More than half of the people in Niger can’t count on regular meals and half of all children are stunted from malnutrition. The Government of Niger is using cash transfers and parenting training to try to improve food security as well as nutrition and early childhood development. Researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of this program on households’ food security, as well as on the nutrition and development of children under five.
Research area: Early Childhood Nutrition, Development, and Health
Evaluation Sample: 150 clusters of poor villages in two regions of Niger (Dosso and Maradi)
Timeline: 2012 - 2016
Intervention: Unconditional cash transfers, parenting training
Researchers: Patrick Premand, World Bank; Oumar Barry, FLSH-UCAD Dakar; Marc-Francois Smitz, Cellule Filets Sociaux; Charles M. Super, UCONN Department of Human Development and Family Studies; Marian Zeitlin, Tufts University
Partners: United Nations Children’s Fund; National Statistical Agency, Niger; University of Connecticut, Department of Human Development and Family Studies; CRAMS: Centre de recherche action par la médiation sociale, Niger; Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute; Riseal
Proper nutrition and psycho-social stimulation is critical for the physical and cognitive development of young children. Many programs in sub-Saharan Africa have provided short-term responses to food crises. Families need sustained programs to become more resilient and ensure that children get the nutrition they need year round to thrive. Conditional cash transfers have proven successful in reducing poverty, improving health check-ups for children and school attendance, but they can be hard to implement in countries where the supply of health and education services is lagging behind. In West Africa, policymakers are increasingly relying on unconditional cash transfers combined with accompanying measures designed to encourage households to invest in their children’s human capital. In Niger, cash transfers are being twinned with accompanying measures seeking to encourage parents to improve the nutrition, health and psycho-social development of their children. The evaluation will help policymakers understand whether unconditional cash transfers can be an effective tool to boost food consumption and nutrition, and to what extent accompanying measures provide value-added and further encourage investments in children’s development.
Niger, a landlocked country of about 17 million in sub-Saharan Africa, faces severe challenges in early childhood nutrition and development. About three quarters of the people in the country live on less than US $2 per day. In addition, the fertility rate is one of the highest in the world (7.6 children per woman) and half the country’s children are stunted because of malnutrition. In 2011, the Government of Niger, with support from the World Bank and UNICEF, established a safety net program to combat poverty and food insecurity. Among other things, the program combines cash transfers targeted to women in poor rural households with bi-weekly informational meetings and home visits on nutrition, health, child protection and psycho-social stimulation. The government plans to reach 80,000 households, more than 500,000 people, by 2017. This impact evaluation will measure the program’s effectiveness, giving the government evidence it can use in implementing the program and for future scale-up.