Cash Aid Feeds Business Surge in Northern Kenya
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
When the government of Kenya began giving cash instead of food aid to poor people in Kenya’s drought-stricken northern region, the aim was to help them buy food more efficiently and conveniently.
But the cash-transfer programme has had an unexpected effect: Most of the recipients of the cash have used it to start small businesses, which they see as the best way of adapting to increasingly tough climatic conditions.
“We expected them to buy food, given the emergency situation. But investing the money into businesses shows how very little resources can be used to build resilience among very poor communities,” said Evelyn Nadio, manager of the Hunger Safety Net Programme(HSNP), which provides the cash aid under Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority.
The parched, acacia scrub regions receiving the help – including Kenya’s Mandera, Turkana, Marsabit and Wajir counties – had seen huge losses of livestock as a result of drought. Many herders had lost nearly all their animals, which had been their main source of income.
Today, however, eight years after the programme began, other businesses have sprung up.
At Katiko Market in Turkana Central, Akuom Idieya Katurong’ot, a widowed mother of seven, runs a retail shop and a goat slaughterhouse. She also rents a set of small kiosks built from iron sheeting. Money from the cash-transfer programme helped pay for all the new infrastructure.