Tsunami Cash Learning Project - Experience-Sharing Workshop (Tamil Nadu, India)
Lesley Adams, ODI
Geetha Nagarajan, AU & FDC
Tamil Kumar, Tamil Nadu Tsunami Resource Centre
The following summary captures the salient points which emerged during the workshop:
The government of India provided considerable assistance in the form of cash grants to compensate for loss of household members, loss of assets and housing, and to enable people to meet basic needs. However, the meeting focused on NGO responses and it would be useful for agencies in the State to find out more about the governments’ cash transfers - particularly including targeting, transfer modalities in different locations, use of the cash grants, monitoring systems, and special cash assistance programmes - for instance for orphans.
However, because the responsibility for registration and final disbursement of assistance was given to the “traditional” panchayat structure communities who are not formally represented by this structure received inadequate support. Some NGOs have attempted to fill this gap and have targeted marginalized communities for cash for work and cash grant programmes.
Microfinance programmes are varied and the quality is diverse. There are some which do not conform to microfinance standards and this poses a threat to the sustainability and success of microfinance providers in India. The forum provided a useful opportunity for the exchange of information on agency approaches (see Microfinance Group discussion on page 9). More discussion is needed in order to fully explore the differences, and to agree on common standards for microfinance in emergency response. The government’s substantial assistance programme has replaced most of the livelihoods assets lost in the tsunami for targeted households and businesses, which has meant that many NGOs and SHGs have been able to offering loans for additional support in business recovery.
Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are ubiquitous in India. The government has made extensive use of these structures to deliver micro-credit funds to women and other disadvantaged groups and many women reportedly belong to several SHGs. The tsunami response has led to the creation of yet more SHGs and this is a cause for concern as well as confusion. SHGs are financed from government or other donors and NGOs supply capacity building services.
Disbursement methods have included direct disbursement for cash grants and cash for work, and some of the cash relief grants from the government were provided directly in cash. Other forms of assistance (e.g. cash for orphans) were provided through bank accounts, and cash for microfinance was provided by banks, and occasionally by the NGOs working with the Self Help Groups.
Cash was usually provided through groups rather than to individuals. This has advantages for the beneficiary in protecting the cash from moneylenders’ claims for reimbursement of outstanding debt, and from family members who might not “misuse” the cash. Alcohol consumption was mentioned many times.
No NGO used post offices to disburse cash.
Some agencies working with marginalized groups have the objective of achieving recovery in livelihoods to a level which is better than before the tsunami. In these cases the beneficiaries usually plan to engage in new income generating activities. The use of cash grants rather than loans has been important for start-up firms as diversifying income carries a relatively high risk in terms of business success.
Some agencies are promoting the practice of savings through savings schemes described as voluntary or compulsory - but in practice there is no sanction against non-savers.
Monitoring and evaluation is extremely weak and agencies are unlikely to be able to measure the positive benefits or even the failures associated with their interventions, and even less likely to be able to ascribe success or failure to their own actions, to those of others, or to contextual factors beyond their control. A meeting was held on Saturday 11thMarch to brainstorm M&E for cash grants.
Agencies need to improve M&E systems in order to develop their organisations’ capacity to learn from the experience.
Agencies need to think about disaster preparedness in order to ensure that future disaster responses are effective and well designed. An obvious area for work at this stage is identifying how to link grants and microfinance strategically and operationally such that beneficiaries proceed from one to the other, or proceed straight to microfinance, without confusing the potential and current microfinance clients in terms of repayment requirements and policies.
Current gaps were identified and the TNTRC will consider how to take these forward.
A Training of Trainers course, by Foundation for Development Coopeartion (FDC), funded by Citigroup foundation, which aims to improve disaster preparedness among microfinance providers, is taking place in Tamil Nadu in March and will be repeated in June of 2006. Candidates with experience in microfinance services are invited to apply through TNTRC.
The ODI cash learning project will shortly be producing a final report, as well as a set of learning resources to complement those available from organizations such as Oxfam GB. The resources will be posted on the ODI website when they are ready, which should be around May 2006.
Representatives from 29 organizations participated in this workshop reviewing tsunami cash responses in Tamil Nadu.
The workshop provided an overview of the ODI tsunami cash learning project, with participants contributing specific examples of challenges and achievements related to cash transfers in India.