Seasonality and Social Protection in Africa

{jathumbnail off}Scial_Protection_in_AfricaThis Working Paper draws on nearly twenty years of research in several African countries,on the inter-related themes of food insecurity, seasonality, coping strategies, famine, form a land in formal safety nets, and social protection. The paper has three objectives:

  • to document and synthesise evidence on the nature and consequences of 1seasonality across rural Africa, highlighting the similarities and convergencesacross contexts;
  • to explore the various policy interventions that have been implemented in 2 response to seasonality, with particular reference to the emerging social protectionagenda;
  • to argue that current approaches to social protection are misconceived and 3inadequate for addressing the seasonal dimensions of rural vulnerability.

2 Seasonality and ‘coping’ in four African countries

2.1 Seasonality is an under-reported food and health crisis that impoverishes and kills Africansevery year; only its severity and duration vary across households and over time. In rain-fedfarming systems, where smallholders depend on a single rainy season for most of their staple food needs, the annual ‘hungry season’ or soudure can last from a few weeks to several months, depending on the extent of food production, self-sufficiency achieved in a given year.

The rhythm of rural life in much of Africa is entirely dictated by this inflexible seasonal calendar, but the relative success or failure of this way of life is determined by the unpredictable behaviour of the weather. The mechanism is straight forward, repetitive as the calendar, and relentless. Smallholders prepare their plots while waiting for the rains to start, then they plant their seeds, then they pray that the rains will be adequate and well.