Pastoralist Community Initiative and Development Assistance (PACIDA) and other humanitarian agencies within Marsabit County are using cash transfer interventions, as an alternative or a complement to food aid. With funding from Plan International, PACIDA is running a four-month cash transfer programme in Moyale Sub-county of Marsabit County targeting 500 Households in Walda, Rawan, Sololo Makutano and Dambala Fachana. The programme aims at increasing the purchasing power of drought-affected people to enable them meet their minimum needs for food and non-food items. Giving people money is therefore the most obvious and simple way of providing assistance in emergencies. Cash transfer is seen to often meet people’s needs more quickly than commodity distribution, because they reduce the logistics involved and help stimulate the local economy.

Moreover, cash transfers are more dignified than in-kind or commodity distributions as they give drought-affected populations the option of spending according to their own priorities.
Tuesday 18th July 2017 in Walda village, I meet an old fine-looking 83-year old lady, Ms.Sake Halake. Her contagious smile is one that makes my heart literally melt. As I walk into the compound, Ms.Sake feels my presence and asks in the Borana language, “Enu kan?” A translation to mean who is there. In the meantime, I am distracted by the loud noises emanating from all around the compound. I reckon that these could be her grand children. I get a little curious and I ask her, “Ms. Sake, is this how jolly your grand-children are usually?” “Not quiet,” she responds. “You see today, my daughter in law tells me all beneficiaries are receiving their second tranche of cash from PACIDA. All my fourteen grand-children are aware of this and this is definitely their source of ecstasy,” she adds with a chortle on her face.

Ms.Sake makes me aware that her family had a huge herd of livestock (camels, sheep, goats, cows) just before the 2017 ravaging drought set in. However, as soon as the drought aggravated, ¾ of her livestock succumbed and their source of livelihoods was destroyed. “In here, I live with my son, his wife and fourteen children. So it meant a huge burden was placed on my son for fending for the seventeen of us, where he had to do lots of casual jobs to meet our daily needs. There are no camels to milk, no shoats to sell to substitute with the little money he’s getting from his casual work and life has been devastating. This cash transfer assistance came right on time and am glad to have been targeted, more so because I am a blind woman” says Ms.Sake. In the overall programming of PACIDA, accountability and inclusion of the minority group of the population is critical. Ms. Sake says as a person living with disability, she has often felt left out in most interventions that take place around her village but is grateful that as a vulnerable and disabled person, she is now receiving cash assistance.

As a trustee, Ms.Diko Molu is grateful that the money they are receiving has a significant impact to her family. But she is fast to acknowledge that it is not sufficient to alleviate the suffering of her entire family. Nevertheless, she is appreciative that for the next four-months, her family is guaranteed to have at least one meal per day for five days from not having no meal most days. From the disbursements, Ms. Diko was and will be able to buy small quantities of rice, maize flour and powdered milk. “The first disbursement came in at a time when our two daughters had been sent out of secondary school due to lack of school fees, we gave each of them 500/= to take to school, that is the great thing about cash transfer. It gives us choices: to buy goods and seek services according to our own priorities, to meet immediate needs, and to invest in future livelihood assets. Also, when cash is used to buy food, we can buy familiar foods that they like in our context unlike food distribution,” says Ms. Dido with a lot of conviction in her voice.

Cash transfer is most preferred by most beneficiaries in the project locations as it gives households a greater degree of choice and permits them to spend money according to their own priorities. Also, the strategy is cheaper and faster to distribute than alternatives such as food distribution. Additionally, offering cash maintains people’s dignity, by giving them choice as the delivery mechanisms do not treat them as passive recipients of relief. Cash transfer is also seen to boost local economic recovery. At the initiation of cash grants, PACIDA actively promotes the targeting of women to be at the center of an intervention. As such, the status of marginalized groups in the community like women is improved as they are empowered enough to have financial independence and make independent family choices.
“The fact that we are receiving money through our mobile phones is very convenient. As long as you are in the list, you are certain you will get your share. In the past, during food distribution, the responsible people to the undeserving populations could divert food, I congratulate PACIDA for this great idea,” says Ms. Diko with a sigh or relief.

Ms.Sake asks me to lean forward as she has a word for me and am obliged. “Before you bid us goodbye my grand-child, let me whisper a word in your ear, I wish the four-month period could be extended to one year, it would be great also if you could increase the money and maybe double it up, as am sure my daughter could start a business that will be sustainable enough. Otherwise, I am very indebted for this key intervention and I am humbled that I am a beneficiary, she says while holding my chin. So far, there are few lessons we can derive from the two disbursements already conducted. Soliciting people’s participation in the selection of beneficiaries promotes understanding and ownership, greater transparency and relevance. There is also need for an organisation to have enough technical capacity to ensure effectiveness and efficiency of the programme. Additionally, commitment and buy-in from local administration is crucial for the success of the program and finally monitoring and evaluation plays a vital role to improve future cash transfer programmes