The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and tested the responsiveness of food production and social protection systems, especially in rural areas. The policies implemented by governments as part of their social protection response were crucial to protecting production and ensuring food security, promoting and protecting employment, and improving digitalisation in rural areas. Lessons learned from these policies can be extremely useful when designing and implementing new programmes or adapting existing ones.

In this context, the Food and Agriculture Organisation Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (FAO-RLC) and the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) joined forces to prepare a series of three policy briefs on the social protection response to the COVID-19 crisis in rural areas of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). They analysed ten good practices implemented by national governments in the region to produce policy recommendations to “build back better” LAC’s social protection systems after the crisis. This blog post summarises the webinar "COVID-19 and social protection in rural areas: lessons to build back better", held on 11 November 2021, which presented these outcomes.

The session was moderated by Arniela Renique, Social Protection Specialist, FAO RLC. The speakers were Carolina Trivelli, Senior Strategic Analysis Advisor, FAO RLC; Fabio Veras, Senior Research Coordinator, IPC-IG/IPEA; Beatriz Burattini, Researcher, IPC-IG; José Bernardo González Torres, Director Nacional de Desarrollo Rural, Ministerio de Desarrollo Agropecuario, MIDA Panamá; José Carlos Araújo Mercês Júnior, General Coordinator of the Garantia-Safra, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply of Brazil; Adib Elias Bacha, Social Innovation Accelerator Coordinator, Supérate and Alejandro Grinspun, Senior Economist in the Social Protection team, FAO HQ.

You can access the webinar recording and presentation on the webinar page.


Objectives and content of the webinar

As a traditionally marginalized sector, rural populations are among the groups most exposed to some of the risks posed by the pandemic. They face vulnerabilities that are exacerbated by lack of access to public services; by the high level of informal, casual and seasonal employment, mainly in the agricultural sector; and by restrictions on diversifying livelihoods; among others.

In response to the socioeconomic impacts caused by the pandemic, LAC governments have adopted social protection responses, including social assistance, social security and labor market policies. They provide interesting lessons for other countries in the region on how to build back better their social protection systems and rural territories, enabling socio-economic inclusion and strengthening the resilience of rural families in the face of future emergencies or disasters.

This webinar provided an overview of the best practices of the social protection responses to COVID-19 in the rural areas of the LAC region and aims at disseminating the lessons learned from their experiences. Its main objectives were to provide reflections on the following questions:

- How did the social protection response to the COVID-19 crisis in the LAC region manage to deal with the vulnerabilities that are specific to the rural areas, protecting the rural population during the crisis?

- What were the lessons learned about the role of the social protection policies in promoting: food security and production protection; employment in the agri-food sector; and digitalization in rural areas?

- How can social protection help to build back better the rural territories after the COVID-19 crisis?


Social protection in rural LAC

The webinar thus presents the main results of a joint study by FAO-RLC and the IPC-IG to analyse the response to social protection in rural areas in LAC. It recommends policies and tools to advance toward integral systems of social protection that contribute to economic inclusion in rural areas. The Covid-19 pandemic has had serious economical social sanitary impacts in the region. In 2020, poverty in LAC affected 33.7 per cent of the population, whereas extreme poverty affected 12.5 per cent, reaching levels that had not been seen in the previous 12 years. 

To present and discuss the results of the study, six distinguished panellists joined the seminar. The initial comments were made by Carolina Trivelli, who touched upon the importance of political attention towards rural populations, since they are taking longer to recover from the economic shock provoked by Covid-19 than their urban counterparts. Fábio Veras insisted on the importance of studying social protection measures implemented in rural LAC as a response to the pandemic so as to generate knowledge to improve future government responses. Beatriz Burattini presented the main findings and lessons from the three policy briefs on how governments can build back better in rural LAC after the pandemic.

Afterwards, representatives from different LAC governments expatiated upon their countries' responses to the pandemic aiming to protect the rural population. Jose Bernado González addressed Panama's response through Plan Panama Solidario. Jose Carlos Araujo Mercês Junior presented Brazil's experience through the implementation of the programme Garantia Safra. Adib Elias Bacha, from Domenican Republic, shared his country's experience with implementing Quédate en Casa and Supérate. Finally, Alejandro Grinspun wrapped up discussions and conducted the Q&A section

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
      • In kind transfers
    • Subsidies
  • Labour market / employment programmes
    • Active labour market programmes / Productive inclusion
      • Public procurement from self-employes, microentrepreneurs and smallholder farmers
      • Productive / economic inclusion programmes
    • Passive labour market policies
      • Unemployment benefits
        • Unemployment insurance (contributory)
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Coverage
  • Programme implementation
    • Benefits payment / delivery
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Agriculture and rural development
  • Labour market / employment
    • Informality
  • Poverty reduction
  • Resilience
  • Argentina
  • Belize
  • Brazil
  • Dominican Republic
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Latin America & Caribbean
The views presented here are the author's and not's