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Social protection, agriculture and natural resource management

Existing evidence shows that together, social protection and agriculture can more effectively reduce poverty and hunger in rural areas as well as boost economic growth. In fact, agriculture and social protection can complement and mutually reinforce each other. On the one hand, smallholder agricultural interventions improve access to natural resources, productive inputs, technologies, financial services and markets, and increase employment opportunities for small family farmers. On the other hand, social protection provides cash or in-kind support to poor family farmers. This allows them to invest more time and resources in productive activities, increase their participation in social networks and strengthen their capacities to better manage risks.

Combining the two sectors can help protect and promote the welfare of poor small family farmers, leading to more sustainable livelihoods, rural development and progress out of poverty and hunger. However, challenges exist. Ministries in charge of agricultural and social protection programmes do not always coordinate efficiently. This means there is space for doing more.

FAO facilitates dialogue among governments and other partners around pro-poor policies and programmes for maximizing the impacts of coordinated strategies for rural development.

FAO provides specific technical expertise and knowledge on agriculture to design productive interventions complementing social protection measures and it raises awareness on why agricultural and social protection linkages are crucial to accelerate progress towards achieving zero hunger and combating poverty.

The role of Rural Organizations

Rural organizations such as cooperatives, producers’ and farmers’ organizations and other civil society actors can play an important role in the design, implementation, as well as accountability of social protection.

FAO studies highlight how these organizations act as service providers for governments on access to funds and microinsurance. They can also represent the rural poor and advocate for their needs; and support the government in tasks as the collection of data on potential beneficiaries of social protection programmes, information sharing and monitoring and evaluation activities. 

FAO strengthens the capacity of rural organizations and their active participation in designing and implementing national social protection programmes.

Social protection and Fisheries

Worldwide, around 120 million people depend on fisheries and fisheries-related activities for their employment, income and food security. Fisher folks, including small-scale self-employed fishers, boat crew members, fish traders, processors and households that engage in mixed farming-fishing activities, are particularly vulnerable as they are affected by environmental risks. These are due to poor natural resource management, climate change, price volatility, unstable incomes and dangerous working conditions.

The FAO Blue Growth Initiative recognizes the linkages between sustainable use of natural resource and socio-economic development of fisheries dependent communities. The Voluntary Guidelines for Small-Scale Fisheries recognize access to social security systems for small scale fishers as essential for food security.

FAO is exploring possible pathways through which social protection could foster sustainable natural resource management and resilient livelihoods, to support member countries in designing and implementing social protection programmes with the ultimate goal of reducing rural poverty among the communities dependent on fisheries.

Social protection and Forestry 

Many of the rural poor depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Forest dependent communities are particularly vulnerable to ecological degradation and climate change and are exposed to environmental risks and shocks. Their condition can lead to overexploitation of forests which increases the natural and socioeconomic shocks proportion, keeping them trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.

Appropriate social protection and forest policy instruments can stop this vicious cycle.

Social protection interventions need to be designed and implemented while taking into account environmental objectives in order to address both poverty alleviation and forest conservation. At the same time, poverty alleviation and social protection measures can be embedded into broader forestry interventions to protect livelihoods and help forestry dependent communities better manage risks.