The panel discussion on Drought Resilience took place at DIE in Bonn.
Photo: © GIZ / Sebastian Kuhn

Social protection – key to drought resilience?

Social protection instruments have gained popularity among policy responses to drought. At a panel discussion organised by the German Development Institute (DIE) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), experiences from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Malawi were presented that show that regular income transfers allow people to better meet their immediate basic consumption needs and enable them to save in anticipation of future shocks.

“Social Protection – A main Pillar in Drought Resilience?” was the topic of a panel discussion organised by German Development Institute (GDI/DIE) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)in Bonn/Germany on May 31st. It was part of an event series on drought resilience titled “Research meets Development: Drought resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa”.

Social protection instruments have gained popularity among policy responses to drought during the last decade. An increasing number of governments in Sub-Saharan Africa have integrated cash transfers and public works schemes into their strategies for food and nutrition security and disaster risk management. Expectations are high. Social protection is to reach affected populations early, prevent depletion of assets and famine, but also improve post-drought recovery, adaptation and resilience. Against this background, researchers from the English Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI) as well as practitioners from GIZ and Germany’s KfW Entwicklungsbank discussed their experiences and the evidence available from Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi.

Examples from Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi

Encouraging impacts on food security, asset building, reduction of distress sales and resilience were presented from the Ethiopian Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), which covers about eight million chronically food insecure people. Additional effects through public works in the area of soil and water conservation increase the environment’s capacity to absorb shocks. Furthermore, Kenya´s Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) and the Social Cash Transfer Programme in Malawi have shown that regular income transfers allow people to better meet their immediate basic consumption needs and enable them to save in anticipation of future shocks.

PSNP and HSNP have also become important instruments in averting humanitarian disasters. They are co-ordinated with disaster risk management and have mechanisms in place that allow expanding their coverage quickly in the case of an emergency and reaching additional numbers of people. This is cheaper, and the response is far quicker than traditional ways to deliver humanitarian aid and, hence, helps to save lives and livelihoods. However, there are not many existing programmes which are robust enough and have sufficient coverage and capacity to perform this additional function.

Multi-sectoral co-ordination is essential to strengthen households’ capacity

The panel concluded that social protection’s key contribution to resilience is to reduce the negative impact of shocks and to save livelihoods. The panellists also highlighted the fact that building resilience is complex and cannot be achieved by one programme alone. In order to strengthen the adaptive capacity of poor households and to reach long-term resilience, social protection has to be combined with services from other sectors: e.g. livelihood programmes, financial and health services as well as nutrition and hygiene education. Multi-sectoral co-ordination and co-operation are essential elements for success and are a huge challenge in implementation. Practical experiences show that capacity building, integrated task forces at all levels and institutions with the mandate to co-ordinate multi-sectoral co-operation seem to be working well in this respect.

It was also noted that accompanying research and evaluation are important elements for successful programmes. They create space for joint learning, adjustments and re-design, and they help to strengthen accountability. The panellists agreed that support for social protection should focus on long-term institution building in the local context. An emphasis on short-term outcomes is often counterproductive. Also, programmes should not be overloaded but priority should rather be given to the core functions: providing a basic income support in a reliable manner and thus reducing negative impacts of shocks. Political commitment to follow through and to learn and adjust on the way is an essential prerequisite.

Social protection can ensure that a drought doesn´t become a famine

Heike Henn, Head of Division, Food Security and Nutrition, Global Food Policies at BMZ, highlighted the relevance of improved nutrition for resilience building. Social protection is a cornerstone for food and nutrition security and resilience. The potential to improve nutrition security for the poorest is high and should be exploited through adequate additional measures like behaviour communication.

Florian Höllen, Senior Policy Officer for Social Protection in the Division for Health, Population Policy and Social Protection at BMZ, added that “leaving no one behind”, the overarching theme of Agenda 2030, explicitly set its sights on long- and short-term goals: fighting root causes of poverty and malnutrition and supporting those in need of immediate help and unable to wait until the results of long-term strategies kicked in. “Social Protection can make sure that a drought doesn´t become a famine,” Höllen said, and stressed the Ministry’s general support for enhancing social protection and Germany’s Marshall Plan with Africa in particular, which envisages the support of financing and insurance mechanisms.

Elke Kasmann (GIZ Sector Initiative Social Protection) and Annette Roth (GIZ Sector Initiative Agricultural Policy and Food Security) on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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