©Hanna Butler/IFRC

©Hanna Butler/IFRC

This is a guest blog written by Gerard Ferrie, a British Red Cross delegate recently deployed to Namibia. The country is facing its worst drought in 30 years and the Red Cross is supporting the emergency response. Gerard arrived in Namibia at the end of September and was based in the northern town of Opuwo.

What was the purpose of your visit to Namibia?

My job was to look at household economic security – making sure families have a sustainable source of income. Our previous research suggested a cash transfer programme would be possible in Kunene region, with the Namibia Red Cross coordinating activities.

I have been working with the Namibia Red Cross to develop a cash programme to help 2,000 families in three constituencies of Kunene region (Opuwo, Epupa and Sesfontain). The pilot programme is due to run between October and March.


©Gerard Ferrie/British Red Cross

©Gerard Ferrie/British Red Cross

What is a cash transfer programme?

A cash transfer programme is essentially an alternative approach to typical relief, for example food aid. It gives people control over the aid they receive. There are several types of cash programme:

1)      Unconditional cash transfers: cash is provided to an individual to spend on what they choose.

2)      Conditional cash transfers: certain conditions are agreed between the donor and recipient on how to use the money.  

3)      Cash for work: on completion (or part) of an agreed task or work, the individual is paid.

4)      Vouchers: a substitute to cash, often used when agreements are made between shop owners to buy food, tools and seeds for farming or shelter materials. Can be conditional or unconditional. 

Globally, cash-based responses are on the increase as an alternative to in kind relief.

©Hanna Butler/IFRC

©Hanna Butler/IFRC

Namibia is facing its worst drought in 30 years, how will a cash transfer programme help?

The aim of the cash programme is simply to provide a $Nam 300 (£18) monthly cash ‘top-up’ to an estimated 2,000 households.  

The drought has placed an increased burden on vulnerable households. Most people in Kunene are livestock farmers and the lack of rain has lowered the value of their animals.  

It means they have to sell more livestock in order to earn enough money to be able to feed themselves and meet their basic needs.  

The cash top-up will reduce the need for them to sell their livestock and allow them to spend the money how they choose.   

©Gerard Ferrie/British Red Cross

©Gerard Ferrie/British Red Cross

How do you implement a cash transfer programme?

There are several ways to implement a programme.

1.      If using mobile technology, you may contract a service provider, for example M-Pesa in Kenya, who will simply transfer the amount into the accounts of selected households, assuming they have a mobile account and handset. Notification of the transfer is provided by text message and the recipient simply shows this to a registered and authorised M-Pesa vendor and withdraws cash.

2.      Another option is to contract a security company to deliver the cash to agreed distribution points and distribute the cash to registered households.

3.      A final option is for the national society to coordinate distributions. This occurred in Opuwo, with registered households from each of the four selected villages coming to the Namibia Red Cross office in Opuwo to receive their $ Nam 300.

©Hanna Butler/IFRC

©Hanna Butler/IFRC

How and when can you judge if it was a success?

Success can be measured in a variety of ways. For instance, we could make an assessment of the impact of the drought on families and agree a set of measures to see how the cash has improved their lives. 

It could simply be visual, such as seeing households on receipt of the cash going to supermarkets/cereal/agriculture suppliers to purchase essential goods.  

Or we could interview people after distribution of the cash to find out how they chose to use the money. 

This programme in Namibia is a pilot in order to test the system and assess whether the Namibia Red Cross could scale up distributions from its office. The distributions were successful as most of those registered came to receive funds and provided the correct identification.  

What were your personal impressions of Namibia? 

What immediately strikes you when driving in rural Namibia is the vast distances between villages; it is so sparsely populated compared to Malawi, where I live. The geography is largely scrub bush, semi-desert, which has been made worse by the drought. In the north it’s quite mountainous and of course the west coast has the stunning Skelton coast.

©Gerard Ferrie/British Red Cross

©Gerard Ferrie/British Red Cross

The drought has certainly impacted upon vulnerable households in the north, with the farming population most affected. The value of livestock is decreasing, placing further economic strain on the poorer households. 

I found the people relaxed and staff relatively easy to work alongside. Compared to many other countries, Namibia is blessed by a steady economy and an abundance of natural resources.