Webinar presents the results of a study that analyses the state of social protection for agrifood systems workers in West Africa

Photo: Jordan Rowland / Unsplash

The webinar “The state of social protection for agrifood systems workers in West Africa” was hosted by the socialprotection.org platform on 25 October 2022 and presented the findings of a report by the same name. It was organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) and the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG).

Representatives from FAO and ECOWAS delivered opening remarks, highlighting the vital importance of agrifood systems in food production and employment in West Africa. “Essentially, in the West Africa region, most of the population depends on food-related activities as a way of making a living. (. . .) According to the Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat 2021 report, the food system in West Africa accounts for a majority of jobs, which is around 66 per cent of the total employment.”, stated Bintia Stephen Tchicaya, FAO Senior Policy Officer. 

Regardless, agrifood systems workers still face multiple challenges, including economic fragility, informality, conflict, limited access to land and agrifood production, marginalisation, post-harvest losses, and natural disasters. This population also has limited access to public services such as healthcare and education. The participants stressed the need to strengthen social protection systems in the region as a way of reducing inequalities, responding to these vulnerabilities and improving the resilience of agrifood systems. 

IPC-IG researchers João Pedro Dytz and Gabriela Perin presented the findings of the report, which is part of the project “The state of social protection for agri-food systems workers in West Africa”. They presented an overview of the state of social insurance and social assistance in the region. In general, the coverage of these programmes is low and some gaps still remain in the targeting of rural and agrifood systems workers. 

Selected case studies were presented, showing good practices of social assistance and social insurance programmes in the region. One of the examples is Ghana’s Labour Intensive Public Works Programme, which provides “short-term employment and income-generating opportunities to rural poor households during the agricultural off-season in 80 districts”. The programme is considered satisfactory because it targets poor rural households explicitly and guarantees income during periods when there is a shortage of demand for rural labour. It has also had a positive impact on food security and on the value of the crops produced by households. 

The researchers listed some general recommendations from the study that can help overcome the challenges involved in social protection coverage of agrifood systems workers in West Africa, including: collecting specific data on these workers to provide more focused social protection mechanisms; fostering legislation and regulation that allow for their better integration into formal markets; investing in infrastructure; among others. 

The session also featured government representatives directly involved in the design of social protection public policy in West Africa. Marcelino Monteiro, Director of Contributions and Collection at Cabo Verde’s National Institute of Social Security, detailed the significant challenges involved in reforming the country’s social protection system to include agrifood systems workers: “The change in legislation [allowing workers to make voluntary contributions] contributed greatly to the increase in the percentage of the population protected by the social protection system, since it came from a 32 per cent coverage in 2009 to a coverage of 52 per cent of total population in 2021. However, unfortunately, there are still gaps (. . .) because the rural population not covered by the system is about 92 per cent.”

This webinar was also meant to create a space for dialogue between national governments, UN agencies, international and regional organisations, and civil society in the West Africa region, to achieve the common goal of social protection. “Even though we are not very happy with the 10 per cent social protection coverage within our region, we can leave this webinar particularly committed to moving the process forward, but also commending some of our Member States that are doing considerably well in trying to address risks and vulnerabilities of rural workers (...)”, concluded Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs at ECOWAS.

It was hosted under the framework of the project “The state of social protection for agrifood systems workers in West Africa”, a partnership between the IPC-IG and the FAO Subregional Office for West Africa. The project aims to assess the state of social protection schemes for agrifood systems workers in the region. As a result of this partnership, a research report is expected to be published soon in English and French. 

There were simultaneous interpretations in English, French and Portuguese and the webinar recordings are available on YouTube. 


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