Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Linkages and Opportunities for Agriculture and Social Protection

The forth in the Graduation and Social Protection blog series

I am looking forward to the graduation conference greatly and congratulate all those who have put together such an interesting programme. I have worked on graduation over the last few years, approaching it from a social protection perspective. Now, most of my time is spent on agriculture, I have the opportunity therefore to wear a different hat to next week’s event.

I am anticipating, however, that it doesn’t need to be too different to the hat I previously wore. Many of the issues and concerns important for those working on social protection and agriculture are shared. Both provide a safety net to some of the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society, ensuring no one is left behind. Both increase incomes and provide opportunities to transform lives. Both try to ensure people are more resilient and opportune in dealing with risk. Furthermore, many of the people supported through social protection and agriculture programmes, are the same. In Rwanda for example, 90% of households cultivate at least one plot of land. Most (if not all) of those in receipt of social protection support are engaged in agriculture to one extent or another.

If we are to achieve ‘sustainable graduation’ therefore, it is vitally important those of us working in different sectors or departments coordinate, cooperate and collaborate. This point is not new, and links are often being made. I look forward to discussing and learning from participants where this is already happening.  In Rwanda, I feel we have the opportunity to strengthen the linkages.

Working on agriculture in DFID Rwanda, there are two early opportunities to strengthen the links. Firstly, as we support Government in the implementation of the latest Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda (PSTA III), we will support the Ministry of Agriculture in efforts to coordinate with the Ministry of Local Government and others Ministries relevant to graduation.  Secondly, in the programme of support to the agriculture sector DFID are currently developing for the next 3 years, we will improve linkages between agriculture and other programmes we support that are ‘enablers’ of graduation. This involves linking agriculture with the Vision 2020 Umurenge Program (VUP); the Access to Finance Rwanda (which provides financial services to the poor and vulnerable) and support to climate funds that helps build climate resilience, to name only a few examples.

The conference, therefore, provides a timely opportunity to: 
  • explore why these critical linkages are important 
  • consider how we work across disciplines, government ministries and departments 
  • to discover more concretely, what can and should be done. 
This approach should help us end the conference with a tangible idea where next and the action required to get there. To this end, I would be interested to explore with delegates working in Rwanda if we can start to establish a ‘system’ for graduation that enables linkages to take place, ensuring graduation is sustained. Within this system, you could choose to graduate people sequentially, moving them from a social protection programme into an agriculture programme at an appropriate stage or, through a layered approach, where social protection and agricultural support is provided together. I look forward to discussing this and many other opportunities that I am sure will emerge over the course of the week.

Mark Davies is a livelihoods advisor for DFID Rwanda.

This blog post is part of a series. The content of this blog series reflects the opinions of each individual author, and not necessarily those of IDS, UNICEF, DFID, IRISHAID or the Government of Rwanda.

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