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Adaptive social protection: mapping the evidence and policy context in the agriculture sector in South Asia

The concept of Adaptive Social Protection (ASP) refers to a series of measures which aims to build resilience of the poorest and most vulnerable people to climate change by combining elements of social protection (SP), disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) in programmes and projects.  While these approaches have much in common, because they have developed separately over the last two decades, they are not likely to be sufficient in the long run if they continue to be applied in isolation from one another.

Using analysis of 124 agricultural programmes implemented in five countries in south Asia – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, this paper aims to to provide an initial assessment of the ways in which these elements are being brought together in development policy and practice.

The authors argue that full integration of SP, DRR and CCA is relatively limited in south Asia, but there has been significant progress in combining SP and DRR in the last ten years. Projects that combine elements of SP, DRR and CCA tend to emphasise poverty and vulnerability reduction goals relative to those that do not. Such approaches can provide valuable lessons for the promotion of climate resilient livelihoods amongst policymakers and practitioners, and that projects and programmes promoting climate resilient livelihoods in south Asia can benefit from taking an ASP approach.

In particular, the authors make the following observations:

  • project managers should consider the possibility of joining up social protection, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation approaches when designing vulnerability-reducing development interventions in the agricultural sector
  • one way to achieve this is to build on projects and programmes that are currently focussed on short-term, protection-oriented SP interventions to take into account DRR and CCA dimensions
  • also, there is potential for projects that already integrate SP and DRR components to explore ways to build in CCA elements
  • main barriers to greater integration of SP, CCA and DRR vary considerably from country to country but generally concern lack of capacity or lack of coordination between agencies, which can occur both between different government departments and between government and other organisations
  • disparities between countries suggest that there will be challenges in designing regional-level strategies and policy interventions appropriate to national level programming
  • of all countries reviewed, the greatest momentum is occurring in Bangladesh which presents a good entry point into the region from which to build a coalition of partners concerned with ASP, and to spread learning and good practice to other countries, however, each country reviewed has its own unique set of experiences from which good practice can also be drawn

The paper concludes by saying that future work on the ASP concept should be structured around both the use and impact of the ASP approach, as well as the different categories of SP objectives. Next steps should include a number of country case studies in order to undertake a more detailed assessment of social protection, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation integration.