Photo credit: The Mount Kenya region where the Two Degrees Up project looks at the impact of climate change on agriculture, Neil Palmer (CIAT), 2010. 


Food and nutrition is a basic human right and a driving force behind a multitude of charities and organisations. Despite large contributions of foreign-aid to ensure food security, these efforts are often compromised by conflict, which prevents food crossing borders into conflict affected regions. Agricultural-based social protection programmes consequently hold great potential in bolstering food production within poverty stricken and conflict affected countries. Sub-Saharan Africa provides insight into this potential, being part of a region that relies economically on agricultural production while being confronted by a variety of shocks and crisis.


The three main reports that will be referenced in this blog are:


The benefits of agricultural-based social protection for food security

The conventional wisdom related to food security in poverty-stricken countries has involved the contribution of third-party resources and donations from overseas. While this is vital for emergency situations it is not a suitable long-term solution. The most promising solution lies in an agricultural, grassroots-based approach that allows a country to independently sustain its food supply. This can additionally provide jobs to help grow and sustain a viable economy.

The intersection of agriculture and social protection has long been an important one. In areas of sub-Saharan Africa, where it is estimated 80% of the population have no access to social protection, linking agriculture to social protection holds great potential in elevating people above the poverty line (Shelton, 2016).

The Global Alliance for the West in Sahel and West Africa has created a five-year framework, which includes four pillars to provide an interdisciplinary approach to ensuring food security (FAO, 2016). These four pillars demonstrate how food security includes the simultaneous strengthening of social and economic factors. The four pillars are:

  1. Social Protection to Secure Livelihoods
  2. Nutrition
  3. Food security, incomes and access to food, and
  4. Governance of food and nutrition security

In sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural is the main engine of economic growth in the region. It is therefore inevitable that social protection would be used within these four pillars to bolster agricultural efforts and the livelihoods associated with it.


Shock responsive agricultural protection and food security

The reason shock-responsive protection is so vital is the way in which it targets the most vulnerable of society in times of crisis. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) have established that it the poor and isolated who are the most disproportionately affected by shocks. These shocks usually revolve around economic, social and climatic instability with devastating effects on agricultural programmes.

Sub-Saharan Africa is a prime example of how these shocks can affect a region with 23.2% of the population reported as being food insecure (Martinez et al., 2016). Therefore, structuring programmes that can withstand shocks is essential in building resilience to food and nutritional security.

Designing and implementing shock-resistant agricultural protection is a challenging task. Not only do agricultural protection programmes need to fit the criteria outlined by FAO, but like most long-term solutions, they demand considerable resources. Furthermore, social protection programmes need to have the ability to be implemented quickly so that changes in the social or political climate do not affect their implementation.


Food and nutrition security using agricultural mechanisation

The German Institute have proposed the mechanisation of certain tasks so that labour shortages and other severe shocks do not affect agricultural output. Mechanisation of agricultural tasks in sub-Saharan Africa can be applied to many parts of the agricultural chain. These include food production, processing, storage and transport (Martinez et al, 2016).


  1. Production

Shock reduction through mechanism mitigates risk for farms and is a self-sustainable long-term investment, particularly for areas that produce cash crops. An increased profit from cash crops such as cotton can be redistributed to other farms to improve food security. However, mechanisation and commercialisation comes with its own associated risks. This accounts for social protection being imperative to reduce risks and allow families to invest in agricultural assets (Shelton, 2016).

The short-term reduction in the manual labour required upon mechanisation of tasks, particularly in food production and processing, can cause job reductions that put a strain on individual families. For this reason, families are encouraged to diversify their sources of income with both on- and off- farm activities. Multiple adult income earners in households also enables greater income security.


  1. Processing

There are also secondary benefits to mechanisation of agriculture in the labour workforce that could potentially mitigate the loss of labor-intensive jobs. Increased mechanisation causes an increased need for a higher-skilled workforce. While this does add to the financial considerations, it helps the enterprising potential of the community.

Social protection is of noteworthy importance in this situation by helping to provide education and human capital development (Slater et al., 2016). These educated workers would then be required for mechanical upkeep, further education of future machine operators, and sourcing/assembly.


  1. Storage

Storage is also a key factor in reducing shocks on food security. Being able to safely store long-lasting food such as grains ensures protection against climate and political related shocks. Storage solutions could range from basic small containers for households to large silos for communities. Social protection can support families and communities with utilities to help store and protect food.


  1. Transport

The last consideration of mechanism is transport. The ability to shift resources from one community to the next is vital in establishing healthy trade relationships as part of a growing economy. The financial barriers to transport costs do not have to be exceptionally high. Even lesser forms of transport, such as carts as opposed to walking for miles at a time with heavy food loads, can be a stepping stone.


Knowledge sharing for improved agricultural-based social protection: The South-South alliance

As outlined in the German Development Institute’s study, the greatest barrier to mechanisation of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is the cost. Fortunately, South-South cooperation between Africa and Brazil has been able to show promising results through knowledge sharing.

Strategies implemented by the South-South alliance include technical and financial cooperation, such as the More Food Programme. Another example is the Purchase from Africa for Africans programme that combines humanitarian and technical efforts (Cirillo et al., 2016). These social protection programmes help with many facets of food and nutrition security and strengthen the economy by providing outside assistance and education.

Other important undertakings accomplished by South-South cooperation include the ability to research and disseminate findings. A survey conducted by the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (the IPC-IG) found that information sharing is crucial for the evolution of social protection in both regions. Brazil’s influence has been critical in the way social protection has been defined as a basic human right in Africa to help reduce poverty and hunger (Cirillo et al., 2016).



Food and nutritional security is a basic human right. Leveraging social protection programmes to support agricultural production can support livelihoods, elevating people from poverty and improving their resilience to risks, shocks and crisis. This is essential in achieving inclusive growth and building a viable economy. Since sub-Saharan’s economy is based on agricultural production, social protection that focuses on agriculture is vital to the region’s prosperity. Thanks to international cooperation, such as the South-South alliance, this region is improving access to social protection, thereby enhancing food and nutrition security.   


Photo credit: The Mount Kenya region where the Two Degrees Up project looks at the impact of climate change on agriculture, Neil Palmer (CIAT), 2010. 



Cirillo, C., da Costa Noguiera, LM. and Soares, F. (2016). Brazil–Africa knowledge-sharing on Social Protection and food and nutrition security, the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG), Brazil. Accessible:

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations/FAO (2016). Social Protection in the Sahel and West Africa - Strengthening resilience for food security and nutrition. Accessible:

Martinez, C., Fedderson, M. and Speicher, A. (2016). Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Fresh Look on Agricultural Mechanisation German Development Institute Bonn. Accessible:

Shelton, P. (2016). Can linking social protection and agriculture end extreme poverty? International Food and Policy Research Institute. Accessible:

Slater, R. Wiggins, S. Harman, L., Ulrichs, M., Scott, L., Knowles, M., Pozarny, P. and Calcagnini, G. (2016). Strengthening coherence between agriculture and social protection Synthesis of seven country case studies Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Rome. Accessible:

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Labour market / employment programmes
    • Active labour market programmes / Productive inclusion
      • Public works programmes
        • Food for work
      • Productive / economic inclusion programmes
  • Social assistance
    • Subsidies
      • Price subsidies
        • Food subsidies
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Agriculture and rural development
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Global Development Agenda (SDGs / MDGs)
  • Poverty reduction
  • Resilience
  • Africa
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not's