Layering Cash into Market Systems Programs: Catalyzing market-driven recovery in Nigeria
This paper examines the case of the Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity (RRA), a five-year, US$49 million Activity funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future portfolio within the states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Gombe (BAY-G) in North Eastern Nigeria (NEN) and implemented by a consortium led by Mercy Corps, in partnership with Save the Children International and the International Fertilizer Development Center. The Activity aims to sustainably move people out of chronic vulnerability and poverty in conflict-affected areas by expanding economic opportunities and strengthening resilience capacities throughout local systems, at household, community, and market levels. As a long-term market systems development (MSD) program that launched a humanitarian response to COVID-19 led by unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) to 47,387 farmers, 5,560 local MSMEs, and 85 key intermediary actors, RRA offers a rare opportunity to examine the impact UCTs can have on MSD programming, in particular whether UCTs are an appropriate modality for an MSD program to pivot from market facilitation to direct implementation, what the impact was on the existing programming aims and operations, and whether the cash transfer activity distorted the markets the program was supporting. RRA also offers valuable learning for development programs considering how to best help households respond to shocks in ways that support – rather than undermine – the resilience of local market systems. As the COVID-19 response activity was implemented in collaboration with nine other programs, six of which were FTF Activities, this case also illustrates the impact of cross-program and cross-organizational collaboration.