Does the geographical footprint of Ethiopia’s flagship social protection programme align with climatic and conflict risks?

Ethiopia’s flagship ‘Productive Safety Net Programme’ (PSNP) entered its fifth phase of implementation in 2021 with a reorientation of the programme’s target areas. Whereas before it targeted woredas (districts) with a history of food insecurity, it now prioritises those experiencing ‘extreme poverty through shocks’ – particularly drought. In so doing, the government has rebranded the PSNP as an ‘adaptive’ safety net. The focus of the ‘adaptive social protection’ policy agenda, however, extends beyond responding to biophysical risks associated with climate variability and change: it also seeks to address non-climatic, contextual factors underpinning relational vulnerability to climate change. This study therefore asks whether the PSNP’s system of geographical targeting at the start of its fifth phase aligns with this more comprehensive framing of ‘adaptive social protection’.The results highlight that PSNP administrators need to pay more attention to certain risks as they consider expanding the programme’s geographical footprint so that it becomes more ‘adaptive’. Doing so could better support the strengthening of PSNP participants’ long-term resilience to climate change.