If designed the right way, social protection schemes such as cash transfers, public works and school feeding programmes have enormous potential for reducing poverty as well as for enhancing food and nutrition security for the ultra-poor in most settings! ― This was the message conveyed at a seminar at the Eschborn office of GIZ, on 7 July 2016.
Benjamin Davis, leader of the ‘Strategic Programme on Reducing Rural Poverty’ at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) provided the evidence. With examples from FAO´s project ‘From Protection to Production’ (PtoP) – mainly from sub-Saharan Africa - he illustrated the impacts of social protection on livelihoods, the long-term effects on improved human capital as well as on nutritional and health status. Social transfers relaxed constraints that were brought about by market failures, leading to increases in production and investment, both on-farm and off-farm. Households found it easier to manage risks because of strengthened social networks and informal insurance mechanisms, which were their first line of defence when dealing with shocks.
Social protection programmes also boosted demand for locally made goods and services, as Davis pointed out, stimulating spill-over effects in the local community. “Social protection deals with access and it deals with risk, but to address malnutrition it requires additional nutrition-specific complementary measures. In order to address poverty and food security in the long term, it requires agricultural programmes AND social services to relax structural constraints.” As the economy developed, it was also important not to forget the rural non-farm economy. “Ultimately, eliminating poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition requires a long term, predictable package of social protection and complementary measures,” Davis said.
Seminar participants from GIZ presented the results of a joint work stream and learning missions to Malawi, Cambodia and Ethiopia, commissioned by BMZ. They looked into international experiences with programming and implementing social protection approaches with a special focus on nutrition. They identified capacity building as one important element to support the actual strategies to intensify effective linkages with other relevant sectors and services such as health, WASH, agriculture and credit. The emphasis of such a support would focus on soft skills like staff and knowledge management, joint learning methods, extension practices and leadership.