveness of the pilot programme, particularly the extent to which it reaches those in greatest need; iii) to evaluate local welfare, social and economic impacts of the pilot in the community where it operates, beyond those who directly benefit from it.
In response to the challenges of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion, the Government of Lesotho (GoL) indicated in the National Strategic Development Plan 2012-2017 its commitment to promote social protection. Spending on social protection grew remarkably in recent years. The country spends about 9.6 percent of GDP on transfer programs, well above the 1-2 percent allocated by most developing countries (Grosh et al., 2008; Gentilini et al., 2014). However, almost 93 percent of resources is taken up by three programs only: the Old Age Pension (OAP), school feeding and tertiary bursary. While these programs – most notably the OAP – were perceived to have positive outcomes and enjoy strong popular and political support, some studies indicated that the majority of the transfers are received by people who are not among the extreme poor. The CGP originated from a four-year project funded by the EC in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the increasing number of orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) in Lesotho. The GoL’s response to OVCs needs had been been limited, fragmented and lacked sufficient focus as a result of institutional weaknesses. An OVC Rapid Needs Assessment conducted in 2005 corroborated findings of other studies, which among other things, indicated that only 25% of OVC households received some kind of support. The CGP was introduced as a response to such challenges, and the evaluation was meant to provide evicence to back its expansion and consolidation within the national social protection system.
Rather uniquely in the region, the conditions allowed for an experimental quantitative evaluation to be conducted in Lesotho, accompanied by extensive qualitative research focussing both on implementation and impact dimensions, as well as general equilibrium modelling of local economy effects, a rapid appraisal, and a costing feasibility study.
The impact evaluation of the CGP employed a mixed-methods approach and was structured around four components:
- A rapid assessment of the results of the early phase of implementation of the CGP was conducted in 2010 on the basis of a mix of quantitative and qualitative evidence, although without a strong counterfactual design;
- A rigorous quantitative assessment of the impact and operational effectiveness of the redesigned CGP (Round II) was subsequently conducted based on a randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluation design, including a baseline survey in 2011 and a follow-up in 2013;
- The impact of the CGP on the local economy was simulated using a LEWIE (Local Economy Wide Impact Evaluation) model, based on the baseline household survey data combined with a business enterprise survey that accompanied baseline data collection;
- Qualitative research using participatory methods and in-depth case studies was conducted in 2013 on beneficiary perceptions of the programme impact on household decision-making, community dynamics and social networks;
- A costing and financial sustainability study reviewed the historical costs of the CGP, simulated the likely future cost of the programme, and assessed the programme’s affordability under the prevailing fiscal environment.
The child Cash Programme had positive impacts in areas related to programme objectives, particularly on child wellbeing. CGP households concentrated spending on children, especially in terms of purchasing school uniforms, clothes and shoes. The CGP also led to a large increase in birth registration, a decrease in morbidity among small children, and an increase in school enrolment for boys amongst late learners in primary school.
Food security for both children and adults improved substantially. No noticeable impact was found on overall consumption and poverty rates, however trends are encouraging. In terms of impact on livelihood, while no noticeable impact was found on assets accumulation, with the exception of increase in ownership of pigs, the CGP contributed to larger use and investments of crop inputs and increase in maize output. The CGP contributed to boost beneficiaries’ self-esteem and sense of self-worth through engagement in reciprocal community-based sharing arrangement on less adverse grounds.
On operational effectiveness and sustainability, the evaluation gathered data and provided feedback and analysis on programme operations, such as targeting and payments processes, as well as study and tools on programme costing and affordability. These outputs allowed the monitoring of programme performance against a series of operational objectives and benchmarks, as well as useful learning tools to improve systems and operations. The Impact Evaluation of the CGP also provided comprehensive understanding of the welfare and economic impacts of the CGP cash transfer on the local economy.
The evidence generated by the evaluation was instrumental in making the case for CGP consolidation into a national programme. The learning agenda influenced the design of the programme throughout the period of implementation, with operationalization of a number of recommendations from the external evaluators, including the revision of the payment value and the coupling of the CGP with an additional emergency top-up transfer. The evaluation was also successful in raising awareness of some of the operational challenges of the programme and instigating additional reviews. Important design refinements were made despite challenges in feeding back the learning agenda to a group of stakeholders with differing roles and responsibilities and a transitional financing, contracting, coordination and leadership arrangement gradually moving away from the development partners towards the Ministry of Social Development.