here.) How were the families chosen? This is the tricky part. Beneficiaries were selected in a participatory manner by a group of village representatives which included the village head, a mass organisation representative member and a villager. This group qualitatively ranked households one by one, using the criteria ‘poor’, ‘near-poor’/’average’ or ‘better-off’. From a total of 846 households in the Commune’s eight villages, 550 were selected. The list was deliberated over in a village meeting, and villagers were able to comment and in some cases information was verified via an investigation. What happened? Initial reviews 6 months, a year and 18 months after the money was handed out found:
- Improvements in peoples food security had occurred, particularly given that the cash transfer came at a time of food insecurity for the poorest households
- Drop out rates at schools had declined
- Concerns over the occurrence of conflict during beneficiary selection and the impacts on community solidarity
- The sudden injection of VND6.5 million to 422 households (the rest got about half that much as they weren’t so poor) that have an average monthly per capita income of VND179,834 is significant. To one person the amount given represented three years’ wages in one transaction. The money made significant impacts on people’s lives, reducing the number of poor households whilst boosting their productive assets – many invested in cows.
- Impressive results recorded include improved community infrastructure, new opportunities for the youth and unemployed, increased community/social activities, increased female participation, improved respect for the law and general improvements in people’s state of mind in regards to a reduction in the stress and worry they experienced.
- Prior to the project’s involvement, the poverty rate was falling at 5% a year. Following the injection of cash transfers it witnessed a 20% decrease, from 65.1% in 2006 to a 2008 rate of 40.2%. The commune committee attributed this decrease directly to the cash transfers.
- Women’s involvement in the project, through the countersigning of all cash withdrawals, had a significant impact on gender equity. The investment choices made meant that women reported fewer financial worries and stress, giving them time to participate in different areas of community life, such as community meetings, village sports and cultural activities. This in turn led to increased confidence in interacting with others, speaking out and raising their opinions, particularly in village level meetings. This was all facilitated by the building of a community house, providing a new space for participation. Women reported that men’s responsibility towards the household had improved due to improved economic stability – “Men only drink one glass of rice wine instead of two now!” said one woman.