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Cash interventions as an alternative to food aid

Proposed Research

At Dili port, unloading of WFP-supplied rice which will be distributed at six different collection points in town. Workers from humanitarian agencies will be present to supervise the distribution.

As part of a "Food aid Policy and Strategy Project" Oxfam GB is undertaking research into the use of cash as an alternative to food aid. Whilst Oxfam GB has increasingly engaged in cash programming, e.g. in Asia and Africa, it has been difficult to judge the effectiveness and impact of these programmes. Other organisations have undertaken cash interventions, however, as with Oxfam GB, these have not been widely reviewed or disseminated.

As part of the research Oxfam GB is interested in collecting information from organisations on cash based interventions including cash for work programmes, free cash distributions and voucher distribution. Existing literature suggests certain key areas which the research will address.

Research Issues


Contextual analysis will determine when and how it is appropriate to implement this type of programme. Three different disaster scenarios will be used to inform the research. These are slow onset natural disasters, such as drought, quick onset mass destruction such as cyclones or earthquakes and conflict. Using these scenarios an analysis of 'appropriate contexts' for implementing cash interventions will be developed.

Economic Impact

There are a number of ways in which cash interventions could have an economic effect.

More information is required to determine the extent to which this occurs and the benefits.


The use of cash as a relief measure could have a major impact on gender relations. Critics of the approach have suggested that women will have limited control over cash resources in contrast to food aid.


Cost effectiveness is also an important factor to consider when designing programmes. It has been estimated that as a result of using cash, rather than food, in an employment generation programme in Wolayita, Ethiopia, programme costs were approximately 50% of those which would have been expended had food been used instead. In 1999 a cash for work scheme in Wajir district of Kenya (see Field Exchange 10), was judged to be the most costeffective recovery intervention compared to other measures taken in response to a severe drought followed by floods.

Although often an acceptable intervention amongst communities, organisations often find it difficult to secure funding from donor agencies. The acceptability of this approach among donors has varied. The research hopes to shed light on why some donors are more willing to fund cash interventions.

To aid this research Oxfam are collecting information on cash interventions. Field Exchange readers can help by sharing experiences of such programmes. If you have any information on any of the following please send it to the contact below. Information sought on cash interventions includes:

  1. Direct personal experience
  2. Organisational perspectives and policies
  3. Research carried out to date
  4. Any form of documentation
  5. Other contacts that might provide relevant information

Any information regarding cash interventions is welcome and should be sent to Hisham Khogali (e-mail Alternatively contact him at OXFAM, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 7DZ. Tel: +44 1865 312 176

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Reference this page

Cash interventions as an alternative to food aid. Field Exchange 12, April 2001. p7.



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