FAO advocates firm focus on ‘social protection’ in development

The officials of the Food and Agricultural Organization in The Gambia and its partners are advocating for a sharp focus on the inclusion of social protection’ in development policies in the country.

Officials of the institution made this revelation to journalists on Friday, September 9, as they prepare for the commemoration of the World Food Day to be held in Basse on October 16 under the theme: “social protection and agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty”.

Social protection consists of policies and programs designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labour markets, diminishing people’s exposure to risks, and enhancing their capacity to manage economic and social risks, such as unemployment, exclusion, sickness, disability and old age.

Speaking at the press conference held at the FAO headquarters opposite the Fajara cemetery, Aba Sankareh, the chairman of the national organizing committee of the World Food Day celebration, said social protection is crucial in the global efforts to eradicate food insecurity in The Gambia and beyond by 2050.

He, however, added that the war against food insecurity must be preceded by investments in infrastructure, credit and functioning markets for farmers, which social protection seeks to address.

“The main goal of the day is to raise public awareness about hunger, challenges and encourages people worldwide to take action in the fight against hunger,” he said.

“The theme aims to underline the role social protection plays in reducing chronic food insecurity and poverty by ensuring direct access to food or means to buy food. Social protection is… a viable alternative for stimulating agricultural production and local economic activity.

“As FOA has stated, agricultural production must increase by 60% globally to meet the food demand that will be required to feed the 9.2 billion people who will inhabit our planet in 2050.

“In order to guarantee this result and face these challenges, it is crucial to ensure that farmers have access to infrastructures, credit and functioning markets. Farmers also need to have access to science, innovation and knowledge, which are essential for the development of agricultural sector.”

Amadou Bah, communication officer at the FAO, said ‘social protection’ has proven to be a viable policy tool to combating hunger and extreme poverty, citing the Brazilian ‘anti-hunger campaign’ which “lifted 30 million people out of poverty within a decade”.

“Record shows that up to a hundred and fifty million people have been lift out of extreme poverty because of social protection programmes,” Bah added.

“This is why the international community is calling on governments to include social protection policies in their programmes.”

Musa Sowe, also a member of the organizing committee, said the commemoration of the World Food Day gives governments, NGOs and other development institutions the opportunity to reassess their development approaches and adopt policies that “can lift the people from poverty”.

“The theme of this year’s commemoration, “social protection and agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty”, reminds of our collective commitments in ensuring food security and eradicate hunger,” he said.

Dawda Njie, from the department of social welfare and a member of the organizing committee, said the “government of The Gambia and its partners have seen the critical role that the social protection plays in lifting people out of poverty”.

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