Food insecurity has long been one of the defining features of poverty in Ethiopia. Recognizing this reality, the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) moved away from annual emergency responses and took decisive action to tackle food insecurity in a systematic manner by launching the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) in 2005. The PSNP provides monthly safety net transfers for a period of six months per year to poor rural households facing chronic food insecurity with the goal of enabling them to resist shocks, create assets and become food self-sufficient.
Over the past ten years, the PSNP has been a significant contributor to Ethiopia’s impressive poverty reduction and food security improvements. Under the public works component, the program has also rehabilitated over 991,500 hectares of land—the natural resource base of agriculture—and built 31,712 km of rural feeder roads, 1,699 health posts and 3,414 school rooms during the last eight years. This program has been the backbone of the response to recurrent droughts, including the ongoing drought of 2015/16, and currently reaches 8 million food-insecure Ethiopians.
Based on the successes and lessons learned from the past three phases of the PSNP (2005–2014), the fourth phase of PSNP (2015–2020) has significantly expanded and brought in important design elements to strengthen households’ livelihoods. Recognizing that different households and clients will engage in different types of livelihood activities according to their respective skills, assets and environment, the livelihoods component offers technical support for three livelihood pathways:
- crop and livestock
- off-farm (self-employment)
The aim of the employment pathway is to link PSNP clients with employers for permanent or seasonal job opportunities, with skills training provided as needed. In doing so, the employment pathway seeks to provide livelihood diversification opportunities for rural households and hopefully contribute to the government’s broader rural job opportunity creation agenda by way of addressing rural landless and unemployed youth.
The first year of implementation of PSNP-4 highlighted the need for an implementation guide for frontline implementers on how to link PSNP clients to wage employment as well as guidance to program stakeholders on labor market considerations.
To assist with the development of these guides, the USAID-funded Leveraging Economic Opportunities (LEO) activity brought in a team of consultants to summarize existing research and conduct fieldwork on labor markets in Ethiopia. The consultants’ report provides important background analysis and makes suggestions on how to extend wage employment opportunities for PSNP households. The report was presented at a consultation workshop with representatives from the Government of Ethiopia, development partners and NGO partners.
LEO’s work has helped keep employment pathway issues at the forefront of stakeholders’ agendas: the report generated valuable information to advance the discussion, while the workshop gave key government staff the opportunity to discuss the important elements and challenges of implementing the employment pathway.
Going forward, discussions will continue with Ethiopian government stakeholders to agree on how to translate the proposed activities into action and develop the employment pathway for the PSNP.
For more on LEO’s work around labor and poverty in agricultural economies, visit www.microlinks.org/leowagelabor and be sure to check out the Labor & Migration workshop at LEO’s Transforming Market Systems Conference on September 27, 2016 in Washington, D.C. Registration is now open.