RELATIVE EFFICACY OF FOOD AND CASH TRANSFERS IN IMPROVING FOOD SECURITY AND LIVELIHOODS OF THE ULTRA-POOR IN BANGLADESH

This study examined the efficacy of food and cash transfers in enhancing food security and livelihoods of the ultra-poor in rural Bangladesh, with a focus on four interventions. The first two are components of the Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) program: (1) IncomeGenerating VGD (IGVGD) and (2) Food Security VGD (FSVGD). The last two are the (3) Food for Asset-creation (FFA) component of the Integrated Food Security (IFS) program, and the (4) Rural Maintenance Program (RMP). In 2006, these programs covered 830,840 beneficiaries with 3.72 million family members. The IGVGD program exclusively targets poor women who receive a monthly food ration over a period of 24 months.

IGVGD also has a built-in mechanism to provide credit to its participants. The FSVGD program also targets poor women and provides a combination of food and cash to program participants. The FFA component of IFS distributes a combination of food and cash as wage payments to workers in labor-intensive public works programs. Although both men and women participate in FFA, the program requires that at least 70 percent of the participants should be women. In contrast, only women can participate in the RMP, who receive cash wages for maintaining rural roads.

The evaluation assesses the operational performance of food or cash transfer delivery; beneficiary preferences for the form of transfers; targeting performance; impacts of program participation on food security, livelihood, and gender-related outcomes; and the costeffectiveness of transfers. In doing so, the study draws on both qualitative and quantitative survey data from beneficiaries and nonbeneficiaries. Gender-disaggregated information was collected wherever it was meaningful. The quantitative assessments of impact rely heavily on the propensity score matching (PSM) method of impact evaluation—the most appropriate approach given that these programs had already been implemented when the household survey for the study was carried out.

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