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Conclusions and Necessary Actions

Targeting effectiveness and programme efficiency should be major concerns for planners and political decision-makers, as well as for society as a whole.

Rationale for targeting

The previous chapters have laid out a rationale for targeting, and pointed out the main technical, social, economic and political considerations involved in various targeting schemes, focusing on targeted food and nutrition programmes. The main rationale for targeting lies in maximizing programme efficiency. A secondary rationale may be found in equity considerations. If targeting is effective and targeting costs are marginal, programme efficiency is enhanced by concentrating programme benefits among the most needy, providing for a higher social return and, possibly, lower social costs compared with those achieved by a non-targeted programme. Improved social equity is another possible outcome because effectively targeted programmes have a redistributive effect; in essence, benefits are concentrated in the target group through programmes that are financed and resourced mostly by non-target groups. The latter may include higher-income groups, who presumably contribute to the tax receipts that fund public food and nutrition programmes (or finance food subsidies); foreign donors that provide food aid; or civil society organizations that implement food and nutrition programmes and projects.

Thus, targeting effectiveness and targeting costs are key in providing a rationale for targeting. Ineffective targeting may result in a targeted programme that is no more efficient than a non-targeted one would have been. Poor or "adverse" targeting, which means that more programme benefits are received by members of the non-target group than by the target group, may result in less programme inefficiency than non-targeting, but such programmes lose their redistributive effect. When targeting costs absorb a large share of programme resources, and thus limit the programme benefits that can be passed on, targeting loses much of its rationale. As some of the examples in the Annex indicate, in a number of countries, targeted food and nutrition programmes absorb considerable national resources. Targeting effectiveness and programme efficiency should therefore be major concerns for planners and political decision-makers, as well as for society as a whole.

Targeting effectiveness

As has been seen, food and nutrition programmes are administratively targeted or self-targeting, or they have components of both. In administratively targeted programmes, targeting is based either on indicators, as for instance with geographic targeting or in school feeding programmes (see Annex), or on a means test. Targeting indicators should relate directly to programme objectives. Eligibility criteria are usually developed on the basis of indicators that define the target group. In self-targeting programmes, the target group is usually more loosely defined, and targeting effectiveness is more difficult to assess.

Inclusion and exclusion errors, or undercoverage and leakage rates, are parameters of targeting effectiveness. When both are high, and thus targeting is ineffective, efforts to improve targeting should focus on reducing the undercoverage rate, as long as the programme budget is not a concern and there is a desire to improve the transfer of programme benefits to those most in need, thereby increasing the social returns of the programme. A programme that is faced with budget cuts is likely to focus more on measures to reduce the leakage rate.

Targeting costs

Targeting costs comprise administrative and information costs. Both of these are borne in varying proportions by the programme and by programme participants and non-participants. Targeting costs borne by the programme reduce its efficiency in delivering programme benefits, while targeting costs borne by programme participants reduce the net benefits received through participation, as they increase participation costs. Administrative targeting costs consist of costs associated with screening and monitoring the eligibility of programme participants. Information costs are the costs incurred by obtaining, processing and analysing data and information in order to define and characterize target groups, and by assessing and monitoring targeting effectiveness. Only those costs directly associated with targeting should be counted; that is, costs that are not incurred when there is no targeting. Information costs will also be incurred in relation to programme development, the monitoring of programme implementation, and the evaluation of programme cost-effectiveness and impact in terms of achieving its objectives and goals.

In many countries, targeted food subsidies or food fortification
programmes for basic food items are implemented to enhance food security and nutrition.

Programmes that are administratively targeted will normally have higher targeting costs than self-targeting programmes. Reducing targeting costs is part of the rationale for implementing a self-targeting modality. As the example from the Chile national school feeding programme demonstrates, administratively targeted programmes can also have low targeting costs. Reducing or keeping undercoverage and leakage rates low will normally raise administrative targeting costs, so a trade-off is to be considered: does the improved allocation of programme benefits warrant the higher administrative targeting costs incurred?

The information costs of targeting basically depend on the following:

Trade-offs also need to be considered
in relation to the selection of targeting indicators: the information provided by the indicators should be relevant and valid, accurate and reliable, timely, technically, socially and culturally accessible, and obtained at low cost. It is practically impossible for a given information strategy to produce targeting indicators that meet all of these criteria.

Healthy, well-nourished people have a higher quality life, and can contribute actively to their families, communities and their countries.

Areas for action

Throughout the previous chapters, and in the Annex, there are references to real experiences with targeted food and nutrition programmes. These, as well as many other examples from around the world, demonstrate that targeting has a number of operational pitfalls and may not always be effective or contribute to programme efficiency. In many cases, however, targeting is shown to be very effective. In a limited number of cases targeting effectiveness is monitored and evaluated, and leads to changes in eligibility criteria. This record of accumulated experience in targeted food and nutrition programmes indicates some broad areas for action that can contribute to improving the targeting effectiveness of targeted food and nutrition programmes in developing countries and to lowering targeting costs, thus improving the programmes' efficiency.


Within the institutions and agencies that develop, implement, administer and monitor food and nutrition programmes, there must be adequate technical capacity to develop, administer and assess targeting schemes. Such agencies are likely to include several government institutions, at both the national and the sub-national levels, as well as civil society organizations. Through staff training at the national and sub-national levels, technical capacity can be created or enhanced in such areas as programme planning and assessment techniques, data and information collection methods, data processing and analysis, and programme monitoring and evaluation methodologies. Supervisory personnel at facilities where targeted programmes are implemented must have the necessary social communications and interpersonal skills to instruct and motivate staff with respect to the application of eligibility and exit rules. Local staff of programmes that rely on community-based targeting must be able to communicate well and sensitively with communities where the programme is to be implemented.


Data and information are key inputs in the development, administration and assessment of targeting schemes. Data and information are needed in order to identify, characterize and monitor target groups (based on targeting indicators and qualitative information), develop and administer eligibility criteria, assess targeting effectiveness, and monitor programme efficiency and impacts. Targeting costs can be significantly reduced when functioning national and sub-national information systems are in place and there is effective sharing of data and information among institutions and agencies. Such information systems normally serve multiple purposes, and programme planners and decision-makers can simply tap into the available data and information when they are designing targeting schemes, including when they are defining and describing target groups.

Primary data do not have to be collected and processed every time a targeted programme is developed and implemented. For example, in many developing countries, efforts are currently under way to establish a food insecurity and vulnerability information and mapping system (FIVIMS) as part of a worldwide, inter-agency initiative. In other countries, similar information systems exist, but are called by another name. Furthermore, in a number of countries that are prone to acute hunger conditions resulting from drought or other natural disasters, and that depend heavily on food aid, the World Food Programme has set up vulnerability assessment and monitoring (VAM) units which monitor food-insecure and vulnerable population groups. Similarly, famine early warning systems (FEWS) monitor food conditions in order to assess food aid needs. Such information systems are well developed in only a few countries and, in others, efforts to strengthen these systems should be supported - they can become valuable sources of data and information for the effective targeting of food and nutrition programmes.


Targeted food and nutrition programmes usually involve various institutions and agencies; for example, a school feeding programme can involve the ministry of education, local health facilities, the agency that coordinates food aid, and/or local agricultural extension services (for school gardens). A self-targeting food subsidy programme can involve the ministry of trade and industry, the ministry of finance, food industry associations and associations of food retailers. A food-for-work programme normally involves the agency that coordinates food aid, the ministry of public works, village associations, and regional or district administrations. Multiple-agency participation normally makes programme implementation, including the development of a targeting scheme, difficult. This is primarily because each agency has its own institutional priorities and its own interpretation of what constitutes the target population and how it should be identified. Unless there is clear consensus among the programme partners about such matters, targeting effectiveness may be negatively affected and targeting costs increased. Thus, it is important for the lead agency to assume the responsibility for consensus building, and for the strengthening of partnerships and communication flows among programme partners, from the very start.


One important determinant of targeting effectiveness is how well members of the target group are informed about their eligibility to participate. If administratively targeted programmes at the community level are not to interfere with community solidarity, all members of the community must be informed, and consent to, the targeting rationale, including the selection criteria for programme participation. In community-based targeting, community leaders must understand the targeting rationale and be open to community participation in selecting beneficiaries. It has been shown that parent participation in school feeding programmes is important and increases the programme's efficiency. When intra-school targeting takes place, parents can assist with the identification of the most needy children.

High levels of consumer awareness and education are fundamental in self-targeting food subsidy or food fortification programmes. This means that considerable efforts should be made to ensure that targeted food and nutrition programmes promote community participation, educate and empower consumers, and mobilize community members as programme partners. Not only will these outcomes have a positive influence on targeting effectiveness, they will also contribute to overall programme efficiency and to sustainable human development in general.

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