Why social protection holds the key to fighting hunger

5 positive impacts of social protection measures

08 Jul 2015

What happens when money is given directly to people living in dire conditions? Will children be better nourished? Will families be more productive or will they become dependent? Will economies grow stronger? Today, some 70 percent of the world population, most of which live in rural areas, have no access to adequate social protection measures. For this reason, FAO has stepped up its efforts to help governments and partners incorporate social protection into national development strategies and policies.

Here are five positive impacts directly derived from social protection measures:

Social protection boosts family income and food security – by providing income (cash) or consumption (food) transfers. These programmes allow households to purchase or receive more diverse food, of higher quality, directly. For example, in 7 countries among which Zambia, Lesotho and Ghana, cash transfer programmes functioned not only as a safety net, but also increased investment in household economic activities, upped social capital and allowed beneficiaries to reduce debt levels and increase debit worthiness. 
Social protection helps children stay in school – by ensuring basic family incomes so children don’t need to work to fill the gap. For example, while improving the availability of schools and quality of education will help get more children to enrol and stay in school, the children of poor families who cannot afford school supplies or who depend on income from child labour are still likely to not enrol, attend less, and drop-out early. In these cases, social protection instruments allow families to buy clothes and school supplies and send their children to school.
Social protection slows the spread of HIV/ AIDS – social protection can help reduce the risk of HIV infection by providing incentives against risky sexual behavior by teenagers. In terms of agriculture, households that are affected by HIV/AIDS face decreasing labour availability and asset status over time and become less able to produce enough, either for subsistence or for income generation. Money that would otherwise be spent on fertilisers and other inputs is allocated towards paying for medicines. FAO’s social protection activities include voucher systems for improving access to farm inputs and promoting labour-saving technologies.
Social protections narrows the poverty gap – by enabling disadvantaged people to protect themselves and their goods against shocks and disasters, by increasing access to public services and investing in human capital, in particular health and education, by supporting the participation of disadvantaged groups in labour markets. For example, in South Africa workers in households receiving social transfers are able to better search for work than those in comparable households not receiving these grants – and they are more successful in finding employment as a result.
Social protection is affordable - flagship programmes have shown not only that the impact of social protection on poverty can be dramatic but also that even large social protection programmes often cost less than 0.5 percent of GDP. For example, in African countries, an average of US$10 per month per household go a long way in empowering families and as a consequence, the entire community.  

This year’s World Food Day theme focuses on social protection because the economic or in-kind support social protection schemes provide prevents people from hunger in the short term. In the long-term, social protection measures stimulate production, allowing greater income stability and contributing to reducing poverty and food insecurity.

Check out our World Food Day page and participate in the poster contest. 

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