Menu ENN Search

Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme: Power, Politics and Practice

Summary of research*

Location: Ethiopia

What we know: The Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) is an established, large-scale social protection effort by the Government of Ethiopia targeting rural, food-insecure households.

What this article adds: A recent qualitative study explored the role of power and politics in the PSNP in seven communities in two regional states of Ethiopia. The authors conclude that while there is positive impact, the implementation of the programme is problematic. In these communities, the PSNP was highly politicised, systematically neglected all of the participatory components outlined in the programme design, excluded the feedback mechanisms and entrenched political power. Understanding the existing political climate in operational environments is critical.

Ethiopia has made significant progress in reducing poverty, with a decrease of the population living in poverty from 46% in 2005 to 30% by 2010 (the population increased from 57 to 88 million during the same period). The country has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world; gross domestic product (GDP) was between 8.6 and 13.6% from 2004 to 2016. The Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) is one of the Government of Ethiopia’s (GoE) most effective programmes to support people living in rural areas, who make up over 80% of the population.

The PSNP began in 2005 to support food-insecure households and enable them to overcome vulnerabilities without eroding their assets, and over time to support households to build assets. In 2015, more than seven million people had been supported by it, with an expected expansion to ten million people. The PSNP is mainly implemented by the GoE, with assistance from development partners. The programme, now in its fourth phase, has been widely studied and found to have positively impacted food-insecure households. Some studies claim that the impact is modest compared with progress made in comparable non-client households, although even critical assessments point to significant positive change. The PSNP has three key components (see Box 1). A recent study explored the roles of power and politics in the implementation of the PSNP. The authors contrast the plan (the Programme Implementation Manual) with its practice and explore why divergences may be occurring.

Box 1: Overview of PSNP

Public works programme

Eligible households with able-bodied adults are enrolled on this programme, with work geared towards enhancing infrastructure and enriching community-based resources, such as schools. Public works activities occur for six months each year, during which clients receive a salary based upon household size. Clients are expected to graduate from the programme when they gain sufficient assets.  

Direct support programme

Those who are unable to work due to disability, illness or age are enrolled in the direct support programme (payments are for 12 months of the year).

Temporary programme

Temporary clients are pregnant or lactating mothers or caregivers for a malnourished child, who are enrolled in the public works component and temporarily shifted into direct support.

Methods

The qualitative research methods involved detailed interviews with clients and former clients of the PSNP, as well as relevant government staff (community leaders, development agents, community health workers and school staff) in seven communities in southern Ethiopia from two regional states. Given political sensitivities in the country, researcher connections were utilised to select communities for the study. These relationships were pivotal in establishing the trust needed to gain insight that might not otherwise have been shared. Interviews consisted of four group interviews with each community-based government body (in groups of two to six staff members), and 46 key informant interviews with PSNP clients, which were conducted voluntarily and anonymously. A large number of issues were raised by both government staff and community members; this research focused primarily on the common concerns and key discrepancies in the experiences of PSNP clients. Due to regional diversity within Ethiopia, this study was never expected to have great external validity.

Findings

Selection and graduation

Lodging an appeal

Participation

Work commitment

Power tends to corrupt

Discussion

The study authors conclude that the programme has had a large and beneficial impact, but its implementation has been shaped and co-opted to maintain and strengthen political power. Furthermore, the findings challenge donors and practitioners to recognise the ways in which their funding and approaches to programme design are both empowering and disempowering individuals and to better understand the existing political climate in operational environments.

Read more...

*Cochrane, Logan, and Y Tamiru. 2016. Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program: Power, Politics and Practice. Journal of International Development 28 (5): 649–665. doi:10.1002/jid.3234.

 

More like this

FEX: An overview of REST’s implementation of the Productive Safety Net Programme

By The Relief Society of Tigray (REST) Mekelle Team The Relief Society of Tigray (REST) has been in existence in Ethiopia for over 30 years, starting out as a relatively small...

FEX: Emergency Food Security and Livelihoods Project in Amhara and Oromia regions

By Sarah Coll-Black and Matt Hobson Sarah Coll-Black is a Social Protection Specialist working with the World Bank in Ethiopia and Kenya. She has been involved with Ethiopia's...

FEX: Food insecurity and mental health among community health volunteers in Ethiopia

By Sarah Coll-Black and Matt Hobson Sarah Coll-Black is a Social Protection Specialist working with the World Bank in Ethiopia and Kenya. She has been involved with Ethiopia's...

FEX: Integrating Infant and Young Child Feeding and the Productive Safety Net Programme in Ethiopia

By Adèle Fox Adèle Fox is currently based in Concern Worldwide Burundi office as Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Trainee. Adèle completed a Masters in Public Health from...

FEX: REACH OUT food assistance in Uganda

By Peter Paul Igu, Reach Out and Mary Corbett, ENN Peter Paul Igu has been a full-time volunteer with the organisation, Reach Out, since Jan 2002, and is the food programme...

NEX: Keyhole gardens in Ethiopia: A study of the barriers to scale-up

Yohannes Haile is a public health professional working in Ethiopia with Catholic Relief Services. He has a Master's degree in Public Health from Mekele University in...

FEX: Emergency Food Security and Livelihoods Project in Amhara and Oromia regions

By Shekar Anand, Oxfam Shekar is Programme Director for Oxfam GB in Ethiopia. Past experience includes working with OXFAM, CARE, CIDA, and Government in Aceh, India, Zimbabawe...

FEX: From the editor

Ethiopia is a diverse country where a significant proportion of the population live on or below the poverty line, where food insecurity is widespread and rates of acute...

FEX: Feasibility of private micro flood insurance provision in Bangladesh

Summary of research1 Women head for a nearby flood shelter established by the government in Bangladesh A recent paper describes a study to test the viability of a flood...

FEX: Linking PSNP and NNP: experiences and challenges

Summary of report1 Audience of drama held during PSNP meeting (Laygiant) A recent pilot project focused on identifying implementation and eventually scale-up opportunities to...

NEX: Lessons from Namibia’s Nutrition Assessment Counselling and Support Programme for addressing child, adolescent and maternal undernutrition and HIV/AIDS

Hilde Liisa Nashandi and Marijke Rittmann Hilde is the Senior Health Programme Officer in the Food and Nutrition Sub-Division of the Ministry of Health and Social Services in...

FEX: Joint Emergency Operation Plan NGO response to emergency food needs in Ethiopia

By Alix Carter Alix Carter has worked in the humanitarian sector in Ethiopia for almost three years. She is currently working as the Humanitarian Accountability Advisor at...

FEX: The impact of Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme on the nutritional status of children

Research snapshot1 Ethiopia's Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) is a large-scale, social protection intervention aimed at improving food security and stabilising asset...

FEX: Examining the integration of Food by Prescription into HIV care and treatment in Zambia

By Kate A. Greenaway, Elizabeth C. Jere, Milika E. Zimba, Cassim Masi and Beatrice Mazinza Kawana Kate Greenaway is Senior Technical Advisor, HIV Unit, Catholic Relief...

FEX: Micro-credit in refugee situations

Summary of published research1 Micro-credit and other types of loan programmes have not been widely attempted within refugee and internally displaced population (IDP) contexts...

FEX: Lessons From a Microfinance Pilot Project in Rwanda

By Tamsin Wilson Tamsin Wilson is an independent microfinance consultant. She coordinated Concern Worldwide's qualitative research on microfinance in Angola, Mozambique,...

FEX: Market-led Livelihood Recovery and Enhancement Programme and integrating ENAs

By Andrew Simons, Daniel Gebeyehu, Getachew Gemtesa and Markos Kidane Andrew Simons is the National Programme Director for Food for the Hungry (FH) Ethiopia. He holds an...

FEX: HIV/AIDS and Food Security in Malawi

By Kathryn Lockwood, Martin Davidson Mtika and Richard Mmanga, CRS Kathryn Lockwood is a nutritionist and is the Health and Nutrition Programme Manager for CRS/Malawi....

FEX: Interventions to build resilience of the health system to the El Niño drought in Ethiopia

By Amal Tucker Brown and Eric Alain Ategbo Amal Tucker Brown has worked for UNICEF since 2007 and joined UNICEF Ethiopia office in February 2015 as the head of the Community...

FEX: Extending support through CMAM to older people – a neglected, vulnerable group in nutrition emergencies

By Kidist Negash Weldeyohannis Kidist Negash Weldeyohannis is a Regional Health and Nutrition Programme Manager for HelpAge International, Africa region, with a special focus...

Close

Reference this page

Cochrane, Logan, and Y Tamiru (2016). Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme: Power, Politics and Practice. Field Exchange 53, November 2016. p14. www.ennonline.net/fex/53/ethiopiassafetynetprogramme