The World Food Programme (WFP) has introduced electronic cash transfers in the Kakuma refugee camps.
The cash transfers dubbed ‘bamba chakula’ or “get your food” in Sheng, a Swahili-based slang will replace part of the monthly food ration that the refugees receive each month.
Bamba chakula is a form of ‘restricted cash transfer’ which is sent through a mobile phone and can only be redeemed for food.
“We are introducing electronic cash transfers in a refugee camp for the first time ever in Kenya,” said Julia Vasconcelos, the head of WFP’s office in Kakuma.
He added that the programme will improve the lives of the refugees. It gives mothers power to decide what their family will eat and can buy food of their choice from the market.
The cash transfers using mobile phones allows refugees to more choices and control over what they eat.
As the initiative starts, WFP is giving 100 Kenyan shillings (about US$1) per person every month.
In the first round of distribution, which took place end of August and beginning of September, bamba chakula contributed about US$137,000 into the Kakuma market.
Over time, WFP will reduce the amount of in-kind food assistance and increase the cash transfers, while allowing the market time to adjust to the new demand.
Refugees often sell part of their food rations to meet other needs and unfortunately receive very low prices for the food they sell.
“Sometimes the refugees sell a tin of maize (roughly two kilos) for as little as 20 shillings (about US$0.20),” said Mohammed Guyo, one of the traders in Kakuma camp. “A kilo of sorghum goes for as little as five shillings.” The market prices of maize and sorghum are much higher than this.
With bamba chakula the refugees are receiving the full value of their entitlement, and no longer bearing the difference in the market rates between selling and buying.
Bamba chakula also enables refugees to keep money safe on their mobile phones.