There is momentum within the international humanitarian sector to move from a more responsive approach to anticipatory actions. This means planning for disasters by putting response plans and funding in place before the worst impacts materialize.
One such approach is Forecast-based Financing (FbF) or anticipatory action (AA) for severe floods and droughts. FbF enables anticipatory actions for disaster mitigation at the community and government level using credible seasonal and weather forecasts. These forecasts are linked to predetermined contingency plans, actors, and funding instruments used to reduce the humanitarian caseload in the critical window between a forecast and an extreme weather event. The hypothesis is that an anticipatory approach can lead to a more effective and efficient response and can help affected populations to avoid negative coping strategies such as skipping meals, reducing portion size, and eating lower quality food (WFP, 2019). The World Food Programme (WFP) has started to implement innovative programmes to reduce losses and damages in people’s livelihoods who face increasing climate extremes to support countries in the mitigation and management of climate risks.
WFP Nepal has been implementing the Forecast Based Financing (FbF) since 2015 which has enabled the identification of key risks, challenges, and corresponding mitigation/ prevention measures to ensure timely implementation of the proposed anticipatory intervention. The impact evaluation in Nepal focuses on anticipatory action encompassing a range of activities, for example, the preparedness actions at the national and regional level, the distribution of warning messages, as well as direct food assistance to vulnerable households. To specifically investigate the impacts of the important feature of providing cash assistance at 3 different points in time, the impact evaluation will employ a randomized controlled trial (RCT) methodology in the Karnali and Koshi basins.
If both basins activate, villages are randomly allocated to 3 treatment arms, with households on the pre-defined beneficiary list receiving NRS 15,000 (117.9 USD) unconditionally.
Within the group of villages forecast to be flood affected and therefore eligible for transfers, the impact evaluation will randomize the timing and the conditions under which a smaller subset of households receive transfers.
If only one basin activates the FbF programme, the IE will be reduced to 2 treatment arms (removing treatment 2). As of 31 October 2022, there is an activation only in the Karnali basin (West Nepal).
Treatment 1: For households in the “forecast based financing” group, a single transfer of NRS 15,000 ($117.9) will be initiated ca. 1-3 days before the projected flood peak.
Treatment 2: The “expedited post-flood transfer” group will not receive the forecast-based transfer but will receive a transfer of NRS 15,000 ($117.9 dollars) within two weeks following the actual flood peak if their geographical location was indeed flooded.
Treatment 3: The “traditional response transfer” group will not receive the forecast-based transfer but will receive a transfer of at least NRS 15,000 ($117.9) within one -two months of the actual flood peak, the normal timeline in which WFP is normally able to responds to disasters (given the time it requires to get resources, mobilize partners and register beneficiaries).
Given the fact that there are many more beneficiaries than what will be covered by the study, and the fact that it is not clear where the action will be triggered, the trial does not use a baseline. There will be multiple rounds of follow up data collections.
Acknowledging that some years monsoon flooding in Nepal is intense and surpasses the ability of communities to cope, creates widespread humanitarian needs with longer term development consequences. Further, it is often possible to predict severe monsoon flooding events and a targeted anticipatory approach can lead to a more timely, effective, efficient solution to respond to and ultimately reduce humanitarian needs. The goal of the anticipatory action response is a more effective, timely and humanitarian response for beneficiaries in anticipation of severe monsoon flooding in highly vulnerable districts of Nepal. In line with best practice, the pilot combines the pre-agreed components of- forecast and triggers; anticipatory actions, and finance (cash transfers to the beneficiaries). Given the sparse evidence in this domain, the objective of this impact evaluation is to assess the impact of anticipatory action on household resilience and generate the necessary evidence to inform humanitarian response.