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Cash and voucher programmes

Cash and voucher programmes

FAO’s cash-based interventions are tools to provide resources in the form of cash or vouchers to smallholder farmers who are particularly vulnerable to natural hazards, market volatility, conflict and protracted crises. This contributes to protecting and rehabilitating their livelihoods, increasing agricultural productivity and promoting rural development.

Cash and vouchers play a critical role in response to crises or shocks when farmers and pastoralists no longer have the ability to purchase food or productive inputs because their assets were damaged or depleted. They enable people to identify for themselves what their most pressing needs are and to decide which goods and services they wish to purchase in local markets. While providing relief to farmers, FAO’s cash transfer interventions also help them to protect their livelihoods from future shocks (e.g. the rehabilitation of irrigation canals will reduce the impact of future floods and drought), overcome cash shortages and improve their food security and nutrition. More specifically, cash-based programmes are important for:

  • Dignity. Cash empowers beneficiaries by allowing them to prioritize their needs as they deem appropriate and address them.
  • Accountability and transparency. Cash can be tracked and the provision of vouchers, for instance, reduces risks of misappropriation of funds.
  • Food security. Cash increases household expenditures for food and other basic goods thus improving food security and nutrition.
  • Agricultural productivity. As a result of cash being used to purchase agricultural inputs and to invest in production, productivity is increased.
  • Economic multipliers. The injection of cash in local markets stimulates local economies.
  • Cost efficiency. Compared with in-kind assistance, delivery costs for cash are sharply reduced.
  • Financial inclusion. Providing cash-based assistance facilitates beneficiaries’ access to markets, financial services and payment systems.

FAO’s cash and vouchers projects

Since the first voucher-based project implemented in Mozambique in 2001, FAO has reached over 10 million people (2.5 million households) with cash and voucher programmes in 46 countries. The map below indicates the cash and voucher projects for 2016‒2017:

Types of cash-based programmes

FAO implements a broad variety of cash-based interventions based on the specific objective and context:

  • Cash transfers: conditional or unconditional cash transfers provide poor and vulnerable households with the resources required to maintain a minimum standard of living, address their basic needs and invest in productive activities.
  • Cash+: the provision of cash transfers to beneficiaries is complemented with productive inputs (e.g. seeds, livestock feed, fishing materials), assets (e.g., tools, animals), activities (e.g. home gardens) and/or technical training.
  • Cash for work: beneficiaries are paid in exchange for completion of specific works or activities, including rehabilitation of degraded lands through reforestation, soil and water conservation activities as well as construction and repair of community infrastructures, such as irrigation canals, water catchments and rural roads.
  • Voucher programmes: beneficiaries receive vouchers that can be redeemed for goods and services (e.g. seeds, fertilizers, tools, animal feed, veterinary supplies and services) at selected shops.
  • Input trade fairs: temporary one-day markets where farmers and pastoralists can purchase agricultural inputs and services through the exchange of vouchers.

FAO’s cash-based programmes are implemented to support vulnerable populations, only in cases where (i) local markets are functioning and are physically accessible to both men and women, (ii) basic goods and services are locally available, and (iii) risk of inflation is limited.

Capacity development programme

To ensure the success and continuing technical improvement of its cash-based programmes, in 2014 FAO launched a capacity development programme on cash and vouchers. This now consists of both webinars and face-to-face trainings, covering: (i) the principles of cash and voucher programmes; (ii) managing cash-for-work schemes; (iii) implementing unconditional and conditional cash transfers; (iv) FAO’s approach to cash+; and (v) agricultural voucher schemes and input trade fairs.

In 2017, the capacity development programme benefited 165 FAO staff and partners from 22 countries.


FAO Guidelines for Public Works (cash-, voucher- and food- for- work) and Guidelines for input trade fairs and voucher programmes provide practical guidance to design and implement selected cash-based programmes.

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