Industry must boost social protection for rural farmers: FAO

"Evidence shows that when poor rural households are provided with social assistance, they tend to increase their investments in agricultural assets and engage in more profitable livelihoods," says FAO

Rural poverty is the theme of this year’s World Food Day but agriculture in itself is not enough to end hunger, says the FAO – social protection is vital to protecting farmers which means industry can get involved. 

Held every year on 16 October, the theme of this year’s World Food Day is "Social protection and agriculture: Breaking the cycle of rural poverty."  

There is a strong link between the two, says FAO."Evidence shows that when poor rural households are provided with social assistance, they are better able to manage risks and shocks; feeling financially more secure and perceiving their time horizon as longer, they tend to increase their investments in agricultural assets and engage in more profitable livelihoods." This is a virtuous circle as households have money disposable income, boosting demand for locally produced goods and services.

Social protection programmes could include government cash transfers or public work programmes. But industry can also get involved -  social insurance programmes could be partly financed by contributions from employers while labour market programmes to build skills enhance both workers’ productivity and employability, says the FAO.

Speaking at the official opening ceremony at MilanExpo today, secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said that recognising the indivisibility of the 17 sustainable development goals was crucial to ending world hunger, while head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Sir Suma Chakrabarti said private sector engagement was crucial to combat hunger and ensure food security.

“We welcome the fact that the new Agenda acknowledges the private sector as crucial for the sustainable development goals' success and recognises private finance as the main channel for mobilising global resources,” he said, adding that the EBRD would continue to make significant investments‎ in private agribusinesses and to provide stable, long-term finance for food and nutrition. EBRD agribusiness investments total €10 billion since it was founded.

Despite positive progress over recent years – 2.1 billion people were reached by social protection programmes with 150 million people lifted out of extreme poverty – 64% of the world’s population does not receive any social protection, the majority of whom live in rural areas.

“When shocks occur, [rural farmers] are often forced to cope in ways that increase their vulnerability or undermine their future income generation capacity. Although agriculture plays a key role in eradicating both poverty and hunger, in these circumstances, it offers little on its own in the way of a pathway out of poverty.”

“Social protection (…) prevents people from hunger in the short term. In the long-term, social protection measures stimulate production, allowing greater income stability and contributing to reducing poverty and food insecurity.”

Join the online debate

EUFoodChat and Euractiv organised a twitter discussion entitled ‘Feeding the World: Is innovation the answer?’ at 12pm Central European Time under the hashtag #CAPOnTheGround.

European agricultural cooperative Copa-Cogeca and Flemish Green party MEP Bart Staes.

The conversation will cover the role of the EU and the current CAP in meeting the challenge of feeding the world’s population, and the EU’s contribution to increasing food production in developing countries.

Meanwhile Food Tank director Danielle Nierenberg and Caleb Harper of the Open AG initiative will be participating in a Twitter chat organised by the National Geographic Food at 12pm Eastern Time.

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