The role of social capital in social protection intervention to enhance household resilience to livelihood shocks in Eastern Ethiopia
Endris, Getachew Shambel
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Social Safety Net interventions are common interventions by governments and non-government organizations in addressing crises of food shortages and disasters in African countries. These interventions however hardly take into account existing indigenous social capital that communities rely on for inclusive co-existence and survival of all categories of community members. This study examined the extent to which social capital was embedded in the design and implementation of the Production Safety Net Program (PSNP) to enhance the resilience of households in Babile district, Eastern Ethiopia. Specifically, the study characterizes indigenous social capital practices for household resilience against the effects of adverse livelihood shocks; explains how a social safety net program integrates the indigenous social capital-based adaptation strategies of vulnerable households; and, unravels the conditions under which social capital resources are mobilized to enhance household resilience. An ethnographic case study method was used applying both qualitative and quantitative data collection tools, namely; qualitative interviews with thirty purposively selected households; a mini-survey of seventy households using semi-structured interviews; thirty-five key informant interviews; and two focus group discussions. Interpretative content analysis and SPPSS were used to analyze qualitative and quantitative data respectively. There exist indigenous social capital practices that build resilience for households by protecting against consumption and income reductions, albeit not all types of households have equal access to the existing stock of social capital resources. Gender, relationship with government agents and wealth categories shape the (re) production and use of social capital. The indigenous social capital practices have inherent mechanisms for inclusivity even though the PSNP program targeting excluded some of the most vulnerable households. In practice, the beneficiaries of the PSNP program shared some of their supplies from the PSNP with the excluded vulnerable households – thereby strengthening community social capital founded on reciprocity and risk-sharing. Appropriate engagement of the community in the design and implementation of safety net programs like PSNP could greatly enhance community resilience to shocks and ensure equitable targeting of the vulnerable households including the female-headed households. The indigenous social networks are pervasive and permeate all categories of households in the community, thereby providing pathways for enhancing community resilience against livelihood shocks. Achievement of the intention of the PSNP in enhancing the resilience of the vulnerable households has been limited by inadequate recognition of the role of indigenous mechanisms for mobilizing social capital within the target communities. Whereas safety net programs provide a short-term response to livelihood shocks, they are not adequate for building community resilience in a sustainable manner unless such program interventions are anchored in the indigenous social capital mechanisms.