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Paraguay calls for strengthening social protection in rural areas to end extreme poverty

Published: 07/08/2018

Rome, 02 August 2018 – The Minister of the Social Action Secretariat of Paraguay, Hector Ramón Cárdenas Molinas, called for greater collaboration with FAO to increase the impact of social protection systems and improve the food security dimension to eradicate extreme poverty in rural areas during a visit to FAO headquarters.  

In Paraguay, poverty, especially extreme poverty, is concentrated in rural areas. Here, the incidence of extreme poverty - that is those who fails to cover the cost of a minimum basket of food consumption - is six times higher than in urban areas. This data calls to focus on policies programmes to address extreme poverty.

Since 2016, FAO and Paraguay have been working together to support the existing social protection programmes with the aim to move towards a comprehensive social protection system that is sensitive to rural poverty and food insecurity.

The first step was to facilitate dialogue and collaboration between the Social Action Secretariat, which deals with social issues such as poverty, and the Ministry of Agriculture, which instead deals with production. Because of this separation of mandates, the poorest, especially those who do not have access to natural resources, tend to benefit only from social assistance. But things are changing.

“FAO and the Government of Paraguay are now working to scale up effort to reduce poverty in rural areas by promoting synergies between social protection and productive interventions,” said Minister Cardenas. He also announced that the country is now focusing on strengthening the national Social protection programmes and creating synergies between the various interventions aimed to reduce poverty, implemented by different institutions in the country.

Bringing poverty reduction and food security to the next level

During the last decade, Paraguay has promoted policies and social programmes aimed to end poverty in rural areas. One of these interventions is the national cash transfer programme, Tekoporâ, (“to live well” in Guaraní) aimed at improving human capital development and the wellbeing of the poorest. Implemented by the Social Action Secretariat, the programme has reached so far about 664 000 poor and vulnerable people.

“A recent evaluation showed that Tekoporâ has twice as much impact on poverty reduction than pension schemes for older people, with half of the budget, and the same impact in terms of reduction of inequalities. Targeting is what makes the difference,” explained Minister Cárdenas during his visit to FAO.

The programme is complemented by Tenondera, a second intervention started in 2014 to allow poor families to go one step forward and engage in productive and economic interventions. While Tekoporâ provides the poorest with an income to meet their basic needs, Tenondera is a strategy that paves the way towards “exiting” the social protection programme. It contributes to the socio-economic stability of Tekoporâ beneficiaries, through productive interventions, he pointed out.

FAO has supported the political and technical dialogue between the two institutions to generate joint plans and technical operations, with an emphasis on Tekoporâ and Tenondera. This has improved collaboration coordinated targeting and effectiveness of their interventions. FAO and the Social Action Secretariat have also worked together to combine the two programmes with productive inclusion interventions and they are now working on a strategy for managing and analyzing information on the social programs to consolidate databases. Moreover, FAO helped the Social Action Secretariat assess the impacts of Tekoporâ on food security and nutrition with the application of the Interagency Social Protection Assessments tool.

Caring about the people and the environment

FAO and the Government of Paraguay have also worked together to formulate the Poverty, Reforestation, Energy and Climate Change (PROEZA) project, the first ever FAO project approved by the Green Climate Fund, to improve the resilience of poor and extreme poor households to climate change, while combating deforestation, and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. This USD 90 million project will support the transition to sustainable forest management to reduce forest loss and improve the life of around 17 000 extreme poor families (around 87 300 people).

“PROEZA links social protection and income generation while integrating the environmental perspective. Its first components specifically targets extreme poor households who are highly dependent on natural resources for their daily needs and food security,” said the Minister.

Recognizing that adaptation to climate change is only possible if efforts to reduce poverty are combined with climate knowledge and improved productive practices, PROEZA tops up the national conditional cash transfer programme with support to establish climate-smart agroforestry production systems that combine income generation with environmental protection.

Read more about FAO's work on Social Protection