Study: Zambia’s Cash Transfer Program Feeds Youngsters and Helps Families Strengthen Their Financial Base

Washington, D.C. – A two-year randomized control trial evaluating Zambia’s Child Grant social cash transfer program found dramatic improvements in the amount of food and clothing going to infants and young children in high poverty families, and a 50 percent increase in the total value of crops produced by households receiving the aid.

Zambia cash grant report coverExperts with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) led the study of 2,515 households in Kalabo, Kaputa and Shangombo, remote districts with Zambia’s highest rates of extreme poverty and mortality among young children. UNICEF Zambia hired AIR to design and conduct the study of the program’s effectiveness, with funding provided by UNICEF, Irish Aid and Britain’s Department for International Development.

Since 2010, the Zambian government has been providing 60 kwacha a month ($12 U.S.) to district households with at least one child under the age of five. No conditions were imposed on how the money should be spent. The heads of all participating households were interviewed before the program was initiated in order to monitor changes.

The study found that among participating households:

  • Zambia cash grants improved livesSeventy-six percent of increased spending by recipients went for food – the largest share, 40 percent, for cereals followed by meats, poultry and fish, which accounted for 21 percent.
  • The provision of basic material necessities for children – food, shoes and clothing—rose by 33 percentage points.
  • The number of cases of diarrhea among children five years old or younger fell by five percentage points.
  • The volume of crops produced on farms owned by participants increased--eight percentage points for maize and four percentage points for rice.
  • The overall value of agricultural commodities harvested rose by 50 percent and the number of households selling harvested crops rose by twelve percentage points.
  • There was a 21 percentage point increase in the number of livestock owned, as well as a significant increase in the types and breeds of animals. Recipients sold twice as many livestock as those in the control group.
  • The number of small businesses set up by recipients rose by 17 percentage points.

“What is particularly exciting about the results is that the immediate food needs of the recipients are being met and the money is also allowing heads of households to build a better financial base by increasing crop production or in some cases buying materials to start a micro-business,” said Dr. David Seidenfeld, a senior researcher with AIR who directed the study.

The Zambian government announced that in 2014 it will increase funding for its social cash transfer from 17.5 million kwacha ($3.4 million U.S.) to 150 million kwacha ($29 million U.S.). “The solid design and high quality implementation of the Child Grant impact survey has clearly contributed to the Ministry of Finance's decision to significantly increase the funding for the social cash transfer program from 2014 onwards,” said Paul Quarles van Ufford, chief of Social Policy and Economic Analysis for UNICEF Zambia. “The fact the findings covered impacts on poverty, human capital, production, and the local economy has been instrumental in convincing a broad range of Government officials about the value of investing public resources in the cash transfer program.”

Stanfield Michelo, the Director of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, which implements Zambia's cash transfer program, said: “The road to convince the government machinery has been a narrow, winding and difficult one to navigate. In order to reach the goal, a multi-pronged approach was used which included a robust impact evaluation carried out by AIR which generated results and ultimately compelling grounds that gave impetus to government making the big decision of providing unprecedented funding in the 2014 national budget.”

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


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