Sahel Adaptive Social Protection Program (ASPP)

The Sahel Adaptive Social Protection Program (SASPP) was launched in 2014 to support the design and implementation of adaptive social protection programs and systems in six Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal). These programs aim to help poor and vulnerable households become more resilient to the effects of climate change. During its first phase (2014-19), the SASPP supported the design and introduction of new, foundational ASP systems. As of 2019, nearly 2 million people across the Sahel benefited directly from innovations and programs with SASPP support. The program is now entering its second phase (2020-25 with a focus on systematically strengthening adaptive social protection systems to enhance household resilience and expand the reach of shock response cash transfer programs, through a mix of (cross-) country innovation and knowledge work and investments in design and piloting innovations in the six countries.

The program is funded by a multi-donor trust fund managed by the World Bank’s Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice and supported by donor contributions from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The Sahel region is home to some of the poorest countries in the world. Around 40 percent of the populations of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal live on less than US$ 1.90 a day. While the Sahel countries have one of the youngest and fastest growing populations globally – population sizes are expected to double by 2045 – they also have among the lowest levels of human capital in the world.

The Sahel is also highly affected by climate change and fragility, which undermine food security, the countries’ long-term development prospects, and opportunities for a good future for the next generation. Climate shocks like droughts are becoming increasingly frequent, and are affecting more people, while shorter, more intense and less predictable rainy seasons raise the risks of floods. Climate change is a severe threat to livelihoods, with more than 80 percent of the poor living in rural areas and off the land. Climate change goes hand in hand with worsening fragility and increased forced displacement.

Adaptive Social Protection (ASP) is a critical tool to help poor and vulnerable households and communities better cope and become more resilient to climate change. The “adaptive” approach integrates basic social protection interventions with disaster risk management and climate change adaptation measures. Emerging adaptive social protection systems in the Sahel combine policies and programs to help poor and vulnerable households build resilience, reduce the impact of climatic change and other shocks, and foster access to income earning opportunities. For example, drawing on climate early warning systems, countries can anticipate climate-related events such as droughts, and quickly scale up cash transfers via their social safety net programs in response. Countries in the Sahel are also drawing on their ASP systems to respond to the social and economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SASPP aims to support countries in the Sahel to strengthen their adaptive social protection systems across five “building blocks” of ASP: (1) government leadership, (2) institutional arrangements, (3) data and information, (4) programs and their delivery systems, and (5) finance. To this end, SASSP provides technical assistance, capacity building, and finances pilot interventions covering the following elements:

  • Adaptive safety nets programs that help poor households meet basic needs and diversify their livelihoods and can be easily scaled up to respond to climate-related and other types of shocks.
  • Complementary “productive inclusion” interventions like community savings and loan groups or life skills and entrepreneurship training for beneficiaries to reinforce their adaptive capabilities.
  • Investments in delivery systems (unique IDs, social registries, digital payments) as critical foundations for social safety nets to reach affected people.
  • Linkages to early warning and climate information systems to design effective emergency response and adaptation programs.
  • Design of contingency (risk) financing mechanisms to complement and support social protections systems.
  • Design and development of targeting mechanisms to identify ex-ante those most vulnerable to natural hazards and climate change related risks, and quickly scale up a program in case of necessity.
  • Monitoring systems to improve transparency, governance and accountability.

The majority of the SASPP resources are disbursed in the form of direct grants to governments for piloting innovative ASP programs. The remaining resources, managed by the World Bank, are used for creating and disseminating knowledge and “good practice” lessons across countries through the analysis of poverty, climate change risk and other sources of vulnerability and build a knowledge base on productive inclusion, shock-responsive cash transfers and on how to deliver social protection in contexts of fragility and forced displacement.  Support is also provided for impact evaluations, process evaluations, targeting analysis, and other types of assessments of government pilots and programs.

This work program is being implemented through regional and stand-alone country level activities. Country activities are designed to be an integral part of the ongoing World Bank effort in supporting the strengthening of adaptive social safety net systems through projects supported by the International Development Association (IDA). The SASPP builds on strong partnerships with other development and humanitarian partners.

Last Updated: Jun 01, 2020


Burkina Faso





Overview of the productive inclusion measures in the Sahel

Building the resilience of households to climate shocks is a key pillar of the Sahel ASP program. By supporting the diversification of household livelihoods, the program helps families become less exposed and vulnerable to climate shocks like droughts and floods.

Based on a rigorous assessment of the key constraints facing the poor and vulnerable households, social safety net programs in Sahel countries were augmented by an integrated set of productive inclusion measures, such as coaching, savings facilitation, community sensitization, life skills and micro-entrepreneurship training, and access to markets and a cash grant.

More than 50,000 beneficiaries, over 90% of whom are women, have benefited from the measures in addition to regular cash transfers so far.  To help assess the effectiveness of these productive inclusion measures, the Sahel ASP program also supported a rigorous, multi-country impact evaluation project. The evaluation results indicated considerable increases in consumption, food security, business revenues, and various measures of well-being.

See also:              

Assessment of the main constraints to productivity

Webinar on (April 2020)

Summary brief on productive inclusion measures (French version)   

Case study on productive inclusion measures and adaptive social protection in the Sahel

What are productive inclusion measures?


• Coaching. Coaches played the role of mentors to individuals and small groups of 15 to 25 people. They prepared and followed up on each measure, helping tie the whole program together. Coaches are often trusted members of the community, who are knowledgeable about local economic opportunities.

• Facilitation of community savings and loans groups. The groups met every week, saved together, and granted loans to their members. The groups also helped foster peer learning and build positive social dynamics.

• A community sensitization session. A video showing the story of a couple that overcame shocks and grew their economic activities—thanks to strong support from their communities—was shot in each country. It was shown in each local community to a large group of men, women, elders, and influential community members. After the screening, a community discussion was organized to build support for beneficiaries, 90% of whom are women.

• Life-skills trainings. This group-level training lasted between 3 to 7 half-days and included sessions on communication skills, confidence-building, innovation, and gender relationships.

• Micro-entrepreneurship training. This group-level training lasted about 7 half-days and covered fundamental management skills like bookkeeping, best practices for selecting suppliers, and determining prices.

• Access to markets. Well-trained coaches facilitated group discussions on topics like how to improve access to markets, where to buy inputs for agricultural activities, how to choose suppliers, or where to sell their goods. In some contexts, coaches also acted as intermediaries to help women access inputs or potential buyers.

• A cash grant. The program provided grants between $150 and $250 to enable beneficiaries to invest in their economic opportunities.

 See also:              

Community sensitization video in Senegal

Community sensitization video in Niger

How are the productive inclusion measures delivered?

Governments have leveraged established social safety net systems to deliver the productive measures at a large scale. The existing systems for identification, targeting, and payment have been used to the largest extent possible.

Depending on capacity and context, governments have adapted their approaches at a systems level to deliver these interventions, including through community volunteers, NGOs, government safety net program staff, or private firms. Delivering productive inclusion measures through an existing government safety net system has been cost-effective in low-capacity environments.


Monitoring and Evaluation data showed high quality of delivery, with activities delivered on time and at the desired frequency as defined in operational manuals. The data also indicated a 90-95% attendance rate for all training sessions.

See also:

Process evaluation of the program in Senegal (in French)

Process evaluation of the program in Mauritania (in French)

Testing Effectiveness: A Multi-Country Impact Evaluation

To assess the effectiveness of these measures in promoting economic inclusion and resilience among the poor across the Sahel, a multi-country randomized control trial (RCT) was set up across Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal to determine:

- How will the provision of a comprehensive package of accompanying productive measures impact cash transfer beneficiaries?

- How can policymakers optimize elements of the package?

- How can policymakers ensure inclusiveness of the package and its impacts on the extreme poor?

To answer these questions, cash transfer beneficiaries were randomized into four groups.


• Control group: Members of this group received regular cash transfers.

• Treatment group 1 (Full package): Members of the group received cash transfers and a package that includes coaching, village savings and loan association (VSLA) access, community sensitization on aspirations and social norms, life skills training, entrepreneurship training, and an additional cash grant.

• Treatment group 2 (Capital package): Members of the group received cash transfers and a package of measures related to capital, such as coaching, VSLA access, entrepreneurship training, and an additional cash grant.

• Treatment group 3 (Social package):  Members of the group received cash transfers and a package of measures related to social behaviors, which includes coaching, VSLA access, community sensitizations on aspirations and social norms, life-skills trainings, and entrepreneurship training.

• The study measured the impact on primary outcomes related to consumption and food security as well as on a broad set of secondary outcomes and related mechanisms.

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Impact Evaluation Findings

The evaluation results demonstrated that the productive inclusion measures have helped enhance both community and individual well-being. The cash transfers have also helped in alleviating the specific constraints faced by women, who comprised approximately 90% of the beneficiaries.

In Niger, the impact evaluation showed that the measures helped households to diversify their economic activities. For instance, increasing investments in off-farm income-generating activities has led to strong growth in revenues. Diversifying their activities out of agriculture also helped women build resilience to climate shocks, as non-farm income is typically less exposed to climate risks.

At the individual level, beneficiaries were more food-secure, had improved mental health, and felt a stronger sense of social worth. They also reported that they had higher levels of trust in their community. At the community level, the program improved gender attitudes, resulting in more positive perceptions of women’s economic participation. Women also reported higher levels of decision-making power over their resources.