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Targeted interventions that sustainably improve the lives of the poor will be a critical component in eliminating extreme poverty by 2030. The poorest households tend to be physically and socially isolated and face disadvantages across multiple dimensions, which makes moving out of extreme poverty challenging and costly. This paper compares the cost-effectiveness of three strands of anti-poverty social protection interventions by reviewing 30 livelihood development programs, 11 lump-sum unconditional cash transfers, and seven graduation programs. All the selected graduation initiatives focused on the extreme poor, while the livelihood development and cash transfer programs targeted a broader set of beneficiaries. Impacts on annual household consumption (or on income when consumption data were not available) per dollar spent were used to benchmark cost-effectiveness across programs. Among all 48 programs reviewed, lump-sum cash transfers were found to have the highest benefit-cost ratio, though there are very few lump-sum cash transfer programs that serve the extreme poor or measure long-term impacts. Livelihood programs that targeted the extreme poor had much lower benefit-cost ratios. Graduation programs are more cost-effective than the livelihood programs that targeted the extreme poor and measured long-term impacts (i.e., at least one year after end of interventions). More evidence is needed, especially on long-term impacts of lump-sum cash transfers to the extreme poor, to make better comparisons among the three types of programs for sustainable reduction of extreme poverty.

Type:
Report
Date:
December 13, 2016
English

Background: The recent global climate agreement in Paris aims to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while fostering sustainable development, and establishes an international trading mechanism to meet this goal. Currently, carbon offset program implementers are allowed to collect their own monitoring data to determine the number of carbon credits to be awarded.

Objectives: We summarize reasons for mandating independent monitoring of greenhouse gas emission reduction projects. In support of our policy recommendations, we describe a case study of a program designed to earn carbon credits by distributing almost one million drinking water filters in rural Kenya to avert the use of fuel for boiling water. We compare results from an assessment conducted by our research team in the program area among households with pregnant women or caregivers in rural villages with low piped water access with the reported program monitoring data and discuss the implications.

Discussion: Our assessment in Kenya found lower household water filter usage levels than the internal program monitoring reported estimates used to determine carbon credits; we found 19% (N=4041) of households reported filter usage 2-3 years after filter distribution compared to the program stated usage rate of 81% (N=14988) 2.7 years after filter distribution. Although carbon financing could be a financially sustainable approach to scale up water treatment and improve health in low-income settings, these results suggest program effectiveness will remain uncertain in the absence of requiring monitoring data be collected by third-party organizations.

Conclusion: Independent monitoring should be a key requirement for carbon credit verification in future international carbon trading mechanisms to ensure programs achieve benefits in line with sustainable development goals.

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Published Paper
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September 16, 2016
English

We evaluated a program to improve literacy instruction on the Kenyan coast using training workshops, semiscripted lesson plans, and weekly text-message support for teachers to understand its impact on students’ literacy outcomes and on the classroom practices leading to those outcomes. The evaluation ran from the beginning of Grade 1 to the end of Grade 2 in 51 government primary schools chosen at random, with 50 schools acting as controls. The intervention had an impact on classroom practices with effect sizes from 0.57 to 1.15. There was more instruction with written text and more focus on letters and sounds. There was a positive impact on three of four primary measures of children’s literacy after two years, with effect sizes up to 0.64, and school dropout reduced from 5.3% to 2.1%. This approach to literacy instruction is sustainable, and affordable and a similar approach has subsequently been adopted nationally in Kenya.

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Published Paper
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August 11, 2016
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Initial access to school is nearly universal in Kenya, but many children who enroll drop out before completing primary school. In this mixed-methods study, we use quantitative data from a randomized control trial involving 2666 upper primary-grade students, as well as qualitative data from interviews with 41 schoolchildren, dropouts, and parents, to examine dropout. Poorer baseline performance on literacy and numeracy assessments predicted a higher risk of dropout. Interviews revealed that children are the primary decision-makers rather than parents. Together, these findings suggest that school quality interventions may be an effective means of reducing primary school dropout in this region.

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Published Paper
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July 06, 2016
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The new handwashing system, designed with end user input, features an economical foaming soap dispenser and a hygienic, water-efficient tap for use in household and institutional settings that lack reliable access to piped water. Cost of the soap and water needed for use is less than US$0.10 per 100 handwash uses, compared with US$0.20–$0.44 for conventional handwashing stations used in Kenya.

Using an interactive and iterative design approach involving representative end users, we created a new handwashing system in Kisumu, Kenya, to make handwashing convenient and economical in areas without reliable piped water. The innovative and adaptable system, branded as Povu Poa (“Cool Foam” in Kiswahili), integrates a cost-effective foaming soap dispenser with a hygienic, water-frugal water tap in a secure and affordable design.

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Published Paper
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May 13, 2016
English

Individuals across the world use high-transaction-cost savings devices, even when lower-cost technologies are available. High costs may help savers protect resources from the demands of others. I investigate this hypothesis by randomly assigning ATM cards to 1,100 newly-opened bank accounts in rural Kenya. These cards reduced withdrawal fees by 50 percent. While the cards increased overall account use, the positive treatment effect is entirely driven by joint and male-owned accounts. I also find that individuals with low levels of household bargaining power save less when accounts have ATM cards, while individuals with high levels of household bargaining power save more.

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Working Paper
Date:
April 14, 2016

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