Field Exchange Nov 1999: Food aid targeting in Ethiopia

Originally published
Summary of published paper

Based on data from a nationally representative survey of 4166 farm households by the Grain Market Research project in June 1996, a recent study* examined the efficiency of food aid targeting in rural Ethiopia. Targeting was defined as 'restricting the coverage of an intervention to those who are perceived to be most at risk in order to maximise the benefit of the intervention whilst minimising the cost'. A key finding was that there was not a significant association between household food insecurity (defined as food availability of less than 1680 kcals per capita per day) and food aid receipts delivered during the 1995/6 emergency programme (either free food or food for work). Household food security was defined on the basis of household food availability (e.g. own production, anticipated purchases, food exchanges received etc, ). Four factors were found to contribute to 'targeting error':

i) The primary beneficiaries of food aid were households at the extremes in terms of food availability, e.g. those with the least and those with the most food available. This pattern seemed to hold across numerous regions of the country.

ii) A large number of female and aged heads of households received food aid, irrespective of their food needs. The food security strategy and the beneficiary selection criteria used by several key NGOs involved in the distribution of food aid favour female and aged heads of households. However, the study found households headed by women and those over 60 years were no less food secure than those headed by men or younger farmers.

iii) An inability of the food aid system to reach households outside the historically deficit areas. The strongest determinant of food aid receipt was the number of years in the past that households received food aid. This was largely because years of food aid reflect the progressive build-up of the institutional capacity in the food aid delivery system over time, i.e. personnel, contacts and knowledge of the area, offices, trucks and institutional reputation.

iv) There was a disproportionately large concentration of food aid in the region of Tigray regardless of household food needs. There may have been several reasons for this:

Tigray is historically a food deficit area and therefore has had a significant investment in institutional capacity.
Tigray has large numbers of community based development projects and public work programmes that are implemented as food for work activities. Many food secure households benefit from these programmes.
The authors of the study also suggested that just as there may be pressures at the community level to direct the flow of food aid to non-needy households, regional biases may be the result of political influences and other pressures on the food aid delivery system.

A number of conclusions were drawn from this study:

i) There needs to be greater flexibility in food aid delivery systems so that food shortages in other areas of the country with less infrastructure and institutional mechanisms can be addressed.

ii) Area targeting at woreda (sub-district) level should be more emphasised. Efficient area targeting has a greater likelihood of reaching vulnerable households (possibly at lower cost) than does household level targeting. \

iii) The guidelines and criteria used for identifying the most vulnerable households need to be re-assessed. The current focus on women and the elderly is not an effective way to target food insecure households. Indicators that reflect household food availability per adult equivalent may help improve targeting efficiencies.

iv) Ways need to be found to assist local level food aid administrators resist pressures and incentives to distribute food aid to the more food secure households.

References *Food Aid Targeting in Ethiopia; A Study of who needs it and who gets it. Clay D., Molla D. and Habtewold D. (1999). Food Policy 24 pp391-409.