Cash voucher programme and rabbit raising intervention in Gaza
By Elena Qleibo, Ena’am Abu Nada, Wassem Mushtaha and Julie Campbell
Elena Qleibo is the Oxfam Food Security Coordinator for the Gaza programme. She has been working in Gaza in different programme positions since 2006
Wassem Mushtaha is an engineer and is a Food Security and Livelihoods Officer for the Oxfam Gaza programme
Ena’am Abu Nada has a diploma in social work and is a Food Security and Livelihoods for the Oxfam Gaza programme
Julie Campbell is Gaza Head of Mission for Oxfam
Thanks to Laura Phelps (Oxfam GB HQ) for her technical support to the programme and to the article development. Thanks to WFP for their energy and flexibility in working creatively with Oxfam in Gaza. Thanks also to MA’AN Development Centre who are Oxfam team’s ‘hands on the ground’. Thanks to the local civil society institutions and local government with whom we work and support, who are key to Oxfam’s advocacy and programming achievements.
This article is based on an Oxfam case study with updates provided by Oxfam staff.
As outlined in the introductory background to Gaza, the population is chronically food secure with severely limited livelihood and economic opportunities. One of the consequences has been that previously self-reliant families have been progressively falling into poverty. These predominantly lower-middle class or middle class households have been severely affected by the increased restrictions and economic constraints. Their resources have been slowly depleted and they now represent a group referred to as ‘the new poor’.
Oxfam in Gaza
Oxfam has had a presence in Gaza since 2000 although its field office was only opened in 2006.This article describes two Oxfam led interventions in Gaza: the value based voucher (VBV)/cash voucher programme and small scale (rabbit) breeding. Both projects were implemented by MA’AN Development Centre, a Palestinian non-governmental organisation (NGO) registered under the Ministry of Interior and an Oxfam partner since 2006. The mission of MA’AN is to work towards sustainable human development in Palestine.
A young beneficiary of the rabbit raising intervention
The Value Based Voucher (VBV)/cash voucher programme
Evolution of the programme
The voucher programme was due to start in January 2009. However, the ‘Cast Lead’ war on Gaza by the Israeli government temporarily halted the start-up of the operation. Instead, Oxfam carried out emergency food distribution for three months for 30,000 individuals (c.7,500 households (HHs)). When markets were stable again, the project started as a VBV in Gaza city and the north. It targeted one category of family (between 5 and 8 members) and worked with 23 shops, with a caseload of 2,335 HHs (c.15,000 beneficiaries). It aimed to moderate the increase in global food prices that was turning some lower middle class families into what was termed the ‘new poor’. These cash vouchers allowed for the provision of commodities that were high in animal protein, such as eggs and cheese, which were not provided by in-kind food distribution. A certain number of commodities were available in designated shops. The VBV was to run as a pilot from October 2009 to December 2010. It was extended in the same form until the end of 2012.
Marwan Sakar, Food value voucher beneficiary
Marwan Sakar lives with his wife and four children aged between 4 – 11 years old, in Khan Younis.
Ten years ago, Marwan had a good job in Israel where he worked as
a builder and would earn up to 200 NIS per day. After the closure of
the crossing between Gaza and Israel in 2000, he lost his job and as a
result, his only way of making a living.
Marwan now works part time, carrying flour and bean sacks at a local
market. The work is irregular; he estimates that he works 2 days per
week. They live in a house that is owned by Marwan’s parents in the
refugee camp in Khan Younis. There is a poor sewage network
around the area that produces bad smell and in winter allows for
dirty rainwater to flood the house.
Shopkeepers who trade the vouchers for specific goods
Before receiving the VBV voucher, the family would only eat falafel,
zatar and bread, now they have cheese, yogurt and oil in their diet
which has significantly improved the health of their children
His young daughter has nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder due
to lack of protein in the diet and has problems with her chest
because of the dampness on the walls. One of Marwan’s sons suffers
from anaemia. The health of both children has improved noticeably
in a few months.
They joined the VBV project in January 2013. They receive 67 NIS
He comments: “Before joining the VBV, we received flour and rice
from CHF. Any assistance is helpful not to be hungry. The SAHTEIN
card allows me not only to provide better food for the family, it also
gives us the chance to go out shopping. The children enjoy going out
to the shop and getting the food. I always buy them something small
to eat when we go shopping. I have regained my dignity in front of
Najwa Abudaka, 62 years, supermarket owner
Najwa and her husband opened up their first supermarket in 1995.
Najwa’s husband originally worked as a farmer, but as their 3 sons
grew up and moved out, Najwa did not want to be alone in the house
any longer, so they decided to go into business together.
Prior to the blockade in 2007, they owned two supermarkets. After
the blockade came into place, one third of Gaza’s businesses closed,
including one of Najwa’s supermarkets. Najwa said “It was tough
after blockade, everybody lost their jobs and nobody was spending
In 2010, Najwa became a supplier on Oxfam’s ‘Value Based Voucher’
system. She sells food items to an extra 160 households through the
Sahtein card. This income generates an extra $1000 per month for
the business. It helps to pay for three members of staff and has gone
into buying extra food items to keep in store (for when there are food
item shortages) and helps with electricity and rent for the business
and her three sons.
Najwa’s supermarket is the only supermarket in the area that offers
the value based vouchers.
Najwa’s husband died in 2011.
Oxfam GB and WFP prompted the Mid-term Review (MTR) carried out from January to March 2011. This review made a series of important recommendations that were ‘signed off ’ by WFP in June 20111. The first major transformation was the change from a paper voucher to an E-voucher, with a debit card, that begun in July 2011 with the same caseload. After a joint SWOT2 analysis workshop between WFP and Oxfam GB in April 2011, a doubling of the caseload with the new cash voucher modality was scheduled for the 1st of January 2012. This targeted 30,000 beneficiaries of four HH categories (different groups of families according to size, see Table 1 later) distributed in 46 shops and choosing from 10 commodities. A review update was also scheduled to take place by June 2012 of the overall WFP cash voucher programme3 and signed off by the end of the year. This last review recommended important improvements that have already started to make their way into the programme, such as inclusion of more commodities and the piloting of a combined modality of voucher and flour. By 1st January 2013 there was a combined caseload of 50,000 beneficiaries receiving a cash voucher, choosing from 15 commodities in 60 shops, and a combined caseload receiving a smaller cash voucher and a flour ration according to family size, involving 53 shops.
|Table 1: Value of cash vouchers issued by house-hold size|
(no. of individuals)
|Value in ILS of the
weekly cash voucher
|Value in ILS of the
monthly cash voucher
Current programme objectives
The objective of the cash voucher assistance is to meet immediate food needs and enhance food consumption and dietary diversity of the most vulnerable and food-insecure non-refugee population4. Its aim is to target households living between the absolute and the relative poverty lines in urban and peri-urban areas of Gaza. Many of the beneficiaries are the ‘new poor’, having recently lost their livelihoods as a result of the movement restrictions imposed by the blockade. Important links are being developed with Oxfam’s Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) funded econ- omic development project to enhance the participation of smallproducers and increase the multiplier effect on Gaza’s closed economy.
The VBV aims to ensure beneficiaries have access to a healthy and balanced diet through existing market mechanisms. The interlinked objectives of this strategy are:
- Provide beneficiaries with access to a balanced food basket which includes animal protein rich food such as dairy products and eggs, as well as staple food such as bread, wheat flour and rice.
- Use local shops as procurement and distribution mechanisms to ensure cash is directly injected into the local economy at the micro level, with the intention to have a positive impact on local (West Bank and Gaza Strip origin) production, employment and small business.
- Provide beneficiaries with the advantage of greater choice and flexibility of day, time and food items to purchase.
- Provide multiplier effects with other projects, such as the DANIDA economic development project lead by Oxfam GB.
The paper voucher was originally distributed monthly to beneficiaries in booklets of four vouchers. It hasbeen replaced with a debit card called Sahtein. Each cash voucher is worth 64 Israeli New Shekel (ILS) (about $17 USD). The monetary value of the voucher was calculated on the basis of the market value of the food assistance basket delivered by WFP and partners to an average sized household in the Gaza Strip. The cash vouchers can be exchanged for a selection of food items considered by WFP to provide a diversified ‘food basket’. Four of these nine items are locally produced and support local producers and manufacturers. The food basket provides 4,828 kcal per day per household. Cash vouchers are issued according to household size (see Table 1). A total of 23 supermarkets across the three governorates have been involved in the project.
In line with the recommendation of both the MTR and the more recent review of the voucher programme in mid-2012, some additional 30,000 beneficiaries who were initially registered and targeted with in-kind food ration assistance through CHF International, were transferred to the voucher assistance through Oxfam GB. Some 20,000 received the VBV only, while 10,000 were part of a pilot combining in-kind distributions and the voucher as part of the safety net transfer modality in the Gaza strip. The violence in Gaza between the 14th and the 21st November 2012 did not halt project implementation. As of January 2013, the VBV programme has reached 60,000 beneficiaries located in the five Gaza governorates of the Gaza Strip, including Gaza Governorate, Khan Younis, North Gaza, Deir al Balah and Rafah.
Since January 2012, WFP has been operating a new targeting methodology called the Proxy Means Test Formula (PMTF). The PMTF is the main method to determine whether a household is eligible for WFP assistance or not. Through a series of standard questions, the income of a household is estimated.If the estimated income is below the deep poverty line the household is eligible for WFP assistance.
In addition to the PMTF and to refine the targeting of the proxy formula, WFP utilises the Food Consumption Score (FCS) to determine the type of assistance most suitable to the profile of a household. Given that the cash voucher programme provides increased access to a wider range of staple and fresh foods, eligible beneficiary households with poor FCS, indicating poor dietary diversity, are prioritised as participants of the programme. Oxfam GB is carrying out nutrition awareness campaign programme that is dealing with nutrition and best uses of the commodities provided by the cash voucher. An examination of the FCS in a sample of 600 beneficiaries of the VBV is being planned for the end of the first cycle of the Nutrition Awareness Campaign programme. This will be ready by the end of the year.
Exclusion criteria include HHs where any member has an UNRWA5 card (except women holding an UNRWA card married to a non-refugee in Gaza); HHs benefiting from other staple food programmes; Palestinian Authority, United Nations (UN) or international NGO employees and households receiving cash benefits that places them above the deep poverty line.
Each shop has a box for complaints, suggestions and recommendations. Oxfam GB staff check the boxes and collect the available letters on a weekly basis. All letters are classified according to subject. The required action is taken on a monthly basis during the updating of the monthly beneficiaries’ list.
Anecdotal evidence gathered during stakeholder interviews suggested that the voucher scheme had an immediate beneficial effect. A number of parents reported an improvement both in their own and their children’s health. This was especially so in the reduction of symptoms associated with rickets and anaemia.
Roll-out in 2014 and beyond
This is currently being discussed at programme and management levels. Consideration is being given to further strengthening linkages between DANIDA’s economic development project, which in turn focusses on increasing links between small food processors and the voucher programme. Improvements are ongoing and new pilots are being considered for 2014, as well as inclusion of new commodities.
Nariman Farahat, a mother of six children and
one of the beneficaries of the VBV scheme
Rabbit raising in Gaza
Oxfam supports a small scale animal breeding programme in Gaza that includes rabbit raising, hens (broilers and egg layers) and sheep. The rabbit rearing intervention was launched in November 2009 as a 12 month ECHO-funded project to protect the livelihoods of unemployed people and to enable very poor households to increase consumption of protein- or vitamin-rich food. The intention was to increase household consumption of fresh meat and allow beneficiaries to sell surplus rabbits to local markets at affordable prices. The intervention was also expected to empower women, as household members recognise the economically productive role that women play. The project was implemented by MA’AN Development Centre. A total of 286 Gazan households were involved. Further funding was secured from SYS, a Gulf donor, in 2011. A new proposal has been submitted but has not yet received feedback from the donor (as of Sept 2013).
Beneficiaries included both refugees and nonrefugees and were identified according to the following criteria:
- Households experiencing long-term unemployment or loss of livelihoods
- Female-headed households, if the women or a member of the family are able to participate in project activities
- Households with a daily income lower than the World Bank poverty line of $1.6 USD per person per day
- High dependency ratio households – for example, large households with insufficient economic productive capacity
- Households that are not beneficiaries of the European Commission funded PEGASE mechanism6
- Strong motivation and commitment
- Space for the hutches
A man receives rabbits as
part of the intervention
Each beneficiary received 4 female and one male rabbit along with sufficient cages, 200 kg of fodder, and a veterinary kit. Training was provided to all beneficiaries.A survey, four months after beneficiaries received their rabbits and equipment, found immediate and positive impacts of the rabbit raising intervention:
- Nearly all (97.6%) of rabbit beneficiaries had consumed, sold or donated an average of 21 kg of rabbit meat a month, equivalent to a value of 534 ILS (approx $140 USD) per month.
- The beneficiaries reported that the number of rabbits had trebled in the first four months and households had an average of 36 rabbits to continue rabbit rearing.
- Overall, 71.4% of the beneficiaries had reduced their level of debt, and 52% of beneficiaries stated that they were able to avoid crisis sales of household assets.
An Oxfam evaluation during the first phase of the programme found that prospects of sustainability were relatively high, due to a strong sense of ownership of assets provided, a good level of knowledge and skills among the beneficiaries, relatively low maintenance and operational cost and commitment by implementing partners to provide follow-up services1. A more recent Oxfam evaluation finalised in January 20137 found that two years after the initial support, 50% of rabbit kits that were distributed were still in operation. A profitability analysis conducted by the evaluation team on a small sample of beneficiaries estimated that the return from the rabbit kit would be about 1,978 ILS ($520 USD) in the first year, and 3,940 ILS ($1036 USD) and 4,559 ILS ($1899 USD) in the subsequent years. Oxfam are planning to conduct an Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis (EMMA) focusing on risk and viability in October 2013. This will be followed by some market research in December 2013.
Key successes include:
- Successful livelihood diversification
- Dietary improvement
- Increased sense of dignity
- Sustainable and profitable project design
- Improved household recognition of the economic potential of women
- Accessible for a wide range of people, as it is home based, and does not require hard physical labour.
The January 2013 evaluation recommends carrying out further investigation of cost effectiveness, fodder and market links, as well as household sustainability of the intervention. This issue is going to be pursued to support the design of a ‘closing the gap’ programme for increased household sustainability. There will be an EMMA assessment of this market as a first step to identify risks and opportunities, followed by a more traditional market research component.
1The Voucher Programme in the Gaza Strip, Mid Term Review, by Pantaleo Creti, Commissioned by WFP and Oxfam GB
2Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
3Review of voucher assistance as a safety-net modality in the Gaza Strip. Ben Mountfield, September 2012
4In Gaza, refugees fall within the UNRWA mandate, whilst non-refugees are targeted by WFP.
5United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees
6A mechanism to channel EU and international assistance as a contribution to the building of the Palestinian State.
7Small scape livestock production support in Gaza. Brief study of impacts, costs-effectiveness and sustainability. January 2013. Ruth McCormack, Oxfam. Available on request (see contacts at end of the article).
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Reference this page
Elena Qleibo, Ena’am Abu Nada, Wassem Mushtaha, Julie Campbell (2013). Cash voucher programme and rabbit raising intervention in Gaza. Field Exchange 46: Special focus on urban food security & nutrition, September 2013. p10. www.ennonline.net/fex/46/cash