Improving the resilience of vulnerable families in Mali and Mauritania

Improving the resilience of vulnerable families in Mali and Mauritania


Millions of vulnerable families living across the Sahel are exposed to recurrent shocks, exacerbated by climate change, which undermine their fragile food security and nutrition situation.

To inform the design of shock-responsive social protection systems that address widespread vulnerabilities, FAO developed a package of cash and livelihoods support for families in Mali and Mauritania. The majority of the families were headed by women. Families received either multiple unconditional cash transfers or a combination of goats, animal feed and cash, known as cash+. They were trained on good livestock breeding practices and human nutrition.

Rigorous impact evaluation conducted one year after the intervention shows that the income of all participating families increased
(by 22 percent on average in Mauritania) while food insecurity decreased (by 11 percent in Mauritania and 5 percent in Mali). Use of negative coping mechanisms, like the sale of land, child labour and begging, reduced. In addition, a significant number of women in both countries have engaged in income-generating activities.

Families that received cash+ support saw greater benefits than those receiving just cash. Their food security improved, as they were able to meet their families’ needs while diversifying their livelihoods. Women’s and young children’s dietary diversity increased in both groups. Significant improvements were also noticed in practices that benefit household health and nutrition, including hand washing before preparing food and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.

Recent FAO studies analysed how this cash+ package could be scaled up at a national level in both countries to support government social protection efforts.