Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Social protection and decent rural employment for CSA

Enabling Frameworks

Promoting climate-smart agriculture for the most vulnerable through social protection

C7 - 4.1. What is social protection?

The Inter-Agency Social Protection Assessment (ISPA) notes that social protection encompasses all: sets of policies and programs aimed at preventing or protecting all people against poverty, vulnerability, and social exclusion throughout their lifecycles, with a particular emphasis towards vulnerable groups. (ISPA, 2016, p.1)

FAO, which places particular focus on rural populations, defines social protection as a set of policies and programmes that addresses economic, environmental and social vulnerabilities to food insecurity and poverty by protecting and promoting livelihoods (FAO, 2017). 

Social protection programmes, supported by appropriate policies and institutional frameworks, and managed by common or coordinated tools, should seek to address risks throughout the life cycle  in a coordinated and harmonized manner (Rawlings, Murthy, and Winder, 2013). A systematic approach is particularly important when considering the contribution of social protection to climate-smart agriculture. 

Traditionally, social protection has been understood as encompassing:

  1. Social assistance, which refers to non-contributory transfer programmes targeted in some manner to the poor, excluded or vulnerable. These are cash and/or in-kind transfer programmes that seek to reduce poverty by redistributing wealth and/or protecting households against income shocks. Social assistance programmes are intended to ensure a minimum level of well-being and a minimum level of nutrition, or help households manage risk (FAO, 2003). These programmes vary from cash or near cash (vouchers) to in-kind transfers. Examples of social assistance schemes include: school feeding or mother/child supplemental feeding programmes; conditional or unconditional cash transfers; food vouchers; food and fuel price subsidies when targeted to the poor; labour-intensive public works schemes, and fee waivers for essential services (Grosh et al., 2008). Some of these instruments are detailed in section 6.2 of this module.
  2. Social Insurance, which includes all contributory programmes from employees, employers or the state. The objective of these programmes is to protecting individuals or households against the harmful impact of shocks resulting from personal circumstances, life-cycle or livelihood risks. Examples include publicly provided or mandated insurance schemes against old age, disability, death of the main household provider; maternity and sick leave; and social health insurance. Agricultural insurance schemes, which cover policy holders against the loss of agricultural production due to natural hazards, are another example of social insurance. In all these cases, beneficiaries receive benefits or services in recognition of their contributions to an insurance scheme (Grosh et al., 2008) (FAO, 2015b). 
  3. Labour market policies and interventions, which provide unemployment benefits, build skills and ensure better access to the workforce (FAO, 2015b). They are classified into active and passive labour market policy measures. Active measures refer to mechanisms, such as employment incentives, entrepreneurial support and microcredit for small enterprises.  Passive measures are policy or programme that aim to establish minimum standards for employment and ensure decent and inclusive work. (FAO, 2015b). Chapter C7-5 describes the contribution of labour market policies and programmes to climate-smart agriculture.

Research on the impact of social protection has demonstrated their positive impact on various dimensions of poverty. Beyond simply addressing financial deprivation, social protection can nurture social development and support livelihoods. The four functions traditionally attributed to social protection are: protection, prevention, promotion and transformation (Devereux and Sabates-Wheeler, 2004). As described by the 2015 State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA): 

"social protection can play a protective role in providing means (cash or in-kind) to access food and mitigate the impact of shocks. It can have a preventive function in averting deeper deprivation by strengthening resilience against shocks (and stresses) and preventing loss of incomes and assets. It can support the accumulation of resources to sustain livelihoods (e.g. through asset transfers and public works). Social protection can also play a promotive function by directly supporting investments in human resources (nutrition, health, education and skills development) and by reducing liquidity constraints and income insecurity to induce investments in farm and non-farm activities. It can also have a transformative function in the lives of the poor through reorienting their focus beyond day-to-day survival towards investments in the future, by shifting power relations within households (as social protection can empower women) and by strengthening the capabilities and capacities of those living in poverty to empower themselves." (FAO, 2015, p.15).

These functions of social protection in relation to climate-smart agriculture are further developed in chapter C7-4.2.

C7 - 4.2. Key functions of social protection in climate-smart agriculture

Climate-smart agriculture is not a component of social protection. However, social protection has the potential to contribute to the objectives of climate-smart agriculture, which are:  i) sustainably increasing productivity, ii) reducing the impact of climate change on agriculture [social protection can be instrumental in protecting in particular vulnerable farmers and agricultural workers] and iii) reducing agriculture’s impact on climate change. This chapter examines how social protection can support the transition to climate-smart agriculture, mainly through its role in climate change adaptation and, indirectly, in climate change mitigation, and through its capacity to enhance the productive capacity of vulnerable farmers, through the four functions represented in Figure C7.1. The chapter's first section looks at social protection as a risk management tool for climate change adaptation. The second section considers the potential contribution social protection can make to production and climate change mitigation.

Figure C7.1. The contribution of social protection to climate-smart agriculture through its four functions

Social protection as a risk management tool

Adaptation is an adjustment process carried out in response to the impacts of climate change. This adaptation process must also address the impacts and potential damages of climate-related hazards. At the programmatic level, disaster risk reduction  and climate change adaptation overlap (UNISDR, 2009).  It is in these overlapping areas where social protection can make an important contribution. 

In the face of climate-related disasters, vulnerable people are at an increased risk of death, the loss of many, if not all, of their assets, and the end of their livelihoods. As mentioned previously, those affected by disasters may be forced to resort to negative coping strategies, which can have long-term consequences on human development and agricultural production. Those affected may, for example, sell off whatever productive assets they have left; consume less food or eat cheaper, less nutritious foods; withdraw their children from school; or exploit the natural resources they have access to in unsustainable ways. Social protection programs stabilize income and hence avoid resorting to these harmful negative coping strategies. Furthermore, social protection policies and programmes can play a more systematic role in climate change adaptation when designed in a risk-informed manner to help prevent poor and vulnerable households from falling deeper into poverty, reduce their overall risk exposure, and contribute to long-term adaptation to climate change (Kuriakose, et al., 2012). The interactions between social protection, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation are illustrated in Figure C7.1 and further detailed in figure C7.2. 

Figure C7.2. The contribution of social protection to disaster risk reduction through its four functions. 

Source: Authors (see acknowledgements)

The role of social protection in disaster risk reduction has been recognized at the highest levels. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, adopted at the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, highlighted the need to promote and support the development of social safety nets and social protection as disaster risk reduction measures linked to, and integrated with, livelihood enhancement programmes (FAO, 2017). At the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, the Social Protection Inter-agency Cooperation Board issued a statement recognizing the key role of social protection, and in particular its linkages with humanitarian action to bridge the gap between humanitarian responses and sustainable development. Reducing the exposure of vulnerable farmers to shocks, limiting the impact of these shocks and supporting adaptation measures is critical for climate-smart agriculture.

Before a climate-related shock even happens, social protection can play a key role in addressing the root causes the economic, social and environmental vulnerability to these shocks. Through its protective, preventive and promotive functions, social protection can also prevent losses of assets during an emergency. Access to social protection enhances the economic capacity of the poor. It allows them to accumulate assets, providing a cushion against shocks, which enables them to maintain levels of consumption and effectively manage risks (FAO, 2017). Specific prevention measures, such as social insurance, weather-based insurance, social transfers, and other instruments may help reduce vulnerability and decrease the impact of a probable risk by increasing the availability of coping strategies in the face of disasters (FAO, 2017). Agricultural insurance schemes, which may, for example, pay benefits based on a variety of indices, such as rainfall, average yields per area and satellite-monitored vegetation conditions, support the management of climate-related risks for farmers (FAO, 2015). For vulnerable small-scale farmers, however, taking advantage of these schemes can be difficult owing to a variety of factors, such as the cost of premiums, illiteracy and access to information, and a lack of trust in insurance providers. 

Social protection systems have proven useful in delivering post-disaster relief and recovery assistance. In these situations, they can meet the increased need of regular beneficiaries and expand their programs to protect a wider group of vulnerable people against the impact of a specific threat (FAO, 2017). In the risk preparedness process, responding to a shock is made easier when the existing social protection programmes include specific disaster response mechanisms, such as administrative systems and coordination mechanisms. An example is a national early-warning system that triggers built-in early action plans based on agreed standard operating procedures. These disaster response mechanisms scale up assistance beyond the core target group (usually the chronically poor) to include people who are particularly affected by the disaster. Achieving this will require the mobilization of resources and efforts, before and after disasters, to inform, register and enroll new beneficiaries, and deliver benefits quickly. Successful experiences in scaling up existing social protection schemes are detailed in Box C7.1.

Box C7.1 Examples of social protection interventions supporting responses to climate-related disasters

Philippines - an example of 'piggybacking'

In the Philippines, to provide emergency relief following typhoon Haiyan, the government and humanitarian groups worked together to provide food and cash assistance through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Programme. This social protection programme reached people in need faster by utilizing existing targeting, registration and delivery systems. It was the first time the Programme had been used for this purpose, which was not part of the original mandate. This is an example of 'piggybacking'; building on a social protection programme’s administrative system to deliver transfers in response to disaster (Bowen, 2015).

Kenya - example of horizontal expansion 

The Hunger Safety Nets Programme in Kenya focuses on improving food security and addressing hardships caused by crop losses resulting from unpredictable weather conditions. The Programme, which provides regular cash transfers and includes a scalable emergency cash transfer system in response to face droughts, is linked to the National Drought Management Authority Early Warning System. The national early warning system assesses the drought phase classification down to the county level, and uses the Vegetation Condition Index to determine which areas require scaled-up interventions. This information is used by the Hunger Safety Nets Programme as a trigger for raising coverage during severe and extremely severe drought. In 2016, stronger-than-expected droughts led to a significant increase in food insecurity. In response, the Hunger Safety Nets Programme continued to provide cash transfers to the households targeted in the counties where it operates, and scaled up its activities to provide emergency relief to around 79 000 additional households (WFP Kenya, 2017).

Social Protection’s promotive and transformative functions

Social protection systems, through their promotive and transformative functions, can strengthen the adaptive capacities of all relevant stakeholders beyond the short term.  They can directly or indirectly foster agricultural production and contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation in the longer term. Social protection programmes that include capacity development (see module C1) can be important entry points for promoting climate-smart practices. For instance, cash-for-work initiatives or productive safety nets can be designed in such a way as to engage communities in sustainable natural resources management and generate 'green jobs' (see chapter C7-5)  in areas, such as waste management, watershed management, reforestation and soil erosion prevention (FAO, 2017). Social protection also helps enable beneficiaries to invest their time and energy, and potentially their financial resources in adopting effective and innovative natural resource management practices.

One of the programmes that pioneered the integration of disaster risk management and social protection is the Ethiopia Productive Safety Net Programme. Launched in 2005, the Programme targets food insecure households in the most vulnerable areas of Ethiopia. It provides them with a package of services depending on their profile. Labour-constrained households receive food or cash assistance. Other households participate in labour-intensive public works, at times farm work is not an option, to improve community assets. Public works include small-scale irrigation, soil and water conservation, road building, and the construction of schools and clinics. The Ethiopia Productive Safety Net Programme is complemented by the Household Asset Building Programme, which was launched in 2010 to promote the diversification of household incomes and building of productive assets by providing training and supporting access to financing (World Bank, 2013). An evaluation of the third phase of the Ethiopia Productive Safety Net Programme has found that the programme has had positive impact in climate change mitigation and adaptation. It has helped households smooth consumption and kept them from having to deplete their assets when faced with shocks. The public works have reduced erosion, improved filtration in water tables and enabled the introduction of small-scale irrigation systems, which have strengthened household resilience (DFID, 2015). Based on the third phase evaluation, the fourth phase of implementation seeks to amplify the Programme's capacity to build household resilience to the impacts of climate change, particularly climate-related shocks. It will work to increase coverage to the chronically poor, expand contingency plans, and improve the planning of public works and the provision of livelihood support. This experience in Ethiopia has demonstrated the potential of an integrated approach that links social protection, disaster risk reduction, and the promotion of climate-smart agriculture. This has been achieved partly through the rehabilitation or construction of community structures that are conducive to climate-smart agriculture.

A growing body of evidence indicates that social protection interventions can also have a productive impact. By improving nutrition and health, and increasing educational attainment, social protection interventions can develop human capital and enhance labour productivity and employability, but can also have a more direct impact on production. For example, the evidence generated through the Protection to Production Project (see Box C7.2) shows that social protection interventions, in particular cash transfers, can influence the productive capacities of beneficiary households (Davis et al., 2016). Poor households have limited resources and lack the financial means and security to engage in productive activities. Poor farmers who are exposed to a number of natural risks, tend to opt for lower risk activities that may shield them from the negative impacts of potential shocks, but generate lower returns, which traps them in poverty (Rosenzweig and Binswanger, 1993). By providing regular, predictable cash transfers, social protection helps beneficiaries overcome these liquidity constraints and provides an insurance mechanism that covers them should potentially risky ventures fail. This allows vulnerable farmers to engage in higher-risk, higher-return agricultural practices. A recent study carried out in Zambia, analysed the effects of an unconditional cash transfer on risk taking and found that, not only did the transfer reduce the farmers’ risk aversion, but it also encouraged them to invest in modern inputs (Prifti et al., 2017). Through its promotive functions, social protection provides the complementary support that vulnerable farmers need to build the skills, acquire knowledge and gain access to the assets they require to engage in climate-smart agricultural practices (see module C1 on human and institutional capacity development for climate-smart agriculture). Evaluations of seven cash transfers programmes in sub-Saharan Africa found that the transfers enhanced agricultural activities among beneficiary households through the increased the use of agricultural inputs and built up livestock holdings. Beneficiaries also gained greater flexibility in how they were able to allocate labour, which led to a reduction in agricultural wage labour (Box C7.2).

Box C7.2 From Protection to Production: Contributing to building the economic case for social protection 

FAO, in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), national research institutions and the national governments of seven countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe) has generated evidence on the economic and productive impact of national cash transfer programmes in the region. The development of rigorous impact assessments was carried out in close coordination with government counterparts and imbedded in national policy processes and platforms. This collaboration strengthened the case that social protection should be seen as an investment, not simply an expenditure. It also addressed public misperceptions around dependency and labour disincentives, and provided solid findings that show how cash transfers can help poor and marginalized families to build assets, empower themselves and engage in economically productive activities. 

Evidence coming from national impact assessments and learning activities has increased the awareness among policy makers that social protection is an effective measure to combat hunger, reduce poverty and foster rural development. This has led to concrete changes in policy and operational mechanisms in terms of programme design, adjustments and improvements in transfer size. It has also strengthened community development, by targeting and increasing access and links to other complementary activities. More importantly, by building the economic case for social protection, FAO supports national policy discussions and actions on the expansion of coverage of social protection and the development of social protection systems. This is one of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)1, which focuses on ending poverty in all its forms. This work has also contributed to increased allocations of domestic investment for social protection in Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho and Zambia and other countries.

The evaluations found that cash transfer programmes had a variety of impacts on agricultural activities. In Zambia, the Child Grant model of the Social Cash Transfer programme led to a 36 percent increase in the area under cultivation and an increase in the use of agricultural inputs, including seeds, fertilizer and hired labour. This resulted in an approximately 37-percent increase in the value of overall production. This additional production was primarily sold in markets rather than consumed. The cash transfers were an income multiplier at the household level, with the increase in the per capita consumption induced by the programme being 25 percent greater than the transfer itself. Overall, the grants in Zambia initiated a transformative process that permitted beneficiary households to make more investments in capital for agricultural production and new economic activities.

In Lesotho, the Child Grants Programme led to an increase in the use of crop inputs and expenditures. For example, the share of households using pesticides rose by eight percent. As in Zambia, the increase in the use of inputs resulted in an increase in maize production. For households that had labour constraints, sorghum production increased. These households also obtained more harvests from their garden plots. In Zimbabwe, the Harmonized Social Cash Transfer led to an increase in expenditures on fertilizer and in the percentage of households producing groundnuts.  In Malawi, the Social Cash Transfer Programme facilitated an increase in both maize and groundnut production. Cash transfer programmes led to an increase in expenditure on seeds in Ghana, but a decrease on such expenditures in Kenya. In these two countries, evidence did not indicate that transfers led to growth in agricultural production. In both Kenya and Malawi, however, cash transfers did increase family food consumption obtained from domestic production.

In many of the programmes that were assessed, the cash transfers contributed to a higher proportion of beneficiary households accumulating livestock.  In Kenya and Zimbabwe, beneficiaries tended to concentrate on small ruminants; in Lesotho on pigs; in Malawi and Zambia on a more diverse range of animals. In Ghana, the cash transfers had no effect on livestock ownership, and a disinvestment out of livestock production was observed in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe the ownership of agricultural tools increased.

For more information consult: FAO's From Protection to Production

Source: (FAO, 2017)

The impact of social protection programmes on sustainable agricultural production can be further reinforced by a taking a pro-active approach that builds on social protection’s promotive and transformative functions.  Such an approach can boost livelihoods and productive capacities of beneficiary households by providing them with a combination of social cash transfers, productive assets, agricultural inputs and/or technical training and extension services. FAO refers to this approach as 'cash+' interventionsiii. The cash transfer component addresses basic household needs and protects the beneficiaries assets from being depleted or lost, while the component that provides productive assets, technical training and extension services, can help kick-start a virtuous cycle of income generation that leads to economic empowerment, which is the key to increasing asset ownership, food security and dietary diversity. 

Including a selection of nutrient-rich and adapted species and varieties (as addressed in detail in module B1 on crop production) as inputs will make cash+ approaches more nutrition-sensitive. These approaches should also ensure that women farmers are not overlooked in terms of the opportunities they provide and the benefits they deliver.

A cash+ approach has recently been implemented in Burkina Faso, Lesotho, Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Somalia. Evidence shows its potential to improve household incomes, assets, productivity, dietary diversity and food security. Social protection interventions that follow such an approach also reduce the pressures these household face to adopt negative coping strategies, which makes them less vulnerable to future shocks related to climate or other factors (FAO, 2016a). In Burkina Faso, Initial impact assessments conducted one and two years after the end of the transfers show positive trends in terms of increased adaptive capacity of households to respond to climate-related shocks because the beneficiaries were better able to avoid negative coping strategies, increase their income and improve their diet (Sawadogo et al., 2017). Whenever possible, this cash+ approach should be supported by governments through multisectoral policy and operational dialogue that brings together line ministries dealing with social protection, agriculture and livestock. As with other social protection systems, the implementation of social protection schemes that augment financial transfers with other inputs and services require support from appropriately designed policies and programmes.

Cash+ packages to stimulate the productive impact of social protection may be carried out by embedding the development of human capital and access to productive activities in the programme design. In Latin America, there has been a trend to make cash transfers conditional on school enrolment and health check-ups. Where services are lacking or of suboptimal quality, such conditions may not be a valid option. Recent evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa has also demonstrated that unconditional cash transfers have a similar impact on human capital outcomes. There may be options for developing schemes with conditions related to the adoption of sustainable practices. However, the complexities involved in implementing these schemes and the evidence of the relative effect of these conditions need to be taken into account.

C7 - 4.3. Social protection and CSA linkages in practice: opportunities and challenges

Social protection has the potential to contribute to climate-smart agriculture by enhancing risk management and supporting climate change adaptation and, indirectly, climate change mitigation. This contribution can be further reinforced if social protection programmes are explicitly designed with these functions in mind, and are supported by appropriate tools, which are partly described in this chapter.

One challenge regarding social protection programmes is coverage in rural areas. More than 70 percent of the world's population lacks adequate coverage by social protection, with inadequate coverage especially pronounced in rural areas (ILO, 2015a). Even as programmes and investments expand towards universal coverage, their coverage often remains limited in fragile contexts. Governments need to adopt proactive measures to extend the coverage of social assistance and social insurance to those who are currently excluded from social protection. This will involve providing packages of programmes and services that area suited to rural areas and affordable and appealing to rural people.

Targeting is a method to select beneficiaries according to a program’s objectives while at the same time ensuring fiscal affordability of social assistance schemes. Most countries have established a targeting system based on a mix of geographic considerations, and proxy means testing and/or community participation that involves screening or validation. However, targeting also involves administrative, financial, social and political costs. Additionally, the methodology used for targeting is critical for determining whether the rural poor are included in the programme or not. Increasing criticism of proxy means testing (e.g. Brown, Ravallion, and Van De Walle, 2016; Kidd, Gelders, and Bailey-Athias, 2016) has paved the way for new tools that better encompass the multidimensional nature of rural vulnerability. To ensure that the social protection system is responsive to climate-related shocks, a targeting system may be need to be set up that is capable of differentiating chronically vulnerable beneficiaries from people who are temporally vulnerable after a climate-related disaster (Oxford Policy Management, 2016). 

To effectively manage shocks social protection programmes should be risk-informed. Experience has shown that the faster support reaches people affected by a disaster, the less likely they are to resort to negative coping strategies (Asfaw and Davis, 2017). Governments need to have social protection tools available to be deployed swiftly in face of a disaster. A rapid response is facilitated when existing social protection programmes include specific disaster response mechanisms. A national warning system that triggers a built-in disaster response is an example of such a mechanism. Disaster response mechanisms should scale up assistance beyond the core target group (usually the chronically poor) to include people who are temporarily impoverished as a consequence of the shock. This requires sufficient capacity on the ground to conduct assessments, inform, register and enrol new beneficiaries, and deliver benefits quickly. 

FAO supports the development of national capacities to design and implement shock-responsive and risk-informed social protection systems. For example, in partnership with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, FAO has developed an interactive learning tool (Figure C7.3. Risk-Informed and shock-responsive social protection systems interactive learning game   to raise awareness about the linkages between policies on social protection, climate change and resilience, and build operational capacity in this area at the local and national level (FAO, 2016b).

Figure C7.3. Risk-Informed and shock-responsive social protection systems interactive learning game

It is conceived as a peer-to-peer and bottom-up learning tool that can provide hands-on experience on how shock-responsive social protection works. FAO also supports the gathering of evidence and the preparation of guidelines to strengthen the linkages between social protection and climate change adaptation and mitigation. By fostering global, regional and country engagement on these issues, FAO works to expand the development and strengthening of shock-responsive and risk-informed social protection.