Social protection and the vulnerable poor: the role of social safety nets in`poverty reduction in Uganda
Nahamya, Karukuza Wilfred
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The incidence of poverty and vulnerability are significant in Uganda and social safety nets programs like Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) are a form of social assistance to protect the vulnerable poor from the adverse impact of shocks. Large amounts of resources have been injected in such programs by the government of Uganda and development partners. Such interventions were expected to have positive economic benefits and increase the poor's incomes substantially, through investment and improved productivity. Despite such efforts to reduce vulnerability of the poor so as cope with household shocks, poverty is not reducing to the desired levels. This study set out to assess the role of Social Safety Nets (SSN) in poverty reduction in NUSAF areas in Uganda. The study employed a triangulation of methodologies: Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), key informants interviews and a structured face to face questionnaire. The study was conducted in the districts of Kaberamaido, Katakwi, Kumi and Soroti in eastern Uganda to determine whether NUSAF had reduced poverty among the vulnerable poor households. Multinomial logistic regression was used to analyze the determinants of coping mechanisms by vulnerable poor while logistic regression helped to examine the extent to which NUSAF lifts households from poverty. The study findings show that households were substantially hit by both individual (idiosyncratic) and common (covariate) shocks in the last five years that preceded this study. The shocks had substantial welfare-reducing effects on the households as evidenced by high incidences of reported shocks. For instance drought, floods and bad seed quality were more commonly reported by the lower welfare quintiles hence the poor were negatively more affected compared to the non-poor in the higher quintiles. However, theft and robbery as a shock was more commonly reported by those in higher welfare quintiles. The findings reveal that shocks cause income variability and downturns in incomes which compel vulnerable poor households to develop ex-ante risk-management and ex-post risk-coping mechanisms. The mechanisms included: reducing consumption, sale of assets, borrowing, from relatives and friends, use of past savings, help removal of children from school and migration. Participants in the NUSAF program were four times more likely to come out of poverty compared to their counterparts that never participated. However, the implementation and monitoring of the NUSAF program was found to be weak and excluded some key stakeholders such as local leaders. Thus interventions to prevent risk, minimize the impact of shocks and reduce poverty among the vulnerable poor need to integrate all key players in the social protection arena. There is need to redesign and strength the implementation and monitoring tools for NUSAF program to ensure full participation of all stakeholders. The study recommends that government and other stakeholders in poverty need to come up with better program design aiming at increasing funding in the education sector, proper poverty targeting and programs that support existing conventional arrangements of reducing poverty.
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