Over the past two decades, social safety net programs have become a mainstream policy tool across sub-Saharan Africa to address food insecurity and extreme poverty (Beegle et al., 2018). Since the turn of the millennium, the number of social safety net programs has doubled (Hickey et al., 2018) and today, each country in the region operates at least one major safety net program (Beegle et al., 2018).
There is now strong evidence from a wide variety of contexts showing that these programs can be effectively used to improve food security and increase asset accumulation (Andrews et al., 2018; Hidrobo et al., 2018). Building on this evidence, there is a growing interest in using social safety net programs as a platform to achieve broader objectives over and above food security, including the reduction of poverty and the enhancement of resilience. One such objective relates to graduation: moving households away from long-term support and enabling them to build resilient and self-reliant livelihoods (Sabates-Wheeler et al., 2021). A second objective centers around rendering existing programs nutrition-sensitive by integrating transfers with nutrition and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) training and other interventions to better address the underlying causes of maternal and child malnutrition (Ruel & Alderman, 2013).
Against this backdrop, the second phase of the Strengthen PSNP Institutions and Resilience (SPIR) Resilience Food Security Activity (RFSA) aims to enhance livelihoods, increase resilience to shocks, and improve food security and nutrition for rural households vulnerable to food insecurity in Ethiopia. The RFSA is situated within Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) program, one of the largest safety net programs in Africa. Funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), SPIR II is implemented by World Vision International (lead), CARE, and ORDA in the Amhara and Oromia regions of Ethiopia.
The Implementer-Led Evaluation and Learning (IMPEL) SPIR II impact evaluation employs an experimental design with multiple treatment arms comparing combinations of livelihood and nutrition graduation model programming provided to PSNP beneficiaries relative to a control group receiving only PSNP transfers. The baseline survey for this impact evaluation was conducted in August–September 2022. This baseline report will provide an overview of the evaluation design, the survey conducted, and the key findings. These findings allow us to characterize the sample and verify the balance on observable characteristics across experimental arms.