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Delivering social protection that nourishes: lessons from the food price crisis

Published on 8 September 2016 by the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK, this brief Delivering social protection that nourishes: lessons from the food price crisis summarizes the findings and recommendations of the Project Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility which was designed to track how people were living in the aftermath of the global food crisis in 23 research sites across Africa (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia), Asia (Bangladesh Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam) and Latin America (Bolivia and Guatemala).

The brief found that precariousness rather than resilience became the dominant condition of life for many in the post-food crisis period. People came to exchange a greater share of their work efforts for cash and to exchange a greater share of that cash for basic provisioning. This resulted from two clear and universal mechanisms of change:

  • an intense pressure to earn more cash incomes by whatever means necessary
  • an equal pressure to maximise ‘value’ in the food being consumed.

These changing patterns of work and diets influenced the economic, social and political institutions on which people depend to secure their basic provisions. People changed how they related to the rules and functions of those institutions, affecting social and political norms and perceptions about the right to food and how it should be safeguarded.

The brief concluded that nourishing social protection must do more than boost basic incomes so that people can buy more expensive food. It must also protect the social or non-market aspects of nourishment. Instead, social protection policies should:

  • Insulate against food price shocks for a tough first outer layer of protection for society as a whole.
  • Protect against precarious labour.
  • Support the work of feeding families.
  • Protect access to good food.
  • Be informed by better data.

Further reading on this analysis: Precarious lives. food, work and care after the global food crisis

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Giorgia MEI
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20 October 2016

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