UNICEF-Funded Study Evaluates Food Coupon System
Botswana, Gaborone, 10 February 2011: In 2010 UNICEF funded a study commissioned by the Government of Botswana to evaluate the Food Coupon System, introduced in 2009, for orphans, destitute persons and patients on Community Home-Based Care.
Food Coupon System
The food coupon system is an initiative of the Ministry of Local Government currently implemented through Local Authorities (Councils).
The system was introduced following the recommendations of the 2005/06 Review of Social Safety Nets commissioned by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. The Government of Botswana made a decision to introduce a coupon system to replace the food basket system, which provided monthly rations to vulnerable groups of the population. Given the problems inherent in the tender system, such as lack of choice, the provision of poor quality food, and the need to collect the food with a wheelbarrow every month, the coupon system was intended to provide more choice to the over 80,000 beneficiaries, and to be more easily administered by social workers.
The study aimed to assess the impact and effectiveness of the coupon system, compared to the food basket system, and to identify the scale of benefits to caregivers, suppliers and/or shop-owners and the government. In addition, it developed recommendations for further improvements, with the aim of disseminating the findings across Government.
Qualitative and quantitative research was carried out in the following areas: Selebi-Phikwe and Kweneng District, including the small locations of Lephepe and Lentsweletau.
Enthusiasm over the Food Coupon System
The study shows that beneficiaries, social workers and the suppliers were enthusiastic supporters of the food coupon system. The beneficiaries noted freedom of choice of foodstuffs, as well as time and place of purchase. More than 65% reported satisfaction with the coupon system, while 94% said the coupon system should be continued. “You can buy when you want, where you want, what you want”.
The study also states that suppliers appreciated the quick payments and the chance to compete for consumers’ business. “We receive instant cash” and “we have to work hard as business people and rise to the challenge”.
In addition, social workers were relieved to stop administering the tender system and focus on social service work. “We no longer administer food baskets like we use to do. We spent more time on our core business.”
Recommendations and Next Steps
A number of recommendations were made, including, among others, improving the monitoring of the use of food coupons by users and suppliers, extending the scope of coupons to cover all household essentials, aligning their value to keep up with inflation, and providing family cards where families contain more than one potential beneficiary.
UNICEF will continue to support the Government of Botswana, through technical assistance, in supporting the most vulnerable members of the population in the most effective and efficient manner possible.