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Food security and social protection in highland Ethiopia: linking the Productive Safety Net to the land question*

  • Tom Lavers (a1)

While much recent research has focused on the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), this is by no means the only social protection policy in rural Ethiopia. Drawing on a very different rationale to the PSNP, the Ethiopian government also justifies state land ownership as a form of social protection for smallholders. This paper examines the links between these policies through a case study of an extremely food-insecure site. The paper concludes that while the PSNP and land policy together provide minimal security for landholders, land shortages and the problematic nature of agricultural production are such that there is little chance that the PSNP and its complementary programmes can achieve food security. As a result, the PSNP is used to support failing agricultural policies, limiting urban migration in the interests of political stability. These findings highlight the importance of situating safety net programmes within the socioeconomic context which generates insecurity.

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This research was carried out as part of a PhD supported by an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) studentship. I would like to thank Addis Ababa University for facilitating my fieldwork, Meressa Tsehaye for interpretation, and Shea McClanahan, Joe Devine and two anonymous reviewers for comments on previous drafts.

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FD5, head of food security, Development Assistance Group, Addis Ababa, 22.11.2009.

GF4, young married woman, Geblen, 15.04.2010.

GF5, married woman, Geblen, 09.04.2010.

GF9, female shopkeeper, Geblen, 10.04.2010.

GF10, landless, female household head, Geblen, 09.04.2010.

GM2, male shopkeeper, Geblen, 10.04.2010.

GM4, young single man, Geblen, 09.04.2010.

GM8, urban resident with land in Geblen, Adigrat, 13.04.2010.

GM15, middle-aged man, Geblen, 08.04.2010.

GM16, middle-aged man, Geblen, 12.04.2010.

GM21, elderly PSNP participant, Geblen, 10.04.2010.

GM22, elderly man, Geblen, 08.04.2010.

GM23, elder in dispute resolution, Geblen, 14.04.2010.

GM27, middle-aged man, Geblen, 12.04.2010.

GN1, Emergency Programmes Coordinator, Catholic Mission, Adigrat, 13.04.2010.

GT1, chairman, tabiya administration, Geblen, 07.04.2010.

GT4, development agent, Geblen, 08.04.2010.

GT5, development agent, Geblen, 08.04.2010.

GT7, member of the LAC, Geblen, 15.04.2010.

GT11, head, FSTF, Geblen, 07.04.2010.

GW1, head, wereda Land Administration desk, Freweyni, 06.04.2010.

GW2, expert, wereda PSNP desk, Freweyni, 06.04.2010.

GW3, expert, wereda Youth and Social Affairs desk, Freweyni, 06.04.2010.

GW4, extension expert, wereda Agriculture and Rural Development desk, Freweyni, 15.04.2010.

IR1, head, Tigray EPLAUA, Mekelle, 01.04.2010.

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