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Month: August 2017

August 25, 2017 (links edition #23)

Let’s start with a weekly wave of cash transfer papers: using qualitative data from six African countries, Fisher et al document that a small but predictable flow of cash improves livelihood choices and stimulates productive investments, including through beneficiary entry into risk-sharing arrangements and networks for economic collaboration. An untold story from Colombia: Pena et al show that the initial phases of the Familias CCT program helped with the demobilization of combatants. A short case study by Care summarizes the positive results from an OPM evaluation of a humanitarian cash transfer scheme in Zimbabwe. A meta-analysis by Taeffe et al found positive impacts of cash on health, HIV and education (particularly of CCTs over UCTs), and pointed out that most evidence is around the use of social service as opposed to final health or education outcomes. Similarly, a paper by Groot et al concludes that evidence on the impact of cash transfers on food security, health and care is positive, but effects on children malnutrition are mixed.

More on nutrition: how could the Indian state of Maharashtra reduce, between 2006 and 2012, stunting rates from 39% to 24%? A paper shows that lots of factors were at play, such as the way evidence helped catalyze political responses; the particular governance structures employed in response (the State’s ‘Nutrition Mission’); and the focus of resources on high-burden areas. The ‘cost of inaction’ is the cost that society pays for not undertaking evidence-based nutrition interventions: an IDB study estimates that such cost is more than 10% of GDP in Madagascar and Tanzania, and about 3% of GDP in DRC and Nigeria. In India, where stunting is at 45%, the cost of inaction is twice of current government health spending. Following last week’s paper on Mozambique, additional evidence, this time from Ethiopia, shows that prenatal exposure to seasonal food scarcity reduces child height. A paper on tax simulations on unhealthy foods in Chile completes the nutrition compilation. Bonus: a paper sets out a typology of perspectives on the coordination of multisectoral nutrition in Mozambique.

My colleagues Leite, George, Sun, Jones and Lindert have unveiled a detailed, comprehensive paper on social registries, inclusive of guidance and tools. A must read.

A paper by Breitkreuz and colleagues used qualitative methods to estimate the effects of the NREGA public works program on select castes, tribes and gender in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha (in found overall mild effects, with some small but significant shifts in labor relations). Another article on Andhra Pradesh, instead, seems to point to more mixed results for underprivileged communities. Talking of gender, an article by Gaillard et al reviews a set of case studies from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Samoa and argues for significantly more gender-sensitive disaster risk reduction approaches.

The IDS Bulletin has a new special issue on the links between humanitarian policy and climate change. It’s really juicy, with a lot of stuff on conceptual issues as well as country and intervention-specific considerations — see in particular the social protection article by Costella et al.). Also, the journal Disasters is hosting an event in mid-September to reflect on the past 40 years of policy and practice around shocks. Another climate piece: Nagoda and Nightingale are quite critical of participatory processes in Nepal’s climate change adaptation policies, including for failing to reach the most marginalized. Since Nepal was mentioned, an op-ed instead proudly lists the significant headways made in social protection in the country.

A fresh set of publications on resilience and fragility matters. Back in December, we shared the link to a WFP-OPM shock responsive social protection lit review for the LAC region. Now country case studies are being published, starting with Ecuador. An article simulates the impact of various food price shocks on vulnerable groups in Sahelian West Africa (impacts range between 8-15% reduction in calorie consumption). An interesting ODI paper on policy issues and assistance practices affecting about 260,000 Central African refugees in Cameroon. On a different type of mobility, a paper by Barrett and colleagues unbundles a range of issues around pastoralists populations in southern Ethiopia. For instance, based on GPS-tracking of cattle movement and pastoralist tacit knowledge, the study found highly diverse mobility patterns and resource-use strategies even within a single study region.

Why poor farmers don’t buy more crop insurance, or none at all? Low trust in the insurer, poor quality insurance, costs, and unfamiliarity with the product all play a role. But a paper by Casaburi and Willis argues that, based on three RCTs, changing timing of the premium payments makes all the difference, that is, when farmers pay at harvest instead of before it, take up rates of insurance is massively larger, i.e., a staggering 75% vs 5% in the ex-ante payment.

A novel set of materials on governance, revenues, and institutional arrangements: a critical article in ISQ argues that international development has been approaching local institutions in the wrong way – basically focusing on short-term outputs instead of outcomes. Another paper illustrates how terrorism negatively affected governance in 53 African countries for the period 1998–2012. In the US, MDRC sets out options for reinvigorating a key safety net program, TANF, including relaxing some central provisions (on work requirements) while tightening some others (on states’ cash uses). A new IMF report provides a rich set of information on key measures for revenue administration, with a special focus on tax administration. Finally, is donor fragmentation always bad thing? Apparently not: in a thought-provoking paper, Gahrig et al show that in some sectors—such as primary education—donor concentration or limiting donor numbers appear to be detrimental rather than beneficial for development outcomes.

More evidence on the impact of technology in Africa: Kanyam et al show that mobile phones penetration has been a powerful tool for reducing corruption in the continent. Teacher and absenteeism is among the key reasons for challenging service delivery: in Uganda, a program sent SMS updates regarding confirmed attendance of clinic staff. Quasi-experimental methods showed that messages led to an increase in clinic attendance, the receipt of medicine, and reduced the duration of illness for young children aged six and below.

Some measurement and methods papers. Ravallion and Chen are back with a new poverty paper unveiling a set of ‘welfare-consistent measures’. These are basically sandwiched between absolute lines (lower bound) and weakly-relative lines (upper bound). Based on such intermediate measures, low and middle income countries have higher poverty numbers, but are faster in reducing them (i.e., between 0.7 and 1 percentage point/year, which would basically eliminate $1.9/day poverty by 2025). Christian and Barrett have a working paper presenting a detailed methodological rebuttal of the controversial findings of a 2014 AER paper by Nunn and Qian, that is, that US food aid causes the increase in the duration of conflicts (see here). A paper estimates food insecurity in LAC using FAO’s Food Insecurity Experience Scale

A couple of handy IPC one-pagers conclude this week’s edition: one on how the Saudi social protection vision has benefited from global literature, while the other on the implications from tighter fiscal policy in Brazil (btw, another paper argues that Brazil’s approach to social protection hasn’t focused much on quality of interventions as opposed to a rich set of complementary services to CCTs).