27. Cash

The use of cash-based interventions (CBI) has seen a considerable expansion within humanitarian responses at large, as well as CARE’s work in emergencies.  CBI is a tool that can be used to deliver outcomes within different sectors, including Food and Nutrition Security, agricultural livelihoods, WASH, Shelter and SRH. CBI can also take the form of multi-purpose cash assistance, which can produce outcomes across different sectors.


Cash Based Interventions Using cash grants or vouchers as economic assistance to enable households or individuals to meet identified needs (e.g. – food and non-food items, shelter, services, or assets). CBI is not a sector in itself, it is a means to an end and it can be used in early recovery or development responses. A primary difference between CBI and in-kind programming is that the beneficiaries are able to obtain goods and/or services directly from the local market and service providers. Within other agencies, CBI are sometimes refer to as Cash Transfer Programming (CTP).

Restricted Cash grants are restricted when CARE or its partners limit the way the cash should be spent by the beneficiaries. Common conditions include requiring the money to be spent on: food, educational expenses (e.g. school fees, school uniforms, etc.), shelter materials, inputs, assets or works. Vouchers are restricted by nature.

Conditional Cash grants or vouchers are conditional when CARE or its partners are implementing the transfer only after recipients have performed some task or activity as a condition of receiving the transfer. Common conditional conditions include: performing some work (e.g. public works, creation of community assets), undergoing some form of training, enrolling children in school or having them vaccinated.

Multi purpose and multi sector CBI Multi-purpose and multi-sector cash based interventions are those which address needs across the sectors and clusters by which relief operations are traditionally organized. Multi-sector programmes address more than one sector in the intervention. The programme is designed to create specific, simultaneous impacts in the sectors involved. In multi-sector programmes, M&E and expenditure are monitored by sector to ensure sectoral impacts are felt.

Cash For Work This is a form of conditional cash grant that requires beneficiaries to fulfil the condition to `work’. Cash for work is different from employment generation because the primary purpose of cash for work is to transfer income/resource to people and `work’ is a secondary purpose or a means to achieve the primary purpose. Cash for work can provide dual benefit to the participants:  the cash income and the individual or collective benefit of the work being done.

Cash grant The provision of money to beneficiaries (individuals, households, groups or businesses) to cover one or several of their identified needs. Cash grants can be conditional or unconditional and/or restricted or non-restricted.

Cash transfer modalities Refers to the different types of cash based interventions. These include cash grants (conditional as well as unconditional and contributory as well as not contributory) and vouchers (which could be for a value, service or commodity; or contributory as well as not contributory).

Cash payment mechanism/agent This refers to the financial system used for making payment to beneficiaries e.g. banks, post offices, micro finance institutions, remittance companies, VSLA etc.

Cash delivery instruments These refer to the instrument used for making the actual payment to the beneficiaries e.g. bank cheque/draft, postal order, direct cash, smart card, mobile phone, etc.

E-transfers These are digital transfers of cash or vouchers from the implementing agency to a program participant. E-transfers cover cash grants through mobile phone or SMART card (ATM card, pre-paid card) and access to goods and/or services through electronic vouchers.

Voucher A paper, token or electronic card that can be exchanged for a set quantity or value of goods, denominated either as a value (e.g. $15) or predetermined commodities or services (e.g. 5 kg maize; milling of 5kg of maize). They are redeemable with preselected vendors or in ‘fairs’ created by the agency. The vendors are paid by the contracting agency upon production of these vouchers or evidence of exchange between the trader and beneficiaries.

E-voucher A card or code that is electronically redeemed at a participating distribution point. E-vouchers can represent cash or commodity value and are redeemed using a range of electronic devices.

3.1 CBI Situation Analysis

3.2 Market Analysis

3.3 Gender Analysis

3.4 Partner Capacity Assessment

3.5 Assessment and Selection of Financial Service Providers

Once the preliminary assessment and analysis (Section II above) has been conducted, CARE staff should adhere to the following process in designing a CBI intervention:

  1. Decision on the appropriateness of CBI;
  2. Decision on the CBI modality;
  3. Decision on the grant amount and frequency;
  4. Decision on the payment mechanism.

4.1 Appropriateness of CBI

4.2 CBI Modality

4.3 Grant Amount Frequency

4.4 Payment

Once key decisions about programme design have been made, the following steps should be taken during programme implementation stage:

  1. Contract the payment agent;
  2. Target beneficiaries;
  3. Set up beneficiaries’ registration and identification systems;
  4. Distribute cash and vouchers;
  5. Coordinate with others.

5.1 Contract the Payment Agent

5.2 Target Beneficiaries

5.3 Set up beneficiary registration and identification system

5.4 Distribute cash and vouchers

5.5 Coordinate with others

6.1 Impact, outcome and process monitoring

6.2 Market monitoring

6.3 Feedback and complaint mechanism

  • Ensure Cash for Work is inclusive: When Cash for Work is selected, the type of work being offered to the beneficiaries should allow all groups to access the scheme (including elderly or people living with disability) or provision should be made for a percentage of unconditional grants for the households not able to work.
  • Ensure children headed household have access to assistance. This can especially be the case when banking instruments are considered. When ATM cards or bank accounts are used to deliver the payment, they are often only accessible to the person above 18. In this case alternatives should be found so that children headed household could still be assisted.

When Cash for Work is considered a minimum age should be set to be able to take part in the CfW scheme. This age limit will be context specific but the International Labour Organisation recommends 15 years as the minimum age for Cash for Work. For more information refer to: Save the Children, Child Safeguarding in Cash Transfer Programming.

  • Risk and opportunities of technology and e-transfer. When mobile phone is being considered to deliver the payment, it can increased accountability towards beneficiaries, for example, through an easier direct access to CARE team members. However access to technology can also represent a barrier for some beneficiaries who have a low technical literacy. When technology is being consider to deliver the payment, ensure the beneficiaries can access the transfer and get support to do so in case of need.
  • Engage both men and women in CBI targeting only women. This can be done through information and awareness raising and encourage their participation into design and implementation. Without taking into consideration gender roles and power relations, CBI could potentially increase intra household violence and add an additional burden on women in terms of workload and/or social pressure.
  • Communicate clearly with communities. CBI should accompanied by a robust communication with communities strategy, which should clearly outline the criteria for targeting, why women are the main beneficiaries (if this is the case), and what the expectations are associated with this targeting. CBI are unlikely to be successful when the community does not agree with criteria or processes for beneficiary selection.
  • Monitor women, children, elderly and people living with disabilities well-being. This is done to ensure the CBI is doing them no harm.
Risk Matrix by Remote Cash Project
CARE CBI Decision Tree
Sample SOPs from Mercy Corps

CARE CBI Guidelines

Cash in Emergencies Toolkit by ICRC

Cash Transfer Programming in Urban Emergencies: a Toolkit for Practitioners by CaLP

Cash Transfers in Remote Emergency Programming by Remote Cash Project:

E-Transfer Implementation Guide for Cash Transfer Programming by Mercy Corps: