Social protection, particularly in the form of cash transfer programmes, are being implemented to mitigate poverty in Africa. Cash transfer programming involves providing cash or vouchers to beneficiaries instead of in-kind aid, such as clothes or food (CARE Programmes, 2017). Evidence shows that most cash transfer programmes have positive impacts on their beneficiaries (Asfaw et al., 2014; Daidone et al., 2015).

While cash transfer programmes are designed to protect the effect of poverty on the poor, there is growing evidence that cash transfers can help in building resilience to climate change.  This is achieved by increasing human capital, facilitating changes in economic activities by decreasing liquidity constraints, improving natural resource management, and building local economics (Asfaw et al., 2016).

Climate change in Africa

The African continent is considered to be the most vulnerable to climate change, and it is the poor who face the greatest risks when extreme climate events occur (Niang et al., 2014; Rose, 2015). For example, during flooding, poor households lack resources to migrate safely. Furthermore, climate related shocks can drive people further into poverty, forcing them to rely on negative coping strategies such as selling their property, withdrawing their children out of school, and decreasing their nutritional intake to unhealthy levels (Ziegler, 2016).

Consequently, “there is a growing consensus about the importance of integrating climate risk considerations within the planning and design of new social protection programmes, which can both prevent poor and vulnerable households from falling deeper into poverty and contribute to long-term adaptation to climate change” (Asfaw et al., 2017, p. 3). Shock and risk adaptive social protection strategies should implemented in areas prone to the impacts of climate change (Ziegler, 2016). If devised properly, social protection can assist people in coping with the negative impacts of extreme climate events, particularly in Africa (Ziegler, 2016).

Cash transfer programmes in Africa

African governments and international development partners have been designing and implementing cash transfer programmes to help the poor and vulnerable.

Some examples of the cash transfer programmes in Africa, include: 

Country                                        Cash Transfer Programme

Ghana                                            Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP)

Ethiopia                                         Tigray Minimum Social Protection Package  

Kenya                                            Cash Transfers for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CT-OVC)

Lesotho                                         Child Grant Programme (CGP)

Malawi                                          Social Cash Transfer (SCT)

Nigeria                                          Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT)

Zambia                                          Child Grant Programme (CGP)

Zimbabwe                                     Social Cash Transfer (SCT)

Tanzania                                       Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF)


Extreme weather events in Africa

African countries are more vulnerable to climate change on account of their reliance on agricultural production, coupled with poor financial, technical and institutional capacity to adapt (Rose, 2015). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that temperatures across Africa will rise by 2 – 60C within the next 100 years (Hulme et al., 2001). This will result in extreme weather events on the African continent. Common climate events in Africa that affect infrastructure, health, food and water supply, ecosystems, and displace populations, include: flooding, drought, soil degradation, desertification, and landslides.

Assessing the evidence

Cash transfers in Africa are mostly designed for the poor, and are designed to elevate them above the national poverty line and reduce their vulnerability to risks and shocks. Empirical evidence has revealed that cash transfers also benefit those affected by climate events. For instance, in the study ‘The dynamics of vulnerability: locating coping strategies’ (Eriksen, Brown, & Kelly, 2005), a positive correlation was found in Kenya and Tanzania between the ability of people who were affected by a climate event to draw on extra sources of income with the ability to withstand droughts.

Similarly, in Zimbabwe, a CARE International internal evaluation found that cash transfers in targeted areas substantially improved security, nutrition and the ability to cope with shocks (CARE Programmes, 2017). Alongside these impressive results, Oxford Policy Management (OPM), performed an external evaluation of the Zimbabwean cash transfer programme and found that the cash transfer was a significant source of household income, especially in the lean period (CARE Programmes, 2017).

In Zambia, Lawlor et al. (2015) examined if cash transfers allow households facing climate and other negative shocks to avoid negative coping strategies that lead to a poverty trap. Using a randomised roll-out of the Zambian Child Grant Programme, and 2,515 households to estimate the impact, they found that in the event of shocks, cash increased the resilience of poor households. Giving credence to these findings, Asfaw et al. (2016) also show significant evidence that cash transfers in Zambia have mitigated the negative impacts of climate events. This evidence reveals that cash transfers are an impactful policy option for promoting climate-resilient development.

Integrating social protection and climate change adaptation

Climate change will certainly have negative effects on rural and urban populations in developing countries (Kuriakose et al., 2012). The poor will be especially vulnerable to these effects, as they have a low capacity for response and adaptation (Kuriakose et al., 2012). The IPCC report (2014) declares that:

“Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps (p. 20) …”.  

This highlights the need to incorporate social protection policies and programmes, namely cash transfers, into climate change adaption (Wood, 2011). The World Bank (2013) stresses the importance of cash transfers for promoting risk management and coping strategies in the context of climate change. Climate change is increasingly emerging as an integral concern globally and there is an urgency for African countries to develop a policy and programme response. Devising  social protection policies and programmes that cater to climate related shock and crises can improve the resilience of all and decrease the vulnerability of the poor to the effects of climate change (Ziegler, 2016).



Asfaw, S., Carraro, A., Davis, B., Handa, S., & Seidenfeld, D. (2016). Cash Transfer Programmes for Managing Climate Risk: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Zambia. In 2016 AAAE Fifth International Conference, September 23-26, 2016, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE).

Asfaw, S., Carraro, A., Davis, B., Handa, S., & Seidenfeld, D. (2017). Cash transfer programmes, weather shocks and household welfare: evidence from a randomised experiment in Zambia. Journal of Development Effectiveness, 1–24.

Asfaw, S., Davis, B., Dewbre, J., Handa, S., & Winters, P. (2014). Cash transfer programme, productive activities and labour supply: Evidence from randomized experiment in Kenya. The Journal of Development Studies, 50(8), 1172–1196. Accessible:

CARE Programmes (2017). Adaptable and effective: Cash in the face of multi-dimensional crisis Lessons from Zimbabwe. CARE International.

Daidone, S., Pellerano, L., Handa, S., & Davis, B. (2015). Is Graduation from Social Safety Nets Possible? Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa. IDS Bulletin, 46(2), 93–102.

Eriksen, S. H., Brown, K., & Kelly, P. M. (2005). The dynamics of vulnerability: locating coping strategies in Kenya and Tanzania. Geographical Journal, 171(4), 287–305.

Hulme, M., Doherty, R., Ngara, T., New, M., & Lister, D. (2001). African climate change: 1900-2100. Climate Research, 17(2), 145–168. Accessible:

IPCC. (2014). Summary for policymakers. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Cambridge University Press: New York.

Kuriakose, A. T., Heltberg, R., Wiseman, W., Costella, C., Cipryk, R., & Cornelius, S. (2012). Climate-Responsive Social Protection. World Bank.

Lawlor, K., Handa, S., Seidenfeld, D., & Zambia Cash Transfer Evaluation Team. (2015). Cash Transfers and Climate-resilient Development Evidence from Zambia’s Child Grant Programme. Innocenti Working Paper No.2015-03, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence.

Niang, I., Ruppel, O., Abdrabo, M., Essel, A., Lennard, C., Padgham, J., & Urquhart, P. (2014). Africa. In: Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Accessible:

Rose, R. M. (2015). The Impact of Climate Change on Human Security in the Sahel Region of Africa. Donnish Journal of African Studies and Development, 1(2), 9–14.

Wood, R. G. (2011). Is there a role for cash transfers in climate change adaptation? International Conference: “Social Protection for Social Justice” Institute of Development Studies, UK. Accessible:

World Bank. (2013). World Development Report 2014: Risk and Opportunity - Managing Risk for Development. The World Bank. Accessible:

Ziegler, S. (2016). Adaptive Social Protection – linking social protection and climate change adaptation. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Programme implementation
  • Programme design
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Environment
  • Resilience
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not's