Adaptive Cash Transfers to build resilience for those left behind

In FAO’s recently released 2016 State of Food and Agriculture, social protection programs are highlighted as playing “an important role” in managing climate risks and reducing vulnerability. Yet, as explored in our previous posts, social protection policies and their instruments (such as cash transfers or CTs) have historically not taken environmental or climate related aspects into consideration, even though many times the recipients of these transfers often depend on natural resources for their survival and are put back when natural disasters and climatic shocks hit. With climate change increasingly impacting the most vulnerable communities, especially in the Sahel and Horn of Africa, there is a vital need to rethink and redesign such social protection programs.

Adaptive Social Protection (ASP) and Social Protection for Sustainable Development (SP4SD) are two such redesigns that have emerged and are now being introduced as a way to incorporate climate change (specifically adaptation) into social protection policies. However, the specific instruments to implement ASP and SP4SD are lacking. As such, a new tool is being explored by the RIO+ Centre with a pilot taking place in the Sahel and Horn of Africa and plans to expand and replicate in other regions and contexts. In what we have coined Adaptive Cash Transfer (ACT), this tool adjusts social protection policies and channels climate finance into CTs in order to help communities adapt to climate change and build resilience to environmental and economic shocks.

The peope in Woukpokpoe village have benefited greatly from Benin's national CDD project. They now have access to safe, clean water. (Photo: Arne Hoel)

The people in Woukpokpoe village have benefited greatly from Benin’s national CDD project. They now have access to safe, clean water. (Photo: Arne Hoel)

What is an ACT?

Adaptive Cash Transfer (ACT) goes beyond the scope and features of traditional CT systems by integrating environmental criteria, conditions, and indicators into CTs, along with the usual social and economic indicators. ACTs protect poor households from climate shocks before they occur (through predictable transfers, building assets, promoting sustainable land use, and other practices that help them cope) and scale up social safety net programs to mitigate and respond to extreme events (droughts, floods, storms, etc.) when they hit. Since natural resource management, climate change adaptation, and social protection are all inextricably connected, ACTs work to bridge these sectors and thus bolster local resilience to prevent households from falling back into poverty. ACTs also blend climate finance into existing CTs or to-be designed ACTs, in order to get this finance to who it really needs to get to.

 Because implementing this concept in a more practical way may be an obstacle to governments, the RIO+ Centre, UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa, and the African Risk Capacity have partnered to produce a methodological guide with specific steps and activities to be undertaken by policymakers to successfully implement an ACT. To be released in December 2016, the Methodological Guide for Designing an ACT sets the background and rationale for ACTs, particularly looking at three case countries in the Sahel and Horn of Africa: Senegal, Niger, and Ethiopia. The guide also gives simple precisions about what an ACT is and how to design it, making the case for channeling climate finance into CTs.

This week, as leaders meet at the UNFCCC COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, climate vulnerability, adaptation, and financing are all getting much attention. This COP, taking place on arguably the most vulnerable continent to climate change, is being called the African COP, where advocates (including the COP’s hosting country of Morocco) are pushing for solid plans to support vulnerable smallholder farmers in Africa. RIO+ delivers ACT as an innovative tool to do just this, while also contributing to the 2030 Agenda, its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

To make this instrument robust and deliver results, RIO+ is looking for partnerships and collaboration with all actors working on integrated issues such as climate change, financing, sustainable land use, social protection, and disaster risk reduction. Now is the moment to ACT to reach, protect, and build resilience for those left behind!

Farmer of Darfur, Sudan (African Sahel)

Farmer of Darfur, Sudan (African Sahel)


Photo credit: UN photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

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