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Evidence Generation

FAO generates evidence to inform social protection policies and programmes aimed at improving rural poor families living conditions, food security and their potential to contribute to the economic growth of countries. 

This expertise builds on previous work in which FAO, through the From Protection to Production (PtoP) project in partnership with national governments, UNICEF, and national research institutions of seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, has generated important evidence on the economic and productive impacts of national cash transfer programmes in seven countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Main research activities include:

1. Evaluating the productive and food security impacts of social protection measures and of their combination with agricultural interventions.

This work started, in partnership with UNICEF, under the Transfer Project, a collaboration between UNICEF, FAO, Save the Children, the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) to produce evidence on the impact of large-scale national cash transfer programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. FAO's role, through the From Protection to Production (PtoP) project, was to produce evidence on the economic and productive impacts of social protection on beneficiaries and on the local economy. This evidence contributed to strengthening the case for social protection as an investment, not just a cost, while addressing public misperceptions around dependency and labour disincentives. Building the economic case for social protection cuts across all four thematic areas and directly enhances FAO’s concrete contribution to country-level efforts to achieve SDG 1.3 (expansion of coverage of social protection).

Some examples include:

  • From Evidence to Action: The Story of Cash Transfers in Sub-Sahara Africa. A compilation of the evidence generated by the Transfer Project in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and how the evidence influenced key policy processes at the country and regional levels.
  • Evaluating integrated approaches (Cash+): in Lesotho, FAO evaluated the impact of combining a home-gardening intervention with the national Child Grant Programme and will expand impact evaluation work on a new phase of complementary interventions led by the government, with developing partner assistance, in partnership with UNICEF. In a similar vein, in Zambia FAO is collaborating with the government and with the World Food Programme (WFP) in evaluating the productive and food security impacts of a Home Grown School Feeding Programme.

2. Simulating the impacts of different designs and combinations of agricultural and social protection policy options on agricultural production, poverty and economic growth. In Malawi and Zambia FAO is collaborating with national Governments, ILO and UNICEF in this exercise.

3. Profiling the livelihoods of rural households, as in Lesotho and Zambia, to inform the design of rural development interventions.

4. Assessing the feasibility and costs of reforming the social security system to provide for comprehensive social security coverage to small-scale farmers and farm workers in Zambia, Mali and Lebanon.