Do Safety Net Transfers Improve Household Diets and Reduce Undernutrition? Evidence from Rural Ethiopia

An estimated 31.6 million people in Ethiopia are undernourished indicating a serious food shortage problem in the country. Ethiopia’s food production is extremely vulnerable to adverse weather conditions as the economy is dependent upon rain-fed agriculture. With about 80% of the country’s population residing in rural areas and depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, recurrent drought has hit the country hard, with food security and agricultural production severely affected. This lack of food security is linked to another serious problem the country faces: child malnutrition. To address the food gap and child malnutrition problems, policies that aim to improve household food security in the country are essential. In 2005, the Ethiopian government and a consortium of donors introduced a large-scale social safety net program called the Food Security Program (FSP). The cornerstone of the FSP is the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), which aims to provide a long-term solution to the country’s chronically food insecure households by offering multi-annual transfers of cash, food, or a combination of both to break the cycle of food aid. This study examines whether the PSNP has had any impact on household dietary diversity and child nutrition among participating households.