University in the Bush

seasonality_revisted The Seasonality Revisited International Conference, was held at the Institute of Development Studies from 8-10 July 2009, concluded that the costs of ignoring the seasonal dimensions of poverty are enormous, despite seasonality being rarely reflected in agricultural investment and social protection policies.

The conference was organised by the Future Agricultures Consortium and the Centre for Social Protection to help put the ‘seasonality of poverty’ back in the policy agenda. {jathumbnail off}

Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas and are dependent on agricultural and livestock economies. For these households, poverty, hunger and illness are highly dynamic phenomena, changing dramatically over the course of a year in response to production, price and climatic cycles. When acute hunger or disease occurs, it is not typically due to conflict or natural disaster, but as result of seasonal influences – annually recurring periods when existing harvest stocks have dwindled, little food is available on the market, and prices shoot upward. This results, predictably, in cycles of poverty that can be devastating.

These tragic cycles of poverty were discussed by more than 50 international poverty experts, including academics and practitioners as well as policymakers from both government and international agencies to tease out solutions from lessons from past development and aid programmes, current research, and good practices. The conference highlighted the costs of overlooking seasonality in poverty reduction programmes, which can result in shrinking food stocks, rising prices, and a lack of income that in turn contributes to spikes in malnutrition, mortality, and hunger-related illnesses.

Conference participants recommend a number of actions that need to be taken to increase peoples’ agility to adapt to the increasing complexity and uncertainty linked to seasonality. Their proposals are aimed at policymakers and development practitioners:

  • Training on seasonality awareness should be mandatory for development professionals, especially agriculture advisers and programme officers
  • It should be standard practice to include seasonality assessments in the design phase of agriculture and rural social protection programmes
  • Interventions should aim not only to raise annual production, but to stabilize intra-annual production
  • Policymakers need to think creatively about how to make agriculture-based livelihoods seasonal proof, and support creative initiatives (e.g. warranty schemes or weather indexed insurance mechanisms)
  • Monitoring and evaluation indicators need to track how seasonal fluctuations affect people’s well being over time.
The conference concluded with calls for policymakers to move beyond the current debates about adaptation and re-examine the links between climate change and poverty and development; these links are easily missed by large data collection systems that average and analyse data. The conference also promoted seasonally-targeted interventions that build livelihood resilience and stabilise the effects of shocks on the poor.

The conference was organised by the Future Agricultures Consortium and the Centre for Social Protection to help put the ‘seasonality of poverty’ back in the policy agenda. Included in the conference were papers by the following FAC researchers:

Visit the Seasonality Revisited website for more information.