Re-engineering food aid in Zimbabwe through vouchers
Since 2003, John Snow International (JSI) Europe, with support
from DFID, has been implementing an urban food aid programme in
Zimbabwe through NGOs that provide home-based care (HBC) and
support to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and other
highly vulnerable groups.
In March 2005, JSI Europe, Crown Agents and Action Aid Interna-
tional piloted the use of food vouchers, purchased from a local
supermarket chain (OK Zimbabwe), for 400 vulnerable households
in urban Harare. In July, 400 households in Bulawayo were added
to the programme. Plans to scale-up the programme are underway.
Instead of distributing food items, food vouchers are ordered
for specific commodities, such as maize meal, cooking oil,
pulses, peanut butter, and soap. Each voucher is marked with a
unique voucher number, shopping dates and a list of the commodi-
ties that are to be "purchased." NGOs then distribute the vouch-
ers to eligible households, which collect their food from the
supermarket during the designated 'shopping' period.
To date, the food vouchers have yielded several benefits:
* Food Basket Flexibility: The voucher allows for flexibility in
changing the items and quantities in the food basket without
significantly changing the monetary value of the voucher. When
one item is not available, the vouchers can be easily changed to
* Cost Savings: The distribution of vouchers is significantly
less expensive than physical delivery of food rations to benefi-
ciaries, as there are no transport, storage and handling costs.
* Psychosocial benefits: The beneficiaries - most of who are
chronically ill or caring for orphans - are enjoying their shop-
ping days at the OK branches. When asked how she felt coming to
"OK" for her food, one elderly grandmother replied, "This is
good, we are now also able to shop."
Risks have primarily focused on availability of food items.
Shortages of commodities in the market have at times resulted in
OK keeping stocks specifically for the programme. There is con-
cern that the lack of commodities for other shoppers could re-
sult in resentment at HIV affected households. The implementing
team is therefore exploring ways to overcome stock outs at the
Finally, the implementing team is researching and documenting
the appropriateness of vouchers that are linked to specific com-
modities vs. open vouchers or cash transfers. We would be grate-
ful to hear from others who are engaged in similar activities.
Please share your experiences with:
Shampa Nath <Snath@jsieurope.org>
Knowledge Management Advisor
John Snow International - Europe
66 South Lambeth Road
Vauxhall, London, SW8 1RL