The effect of cash transfers and household vulnerability on food security in Zimbabwe

We study the impact of the Zimbabwe Harmonized Social Cash Transfer (HSCT) on household food security after 12 months of implementation. We investigate determinants of food security as measured by a well-known food security scale – the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) – and as measured by value of household food consumption composed of own-production, market purchases and gifts received. We find that several dimensions of household vulnerability correlate more strongly with the food security measure than with food consumption. Labor constraints, which is a key vulnerability criterion used by the HSCT to target households, is an important predictor of the food security score but not food consumption, and its effect on food security is even larger during the lean season. Impact analysis shows that the program has had statistically significant impacts on Food Security and Diet Diversity scores but null to low impacts on food consumption. However aggregate food consumption hides dynamic activity taking place within the household where the cash is used to obtain more food from the market and rely less on food received as gifts. The cash in turn gives beneficiaries greater choice in their food basket, which improves diet diversity.