Flagship 4: Improved Social Protection for Vulnerable Populations (2012-2016)

Some people will be left out of even a robust rate of agricultural growth—for example, households with little or no land, individuals suffering from illnesses or disabilities, or those living in marginal areas that do not share in technical advancement. In addition, many of the world’s poorest live under great risk, due to such factors as weather, price variability, health, or local conflicts. When shocks hit the very poor, people often have no choice other than sell their assets and reduce consumption, thereby reducing current and future welfare. The risk of such shocks also discourages poor people from adopting potentially more productive technologies.

Safety Nets: Design and Performance (Cluster 4.1)

Safety nets can break the cycle of fear and destitution, allowing households and individuals to accumulate and retain physical, financial, and human assets that help boost their productivity and livelihoods.

Bolsa Família

Foto: Jefferson Rudy/Agência Senado

During the first three years of PIM (2012-2014), our work on social protection included such areas as understanding the impact on historically neglected groups, such as  how conditional cash transfer (CCTs) programs benefit indigenous populations in Latin America; considering innovations in intervention design, such as collaborating  with the World Food Programme on alternatives to food transfers; and understanding impacts of social protection interventions on food security and agriculture.

PIM also supported completion of legacy projects initiated by IFPRI prior to 2012. This includes work on Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, one of the largest conditional cash transfer programs in the world, and on South Africa’s Child Support Grant.

The outputs produced by this research flagship in 2012-2014 include advice on the design and coverage of social protection programs.

PSNP beneficiary in Tigray

Photo: Kelly Ramundo, USAID

For example, the Government of Ethiopia and the consortium of donors supporting Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) are incorporating the results of the PSNP impact assessment, conducted by IFPRI and with funding from PIM, into the re-design of the program. These findings should contribute to reinforcing aspects of the program that work well (for example, targeting), while improving other aspects (for example, timeliness of payments and linkages to complementary programs aimed at increasing rural incomes).

The Government of Bangladesh has used the Bangladesh Integrated Household Survey (BIHS) dataset, prepared with the assistance of the Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division of IFPRI and with  funding from PIM, to revamp its safety-net system in order to more effectively target and reach the poorest households and individuals. The resulting program is expected to be supported by the World Bank. By contributing to program design and implementation, the use of the BIHS dataset will contribute to effective and efficient social protection interventions.

In 2015 and 2016, the research team is focusing on topics that are natural extensions to the 2012-14  activities or that expand the evidence on the impact of social protection. Particular attention is being paid to intra-household dimensions of the impacts of the social protection programs on food security (disaggregating by age and sex) and agriculture productivity (with a gender focus). We are continuing to work on innovations in the delivery of social protection as well as examining whether nutrition-sensitive interventions are more effective than more standard approaches. We are seeking other opportunities to study how linking social protection to complementary programs (such as financial inclusion or linking transfer programs to credit and savings instruments) can expand program impacts. In addition, we will focus on the role social protection interventions play in enhancing individual and household resilience to shocks.

Some recent publications from this work:

Cash, food, or vouchers? Evidence from a randomized experiment in northern Ecuador (Journal of Development Economics, 2014)

Costing alternative transfer modalities (Journal of Development Effectiveness, published online 2014)


Insurance for the Poor (Cluster 4.2)

Work on insurance for the poor is closely linked to that of social protection, and researchers under this cluster examine the interaction between the two, as well as factors affecting rates of take-up of insurance products.


Photo: International Rice Research Institute

In 2015-2016, we will analyze a range of innovations to make insurance products for weather-related risks more attractive to the poor. The studies will be undertaken in India, complementary with another insurance project proposed by CCAFS (focusing on linkages between weather index insurance and the adoption of climate smart technologies), and Uruguay, where IFPRI  previously implemented a pilot project on index-based weather insurance. Encouraged by the results of that pilot, the government and a local insurance company expressed willingness to continue the experiment on a larger scale.

Our researcher team will test a range of simple and affordable insurance securities (policies) at different price points, all of which provide coverage for different risk levels and periods. This will allow a farmer to choose an optimal insurance portfolio based on that individual's unique risk profile. In addition,  the team will test whether marketing the insurance products to household members engaged in off-farm labor (those who often provide financial support to the family to cope with the weather shocks) and such marginalized groups  as landless laborers would increase the uptake. Special attention will be given to targeting women, both primary producers and members of the household.