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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2015 Ethiopia: Evaluation of the Social Cash Transfer Pilot Programme

Author: Guush Berhane, Stephen Devereux, John Hoddinott, Jessica Hoel, Keetie Roelen, Kibrewossen Abay, Martha Kimmel, Natasha Ledlie and Thomas Woldu

Executive summary

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The Social Cash Transfer Pilot Programme (SCTPP) was launched by the Tigray Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs (BOLSA) with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Tigray region of Ethiopia in 2011. The goal of the SCTPP was to improve the quality of life of orphans and vulnerable children, elderly and persons with disabilities and to enhance their access to basic services such as healthcare and education. Specific initial objectives included contributing to the reduction of poverty, hunger, and starvation; increasing school enrolment and attendance; improving the health and nutrition of children and generating information on the feasibility in terms of BoLSA’s capacity to implement and administer such a programme.
The SCTPP operated in two woredas: rural Hintalo Wajirat and urban Abi Adi, providing timely and predictable monthly cash transfers of ETB 155 (US$ 7.68) to the poorest labour-constrained households in both woredas. Additional benefits included a monthly transfer of ETB 25 (US$ 1.24) for each child under 16 years of age and an additional ETB 10 (+-US$ 0.50) if the child is enrolled at school, up to a maximum of four children. Households with a disabled child received an additional ETB 50 (+-US$ 2.48), an adult with disabilities ETB 80 (+-US$ 2.54), and an elderly dependent ETB 60 (US$ 2.98).
Beneficiary households were selected through a community-based targeting process, facilitated by the Community Care Coalitions (CCC), the primary social protection structure at community level, in cooperation with woredas (district) social workers. The programme reached 3,767 households (6,716 beneficiaries), of which around 40% with children under 18 and 75% female-headed.


  • The core objective is to assess the contribution of the SCTPP to improvements in household welfare, broadly defined.
  • Updates and summarizes work on the operational aspects of the SCTPP, including the role of Community Care Coalitions; targeting; and pay processes; and
  • Provides basic descriptive statistics on the well-being, livelihoods, schooling, and health of individuals and households of both SCTPP participants and nonparticipants living in Abi Adi and Hintalo Wajirat.


  • Double-difference impact estimates.
  • Inverse probability weighted regression adjustment (IPWRA) estimators to generate impact. This addresses the problems of nonrandom selection into the program as well as the problem of the counterfactual. As discussed above, this is a more robust method than the more commonly used propensity score matching.

Findings and Conclusions:

Increased food security and dietary diversity: The evaluation provides robust evidence that the SCTPP leads to improvements in food security; beneficiary households are significantly less likely to suffer shortages of food and to consume seed stock during the seven days prior to the survey. Adults and children eat significantly more meals a day as compared to control households. Over the entire period of the project the food gap fell in both woredas by approximately 0.50 months (from 2.3 months at baseline to about 1.87 months at endline). Both diet quantity and diet quality at household level improved and increased availability of calories by 94 kcal per adult equivalent in 2012 and 158 kcal per adult equivalent in 2014. Relative to comparison households, this represents an increase of 3.6 and 6.0 percent respectively. Similarly the household dietary diversity index increased in 2012 and 2014 by 13.4 and 11.7 percent respectively.
Improved enrollment and schooling efficiency for girls: Considering the high enrollment rates at baseline overall effect on enrolment and schooling efficiency was variable: it was found non-existing in Abi Adi and modest in Hintalo. Nevertheless, the results clearly show that the SCTPP has a large positive and statistical significant impact on enrolment and schooling efficiency for girls 6-11 years of age and living in Hintalo Wajirat. It raised the likelihood on enrollment by 13.3 percentage points, schooling efficiency by 14 percentage points and grade attainment by a half grade.
Reduction of child labor: The programme leads to a reduction in number of hours per day children engaged in labor activities. Children aged 6-12 years reduced time spent in household work (farm and family chore) activities by over an hour a day, from a base of 4.5 hours per day. The impact was even larger in Hintalo-Wajirat and among male-headed households. There was a small reduction in time spent by girls in work on household nonfarm businesses.


  • As CCCs are operating on a volunteer basis one of the major challenges they face is the relatively high levels of turnover in its membership. Devoting resources to formalize the structure and operation of the CCCs as well as supporting existing capacity strengthening activities.
  • Payment levels and inflation: While payments were made reliably, the level of payment was low. The median per capita payment was ETB 77 (US $ 3.85) per month. Payment levels were not adjusted to account for inflation. Over time, this meant that the purchasing power of the transfers declined. Low payment levels contributed to the limited impact on nutrition and other social outcomes of the SCTPP. Future programmes should include a mechanism to regularly adjust payment levels in response to rising prices. In all social protection interventions there is a tension between providing transfers to a large number of beneficiaries but with lower levels of transfers, or restricting the number of beneficiaries and providing them with higher transfers. If the goal of programs like the SCTPP is to reach all those who need these transfers and have meaningful impacts, budgets need to be set accordingly.

Lessons Learned:

Community Care Coalitions (CCCs) played a critical role in beneficiary identification and selection and assisting in payment processes. Both qualitative and quantitative evaluations confirm that CCCs understand and execute the roles assigned to them and that they are well regarded by beneficiaries. Evidence shows that they play a prominent role in linking beneficiaries to basic social services, provision of complementary social services, explaining the eligibility criteria and increasing acceptance of targeting processes. They also exert considerable effort to raise additional funds and are able to identify and distribute these to households in need of assistance. Reflecting the poverty of the localities in which the CCCs operate, these resources benefit only relatively small number of households and should not be considered a substitute for a formal social safety net.
Targeting in the SCTPP worked well: Stakeholders and implementers at all levels demonstrated sound knowledge of the eligibility criteria and confirmed that the targeting procedures had been correctly applied in all communities surveyed. There was broad acceptance of the eligibility criteria and the targeting decisions, reflecting good communication and outreach work.
SCTPP payment processes consistently worked well: SCTPP payments were remarkably regular. Virtually all beneficiaries reported that they receive their payments on time. More than 90 percent   reported being paid in fully and 82 percent reporting that they were treated courteously by program staff. This high level of program performance was maintained throughout life of the program and the M-BIRR electronic payments introduced at a later stage improved this performance even further.

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