Food Coalition

Economic inclusion and social protection to reduce poverty

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the unsustainability of pre-pandemic vulnerabilities and inequalities, which must be addressed as part of the strategy to “Build Back Better”. Based on the socio-economic impacts across Asia, the recovery path calls for broadening social safety nets, universal health insurance, affordable access to digital connectivity, income and livelihood diversification, and building capacities to manage multiple risks and likely future pandemics. The economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed multiple vulnerabilities within current economic development models, such as high dependence on tourism and related industries and services as engines for growth and employment. Many countries are re-examining the role of agriculture and integrated rural development as a long-term viable strategy to emerge from the current crisis, create jobs and absorb expanding job creation for more robust and sustainable economic recovery. In post-COVID-19 recovery programmes reinvesting in agriculture and rural development has become a top priority for many countries in developing Asia. This is a challenging task as it requires interventions on multiple fronts. These range from expanding adoption of smart farming innovations by farmers, investing in rural economic transformation to generate jobs, adding value and reducing rural poverty, expanding social protection and safety nets for rural households and communities, and extending digital and ICT infrastructure to rural areas for broader, resilient food systems’ transformation. Rural transformation post-COVID-19 starts with rebuilding robust food supply infrastructure. This starts with smart farming (digitally-enabled farm operations with increased input use efficiency) leading to more reliable market connectivity between farmers and input suppliers, credit and information and multiple market-oriented services (extension, early warning, market information, business advice). This requires engaging national and rural institutions, including a wide range of service providers already active in the area alongside traditional public sector providers (e.g. private companies, non-governmental organizations, cooperatives and producer organizations among others). Second, creating jobs and livelihood opportunities for women, youth, and returned migrants by investing in off-farm agrifood and nonfarm services fuelled by small to medium enterprises (SMEs). In rebuilding post-COVID-19 labour-exporting countries should integrate alternative livelihood options for displaced labour and emigrant returnees. Rebuilding the rural economy post-COVID-19 requires greater attention to labour protection, rural services, and safety nets for migrants, women, and youth. Expanding social protection and social safety nets includes various instruments. These range from insurance, fiscal incentives (loans) and other infrastructure and capacity development programmes for rural poor households to enhance their ability to sustain shocks, avoid negative coping decisions such as selling assets, or removing children from schools. Social protection schemes, covering social assistance, insurance and labour market measures, are most effective when combined with agricultural support and occupational health and safety interventions, ensuring compliance with labour standards.1 The effectiveness of the above interventions, programmes and policy instruments is best supported by broadening investments in ICT technologies and their deployment, as well as greater facility in use and access to digital technologies (e-payments, e-services, virtual markets, employment e-platforms, digital certification and traceability) by including small-scale farmers, young entrepreneurs, SMEs and cooperatives active in the farm and off-farm sector.

Priority Areas of work: Economic Inclusion and Social Protection to Reduce Poverty
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 3. Good Health and Well-being, 5. Gender Equality, 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth, 10. Reduced Inequality, 12. Responsible Consumption and Production, 17. Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Level: Regional
Region: Asia and the Pacific
Country: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Vietnam
Budget: USD 30 million


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