Household and economy-wide impacts of a public works programme in Ethiopia

For close to three decades, Ethiopia has been plagued by severe food shortages. Until the early 2000s, Ethiopia’s response to food insecurity primarily involved providing emergency food aid. While the emergency aid helped save lives, it did not increase people’s resilience or help avert food shortages. In 2005, the government launched the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) to help chronically poor rural populations create assets and become food self-sufficient. A component of the country’s Food Security Programme, the PSNP is reaching close to eight million people (10 per cent of the population) living in the woredas that are chronically food insecure. This reach makes it one of the largest public works programmes in Africa.

The programme uses a combination of administrative and community-based approaches to identify beneficiary households.

Historical administrative data is used to identify food-insecure woredas. Communities then play a crucial role in identifying food-insecure households and in updating the beneficiary list annually, based on locally identified criteria.

This brief draws on the findings from two impact evaluations that together assess PSNP holistically, exploring impacts both at the beneficiary household level and economy-wide impacts at the local and national level.

The International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) supported researchers from the International Food Policy Research Institute, the Ethiopian Development Research Institute and Cornell University as part of its effort to build a body of evidence around social protection initiatives.