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Conference Brief Report: Social Protection as Pathway for Inclusive Development

Adigrat University (ADU) of Ethiopia, the Development Planning Unit of the University College London (UCL) and the Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA) in collaboration with Samara University of the Afar Regional State in Ethiopia, had successfully organized a national conference titled as ‘Social Protection as a pathway for inclusive development among the pastoral and agro-pastoralist communities in Africa’ in Agamos Hotel, Adigrat on November 25th and 26th 2017. 

The conference was based on the findings and recommendations of the Social Protection for Inclusive Development in Afar (SPIDA) but also drew reflections from similar experiences from Ethiopia and elsewhere. The two-year research project was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and it focuses on the implementation and impact of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) with specific reference to the Afar regional state in Ethiopia. It aims to analyse the programme’s contribution to poverty reduction and food security, enhance social services, identify implementation difficulties, and assess the overall socio-economic situation of the Afar Region, so as to complement a smooth execution of the programme among the Afar pastoral communities in Ethiopia.

The conference was able to attract 100 people from the pastoralist target groups of Behrale, Mille, Chifra, Ab’ala, and Koneba, policy makers, practitioners and academicians from both governmental and NGOs, and national and international experts from Africa, Europe and South America. Conference participants and scholarly paper presenters were drawn from the Pastoral Development Standing Committee of the House of People Representatives, Ministry of Federal and Pastoralist Affairs, PSNP participants and local administrators from the study area, ADU, UCL, Mekelle University, Addis Ababa University, Kebri Dehar University, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and PENHA.

Indeed, in its four sessions the conference was able to present and discuss the findings of ten research works which were grouped in four thematic areas based on the SPIDA and other studies conducted by researchers from institutions in Ethiopia, Europe and Brazil. The conference was kicked-off by a welcoming speech of Dr. Zaid Negash, President of ADU and followed by the opening speech of H.E Mohamed Yusuf Umer, a Standing Committee on Pastoral Development of the Federal House of Representatives who noted the pastoral areas are the least developed regions in Ethiopia where the Afar region being one among these is featured with drought, high degree of poverty and vulnerability to climate change. Mr. Umer in his speech tried to aspire by saying that this type of workshop will help all stakeholders to share experiences and come up with technical and policy recommendation on designing ways to better achieve inclusive development through, among other things, social protection measures so that able to address the need of pastoral communities.

Furthermore, keynote speeches were also delivered by Dr. Haftay Ghebyesus, Research and Community Service Directorate Director, ADU and Dr. Zeremariam Fre, UCL - UK lecturer and SPIDA consortium leader. In his introductory speech Dr. Fre stressed the Horn wide economic, social and cultural significance of pastoralism and the need for academics and policy makers in the countries across the Horn borders to deal with pastoralism as a regional issue which requires regional solutions. He also advised young researchers at ADU and elsewhere to appreciate the livelihood interdependence and complementarities between highland peasant and lowland communities. This first session was moderated by Prof. Mitiku Haile from the Soil Science and Sustainable Land Management, Mekelle University.

In this session three papers were presented from the SPIDA research works by Dr. Fre, Dr. Negash and Gabriel Temesgen. Dr. Fre in his presentation titled as ‘Social Protection: Global Trends and Prospects with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil’ tried to provide the overall global trend and the lessons to be learned from the experiences of other SSA countries and also South America particularly Brazil. In his presentation he underscored PSNP as a social protection policy needs to consider the livelihoods of a particular socio-economic group rather than applying generic instruments that ignore indigenous systems of the target population, and their level of vulnerability and resilience to shocks. The presentation material for ‘Supporting Family Farming through the National School Feeding Programme in Brazil’ was produced by Isabela Martins Machado who is a Consultant for the National Fund for Educational Development – FNDE, Brazil and also shared with the participants. The next presenter was Dr. Negash who delivered a paper ‘SPIDA key PRA findings, lessons, recommendations and policy implications’ that reflect the results of the focus group discussion based on a study conducted among six Afar districts. Furthermore, Gabriel Temesgen, in his presentation - which is based on the SPIDA 2295 households survey study - titled as ‘SPIDA key findings, lessons, recommendations and policy implications (PSNP and Poverty)’ explained policies and programmes should give more attention to female-headed households in community targeting like PSNP and geographic targeting and developing alternative income sources with awareness creation in cultivating saving culture among the pastoralists and expanding rural feeder roads in pastoral areas to increase market based leakages.

Following the three presentations a time for discussion was given where various questions and comments forwarded to the presenters. Some of the questions raised include the links of institutional inefficiency and regional poverty among the Afar districts; targeting problem of beneficiaries in the region; the need for assessment for increasing the number of months of PSNP transfer and its possible hindrance on other economic opportunities; the positive contribution of PSNP in poverty reduction; methodologically how can we claim it is because of PSNP and how the other factors controlled and finally whether the payment transfers to be either in lump-sum or regular payments to have effective contribution in reducing the poverty among the Afars.

The second session was continued with four presentations where two were from SPIDA research works and the other two researchers from Mekelle and Kebri Dahar Universities in Ethiopia. A paper titled as ‘SPIDA key findings, lessons, recommendations and policy implications (PSNP and Impact)’ was presented by Selamawit Teklu, Lecturer from ADU elaborated her team’s underlying findings. That are, PSNP beneficiary households are still leading their life with a low income and their life standard are still below the non-beneficiaries. In her way forward, she explained different PSNP related measures which need to be followed by all stakeholders including the government so as to improve the income and livelihood of the beneficiaries. Following her, Bisrat Weldesilassie from ADU made presentation based on SPIDA studies titled as ‘Does Social fabric matter? Implications for social protection policies and programs among Pastoralists and Agro-pastoralist communities: Evidence from Afar Regional State’ where he underlined the challenges the PSNP is facing like the programme design, community participation, implementation modality and the transfers. In his recommendation, he added that social structures and social and cultural values, as well as grassroots level community participation have to be given due attention while designing social protection programmes.

Furthermore, Dr. Mulubrhan Balehegn, Mekelle University and Post-Doctoral Fellow at UNEP-IEMP, China presented a study titled as ‘Indigenous weather forecasting among Afar pastoralists in north Eastern Ethiopia: Role in Climate change adaptation’. He explained the different traditional weather forecasting tools and climate change knowledge mechanisms of the pastoral and agro-pastoral communities. He noted modern meteorological science can’t replace indigenous weather forecasting rather complement each other as both of them are sciences. Finally, he noted digitizing Afar Indigenous Knowledge on weather forecasting and co-production with modern meteorological science is the remaining task. The last paper of the day was based on the Somali regional state which titled as ‘Impact of Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) on the Household Livelihood: The Case of Babile District in Somali Regional State, Ethiopia’ and was made by Abduselam Abdulahi Mohamed from Kebri Dahar University. Based on his findings, he revealed that the PSNP had positive and highly significant effect on households’ consumption.

The session moderated by Dr. Gebmeskel Gebtsadik, Administration Vice President of ADU was able to open for question and answer time where multiple issues and suggestions made by the participants. The issues raised include ‘Is the targeting problem an error of inclusion or exclusion? Why there was only a focus only on error of inclusion?’; The results showed there is no significant difference on expenditure rather there is significant difference on income. Does the sharing culture of the Afars have effect on expenditure? and if there is modern weather forecasting method why do we rely on traditional forecasting method?

In the second conference day, the third session was moderated by Dr. Haftay Ghebreyesus from ADU and started with the presentation of Dr. Berhanu Gebremedhin from International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with the title of ‘Informing Sustainable Agricultural Value Enhancement in the Pastoral and Agro-pastoral Systems in Ethiopia: Analysis of Socioeconomic Characteristics and Market Access of Households’. In his way forward, Dr. Gebremedhin stressed on water centred development, animal health services and integrated natural resource management. This was followed by Prof. Hailu’s presentation titled as ‘Afar integrated pastoral and agro-pastoral development’. The paper was conducted in reviewing the present government’s policies and strategies. Following this, Dr. Zerihun Berhane from Addis Ababa University presented his research work on social protection and vulnerability to climate shocks – ‘Social Protection and Vulnerability to Climate shocks: A panel data evidence from Rural Ethiopia’. After the question and answer reflections, the third session was over by underscoring the key factors of the social protection mainly indicating that exposure and lack of adaptive capacity to climate induced shocks explain the vulnerability of rural households where the PSNP aims to decrease such household vulnerability shocks. His findings from the non-experimental estimations also indicated that receiving PSNP transfers on average increases income from non-farm activities. These results partly confirm the hypothesis that social protection can promote positive adaptation strategies and may serve as an effective means of reducing the vulnerability of smallholders to climate change-induced shocks.

Concluding Remarks, Policy recommendations, and the way forward

The last session, moderated by Tsigab Aregawi, Dean of College of Business and Economics of ADU, was created a chance for participants to reflect their suggestions and way forward. As a final note, Mr. Sewnet Chekol, a delegate from the Ministry of Federal and Pastoralist Development Affairs explained the federal state policies and strategies of pastoral and agro-pastoral communities are on the process of design based on regional strategies and national priorities and reconfirmed the federal government commitment support to the pastoralist communities in boosting their resilience and improving their livelihoods.

At the end of the second day and as an outcome of the policy discussions grounded on the evidence based research findings and the participants’ experiences, a declaration was drafted by the conference organizing committee, discussed by the participants, and finally endorsed. That is, the conference declaration has called upon all concerned parties to continue building up on the research outcomes and findings and closely work with the stakeholders in the Afar Region of Ethiopia which can positively contribute to and enhance the PSNP to evolve in a way which are most suited to the realities of the Afar pastoral and agro-pastoral communities.

As a concluding policy remarks, the conference participants agreed and declared the following points:

·      Highly recommend that social protection policies and programs to be evidence based and consider the social, economic and cultural settings of the pastoral and agro pastoral communities in the Afar region and beyond.

·      Promote evidence based projects and livelihood centred development programs in the pastoral and agro pastoral communities of the Afar region and beyond.

·      Promote regional understanding of best practice in delivering social protection program, by establishing appropriate and coordinated regional learning mechanisms among the relevant partners, to disseminate these practices to those who need them at the appropriate level, and in the appropriate format regional, national and local level.

·      Recommend water centred development interventions in pastoral and agro pastoral areas in the Afar region, Ethiopia.

·      Urge the national government and donor-partners to support the outcomes of this study and promote/ expand the effective delivery of PSNP among the Afar communities in Ethiopia.

The conference concluding remark was made by the guest of honour Mr. Amanuel Gebru, Senior official of Eastern Zone, Tigray where acknowledged the contribution of UCL and PENHA in establishing partnership with ADU and sharing their expertise which should be strengthened in the future. Moreover, he noted also that, ADU has started its role in regional collaboration and engagement of lowland with research and community service and this activity should be also strengthen and scaled-up.

Finally, the conference organisers credited those presented their papers and actively participated including representatives from the Standing Committee on Pastoral Development of Federal House of Representatives of Ethiopia, Ministry of Federal and Pastoralist Development Affairs, pastoralist communities from the sampled Afar targets, the staff members of Mekelle, Samara and Adigrat, Kebri Dahar and Addis Ababa Universities of Ethiopia and ILRI. Special thanks goes to Ali Hussen, Bilal and Abdela who are Academic Vice president, Research and Community Service Director, and Abdela Alfnur, Sociology department head of of Samara University respectively and also Abdu Hamaddu, Plan and Budget from Samara and also Afar Regional State District PSNP representatives. Their longstanding experience had enriched the discussions and the overall outcome of the conference.

Note: This news item is produced by Gabriel Temesgen, SPIDA Research Associate with support from other SPIDA consortium members namely Zeremariam Fre, Bereket Tsegay and Bisrat Weldesilassie. 

Photo credit: Adigrat University for SPIDA, 2017

To access the full conference proceedings please click here.