Social protection and forestry

©FAO/Qiang Ma
Social protection comprises a set of policies and programmes that addresses economic, environmental and social vulnerabilities to food insecurity and poverty by protecting and promoting livelihoods.  Social protection can play a preventive role to mitigate exposure to risks. Examples include social insurance instruments.  It can have a protective function to promote recovery and relief from shocks. Examples include cash transfers, public works, non-contributory social pension schemes and feeding programmes.  Social protection can also play a promotive function to enhance income earning and productive capacities of forest-dependent people.  Examples includes conditional and unconditional cash transfers, asset transfers, skills training, public works and wage subsidies.  It can also have a transformative function to address power imbalances that sustain inequality and social exclusion. Examples include laws governing forest and non-forest workers’ rights, discrimination, inheritance and succession.

There are five categories of social protection instruments: social insurance, social assistance, labour market policies, subsidies and social services.

FAO recognizes the critical role social protection plays in strengthening its work in food security, nutrition, agriculture, poverty eradication and rural development, as well as in its efforts to enhance the resilience of livelihoods to shocks and stresses. It is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 1.3 to “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable”.

Why is social protection important for forest-dependent people?

Most food insecure and poor people with the greatest need for social protection live in rural areas and depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Ecological degradation and climate change present challenges to forest-dependent communities (FDCs), forest-dependent households (FDHs) and forest workers around the world. FDCs, FDHs and forest workers are usually found in remote and disconnected rural areas characterized by low levels of market development and poor access to public goods and social services. For many reasons, including a lack of information, forest-dependent people are always dealing with the consequences of market failure and are particularly exposed to risks and repeated shocks. A wide range of environmental, economic, health-related, demographic, social and political factors are sources of vulnerability for these communities and households. forest-dependent people face various risks and vulnerabilities and need social protection, but coverage of social protection is limited.

FAO’s work on social protection and forestry

Forests serve as a safety net and increase the resilience of communities that live in forests. FDCs, FDHs and forest workers can be made less vulnerable through social protection interventions. Forest producer organizations or associations can also play an important role in ensuring accountability so that the design and implementation of social protection policies and programmes are tailored to the specific needs and vulnerabilities of forest-dependent people. Where government social protection interventions are lacking, forest producer organizations can provide complementary social protection services, combining forest conservation and poverty reduction goals. 

Social protection and forestry work focuses on expanding coverage of social protection to FDCs, FDHs and forest workers, strengthening coherence between forestry and social protection policy or programmes, promoting decent rural employment opportunities in forestry, improving the role of rural forest producer organizations in social protection, respecting evidence and knowledge generation, policy support and capacity development. 

last updated:  Tuesday, April 13, 2021