African Risk Capacity (ARC) is a pioneering initiative working with African Governments to transform climate risk management across Sub-Saharan Africa. ARC sets standards for disaster risk management by providing early warning systems, contingency planning and climate finance across the continent. It aims to improve the predictability and speed at which responses to natural disasters are implemented, through proactive risk management. Participating African Governments pay premiums to receive pay-outs for early responses for pre-agreed contingency plans.
In 2017, Start Network and the World Food Programme sought to expand this approach through the ARC Replica programme, using the same African Risk View (ARV) model and response thresholds selected by the governments with which they partnered. The Start Network initially implemented ARC-Replica in Senegal. The objectives were to further expand the coverage of ARC while giving the opportunities to test new financing tools for civil society (especially insurance), and ultimately the uptake of ARC.
In November 2019, a drought was detected through the ARV model, triggering the first pay-out from ARC to a non-Governmental entity, and the largest ever early action investment received by civil society. The Start Network received $10.6m, replicating the $12.5m received by the Government of Senegal. ARC Replica assistance was then provided across communities in seven regions, by six Start Network member agencies: Action Contre La Faim (ACF), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Oxfam, Plan International (PI), Save the Children (SCI) and World Vision (WV). They provided unconditional cash transfers, fortified flour and carried out awareness-raising around hygiene and nutrition, between April and September 2020. This took place in the context of the COVID-19 out-break in Senegal, which caused significant and unexpected difficulties both for implementing agencies and the communities with whom they work.
This evaluation reviews the impact of this pay-out to the Start Network members who received the funding on the communities who were reached through the programme. A mixed-method approach was taken, including data collection from implementing agencies, Government stakeholders and three rounds of randomised, representative telephone-based surveys from recipient communities. As coverage of the assistance was high, it was not possible to survey a control group. Instead, surveys were conducted in June, July and August, to look at changes in the recipient community over time, the full sample size combining the three months was 2,555.
In Senegal, the lean season is typically from June to August, though some households participating in in-depth interviews reported entering lean season as early as March. Drought conditions can lead to significant hardship, especially during the lean season. This includes reduced access to quality food, temporary migration and debt, which force vulnerable households to engage in negative coping strategies such as skipping meals, selling productive assets, or removing children from schools.
The ARC-Replica pay-out implementation was scheduled to happen in three phases between March and Septem-ber, coinciding with run-up to lean season. During this time, households are usually storing grain, taking out loans or buying food on credit, market gardening or selling small ruminants, to ready themselves for the season ahead.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic added significant complexity. Distributions were slightly delayed due to a country-wide travel ban, resulting in an implementation period of April – September, after Start Network members had obtained authorisations from the Government. At the household level, reductions in remittances, combined with movement restrictions and market closures meant that households experienced increased vulnerability earlier.
The Senegal seasonal calendar, combined with household survey data showing March and April as the popular months to receive support for the lean season, suggests that the original project start of March was appropriately timed. With needs occurring earlier and the project starting later, the key project impact was helping families manage their existing food insecurity, rather than just supporting preparedness measures for an impeding drought period.
The findings provide some evidence that the intervention successfully limited possible harm caused by the drought conditions, by supporting families to maintain access to food and reduce some negative coping strategies. This was despite the additional vulnerability created by the COVID-19 induced crisis. Further effects are difficult to ascertain, due to the overlapping of other forms of assistance and lack of control group.