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Productive Safety Net Project (PSNP)

Ethiopia Iriigated LandIn Ethiopia the basic problem of poverty and lack of endowments is compounded by extreme vulnerability, mainly due to the over reliance on rainfed agriculture. Agriculture accounts for 45% of GDP and ensures the livelihoods of 80 to 85% of the population. Any small variation in rainfall or world prices (for coffee) affects the incomes of 30 to 40 million people and can mean hunger for 10 to 15 million people. With such huge variations attributable to exogenous factors, economic performance shows a seesaw pattern. Growth was good in 2000/01, slower in 2001/02 and collapsed in 2002/03 because of the drought. Recovery followed in 2003/04, with a impressive 11.6% GDP growth, but growth rates in future can at best be expected to slow down – as production recovers to pre-drought levels – and at worst collapse – as another climatic shock hits.

Chronic food insecurity is a salient feature of rural Ethiopia in any year, irrespective of the presence of unusual climatic or economic shocks. The major causes of food insecurity in Ethiopia include land degradation, recurrent drought, poor and inadequate management of risk, population pressure, and subsistence agricultural practices dominated by rain-fed farming and characterized by low inputs and low outputs.

Over the course of the last decade, Ethiopia has received an average of 700,000 MT of food aid annually, and the figure has risen dramatically in recent crisis years (since 1996, food aid quantities appealed for have been multiplied by 4.5 while beneficiaries have seen a six fold increase). Both predictable (chronic) and unpredictable (acute or transitory) needs have largely been met through emergency relief. While this mechanism has saved millions of lives in Ethiopia over the last two decades (and continues to do so) it has failed to protect livelihoods and assets. The unpredictable timing and level of relief resources flowing through the emergency channel means there are few opportunities to do more than address humanitarian needs.

The PSNP, which began in 2005, is the Government’s response to the above scenario. Its objectives are to provide transfers to the chronically food insecure population in a way that prevents asset depletion at the household level and creates productive assets at the community level. The multi-annual nature of the programme will make it predictable, so that timing of payments and planning of interventions will be improved, helping to prevent asset depletion and allow better planning of community sub-projects. This will allow the transition away from the present emergency relief system yet still ensure chronic and predictable needs are met.

The beneficiaries of the PSNP are the identified households in the 262 food insecure Woredas in eight regions; Tigray, Amhara, Oromiya, and Southern Nations and Nationalities People Region where included from 2005. The programme expanded into Afar in 2006 and will expand into Somali in 2007.

Households are considered chronically food insecure if they have received food aid assistance over the last three years. It is estimated that there are at least 8 million individuals in this category and they constitute some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of the population.

The project has two components. The first component is the sub-projects. These projects are determined locally by the beneficiary communities through an annual, participatory planning process. Communities use a watershed planning approach for determining appropriate projects. This aims to ensure that projects are carefully integrated and

sub-projects so that many of the assets communities create will help to sustainably rehabilitate the highly degraded environments which are one of the causes of food-insecurity. The second component of the program is Direct Support, which provides grants to households who are labor-poor and cannot undertake public works.

Emahoy Belaynesh
Emahoy Belaynesh walking through her garden
Soil preservation Ahmhara Region

Emahoy Belaynesh is one of the beneficiaries of the program. She gets a grant under direct support since she cannot participate in public works. She became a nun after her husbands’ death and is raising her 3 children and one grand child. With part of the grant she received, she bought seeds of several varieties of fruits and vegetables and planted them in her garden. Among other things, she grows corn, yams, carrots, coffee, oranges, and passion-fruit. She is involved in beekeeping. “When my husband died I had no source of income and was having a hard time making ends meet. I now sell my products and earn enough money to put my 3 children to school, put food on the table and buy anything that we need. I am also able to put some money aside.”

Early results

Despite real challenges of scale and capacity, the PSNP has achieved a considerable degree of progress during its first two years. Program coverage in terms of numbers of beneficiaries (and woredas) reached 4.83 million chronically food insecure beneficiaries in 2005, delivering 224,141MT of food and approximately US$50 million as cash transfers. As of 2006, PSNP coverage increased to approximately 7.2 million beneficiaries to cover the pastoral region of Afar. Thus, beneficiary numbers increased by almost 50% between the first and second year of implementation. The Somali Region is expected to join the Program in 2007, increasing beneficiary numbers to around 8.3 million. This is considered to be a more accurate estimate of the chronically food insecure rural population in Ethiopia Early evaluations of the PSNP indicate that the program is having positive, significant effects on the well-being of beneficiaries and many beneficiaries are eating more and better quality food as compared with the previous emergency system.


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