Social Protection, a Key Solution for Directing Climate Finance To Poor Small-Scale Farmers

Women from the village of Boula-Ngara, in Chad, build a windbreak fence to protect the nearby river, enabling them to cultivate a market garden to meet the food needs of their families. Credit: FAO/Sia Kambou - Without implementing concrete measures that empower small-scale farmers to overcome climate change challenges, the global community will fall short in addressing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. The time for action is now: urgent investment in social protection for inclusive climate action is imperative
Women from the village of Boula-Ngara, in Chad, build a windbreak fence to protect the nearby river, enabling them to cultivate a market garden to meet the food needs of their families. Credit: FAO/Sia Kambou
  • Opinion by Marco Knowles (rome)
  • Inter Press Service
  • Marco Knowles leads the FAO's Social Protection Team

As the new FAO report The Unjust Climate finds, floods widen the income gap between poor and non-poor households in rural areas by approximately USD 21 billion a year, and heat stress by more than USD 20 billion a year.

Every year, over a trillion dollars are allocated to combating climate change and its consequences. Far too little of this financing reaches the most vulnerable. Shockingly, despite the critically important role that small-scale farmers play in growing the food that feeds us and in stewarding the natural resources that determine the health of planet Earth, only 1.7 % of climate finance currently reaches them.

Decision makers are therefore faced with a massive challenge – what policy instruments can they rely on for directing climate finance to poor small-scale farmers to enable them to adapt to the changing climate?

As The Unjust Climate highlights, social protection policies and programmes are an important part of the solution. Encompassing interventions such as cash transfers, public works programmes, social insurance and vocational training, these programmes are specifically designed to reach the poor and the vulnerable.

They enable small-scale farmers to invest in new technologies, diversify incomes, adopt new farming assets and accumulate savings, to better adapt to climate change. Moreover, the ministries and agencies that manage these programmes have the necessary expertise for working with vulnerable population groups, as well as the information systems for identifying them and payment systems through which to deliver assistance.

A number of countries are already directing climate finance towards impoverished small-scale farmers through social protection. This is not just helping them survive, it is empowering individuals, households and communities to build a better future for themselves and our planet. In Paraguay, the “Poverty, Reforestation, Energy and Climate Change” (PROEZA) project, has a social protection component that incentivises poor women and Indigenous Peoples to adopt sustainable agroforestry practices.

By combining these cash payments with tailored technical support, small-scale farmers are able to adapt their agricultural practices to be more resilient to the droughts to which they are increasingly exposed due to climate change, and to increase the production and marketing of native crops such as yerba mate.

In Botswana, a social protection programme is being used to upskill male and female small-scale farmers so that they can be employed as eco-rangers and restoration workers – at once improving the health of communal rangeland ecosystems and allowing people to earn higher incomes that are less susceptible to climate change.

In Tunisia, vulnerable small-scale farmers in the Government's social protection system are being supported to graduate from poverty through an intensive support package combining sustainable agricultural practices, climate-proofed off-farm income generation and in-kind grants.

Evidence that we, at FAO, have gathered from across the world confirms that these types of programmes are effective in simultaneously improving people’s wellbeing, as well as achieving goals related to both adapting to, and mitigating, climate change.

And yet, despite the proven social and environmental benefits of directing climate finance to small-scale farmers through social protection, there are still far too few cases where this is being done. When we reviewed programmes financed through the world’s major climate funds, we found that of 484 programmes reviewed only 3% channelled financing to small-scale farmers through social protection.

It is time to step up and take action to channel more climate finance into social protection so as to better reach small-scale farmers.

Firstly, we need to share and discuss evidence and experiences through sustained and broad-based policy dialogue at every level – from the local to the global. This will help trigger a shift in mindsets from considering social protection as a handout in times of emergencies towards considering social protection as strategic investment in achieving inclusive, climate-resilient and low-carbon development that leaves no one behind.

Secondly, members of the boards of institutions such as international climate funds (such as the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Fund and the Adaptation Fund) and multilateral development banks (for example, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank), which mobilise, house and channel climate financing, have a crucial role to play in ensuring that the investment frameworks of these institutions explicitly recognise the importance of social protection in inclusive climate action.

Thirdly, we need to engage and support communities themselves to mobilise and join forces to call for the scaling up of social protection as a tool for inclusive climate action, through collective action at the local level and through wider civil society partnerships that bring together small-scale farmers and other marginalised groups within society, so that together we can harness the power of social protection to address the climate crisis.

Unless we, as a global community, put in place concrete measures that enable small-scale farmers to overcome the challenges they face due to climate change, we will fail to rise to the challenge of eradicating poverty, hunger and malnutrition. This can no longer wait: urgent investment in social protection for inclusive climate action is an imperative.

© Inter Press Service (2024) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service