We are happy support UNICEF in evaluating the Building Resilience through Social Transfers for Nutrition Security (BReST) program and in delivering an external and independent insight into the project performance, recommendations for future programs and policy discussion around social protection, in The Gambia. The field activities evaluated (cash transfers, advocacy and Infant and Youth Child feeding practices education components) were implemented between August 2016 and October 2019 in three regions of the Gambia (North Bank Region, Upper River Region, and Central River Region).
Although The Gambia has made significant strides in the last decade, such as infant mortality declining from 81 to 34 deaths per 1000 live births and under five mortality declined from 109 to 54 deaths per 1000 live births (MICS 2010 & DHS 2013), overall social conditions have remained poor. The Gambia remains one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with per capita income of roughly US$473 and almost half (48.6%) of the population estimated to be poor. In most sectors (health, education, employment, etc.), the situation has worsened in the last decades. The country was ranked in 2016 as one of the poorest (HDI 2016: 173 out of 188).
In addition, significant disparities prevail in terms of poverty between urban and rural areas. Indeed, poverty remains a rural phenomenon: between 2010 and 2015, the poverty rate decreased in urban areas and increased in rural areas. Income poverty is particularly high among households headed by subsistence farmers and low-skilled workers. This context is compounded by the fact that agriculture remains a key economic sector in The Gambia. Although the contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP has decreased from 28% to 20% in the last decade, the sector employs about 65% of the country’s labor force.
In a context of high population growth, agricultural production is limited, and The Gambia relies heavily on imports of staple foods. Food energy availability barely covers the energy needs of the population and 30% of the population is undernourished, a proportion that has increased in the last decade. Low agricultural production, recurring droughts and poverty contribute to the food insecurity of the population. These factors contribute greatly to the problem of under-nutrition in The Gambia, a core target of the National Development Plan.
In the above described context, BReST, funded by the European Union, is expected to contribute to maternal and child health and nutrition by improving the status of lactating mothers and children under the age of 2 years old. Beyond the goal of reducing acute malnutrition levels by 10%, the program aims to improve the nutritional practices of target populations. BreST program is also an important step towards the set-up of a broader framework, in particular that of the National National Social Protection Policy (NSPP) (2015-2025) aimed at achieving better integration between social protection programs.
The analysis informing the BReST end of project evaluation uses of the following four approaches: (i) the equity-based and human-rights approach, (ii) the life cycle approach, (iii) the economic approach, and (iv) the participatory approach.This methodological proposal will consider the OECD-DAC evaluation protocol. The latter is based on five program evaluation criteria (Relevance, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Impact and Sustainability). The analysis is based on a mixed methods approach to gather the information necessary to the evaluation of the prevailing children and women situation targeted by the Social Transfer Programme.