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No Lean Season — Impact Brief


Globally, approximately 795 million people are food insecure, of which about 600 million are rural poor. Half of these people, about 300 million, are estimated to suffer from seasonal hunger. No Lean Season was a programme that sought to increase food consumption and income of poor rural households by offering small travel subsidies (grants or no-interest loans) to low-income agricultural workers, enabling them to migrate during the period of the year when the demand for agricultural wage labour falls and prices rise in rural areas.

Use of GIF Funds

GIF’s funding supported three sets of activities of the No Lean Season programme:

  1. rigorous testing at scale in Bangladesh;
  2. piloting of the programme and rigorous testing at small scale in Indonesia;
  3. associated global strategy and management costs.

GIF’s grant of $2,571,210 was used to cover approximately 50% of the total costs of these activities through mid-2019. It complemented yearly funding provided by Good Ventures.


Scale up the implementation in Bangladesh to disburse at least 30,000 travel subsidies by end-2017, working toward 90,000 subsidies conditional on positive results from a large scale randomized controlled trial and build a viable operating model for delivering the programme in Indonesia.

  1. In Bangladesh, attempt disbursement of at least 30,000 travel subsidies by end-2017 and develop sufficient capacity to disburse at least 90,000 travel subsidies if results of the RCT are positive.
  2. Evaluate the impact of the programme in Bangladesh on income and consumption and generate lessons on impact of programme at scale.
  3. Build a viable operating model for delivering the programme in Indonesia and pilot the disbursement of travel subsidies to at least 1,000 people.
  4. Evaluate the impact of the pilot programme in Indonesia on income and consumption and generate lessons on the applicability of the programme to that context.
  5. Develop Global Strategy to explore the best possible model for scaling-up and long-term funding

Impact to Date

The programme was supported by a series of randomised control trials (RCTs) carried out in Bangladesh between 2008 and 2014 that have demonstrated persistent impact on the take-up of seasonal migration for employment and welfare gains for families at risk of famine. This included an increase in caloric intake of 550-700 calories per person per day and an increase in consumption and expenditure of 30-35% per person per month. The impact of the programme was partly self-sustaining, as re-migration rates of targeted households remained higher in subsequent years even in the absence of additional incentives.

However, the 2017 RCT found that the programme did not have the desired impact on inducing migration. The findings of this RCT and some hypothesis on the reasons for the lack of impact on migration are discussed in this blog post from Evidence Action.  The programme was terminated in 2019, and this decision is described in this blog post from Evidence Action.