Evaluating a Cash Transfer program in reducing poverty in female-headed households in Nganunu Village, Zimbabwe
Fadiji, Grace Tsitsi
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Most female-headed households are in general impoverished in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. This situation has worsened over the years due to sharp economic challenges experienced by these households. Much of the lack for economic means is concentrated in rural communities where food insecurity and poverty have become an impediment to development. Although a lot of developmental programmes have been initiated and implemented in sub-Saharan Africa, women have been affected by historical patriarchal injustices through culture and tradition that dominate, oppress and exploit them. Furthermore, the socio-economic and political crises in Zimbabwe have resulted in extreme poverty and the female-headed families are no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated poverty and food insecurity in rural households. This sudden shock was not anticipated and many governments failed to sustain livelihoods for smallholder farmers who relied solely on farming activities and selling farm produce. As the state support taking place and rolled back amidst the COVID-19 crisis, non-governmental organisations assisted vulnerable communities through interventions such as the cash transfer program to help alleviate ultra-poverty. However, there is lack of empirical evidence with respect to the effectiveness and impact of such interventions targeting female-headed households in rural areas. This study sought to evaluate a Cash Transfer program in reducing ultra-poverty in female-headed households in Nganunu Village, Zimbabwe. The feminisation of poverty and the social protection frameworks were used in this study to help understand the role of the cash transfer in addressing poverty among female-headed households in this study. A qualitative approach was used to evaluate the experiences of female-headed households in the Adventist Development Relief Agency cash transfer Program. Seven in-depth interviews with beneficiaries and Key informants and 3 focus group discussions with 5 participants were conducted and these participants were purposively selected. These techniques were used to gain insights on the experiences of the female-headed households in Nganunu village. Data was analysed through thematic content analysis and presented in themes. The participants helped to reveal that despite the political, health and economic crises experienced in Zimbabwe, the cash transfer program was effective in cushioning ultra-poverty in most female headed households against the above mentioned crises. Some of the key achievements of the programme include increased household income, increasing agricultural productivity and food security and quality of life for female-headed households. The program also capacitated women to control their resources and make decisions that can empower their households to attain sustainable rural livelihoods through social cohesion. Some of the shortcomings of the program included; lack of manpower, inadequate cash benefits to purchase agricultural inputs, conditions placed on the cash transfer benefits and cultural norms deterring some households to attain sustainable rural farming systems. The key lessons learnt from this study are that intersectoral collaborations between state and non-state actors are important for more effective programs that cushion absolute poverty in marginalised regions. Financial literacy training for the targeted beneficiaries would also empower women to utilise resources sustainably and thus help reduce dependency on donor programs and men. The transition from silo programs to the integration of economic empowerment programs for female headed households such as the cash transfer program and the savings and lending associations might also result more sustainable livelihoods and improved income for women. In addition, the inclusion of cash transfer programs into policy programming would also ensure the roll out of inclusive and gender-sensitive interventions that would help improve local resilience by women and other vulnerable sections of the society against socio-economic and political shocks.
- Humanities