Social Protection Programs Increase the Productivity of Vulnerable Farmers

Posted by on October 9th, 2015 | 0 Comments »

Ann updated headshotBy Ann Steensland, Deputy Director, Global Harvest Initiative

For more on the links between social protection programs and agricultural productivity, look for GHI’s 2015 Global Agricultural Productivity® (GAP Report®): Building Sustainable Breadbaskets to be released on October 14th. Click here to register for the GAP Report Release Event in Des Moines, Iowa, or watch the live webcast.


Photo credit: ©IFAD/Siegfried Modola

Photo credit: ©IFAD/Siegfried Modola

For subsistence and small-scale producers, income instability is one of the greatest obstacles to increasing the productivity and profitability of their agricultural enterprises. Small-scale producers rely on wage labor, such as working on larger farms or in processing facilities, for their main source of income. Agricultural wage labor is seasonal, which means that men and women are investing less time and energy in their own farms during critical planting and harvest periods.

As a result, many vulnerable farmers (especially women) are stuck in a cycle of “coping” – doing what they need to do to get by. This makes it difficult for them to increase the productivity of their own operations, accumulate savings for future investments, or acquire knowledge and skills to work in a value-added agricultural business or a non-agricultural trade.

A new report released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Achieving Zero Hunger: The critical role of investments in social protection and agriculture, advocates for increased investment in social protection programs, such as cash grants, to stabilize incomes and food security for vulnerable farmers. Moving these farmers from “protection to production,” requires simultaneous investments and partnerships that improve access to secure land tenure; transportation, electricity and irrigation infrastructures; and agricultural knowledge and innovations developed by robust research, extension, and education systems.

Social protection programs and agricultural development will be featured at the Expo Milan 2015 on World Food Day, October 16th. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Director General of the FAO Jose Graziano da Silva, will participate in a ceremony that includes the official presentation of the Charter of Milan which calls on all citizens to fight against undernourishment, malnutrition and waste, while promoting equal access to natural resources and sustainability.


GHI’s 2015 Global Agricultural Productivity® (GAP Report®): Building Sustainable Breadbaskets highlights a social protection program that was piloted in the Eastern Province of Zambia. The Child Grant Program (CGP) provided families who have children under the age of 5 with a monthly grant of ~$12 which they used to purchase items such as food, health care and clothing. A review of the program’s outcomes showed that the grants helped stabilize family incomes, enabling parents to invest more time and resources in their farm and off-farm enterprises. The program not only reduced the severity of poverty, it changed the participants’ perception of their own food and income security. Perhaps most encouraging was the increased investment in productivity-enhancing and labor-saving inputs, and the growth in agricultural output by CGP beneficiaries.

Given the success of the Child Grant Program, the 2015 GAP Report® recommends that the Zambian government increase its investment in social protection programs, which target the most vulnerable producers, while continuing to reform its land tenure system, expand and improve critical infrastructure, and strengthen its agricultural research and extension systems.

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