Poverty, agriculture and social protection

Photo credit: FAO

Can linking social protection and agriculture end extreme poverty?

by PETER SHELTON

Social protection programs−broadly defined as initiatives offering cash or in-kind assistance to the poor−have expanded rapidly in recent decades, now covering an estimated two billion people living in developing countries. Such broad coverage, which accounts for roughly one-third of the total population living in these countries, has contributed to a dramatic decline in extreme poverty, with the proportion of extremely poor (those living on less than US$1.25 a day) dropping from 43 percent in 1990 to around 17 percent today. Yet research shows that simply scaling up existing social protection programs will not be enough to pull those who remain behind out of the vicious poverty trap.

Why is this? According to Rob Vos from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), social protection only offers a sustainable pathway out of poverty if there is inclusive growth in the economy. Presenting key findings from The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2015 report, Vos underscored the fact that extreme poverty remains highly concentrated in rural areas where smallholder subsistence farming is the main economic driver. The highest concentrations are found in South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara, where an estimated 80 percent of the rural population still has no access to any form of social protection. Thus, linking social protection to agricultural and rural development efforts has many practical advantages for pulling the greatest number of people out of extreme poverty.

Read the full story: IFPRI

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.