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February 21, 2019

What Kenya can learn from Ethiopia's handling of food insecure people

A water catchment cistern which is part of the public works projects under the programme.
A water catchment cistern which is part of the public works projects under the programme.

About 90,000 farmers in Ethiopia have been trained on post-harvest handling and post-production technologies.

This is thanks to the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) established by the government, World Food Programme and development partners to help chronically food insecure people survive food deficit periods.

According to a USAid report released in 2012, the programme has managed to train 37,191 households in post-production technologies, 17,896 on post-harvest handling, and 35,994 households on improved production techniques.

For decades, Ethiopia has suffered from recurring food shortages worsened by droughts, floods, and soil depletion caused by climate change. This has in turn led to most of its population living in poverty.

Agriculture in Ethiopia accounts for about 45 per cent of the country’s GDP and over 80 per cent of its 98 million population are farmers.

“This safety net programme provides multi-annual sure transfers of food, cash or a combination of both. It helps farmers avoid depleting their productive assets while attempting to meet their basic food requirements,” says Retta Gudisa, Agricultural Transformation Agency, monitoring learning and evaluation director. The agency is a strategy and delivery oriented and also helps accelerate the growth and transformation of Ethiopia’s agriculture sector.

PSNP operates in Afar, Amhara, Dire Dawa, Harare, Oromiya, SNNP, Somali and Tigray regions. The ministry of agriculture’s disaster risk management and food security sector, along with regional governments, is responsible for programme coordination, management and implementation.

“The government got tired of waiting for disaster to strike before they set up interventions. PSNP is a resilience or disaster risk development programme, targeting chronically food insecure households. The combination of cash and food transfers is based on season and need, with food given primarily in the lean season between June and August. Vulnerable households receive six months of assistance annually to protect them from acute food insecurity,” he continues.

Additionally, WFP extends food and cash assistance for another three months under its risk financing mechanism during periods when food insecure people are affected by unpredicted shocks. “Its not free money though because first there is rigorous screening of beneficiaries, there are measures put in place that enables them to be able to report if there is any sort of bias when it comes to the cash and food transfer. There is also a third party evaluator who ensures that there is no underhanded business. Then the able-bodied members of PSNP households must participate in productive activities that will help get them out of the dependency programme,” Gudisa says.

Beneficiaries who are old or living with disabilities get the cash and food transfer for free. The able-bodied beneficiaries take part in some projects including rehabilitating land and water resources, helping to develop infrastructure like roads and in conservation activities that help farmers get access to markets, and building latrines, wells, and terracing.

He explains that each household member is eligible to receive a transfer equivalent to 15kg of cereal (in cash or food), as based on the set wage rate. Each adult is required to work for five days per month for each member of the household. The choice of food or cash is mainly dependent of grain availability in the market. The food option will be maintained as long as local markets cannot deliver the required food commodities. To ensure continuity and sustainability of the project, it works alongside the household asset building programme.

“This helps the graduation of the people from being chronically food insecure to a normal self-sustaining household. Otherwise simply transferring food and cash will not help them in the long run. The asset building programme involves technical, advisory like extension services and financial support saving and corporative services, micro-finance to build their livelihood,” Gudisa says.

Since distributing agricultural extension materials can be costly and time consuming, the Ethiopia Agricultural Transformation Agency piloted an integrated voice recording, an SMS system leveraging mobile technologies to disseminate agricultural information to small-holder farmers.


Additional reporting by agencies

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