Assets for Alimentation? The Nutritional Impact of Assets-based Programming in Niger

A recent strand of aid programming aims to develop household assets by removing the stresses associated with meeting basic nutritional needs. In this paper, we posit that such programmes can also boost nutrition in recipient households by encouraging further investment in diet. To test this hypothesis, we study the World Food Programme’s “Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO)” in Niger, a conflict-affected, low income country with a high share of malnourishment. Under PRRO, a household could be in one of three groups at endline: receiving food aid to prevent malnutrition, receiving both preventive food aid and food for assets assistance, or receiving no assistance (the control group). When provided only by itself, the food aid has no nutritional impact, relative to receiving no assistance. However, we observe pronounced positive effects when preventive food aid is paired with assets-based programming, over and above what stems from greater household assets. We conclude, first, that certain forms of food aid function well in complex, insecure environments; second, that assets-based programmes deliver positive nutritional spillovers; and, third, that there are theoretical grounds to believe that asset-based programmes interact positively with more nutrition-focussed programming.