Zambia’s Child Grant Program: 36-Month Impact Report

A cash grant program for households with children under five in three districts in Zambia generated positive impacts, both in terms of immediate needs of the family and children's health, and in longer term productivity. As part of a three-year impact evaluation for UNICEF, AIR has released findings from a two-year randomized control trial (RCT) study of the program.

In 2010, Zambia's government began the rollout of a Child Grant cash transfer program (CGP) to households with any child under 5 years old, providing them with 60 kwacha a month (equivalent to U.S $12). The study sought to estimate the program's two-year impact on 2,515 households in Kalabo, Kaputa and Shangombo, remote districts with Zambia’s highest rates of extreme poverty and mortality among young children.

The 36-month follow-up data collection occurred in September and October 2013, the early stage of Zambia’s lean season, when people start to run out of food from their previous harvest. The timing of this round of data collection fell exactly 36 months after the baseline study. Zambia has three seasons: a rainy season from December through March, a cold dry season from April through August, and a hot dry season from September through November. Crops are planted in the rainy season and harvested from end of February into May. Food is least scarce toward the beginning of the cold dry season when crops are harvested.

At baseline (2010), we hypothesized about where we expected to find program effects based on the logic model and ex-ante simulations to predict impacts using the baseline data. We compared these predictions from baseline with observed impacts 24 months later. In this report we focus on differences between the 24- and 36-month impacts to see whether earlier observed findings persisted and whether new impacts emerge.

Report Findings

The CGP continues to play an important role in strengthening the financial position of households, allowing them to increase consumption and diet diversity, reduce their debt, and even make investments towards asset accumulation (tools, housing) and livelihood diversification (nonfarm enterprise, livestock). These increases suggest that households in the program are likely to be much more resilient to shocks and external sources of fluctuations in income. However, these important benefits to household economic security have not yet been fully translated into positive developmental impacts on young children, particularly in the health and nutrition domains. In nutrition, for example, feeding has improved significantly for young children, but anthropometric outcomes have not improved. On the other hand, there does seem to be an important program effect on the schooling of young children, whereby children ages 7–9 in treatment households are more likely to start school earlier than those in control households. This pattern of results highlights the limits of a demand-side intervention in areas where the supply of infrastructure is very weak.