East Africa Food Crisis

Cash programmes in Turkana

website report

This article relates to an OXFAM project administered from Britain. Although the distribution of cash is in general difficult to administer (and audit) as it is subject to abuse, here are some documented instances where the funds really have been put to good use. It shows that the enlightened distribution of cash should not be written off as impossible to manage and ensure that the benefit goes directly to the general public.

Eleven million people across East Africa are facing a serious food crisis. Water remains scarce and food prices are rising in the face of people's worsening poverty. Animals have died in huge numbers, and people are becoming destitute. Both emergency aid and longer-term solutions are urgently needed.

During an emergency it's common to hear about food relief and other non-cash distributions. Giving people money is probably less well-known. So what can cash do for people? What do they spend it on? Does it make a difference?

Oxfam's Jane Beesley travelled to Turkana in Kenya, and met some of the people involved in Oxfam's cash programmes in the area.

Oxfam's cash programmes have been funded through DfID, Oxfam Ireland and DCI, and Oxfam GB.

Here are some of the people who have been helped, and their story -

Kevina Esinyan Kevina Esinyan
Kevina is working on a community programme protecting a water source. She's a single parent with five children. They are currently living with a relative.

"Firstly, I've been able to replace what a husband used to provide. Secondly, at least I am able to provide and have some livestock and have something for the children, like uniforms for them to go to school. I'm now like any woman who has a husband who can provide.

"As a woman by myself without these programmes it would have been very difficult. I'm now building a home. It feels good because I'll have a place to call home."

Moses Ewoi Moses Ewoi
Moses is a single parent with three children. He has joined up with two friends to start a shop with the money they have earned through cash programmes.

"I'm committed to keeping the shop going because it will backup the livestock. I can sell foodstuff and I can use some to feed the children. If you kill a goat you will subtract from the main herd ..... so if you have ten you'll be left with nine. If I remove some food from this bag I still have the rest to sell. You can't divide a goat.

"I'd continue with the shop because people would come here because it cuts distances. They might take their goats far away to sell but won't have to struggle carrying things back if they can buy them here."

Helen Akale Helen Akale
Helen has used the money to start a shop. She is responsible for 16 other family members.

"I've used 7,500 KSH this year to stock this shop. These are rare commodities in the area so I'm hoping that because they are rare they'll sell. I'm doing this business not to be prosperous but to keep the family going. Part of the money [from the programmes] paid for this structure.

"Part of [the money] paid for my husband to go back to college but it only paid for some of it so I'm hoping to make enough money for him to go back and complete college. He was studying to be a teacher and got half way. If he finished college that would mean a guaranteed job for him, guaranteed food for the family and me. It also means coming off relief food, not being a burden and not being on the relief register. That would mean I wouldn't be poor."

Akiru Ekwon Akiru Ekwon
Akiru started a small stall with her cash grant.

"The shop is providing for school uniforms. The profits also help with food and paying for health services.

"Don't you see how happy I am? I'm breaking away from men being the only ones to have business, and other women can also start to have businesses. In fact, I'm now being admired by men who'd like their wives to do the same.

"There's a big change here. We didn't know money and now a few of us are getting used to it. The way we barter for goods has changed. Before we didn't understand the value of our things, our goods, but now we know and can bargain."

Jacinta Jacinta
Jacinta is a widow with eight children. With the money she's received from the cash programme she has set up a small stall.

"This business has taken the place of the goats and so the small profit acts like milk for the children. I feel a change from my former life when I only stayed at home, fetched water and begged from friends. I was an expert in charcoal and thatching, but I no longer have to do that because I have this business."

Would you prefer to work for cash or food?

"I would go for cash as it gives me a choice. My choice. I could buy food, shoes, school uniforms, clothes unlike the restriction of food, where I have no choice."

Epuu Ile Epuu Ile
Epuu is working on making traditional attire for women and girls.

"[I chose this activity because] it promotes our culture ..... the beadwork, we didn't have access to this attire before and it gives us respect from the rest of the community. Also it's a way of restocking ..... camels or goats ...... animals I've not had before. I'm really going to feel good because I'm going to have a kraal (livestock) that I've never had.

"I'll have to be patient so that when I see that the season is going to be good I can sell to rich people who don't have this attire, and buy livestock. It will make people see that I am a rich woman and I will be counted amongst the few in the community who has something."

Asekon Asekon
Asekon is part of a thatching group in Lokitaung.

Why did you choose thatching?

"We wanted to do something business-like, and because we had the skills ..... It was a good project because it gave me access to money and I've never had money before. As soon as I had money I started to feel more secure than when I had livestock. It's a very good feeling."


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