Social protection in pastoral areas

Research reports and studies
March 2009

The roots of social protection lie in international legal instruments and declarations spanning the last 70 years. All official mention emphasises social protection as a basic human right that strengthens the social contract between the state and its citizens. Social protection leads to social development – a cornerstone of economic advancement and political stability. In the Horn and East Africa, social protection providers fall into two main categories: informal and formal. Informal providers are communities and external social networks such as family members, relatives and other social structures outside pastoral systems. Strong informal social protection networks based on religious, clan or family affiliations have always played a vital role in pastoral communities, and protect livelihoods against the chronic shocks inherent in the drylands. However, these informal support networks are under increasing pressure. Formal providers of social protection are governments, the private sector, humanitarian organisations and local and international donors. This group of actors primarily concentrates on providing
assistance and services originally designed for sedentary populations, with little consideration for the specific needs and vulnerabilities of pastoralists. Social insurance and equity are practically non-existent.


The study on which this Synthesis Paper is based maintains that a coherent social protection framework is fundamental for pastoralists in eastern Africa. A tailored approach to social protection for pastoral communities is required – one which recognises the context of pastoral livelihoods and views social protection through a livelihoods framework. The study proposes the integration of four pillars of social protection (assistance, services, insurance and equity), where equity is paramount at every level of intervention. The study also contains a series of concrete, practical examples of existing interventions under each of these four pillars – allowing for the identification of projects that can be replicated and scaled up where necessary, and identifying ‘gaps’ under each pillar.

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