“Extending social protection to rural populations is the key to recovery”

Expanding social protection for rural populations is a prerequisite for a sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery from Covid-19 and must be at the heart of post-pandemic recovery policies.

Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), made the statement at the recent Global Forum for a People-Centred Recovery organized by the International Labor Organization ( ILO).

Due to a number of challenges faced by rural populations such as remoteness, widespread informality and low and irregular incomes linked to the seasonality of agribusiness activities, rural populations do not have adequate access to social welfare services, especially contributory ones, the chief executive mentioned.

He noted that rural populations have been hardest hit by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has further exacerbated inequalities between those who have health and social protection coverage and those who do not. have no access to it.

Gaps in social protection

For FAO, social protection is a set of interventions whose objective is to reduce social and economic risks and vulnerability, and to alleviate extreme poverty and deprivation. This can include social assistance, such as public transfers in cash or in kind, and labor market protection, such as unemployment benefits, skills building and worker training.

Qu stressed the need to tailor social protection policies to the specific needs of each country, especially in Africa, where more than 80% of the population does not have access to social protection benefits of any kind.

Despite the recent expansion of social protection-related assistance around the world, only 1 in 10 households in sub-Saharan Africa and less than 1 in 5 households in South Asia have been reached by any type of social protection measures specific to Covid, added the general manager. .

More than 80 percent of the world’s rural self-employed are informal, and the agribusiness sector has the highest level of informal employment. In addition, people living in rural areas are twice as likely to be in informal employment as those living in urban areas.

Qu echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ recent call to accelerate progress in creating decent jobs and expanding social protection to close the gaps while contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.

To promote decent jobs in rural areas, the Director General stressed the need for a holistic approach outlining three main areas: focusing on rural development based on the specific characteristics and competitive advantages of each developing country, including including investing in food processing as one of the most effective approaches to providing opportunities, especially to youth and women; put in place enabling policies for small and medium enterprises; and vocational training so that farmers can acquire certain levels of skills.

Strong social protection systems will pave the way for more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable agrifood systems, which are at the heart of the livelihoods of 4.5 billion people, including more than 1.1 billion people in poverty who live and work in rural areas, says the Director General.

Joel C. Hicks