Reaching rural areas in the social protection response to COVID-19: opportunities and challenges


L'interprétation simultanée (anglais-français) était disponible pour cette session.

Join the Q&A discussion

COVID-19 affects rural lives and livelihoods in a specific way. Rural areas already concentrated 80 percent of the world’s extreme poor, before the pandemic hit. COVID-19 containment measures are particularly difficult for the rural poorest and most vulnerable, who tend to hold jobs and occupations that cannot be performed remotely. This is particularly true for farmers, herders, fisherfolk, and foresters. Informality is widespread in rural areas, in particular for women, and closely intertwined with poverty. Many of the worlds poor depend on public spaces and movement for their livelihoods, including seasonal agricultural work and traveling to markets to sell or buy products and/or inputs, etc. When restrictions are implemented that require reduced mobility, many will abruptly lose their source of livelihood. The vast majority of the rural poor are not covered by health insurance or income protection, such as paid sick leave or unemployment benefits, and they will likely face food and nutrition insecurity.  

Social protection schemes can play a decisive role in protecting lives and livelihoods by securing incomes, ensuring access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food, providing support with childcare, insuring against sickness or death risks and facilitating access to health care. If implemented in conjunction with productive and economic interventions, social protection can support farmers, herders, fisherfolk, and foresters to continue producing during or after the crisis to ensure food security for themselves and others. Large segments of the rural population are not covered by existing social protection schemes. Remoteness, low density of population, high mobility, and pervasive employment informality all hinder access to social protection, acting as a barrier for both the demand and supply of social protection. Applying or participating in a social protection scheme can often represent a hidden cost that poor rural people cannot bear.  

The dramatic increase in the number of countries that have adopted social protection responses to the pandemic is an opportunity to recognize the potential of social protection and enshrine these measures into systemic approaches going beyond mere ad hoc crisis responses. However, the COVID-19 pandemic may also have exacerbated some of the pre-existing barriers that limited the inclusion of rural populations. Reaching rural populations with critical support has required, and will require still, innovative and adapted approaches to respond to rural populations' needs. This webinar, co-organized by FAO and ILO, provided a platform for countries to discuss how social protection can be best leveraged as a tool to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 for rural communities, as well as challenges and opportunities for building back better in terms of longer-term social protection responses, enhancing coordination between social protection and agriculture. 



Reema Nanavaty, Director of the Self Employed Women's Association's (SEWA), India 

Lixia Tang, Deputy Dean, College of International Development and Global Agriculture, China Agricultural University 

Cecilia Mbaka, Head of the National Social Protection Secretariat, Kenya

Mounir Cherif, Social Protection Expert, Tunisia



Kroum Markov, Social Protection Policy Specialist, ILO



Ana Ocampo, Social Protection Officer, FAO 


Resources (FAO):

Social Protection and COVID-19 response in rural areas

Gendered impacts of COVID-19 and equitable policy responses in agriculture, food security and nutrition

Addressing inequality in times of COVID-19

Impact of COVID-19 on informal workers

COVID-19 and rural poverty


Resources (ILO):

Social protection responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries: Strengthening resilience by building universal social protection

Social protection responses to the COVID-19 crisis: Country responses and policy considerations

Social protection responses to the COVID-19 crisis around the world

ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work (Third edition) - Updated estimates and analysis

ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work (Fifth edition) - Updated estimates and analysis


Resources (SEWA): 

Case studies 

Pandemic and Future of Work - Rehabilitating informal workers livelihoods post-pandemic

Social protection for informal workers



This was the twenty-fourth webinar of the “Social protection responses to COVID-19” webinar series. The series is a joint effort initiated by the IPC-IGGIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the Australia Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) collaboration with the platform, and in cooperation with partners from different organisations. Join the online community ''Social protection responses to COVID-19 [Task force]'' to learn more about the initiative and future webinars.