FAO in Kenya

Zero Hunger for 113 Million Africans demands strengthened social protection systems

Alphonse Musyoka, Chairperson of Ngulini Farmers Self Help Group shares their experience to South-South Knowledge Exchange Platform delegates from South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia during the field visit to Machakos. Photo ©FAO/Neema Mutemi.

NairobiFAO South-South Cooperation convenes 14 African countries to exchange on links between social protection, agriculture and resilience.

More than 113 million people across Africa experienced acute hunger requiring urgent food, nutrition and livelihoods assistance in 2018, according to the Global Report on Food Crises. A South-South Cooperation knowledge exchange workshop was organized by FAO and the Government of Kenya, convening 14 countries from Eastern and Southern Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) to discuss best practices and challenges in promoting coherence between social protection, agriculture and resilience.

Social protection has been recognized as a key approach to accelerate progress towards achieving zero hunger by contributing to the economic inclusion of households living in extreme poverty, while contributing to build resilient livelihoods. Countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa have committed to expand the reach and scale of social protection systems in the last decades, showing important innovation and results. 

Among the rich exchange and sharing of experiences among countries, commons themes and lessons emerged. For instance, participants discussed how access to adequate social protection, particularly in rural areas, has shown to increase the economic capacity of households, building their productive potential and overall household resilience to shocks. Moreover, risk informed and shock responsive social protection programmes, when effectively aligned to national early warning and risk management systems can greatly reduce negative impacts coping strategies in the event of shocks and stresses, including selling off productive assets, reducing children’s diets or over exploiting natural resources. Similarly, countries reflected on the importance of strengthening key mechanisms to promote cross sector coordination, as a way to leverage investments across related ministries and maximize the impact of social protection across sectors.

Participants, including government representatives from different ministries, had the opportunity to delve deeper into the policy frameworks, funding mechanisms and implementation complexities of the Kenya National Safety Nets Programme (KNSNP), one of East Africa’s acclaimed flagships, as well as other countries’ national programmes, such as the social protection programmes of Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi and South Africa. Countries commended FAO for the initiative to facilitate this timely South-South Cooperation exchange, while identifying key technical and strategic areas for further support from FAO and partners at country and regional levels.

Dr. Abdi Jama, Coordinator of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Food Security, Nutrition and Resilience Analysis Hub (IFRAH), expressed concerns that the region’s progress towards food security through increased production is undermined by climate shocks, conflict and economic downturns. On the food crisis in 2018, he noted that 12 million people became food insecure due to climate shocks, 9 million due to conflict and 6 million due to economic shock, cumulatively making Eastern Africa the most vulnerable region on the continent with one out of four in need of food aid. Dr. Jama reminded participants that IGAD focuses on regional action to best manage risks and strengthen resilience. In this regard, he underlined that following a resolution by the IGAD Drought Disaster Resilience Initiative (IDDRSI) in Khartoum, November 2014, a regional Social Protection steering committee is under establishment.

Kenya’s Chief Administrative Secretary for the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Hon. Abdul Bahari stated that the “results from several studies assessing the impact of national cash transfer programmes show their contribution to boosting the rapid growth of local economies, while also allowing households to invest in buying livestock and seeds for agricultural enterprises.”

Social Protection as a valuable tool for strengthening resilience and economic inclusion of the poor when linked to agriculture interventions.

Social Protection is a key organizational programme priority for FAO. Ms. Natalia Winder Rossi, Team Leader of FAO’s social protection programme at global level, emphasised the need to ensure adequate reach of social protection for the rural poor and vulnerable, as well as to integrate risk management components in programme design. “Accelerating progress around SDG 1.3 requires a commitment to expanding coverage, but also to make sure these programmes effectively respond to the vulnerabilities and capacity of those living in rural areas, farmers, fisher folk, pastoralists, and others”, adding “evidence is clear showing the economic and productive impacts of social protection, even among the poorest and labour constrained. Evidence coming from this sub-region is also clear in showing that social protection generates multiplier economic effects in the local economy, representing a strategic national investment”.

FAO member states have committed to implementing national social protection systems in an effort to end poverty in all its forms and achieve zero hunger by 2030. In the broader processes of structural, rural and agriculture transformation, FAO’s social protection work has three roles: (1) to provide immediate assistance for poor households through minimum income support; (2) to build inclusive rural and agricultural systems to enhance the productive capacity of the poorest and most marginalised and  (3) to improve the ability of communities shock-response systems to minimise the impact of shocks and reduce the vulnerability of their livelihoods to protracted crises.

Leveraging South-South Cooperation Knowledge Exchange Platform to achieve Agenda 2030

South–South Cooperation (SSC) is a proven approach to support countries from the global south to share experience and knowledge in expanding adequate social protection in rural areas. In relation to social protection in Africa, SSC can promote deeper understanding of many issues and challenges and strengthen its linkages and inter-sectoral coherence with other technical areas and themes, such as climate change; depletion of natural resources; and conflicts,  confronted by many of the 14 countries.

Richard Obiga, an official in the Kenya Social Protection Secretariat had this to say about the experience, “this has been more than a workshop. It is incredible the amount of information we have learnt and how much we have exchanged. Let’s be all champions on coordination for more effective social protection, as we have seen that we have what it takes to shape the future of Africa”.

Related Links:

FAO and Social Protection

FAO South-South Cooperation

FAO-IGAD Renew Drought Resilience Partnership Programme


For additional information:

Juliana Gargiulo
South-South and Triangular Cooperation Consultant, OSS
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153, Rome, Italy
FAO Technical focal point
Tel: +39 06 57053363
Email: [email protected] 

Gala Dahlet
Rural poverty reduction officer, SP3
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153, Rome, Italy
FAO Technical focal point
Tel: +39 06 57051191
Email: [email protected] 

Media Contact:

Neema Grace Mutemi
Country Communication Adviser
FAO Representation in Kenya
Tel: +254 20 76 25987
Email: [email protected] 
This news release was issued by the FAO Representation in Kenya
Block P - Level 3 | United Nations Complex Gigiri, UN Avenue, Gigiri    
P.O Box 30470 – 00100, Nairobi – Kenya.
Tel:  +254 (0) 20 76 25920