Spreading the hunger safety net
After a successful two-year pilot, the Kenya Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) is being scaled up with a new targeting mechanism that will enable the programme’s unconditional cash transfers to reach the most vulnerable households, in line with recommendations from a recent evaluation.
HSNP is operating in four counties of northern Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands, all of which are prone to pervasive food insecurity due to drought. Under the first phase of the DFID-funded programme, approximately 69,000 households received cash payments, starting at KES 2,150 but rising to KES 3,500 by the end of the pilot phase.
After two years of the programme, an OPM evaluation found that households receiving the HSNP cash payments are 10 percentage points less likely to fall into the bottom national poverty decile than the control households. In addition, both the poverty gap (how far on average a household falls below a given poverty line – in this case the bottom national decile) and the severity of poverty (a similar measure giving more weight to poorer households) improve in comparison to control households by seven percentage points each. This impact is driven by poorer and smaller households (for whom the per capita value of the transfer is greater).
Moreover, HSNP households spend more on food per month per adult equivalent than the control households, and 87% of them report that they are eating more.
The evaluation findings across a range of indicators indicated that HSNP could improve its impact significantly if it could target the poorest and smallest households, for whom the per capita value of the transfer is greater. This recommendation has now been incorporated into the design of the scaled-up HSNP as it moves into phase 2, including a new combination of Proxy Means Testing and Community-Based Targeting. In addition, HSNP will introduce a better payments system that not only responds to the evaluation’s findings and recommendations, but which will also link the entire population of Northern Kenya - not just HSNP beneficiaries - to the formal financial services sector.