Shenggen Fan is director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, DC.
Rajul Pandya-Lorch is head of IFPRI’s 2020 Vision Initiative and chief of staff in the Director General’s Office
Qualitative evidence on conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs generally points to positive impacts on womens empowerment, although quantitative research findings are more heterogenous. CCT programs produce mixed results on long-term nutritional status, and very limited evidence exists of their impacts on micronutrient status. The little evidence available on unconditional cash transters (UCT) indicates mixed impacts on womens empowerment and positive impacts on nutrition; however, recent reviews comparing CCT and UCT programs have found little difference in terms of their effects on stunting and they have found that conditionality is less important than other factors, such as access to healthcare and child age and sex. Evidence of cash transfer program impacts depending on the gender of the transfer recipient or on the conditionality is also mixed, although CCTs with non-health conditionalities seem to have negative impacts on nutritional status. The impacts of programs based on the gender of the transfer recipient show mixed results, but almost no experimental evidence exists of testing gender-differentiated impacts of a single program.
Agricultural interventionsspecifically home gardening and dairy projectsshow mixed impacts on womens empowerment measures such as time, workload, and control over income; but they demonstrate very little impact on nutrition. Implementation modalities are shown to determine differential impacts in terms of empowerment and nutrition outcomes. With regard to the impact of microfinance on womens empowerment, evidence is also mixed, although more recent reviews do not find any impact on womens empowerment. The impact of microfinance on nutritional status is mixed, with no evidence of impact on micronutrient status. Across all three types of programs (cash transfer programs, agricultural interventions, and microfinance programs), very little evidence exists on pathways of impact, and evidence is often biased toward a particular region.
The paper ends with a discussion of the findings and remaining evidence gaps and an outline of recommendations for research.