Based on GDLive, literature, and understanding of extreme poverty livelihoods in some areas of GiveDirectly operations, it can be estimated that the majority of GiveDirectly beneficiaries uses charcoal and unclean burning practices. In addition, some burn wood to make charcoal to generate income. This can be unsustainable and significantly contribute to disease burden. There is no indication that beneficiaries buy a clean-burning stove or change their charcoal business.

Thus, would it be beneficial to label one of the smaller ($27) cash transfers as 'to invest into a clean burning stove to prevent health problems and to gain information on environmentally sustainable businesses?'

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Harrison Durland

Mar 11, 2022


Just to clarify, are you suggesting that the cash transfers be restricted to use on investment in a clean burning stove? If so, my next questions would be

  1. How serious are the negative health effects vs. the cost of purchasing a cleaner stove?
  2. Has anyone tried to inform the recipients of these health effects and simply suggest investing into a cleaner stove?

No, not restricted, just the use would be recommended - without a follow-up or monitoring: "labeled cash transfer (LCT), in which funds are indicated, or “labeled,” for a specific purpose, but the conditions are not enforced" (IPA).

1. Moderate respiratory problems have a 0.225 (0.153-0.31) disability weight, while mild respiratory problems have 0.019 (0.011-0.033) weight, according to IHME. Apparently, more than 4m people die due to unclean cooking, which is more than malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis combined. Apparently, unclean cooking is 4th leading cause... (read more)

Harrison Durland
I now see what you’re saying about labeling vs. mandating. That’s an important distinction which I suspect not many people were aware of when reading this post.


Mar 17, 2022


I think this is a decent idea given a small reframe. Rather than thinking of it as earmarking the cash for a specific purpose, treating it like an unenforced restriction, instead think of the cash transfers as having an opportunity to provide information attached, and try to provide good information. Ie, instead of "this cash transfer is for X", say "this cash transfer comes with a small pamphlet with several purchase ideas X,Y,Z". This framing is more cooperative, and fails more gracefully if the recommendations are bad.


oooh! yes, there are all the options you can invest, if you get this you get bunch of great preventive healthcare, or this! - you see clean air further healthcare - what about fortified flour - mmm micronutrients - education for a child - would have probably thought of that already but sit with them to study makes a difference - chlorine for clean water is a great deal - oh a bednet - travel to a clinic - would have thought about it but maybe a list of times when that can be an especially great idea - etc (ok got the idea)

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I also made this mistake a few days ago, as the site was telling me there was some kind of error when I tried posting.

Hey Harrison, sorry to hear that. Do you by chance happen to remember what the error was? Or any more information I can use to investigate what happened here?

I can't remember all the details (it was about 10 days ago), but it was something like whenever I tried publishing a draft of the question, it gave me an error message saying something about "cannot read properties of undefined", and did not give an indication that I had posted the message. I can't remember what I did to stop getting that error message, but eventually I was able to post it without a problem, and so I cheerily went to the home page—only to panic when I saw my question had been posted ~5 times.

My sample size is only n=2, but I'll note that my post and this post were both question posts rather than normal posts, so perhaps that is part of the issue? IDK