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11/16/2015

Numbers matter, and the census can help

Women in a Bangladesh village discuss how to use resources from a programme designed to allow them to avoid money lenders. (Photo: ©FAO/Giampiero Diana)

By Jairo Castano

One of the key features of FAO’s idea of social protection in developing countries is that such programmes can work more efficiently if integrated with other policies aimed at bolstering the agricultural sector.

While the design of such schemes must be tailored to local circumstances, there is one constant: Good data is needed to make sure the programme resources are being put to optimal use.

That data is not just about hunger, nutrition and poverty – all crucial Sustainable Development Goals – but also about the state of agriculture itself.

That underscores the importance of the agricultural census – it is often the only means the only means of producing national information at the farm level and thus provides a complete snapshot of farming in a given country and also an opportunity to identify trends or structural breaks in the sector as well as possible areas of intervention.

The value of a census is manifold: its results help to promote agricultural production and investments, thus stimulating broader economic growth; it can flank other rural development programmes; it can advise policy makers on matters related to access to land; it can provide insight into the way farms are owned and operated; it can provide crucial information on crop diversity; and it can improve understanding on how fertilizers and other agricultural inputs are used; it can provide data of use to the private sector for decisions such as whether and where to build a food processing facility. A census is a highly useful tool to both  monitor and devise measures aimed at assuring gender equity and environmental sustainability.

Its natural role in complementing social protection programmes ought to make it easier to mobilize the necessary resources to undertake them.

As FAO often underscores, agricultural development is by far the most efficient way to boost food security in developing nations, especially among the rural households who comprise the bulk of the world’s poor. The agricultural census offers a way to prove this, even serving as a guide to processes aimed at mitigating the impact of rapid urbanization.

In some countries the agriculture census may be the only source of information on the contribution of subsistence agriculture to the national accounts and the estimation of the non-observed economy in the agricultural sector.

09/24/2015

Dependency is dead!

Delia Demison, a recipient of a social cash transfer programme in Malawi, loads maize into her granaries. (©FAO/Amos Gumulira)

By Ben Davis

A commonly held view of cash transfers and other social protection programmes, in both developed and developing countries, is that they foster dependency. That is, poor families who receive financial support will work less and become lazy, leading to dependency on the transfer for their wellbeing. Many believe that the poor will spend the money on cigarettes and alcohol. In some countries of sub Saharan Africa such views among government officials have contributed to resistance to scaling up social protection programmes nationally.
It seems obvious that at some level a cash transfer might indeed induce dependency.  If the government offered me 100% of my salary as part of a social protection programme I might be tempted to stop working and sit around and enjoy the good life—though you never know if they would keep the programme going in the next year, and what then? They would have to give me much more to induce me to give up my job.
Do we have evidence from the real world of cash transfer programmes in sub-Saharan Africa on whether these programmes foster dependency?
We do, and the answer is an emphatic no. They do not induce dependency.
Recent evidence produced by the From Protection to Production project, a joint effort of FAO and UNICEF, finds that cash transfer programmes in sub-Saharan Africa have big impacts on household livelihoods, particularly in terms of agricultural activities. Even among those beneficiaries that perhaps should work less—especially the elderly—they do not.
After two years of transfers, the Zambia Social Cash Transfer programme led to a 34 percent increase in land dedicated to crop production as well as an increase in the use of agricultural inputs, including seeds, fertilizers and hired labour. The growth in input use led to an approximately 50 percent increase in the value of overall production, which was primarily sold on the market. By improving livelihoods the cash transfer produced an income multiplier at the household level: the increase in per capita consumption induced by the programme was 25 percent greater than the transfer itself. It doesn’t seem that cash transfer beneficiaries in Zambia are becoming lazy!! Quite the contrary.
Similar impacts have been found in other countries. Also after two years, the Lesotho Cash Grant Programme increased crop input use and expenditures.  As in Zambia, the increase in input use led to an increase in maize production, as well as in the frequency of garden plot harvests, an important contributor to nutrition. In Malawi the Social Cash Transfer Programme led to an increase in both maize and groundnut output.  
In almost all programmes in which it was measured, cash transfers increased the ownership of livestock. And beneficiaries in Zambia, Malawi and Kenya were more likely to set up non-agricultural business enterprises, such as petty trade.
Along with the increase in productive activities, the cash transfers programmes have given households more flexibility with their time. In most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, low paying casual agricultural wage labour is an activity of last resort, when households are desperate for cash.  In Zambia, women in beneficiary households reduced their participation in agricultural wage labour by 17-percentage points and 12 fewer days a year. Both men and women increased the time they spent on family agricultural and non-agricultural businesses. This story of shifting from agricultural wage labour of last resort to their own on-farm activities was consistently told in Kenya, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi and Zimbabwe. As one elderly beneficiary said, “I used to be a slave to ganyu (low-paid wage labour) but now I am free.”
Cash transfer programmes also have allowed beneficiary households to better manage risk. Fieldwork in Kenya, Ghana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Malawi has found that the programmes increased social capital and allowed beneficiaries to ’re-enter’ existing social networks and/or to strengthen informal social protection systems and risk-sharing arrangements. Receiving the transfer allowed beneficiaries to support other households or community institutions, such as the local  church or mosque.
A reduction in negative risk coping strategies, such as begging or changing eating patterns, was seen in Malawi, Ethiopia and Lesotho, while beneficiary households in almost all countries were less likely to take their children out of school. The cash transfer programmes allowed households to be seen as more financially trustworthy, to reduce their debt levels and increase their creditworthiness.
And we see no evidence of increased spending on alcohol and cigarettes; in fact, in all cases receiving cash leads to an improvement in the quality and diversity of the foods people consume, and an increase in food security.
While we don’t see any evidence of laziness, these impacts on livelihoods and economic activities are not the same across all countries. Programme impacts are bigger—both for livelihoods as well as education, health and consumption  —when transfers are regular and predictable, which allows households to plan their spending and smooth their consumption, essentially expanding their time horizon and letting them think about the future, instead of just daily survival. Transfer levels need to be big enough as well—between 20 and 30 percent of beneficiary income.  But it is very unlikely they will ever get big enough to induce very poor and vulnerable families to stop working!

Comments:

David Fairman 30-09-15 16:47
Excellent news from the field. FAO and UNICEF's Africa experience is in line with global evidence on CCT programs. However, CCT alone may not be sufficient for sustained increases in production and consumption. There is strong evidence on the benefits of integrating CCT programs with other supports for productive activities (including asset transfer), as well as "soft" supports for life skills and social capital formation. One of the most significant ongoing research projects on multi-faceted programs for poverty reduction published results in Science this May. The investigators include several from the MIT Poverty Action Lab, with collaborators from around the world. The full article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1260799
Gianluca Zavatta 29-09-15 10:40
One of the most important issue is that the families receiving the (cash) transfers are shifting their attention to their own family business (farm or non-farm). They have the possibility to increase the family revenue without the necessity to became a "slave" in order to feed their relatives. As the Zambia Social Cash Transfer shows, for example, the 76% of the cash (12 Us Dollar equivalent for month) is invested buying food. If you solve the feeding problem you can free more energy to focus on your own job and probably, with more years of programs going on, on other aspects of family well-being such as wealth, education and clothing.
If you could link this Cash Transfer Program to other programs run by FAO in order to improve the sustainability and the success of family farm business (the Organization has a lot of activities linked to the "family farm", from the seed programs to shared markets where the farmers can sell their products), you could assure a more bright future to a huge amount of people.
Thanks to 12 Us Dollar a months per family, a well controlled program, the will of politicians to invest on the people, these programs can give an opportunity to choose on what kind of future you want to built for you and your family. This seems to work in Zambia, could it work in other areas such as the under-developed regions of richer Countries like Italy or other States of the Western World? If you implement a program during a reasonable period of time (2-3 years) giving away the housing, feeding and educational problems of the unemployed population in some region or for some specific part of the population (young people just finished the University course, for example), could you free new energies for starting new jobs, new initiatives, new creativeness for the people and the economy?

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