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SPaN (2019) Case Study: Kenya - Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP)

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This Case Study on Kenya summarizes the context and main features of the horizontal expansion (ex ante) of social protection programmes in response to slow onset natural disaster (drought).

80% of the land mass and one-third of the population in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) of north-east Kenya are routinely exposed to drought. These are increasing in frequency, meaning households cannot adequately recover livelihoods (principally livestock production) between drought cycles. This leads to food insecurity, negative coping strategies and erosion of assets. The region was reliant on unpredictable humanitarian support (predominantly food-based) over protracted periods, financed through international appeals. 

The Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) was established by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) in partnership with humanitarian actors and the private sector, to provide an alternative response to this seasonal, chronic hunger. It aims to provide a more predictable and sustainable ‘safety net’ system for chronically vulnerable households and significantly reduce Kenya’s dependence on emergency relief.

Case Study Kenya (PDF)

The pilot ‘Phase 1’ of the HSNP was implemented from 2007 to 2013 and provided 69 000 households in four northern counties1 with a monthly cash transfer paid every two months. During Phase 1, each operational component was implemented by a different institution. Registration, enrolment and case management was managed by a consortium of NGOs headed by Oxfam GB, payment delivery was managed by the Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSD), sub-contracting Equity Bank, and a rights component including a grievance mechanism was implemented by HelpAge International. Independent monitoring and evaluation was led by Oxford Policy Management (OPM), whereas the management information system (MIS) was initially managed by an independent consultant and transferred to an MIS Officer in the HSNP Secretariat in 2010.

The HSNP proved to reduce the vulnerability of beneficiary households to climate induced hazards and helped to cushion livelihoods against losses. An evaluation confirmed that regular and timely cash transfers were effective in mitigating the effects of drought. Lessons from the 2011 drought response also highlighted the limitations of ‘traditional’ responses, in terms of the time taken to undertake assessments and mobilise resources.

Phase 2 of the HSNP started in January 2013, implemented by the Government of Kenya (GoK) with technical support from DFID. The programme forms part of the Government’s National Safety Net Programme (NSNP) managed and coordinated by the Ministry of Labour. At national level, the HSNP is now managed by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) and still delivered in partnership with several implementing partners from Phase 1.

Designed from the outset to be a shock responsive safety net, by building in ‘ex ante’ and testing a rapidly scalable cash-based emergency response to drought, Phase 2  has a ‘no regrets’ approach to households at the earliest signs of drought. The ultimate aim was to enable the GoK to lead scaling up of emergency cash transfers in future as part of the national drought management response, with agreed levels of GoK contingency financing as well as funds from DFID and other donors.

This case study is divided into three parts:

Scene setting

What it looks like

How it was done

Some local tensions have been identified between HSNP recipient households and non-recipients. This highlights the difficulty of poverty targeting in a context where poverty rates are high and uniform across communities. Targeted beneficiaries are not considerably worse off than non-beneficiaries in terms of monetary poverty. This has implications for the accuracy of this targeting approach for emergencies. After the emergency payments in 2015, the targeting formula was adjusted to address some of these issues. 

Coordination between multiple stakeholders engaged in the HSNP was critical to success of the emergency scaled up payments, with engagement of social protection technicians, humanitarian actors, financiers, scientists and bureaucrats. Vertical coordination took place through the NDMA, which has offices in each HSNP county. The NDMA worked closely with county governments and local partners to manage implementation.

Horizontal coordination leveraged existing coordination mechanisms for social protection, food security response and countylevel inter-sectorial coordination structures. Discussions on the scalability led by NDMS, DFID and other key agencies such as the World Bank and the World Food Programme, included the scalability into non HSNP sub-counties if these are affected by drought. 

Constituency Social Assistance Committees (CSACs) have been formed in 290 constituencies to support the management and delivery of cash transfer programmes. However, these are not fully functioning and are reliant on the NDMA. There have been limited discussions about how HSNP and cash transfer programmes of other actors should interact at county level. Communication mechanisms on the HSNP, both vertically within the programme and externally with communities, requires improvement.

Another positive example of leveraging on pre-existing systems, is the European Union funded project Nutritional Improvements through Cash and Health Education (NICHE). It is implemented by UNICEF in partnership with the GoK and the county government of Kitui during its first phase, and expanded to the Machakos county in a later phase. NICHE provides nutritional counselling and additional cash-transfers to households that are already receiving the national Cash Transfer for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC) programme and have a pregnant woman or a child under the age of two.

In general, the Programme proved to be effective in using a pre-existing system and weaknesses are mainly related to the communication system and the size of the transfers. In this regard, among other recommendations, consideration of varying cash amounts relative to seasonal food price increases during the dry season and to improve communication efforts, especially in cases of Programme change, were suggested. Counselling activity proved to be effective and one recommendation is to reinforce positive behaviours.

The Kenya - HSNP case study was produced as part of the “Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus” (SPaN). Another case study on Kenya´s Urban Food Subsidy also provides an analytical input on horizontal expansion of shock-responsive social protection system. Visit the Guidance Package´s community page for a full list of SPaN´s studies. 

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Social Protection - Knowledge Management Specialist
Zena Mouawad
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12 April 2019

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