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Growth & Social Protection


The rapidly evolving social protection agenda often targets farming families in Africa, but the linkages between social protection and agricultural growth outcomes are not well conceptualised or understood. For example, social protection often does not take agricultural seasonality into account, leading to poorly timed interventions and sub-optimal outcomes. Conversely, well designed interventions can support farmers to become self-reliant and ‘graduate’ from social protection support.


The work of this theme aims to highlight the centrality of seasonality in rural livelihood vulnerability, to advocate social protection policies that ameliorate adverse seasonality, and to identify policy approaches that maximise positive synergies and minimise negative trade-offs between social protection and agriculture.

Questions addressed by this theme include:

  • Can synergies be identified between welfare-protecting and growth-promoting social protection and agricultural policies? Are there combinations of growth and social protection strategies and instruments that can promote both agricultural and non-agricultural growth and social protection?
  • How do changing patterns of agricultural seasonality affect rural livelihoods in Africa? Is climate change making the seasons more unpredictable, and how this has affected patterns of production and growth on the one hand, and vulnerability and social protection needs on the other?
  • Are contemporary social protection measures (such as targeted cash transfers) adequate for addressing the food insecurity and vulnerability to which African governments previously responded with much broader measures (e.g. food subsidies and strategic grain reserves)?

Do input subsidy programmes work? Lessons from Malawi

farmer, malawiHow can input subsidy programmes help farmers to produce more food and reduce poverty? In this blog post, Andrew Dorward and Ephraim Chirwa share the key insights from their new book on Malawi’s experience, and suggest lessons for the future of similar programmes.

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How have fertiliser subsidies changed Malawi?

sweet potato farmer, MalawiFour new Future Agricultures working papers and five accompanying policy briefs look in detail at the impacts of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) in Malawi, which aims to support farmers and boost the economy by subsidising seeds and fertilizers.

The new publications look at the role of the private sector; the impacts of FISP on household welfare; issues of targeting at certain groups; and what observations can be made from modelling the impacts of FISP on different livelihood groups. Also considered are the themes of 'graduation', where households no longer depend on subsidies, and how to achieve equal opportunities for women and men.

These papers are part of a long-running project to inform the Malawi Government and other stakeholders about implementation and impacts of the FISP. An extended list of publications from this project is available at the CeDEP website.

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New book: Agricultural input subsidies and Malawi


Agricultural input subsidies have been adopted on a large scale across different African countries in the last few years.

A new book, Agricultural Input Subsidies: the Recent Malawi Experience, by Ephraim Chirwa and Andrew Dorward, examines the benefits and risks of these programmes. It also looks at Malawi in detail, exploring the history of subsidies there, current implementation and impacts, and political and technical issues in success or failure.

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CPAN Agricultural Policy Guide


Nearly half a billion people are chronically poor – poor for long periods of their lives, for a lifetime, and pass their poverty to their children.  A new policy guide shows how agricultural policies and programmes can benefit chronically poor people, help poor people move out of poverty and prevent the impoverishment of others.

The guide emphasises asset accumulation and protection in the context of sustainable agriculture, and the importance of farm workers for agricultural agencies. It also suggests a more rapid transition to incorporating sustainable agriculture and indigenous technologies in a pro-poor systems innovation approach.

The policy guide is part of a series published by the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network (CPAN).

Photo: Gates Foundation on Flickr (creative commons)