SAFETY NETS SUPPORT SUSTAINABLE GROWTH AND TRANSFORMATION: EVIDENCE FROM ETHIOPIAN PRODUCTIVE SAFETY NET PROGRAMME
The government of Ethiopia formulated a Food Security Program (FSP) which encompassed a shift of households from emergency relief system to sustainable food security system. The Productive Safety Nets Program (PSNP), a core element of the broader Food Security Program of the country, has been implemented since 2005. It relieves people of the persistent and recurrent destitution associated with food crises, and ensures that the most vulnerable households do not go hungry. Taking a two-pronged approach, it tackles the household’s immediate and future needs. It pays people for labour-intensive work on community infrastructure during times when farm work is not an option.
The PSNP’s Public Works (PW) program is designed to address a key underlying cause of food insecurity which is believed to be environmental degradation. The PSNP PWs activities were carefully crafted and implemented to involve as much labor as possible and to help reduce the root causes of vulnerability to drought and food insecurity. PWs focus on integrated community-based watershed development, covering activities such as soil and water conservation (SWC) measures, rangeland management (in pastoral areas), and the development of community assets such as roads, water infrastructure, schools, and clinics. These works contribute to improved livelihoods (through increased availability of natural resources including water and cultivatable land, soil fertility, increased agricultural production and improved market access), strengthened disaster risk management and climate resilience, and nutrition. In this paper some evidence findings from the Public work impact assessments and the Climate Smart Initiative (CSI) pilot are presented as lessons learned to illustrate the PSNP support to sustainable growth and transformation.
A series of high-level policy documents set out a clear vision for Ethiopia’s future, charting a path for the country’s economic, social and political development. This vision creates the context for a national safety net programme. The Government of Ethiopia’s current Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-II) aims to enhance productivity and production of smallholder farmers and pastoralists; strengthen marketing systems; improve participation and engagement of the private sector; expand the amount of land under irrigation; and reduce the number of chronically food insecure households. GTP II represents a key development in Ethiopian climate policy. It is the first five-year plan to mainstream climate through its framework, integrating the objectives of the recent Climate-Resilient Green Economy strategy. GTP II recognizes the growth and poverty alleviation potential of smallholder agriculture that is not only dynamic and market-oriented but also climate resilient. The PSNP fits within this overall plan and contributes to four key policies: the Social Protection Policy, the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Policy, the National Nutrition Programme (NNP), and the Climate Resilient Green Economy Policy (CRGE).
How the PSNP Contribute to Food Security and Poverty Reduction:
In a rural country like Ethiopia, broad-based agricultural growth provides the foundation for resilient livelihoods, while underpinning wider economic transformation. People who are chronically food insecure, poor or vulnerable cannot engage in or contribute to the agricultural growth and transformation agenda. Even if food consumption is smoothed through the safety net, people with limited assets have difficulty engaging in or contributing to more productive agriculture or other growth-oriented economic activities. Thus, investment in an effective safety net and a systematic approach to asset building are prerequisites for broad-based growth and transformation. As such, they epitomise the notion of ‘smart economics’.
The PSNP and HABP together have shown themselves to be an effective means of addressing chronic food insecurity and poverty. For example, in 2006, PSNP clients in highland programme areas had 8.4 months of food security on average; by 2012 this had risen to 10.1 months. The PSNP has been shown to increase participating households’ food security by 1.48 and 1.93 months per year respectively for those doing PWs and those receiving direct support.
In 2010/11, cash transfers as part of the PSNP reduced the rural poverty gap by 10.5 per cent. Transfers per client equate to 10 per cent of the poverty line, and have raised a fifth of clients above that line. Sixty-two per cent of clients avoided selling assets in 2012, 90 per cent of which is attributable to the PSNP. Asset liquidation is a common coping strategy, but one which can undermine the household asset base of PSNP clients, weakening their resilience.
At the community level, the PSNP has contributed to the extension and improvement of productive assets in many rural areas. Seventy-six per cent of households report benefiting from road construction through improved market access, increased productivity and easier access to education. Similarly high percentages (62 and 71 per cent respectively) report that they benefit from PWs school and health post construction, with 56 per cent and 60 per cent respectively reporting that education and health services had improved as a result. The overall aggregated NPV (net present value) for all sub-projects was estimated to be ETB 10,201.9 million.
PWs have also resulted in considerable environmental improvements. Area closure and enrichment plantation works which were implemented on degraded farmlands and/or grazing lands have regenerated to either dense or open woodlands. Woody Biomass Production from Area Closures is now about 10,682 MT/Ha, is more than double compared to the rate of production at the start of PSNP which was only 5,194 MT/Ha. The total runoff volume in the watersheds as well as flooding and sedimentation in and out of the watershed areas has also shown remarkable reduction. The PW interventions have reduced the soil loss by 32.2%, which is much greater than the project’s target of 25%. This reduction of soil loss varied from ‘nil’ in areas where there was no SWC activity to nearly 57% in high altitude highland watershed. There is some evidence that these environmental improvements have also provided new income streams, such as from beekeeping on new enclosures and cutting and selling grass as livestock fodder and roofing material. However, communities need ongoing support to sustain the impacts of the PWs conservation activities realized so far.
Adaptation and climate resilience
In essence, strengthening climate resilience means building people’s capacity to (1) withstand extreme events without food aid and (2) actively manage their livelihoods so they are able to provide food for their families in the face of changing weather patterns. The PSNP help build resilience in three ways: by preventing the depletion of household assets; by providing more options to help people withstand and recover from shocks and stressors; and by building people’s capacity to deal with the range of possible future climate risks. For example, organizations can support and strengthen adaptive capacity and resilience through the following types of activities.
Improving water security: Climate change is projected to lead to changes in seasonal patterns of rainfall, including longer dry spells, which will hamper access to water. Managing water more effectively is therefore crucial. The PSNP uses the watershed management approach, which involves soil and water conservation activities, reforestation, and enclosures. For example, the Orotho rock catchment (Arero woreda, Oromia) was constructed through PSNP PWs in 2011, and has so far benefited at least 350 households. It has been particularly beneficial for women and children, who typically carry the main burden of collecting water. The HABP provided credit for water pumps and water storage facilities, which enables cropping all year round.
Supporting pastoralists: Climate change is expected to lead to further challenges for pastoralists, for whom mobility is the traditional strategy for dealing with climate variability. The PSNP and HABP are working in different ways to address constraints to movement, poorer pastures and declining productivity. The PSNP’s support to enclosed areas has helped regenerate vegetation, reduce seasonal floods and soil erosion, and support a wider range of livelihood options. The PSNP and HABP have meant that poorer households without access to livestock can invest in alternative livelihood activities such as fodder production and crop farming.
Diversifying livelihoods and markets: The PSNP and HABP work in complementary ways to support more diverse livelihoods, which is a cornerstone to resilience. In Tigray, for example, improved management and rehabilitation of local watersheds made it possible for the HABP to support a wider range of livelihood activities. In Afar, PSNP PWs supported an irrigation scheme on land that previously could not be farmed. The HABP’s support allowed women to invest in the production of high-value onions and chillies. This kind of diversification is not only vital for increasing current incomes but also strengthens people’s ability to adapt to an uncertain future.
Empowering local ownership and decision-making: Through close engagement with local people, the PSNP and HABP stimulate local ownership of and action on adaptation. For example, the implementation process for PWs has created functional structures at different levels – including micro-watershed planning groups, water user groups, kebele- and woreda-level planning, technical committees and task forces – that are able to plan and promote community mobilisation. There is evidence that these structures work even beyond their PSNP and HABP remit – a clear indication of increased capacity to support resilience. Integrating climate change into PSNP and HABP contingency plans: To effectively build resilience it is crucial to mainstream climate change into delivery mechanisms such as the PSNP and HABP. The CSI is working to integrate climate change into contingency planning, in order to build resilient systems and help timely scaling up of support where and when it is needed.
While conceived of primarily as a safety net, the PSNP has proven itself to be an effective instrument for reducing food insecurity and poverty, while simultaneously building adaptive capacity to climate change. As such, it helps form the ’glue’ between the growth and transformation agenda on the one hand, and resilience and the green economy on the other.
Based on the now well-documented experiences with the PSNP, there is a strong and compelling case that the GTP II should include a national safety net that builds on and extends the achievements to date. Effective social assistance contributes to social cohesion and the achievement of broader national socioeconomic development and security, making growth more efficient and equitable. Continued support for people who continue to experience food insecurity constitutes a critical investment: it addresses the need for universal food and nutrition security while setting the stage for graduation into more profitable and secure livelihoods and economic activities.
Finally, the growing body of evidence from the PSNP demonstrates that a well-designed and well-implemented national safety net can also address the defining challenge of the 21st century – climate change adaptation. The idea that food security, rural growth and climate adaptation are separate and distinct policy areas must be laid to rest. The PSNP experience provides very strong justification for the use of funds delivered through national and international climate finance (including the CRGE Facility) to support a next generation national safety net.