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• Recommendation 15: Explore regulatory and voluntary instruments – such as marketing, publicity and labelling policies, economic incentives or disincentives in accordance with Codex Alimentarius and World Trade Organization rules – to promote healthy diets.
• Recommendation 16: Establish food or nutrient-based standards to make healthy diets and safe drinking water accessible in public facilities such as hospitals, childcare facilities, workplaces, universities, schools, food and catering services, government offices and prisons, and encourage the establishment of facilities for breastfeeding.
a Smallholder farmers include agriculture and food workers, artisanal fisherfolk, pastoralists, indigenous peoples and the landless (Committee on World Food Security, Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition, 2013).
Social Protection against Food Insecurity and Malnutrition Experience shows that some initiatives for eradicating hunger and malnutrition require special efforts by national governments in order to accelerate progress. Social protection is clearly one such area.
Social protection can ensure access to a minimum level of resources so that people can have decent conditions of work and life. In recent years, discussions on social protection have moved towards the idea of providing a social protection floor, which refers to a set of nationally determined basic social security guarantees for everyone. The General Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted the Social Protection Floors Recommendation in 2012, which identified four sets of basic guarantees that any national social protection floor should include: (a) access to essential health care; (b) income security for children, ensuring access to adequate nutrition, education, and care; (c) basic income security for persons of active working age unable to earn a sufficient income;
and (d) basic income security for older persons.
Guarantee against food insecurity and malnutrition is thus a crucial component of a social protection floor. In this context, discussions on the Right to Food and implementation of FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security are central (Ajemian, 2014; De Schutter, 2014; FAO, 2005).
Social protection is provided in various forms. These include cash or in-kind transfer payments, subsidized provision of goods and services, insurance, and guarantee of wages and employment. Although there are variations in the efficacy of different types of programmes depending on the socio-economic context, in-kind transfer programmes, particularly when designed to meet minimum nutritional requirements of the target
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population, are an effective instrument for ending food insecurity and raising nutritional status. Cash transfer programmes, with substantial benefits and broad coverage, can also provide complementary resources in the hands of households to buy food and to invest in food production.
Why is social protection important for food security and nutrition?
A system of social protection not only protects the vulnerable against economic and environmental shocks, but also ensures that everyone has enough resources to be able to acquire adequate nutritious food. Social protection can significantly reduce income poverty in rural areas. Complementary social protection programmes can target specific nutritional deficiencies and vulnerable population groups. These include children, pregnant and lactating mothers, older persons, and persons belonging to disadvantaged social or occupational groups.
Social protection programmes also have positive spill-over effects such as by creating upward pressure on wages, enhancing small producers’ accumulation of productive resources, and increasing productivity, infrastructural development, and augmenting demand. A significant impact of social protection is improving access of poor producers to investible resources. FAO’s From Protection to Production studies have shown that social protection programmes can significantly boost agricultural as well as non-agricultural production (Box 3.1). Over time, a well-functioning social protection system can significantly support rural livelihoods and help improve the nutritional status of the population at large.
Social protection for the poor also helps augment demand, which in turn can have very substantial multiplier effects on domestic production and national income. The impact of social protection on demand can be crucial in times of economic crises. This was witnessed in many countries during the post-2008 financial crisis. Discussing the role of social protection during the financial crisis, a report of the Social Protection Floor Advisory Group (ILO,
2012) concluded: “Recent years have provided potent proof of the value of social protection interventions in a time of crisis. Throughout the economic and financial crisis many floor-type social protection measures acted as effective counter-cyclical stabilizers. They helped attenuate the adverse impact on labour markets, contributed to maintaining social cohesion and stimulated aggregate demand. The combined effect of this effort ultimately aided and spurred economic recovery in a range of countries.” Public expenditure for social protection varies considerably across countries according to the extent of coverage and the level of social protection provided. While it is desirable that countries progressively expand the coverage and extent of social protection, and increase public Social Protection 41 expenditure on social protection to facilitate that, it has been pointed out that the extent of social protection benefits can be substantial even with relatively modest fiscal outlays. The ILO has estimated that 6 percent of global GDP is required to provide basic social security cover to all those without access to social security. It has been argued that this should be possible by primarily using national resources (ILO, 2008). Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas, and many are themselves producers of food. Historically, social protection has emerged in urban areas, primarily for wage employees, military veterans, and the unemployed. Extending social protection to the countryside requires a major reorientation and reorganization of social protection. It is also important to orient social protection to enhance the productive and income-generating capacities and capabilities of the beneficiaries.
Provision of food through social protection programmes Direct provisioning of food is done through various kinds of social protection programmes. These include food assistance programmes, programmes that provide subsidized food, school-meal programmes and other programmes where cooked food is provided to particularly vulnerable sections of the population, and food-for-work programmes. Food provisioning programmes have historically been an important part of the food security policies of many countries. Programmes for provision of free or subsidized food were used in many developing countries during much of the twentieth century. The use of food-for-work programmes to create demand as well as build public infrastructure also has a very long history.
Trends in food provisioning programmes Over the last few decades, many countries have discontinued large food provisioning programmes and shifted to other forms of social protection.
There were three primary drivers of this change. First, international finance institutions, donors, and other advocates of fiscal conservatism criticized food subsidy programmes for being expensive. Food provisioning programmes in various countries were targets of reform under structural adjustment programmes implemented across the developing world. Secondly, since the early 1990s, global food aid has declined considerably (Barrett and Maxwell, 2005) and many international donors have shifted to supporting cash transfer programmes. While food aid declined and domestic production in developing countries grew slowly, food-deficit countries have had to rely on food imports. Globally, between 1980 and 2010, imports increased by 67 percent for wheat, 166 percent for rice, and 36 percent for maize. Thirdly, under the World Trade Organization’s Uruguay Round agreement, procurement and stockholding of agricultural 42 Ending Malnutrition Box 3.1 From Protection to Production: Linkages between Social Protection and Agricultural Production The FAO’s From Protection to Production project has systematically evaluated the impact of social protection programmes on income-generating activities and consumption in seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. All the programmes studied by the project are cash transfer programmes, targeting poor households. While transfers in some programmes under evaluation were unconditional, in other programmes, beneficiaries had to satisfy pre-specified conditions to be entitled to the transfers.
The project has developed a methodology called Local Economy-Wide Impact Evaluation (LEWIE) to assess the impact of these programmes on local economies. LEWIE uses local-level social accounting matrices for treatment and control households, created using household-, enterprise- and community-level survey data (Asfaw et al., 2012).
The studies estimated that incomes generated on account of the cash transfer programmes were 1.27 to 2.52 times the amount of cash transferred (Table 3.1). The programmes accounted for 7 percent (Ghana) to 30 percent (Zambia) of per capita consumption of beneficiary households. The studies reported considerable improvement in the food security status of beneficiary households. In Zambia, Kenya, and Malawi, the studies reported increases in food expenditure and increased diversity of diets, particularly on account of increased consumption of animal-source foods. On the other hand, in Ghana and Lesotho, the unpredictability of transfers has meant that the programmes have had little impact on food expenditure and dietary diversity.
Programmes were found to have had significant impact on various productive and income-generating activities (Table 3.2). Zambia’s Child Grant Programme increased the extent of land cultivated, expenditure on agricultural inputs, and sale of crop and livestock products. In Lesotho and Ghana, the cash transfer programmes increased input use. In all the countries except Ghana, cash transfers were associated with increased ownership of different types of livestock. In Ghana, Malawi, and Zambia, cash transfers induced some beneficiary households to start non-agricultural Social Protection 43 business enterprises. In both Zambia and Malawi, cash transfers were associated with increased investment in agricultural implements.
products through domestic price support programmes were classified as trade-distorting and severely restricted. Consequently, many developing countries switched from programmes providing subsidized food to other forms of assistance.
Given pressures to reduce the fiscal burden of social protection programmes, the shifts away from food provisioning programmes to other forms of social protection have also been associated with the narrowing of social protection.
Among developing countries, programmes for provision of subsidized food are now limited to a few large countries that are able to fiscally sustain their domestic procurement and distribution programmes. Of all the major ongoing food subsidy programmes, India’s Public Distribution System (PDS) is arguably the largest. It provides subsidized grain to over 40 percent of Indian households. This was expected to be raised to two-thirds of the population under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (Box 3.2).
Another major food subsidy programme, Indonesia’s Operasi Pasar Khusus Rice Subsidy Programme, was introduced in 1998. Under this programme, beneficiary households are entitled to get 10 kilograms of rice every month at a subsidized price (Tabor and Sawit, 2001). The programme, now called Rice for the Poor (Raskin), covers about 17 million households.
It has been estimated that Raskin has reduced the probability of being poor among beneficiary households by about 4 percent (Sumarto, Suryahadi, and Widyanti, 2005). Raskin has not only increased rice consumption among beneficiaries, but also allowed them to consume greater quantities of other nutritious food items including meat, fish, and dairy products (Pangaribowo, 2012).
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Box 3.2 Public Distribution System in India
Public distribution of foodgrains in India dates back to the inter-war period.
The statutory wheat price was fixed for the first time in 1941. Much emphasis was put on producing more rice because of the decline in the supply of rice from Burma, which had been occupied by Japan. Before the 1960s, food distribution was based on imported food or food received in aid. By the 1970s, India became self-sufficient in the production of foodgrains and the Public Distribution System (PDS) evolved into a universal scheme for the distribution of subsidized food through a network of ration shops. Since the 1970s, the system of public procurement and the Public Distribution System (PDS) have functioned in tandem. A system of minimum support prices is used to provide incentives to farmers and to procure grain, which is then provided to consumers at subsidized prices under the PDS.