Mr Bukar Tijani, Assistant Director–General, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has said public investment in social protection must be combined and coordinated towards strengthening the productive sectors of agriculture and rural development.
He said social protection could play a crucial role in breaking the cycle of poverty, but it was not in itself a cure as social protection alone could not sustainably eradicate hunger and rural poverty.
He said there was, therefore, the need to make social protection interventions more sensitive to agriculture and vice versa, by focusing both agriculture and social protection interventions on targeted households and aligning interventions that target different households.
Mr Tijani, who is also the FAO Regional Representative for Africa, was speaking at a press conference on the State of Food and Agriculture for 2015, on the theme, “Social Protection and Agriculture; Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty,” in Accra.
He noted that addressing chronic poverty and food insecurity required a long-term predictable package of social protection and complementary measures.
He said major findings had revealed that in poor countries social protection schemes such as cash transfers, school feeding programmes and public works were support systems provided to vulnerable people to move them out of extreme poverty and hunger.
Mr Tijani noted that only about a third of the world’s poorest people were covered by any form of social protection, saying that the coverage rates dipped even lower in Sub-Saharan Africa.
He said, “Social protection programmes allow households to access more food often by increasing what they grow themselves and also make their diets more diverse and healthier.
“These programmes can have positive impacts on infant and maternal nutrition, reduce child labour and raise school attendance.”
Such programmes, he said, currently benefited 2.1 billion people in developing countries in various ways, including keeping 150 million people out of extreme poverty.
Mr Tijani said expanding such programmes in rural areas and linking them to inclusive agricultural growth policies would rapidly reduce the number of poor people, emphasising the urgency to support the most vulnerable people in order to free the world of hunger.
Dr. Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, a Deputy Minister of Agriculture, said it had been globally established that agriculture was a means of reducing poverty because of its mass participation in the global economy.
He said the theme for this year’s World Food Day celebration, which would be commemorated on October 16, would focus attention on the situation of extreme poverty and how various social intervention programmes and activities could help reverse the trend.
He said the agricultural economy was an integral part of the general economy and there was the need to pay particular attention to farmers at the rural communities and make agriculture more market-oriented.
Dr Alhassan said the government had, therefore, introduced certain schemes and programmes to focus on to support rural farmers right at the start of production to marketing in order to put some monies back into their individual pockets.
“Tax exemption schemes, building of production infrastructure, research among other things, have been introduced to support the rural farmers,” he added.
Dr Alhassan underscored the need to build strong social protection systems and make sure it enhanced the agricultural sector to generate enough income.