Climate Change / East Africa / ILRI / Pastoralism

Responding to food insecurity: Advancing the case for cash in rural Northern Kenya

Recent years have witnessed an increasing consortium of aid agencies, donors, development practitioners and others advocating for the provision of cash as a substitute or complement to food transfers as a means of responding to situations of both emergency and chronic food deficiencies. While the use of cash has some clear advantages, it is recognized that cash is not always optimal and the effective functioning of markets in the target response area is a key determinant of the best form of response. The literature, however, is relatively silent on the context-based determinants of the optimal food insecurity response. In this paper, we use a newly developed response analysis tool, the Marketing Information and Food Insecurity Response Analysis (MIFIRA) framework, to investigate the potential role of cash provision in Marsabit, a chronically food insecure district of Kenya.

Marsabit, a remote, sparsely populated and infrastructure deficient district situated in Northern Kenya is particularly drought-prone and hosts a considerable number of recipients of both emergency and program food aid. Our analysis, resulting from household, market and focus group surveys, indicates markets in Marsabit can effectively meet an increase in demand caused by cash transfers and efficiently source and distribute the necessary commodities in good time and without increasing costs. In addition, despite regular and widespread experience with food aid, Marsabit residents overwhelmingly prefer cash or a mix of cash and food, indicating a measure of confidence in the markets.

Presented by: Robert Ouma

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