The Sahel - the vast semi-arid region of Africa separating the Sahara Desert to the north and tropical savannas to the south - is home to some of the poorest countries in the world. The region is facing multiple challenges, including rapid population growth (population sizes are expected to double by 2045), extremely low levels of human capital, geographical and climate vulnerability, food insecurity, and fragility. In a region where over 40% of the population already live below the poverty line, shocks can further contribute to poverty persistence, which in turn makes it hard to deal with future shocks.
Where Climate Change Is Reality
Temperatures in the Sahel are rising 1.5 times faster than the global average. Climate shocks, such as droughts and floods are becoming more frequent and severe and roughly 80 percent of the Sahel’s farmland is degraded. All of which is exacerbating conflict and forced displacement, and prior vulnerabilities. As the global climate crisis unfolds, people living in the Sahel region are directly experiencing its impact and its dramatic consequences on people’s livelihoods.
Building Resilience on the Shores of the Sahara – through Adaptive Social Protection
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 adaptive social protection systems to respond to the social and economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sahel Adaptive Social Protection Program (SASPP) – a Multifaceted Partnership
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 - with a specific focus on climate change. The program is funded by a multidonor trust fund managed by the World Bank (Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice) and supported by donor contributions from the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the Agence Française de Développement, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the Danish government, which joined the program in 2020. The SASPP builds on strong partnerships with other development and humanitarian partners and is aligned with the goals of regional initiatives such as the Alliance Sahel.
“In 2020, the SASPP entered its second phase, with a refocused strategic objective of systematically strengthening adaptive social protection systems to enhance household resilience and expand the reach of shock response cash transfer programs.”
During its first phase (2014-19), the SASPP supported the design and introduction of foundational ASP systems. As of 2019, nearly 2 million people across the Sahel benefited directly from innovations and programs with SASPP support. In 2020, the SASPP entered its second phase, with a refocused strategic objective of systematically strengthening adaptive social protection systems to enhance household resilience and expand the reach of shock response cash transfer programs. Under phase 2 (2020–25), the SASPP focuses on both regional and country-level activities aimed at strengthening national adaptive social protection systems. The majority of SASPP financing will be disbursed in the form of direct grants to governments for piloting innovative adaptive social protection programs, embedded in the ongoing World Bank effort to strengthen adaptive social safety net systems through projects supported by the International Development Association. The remaining resources managed by the World Bank are used for technical assistance efforts in each country and for creating and disseminating knowledge and good practice lessons across countries.
Initiated in 2019/20, regional themes span: (1) analysis of poverty impacts of climate and other shocks, (2) the design of climate shock–responsive ASP programs and delivery systems, (3) building evidence on productive inclusion and women’s empowerment programs, and (4) how to deliver social protection in contexts of fragility and forced displacement.
Adaptive Social Protection Systems in the Sahel Were Leveraged for the Relief Following the Onset of the Pandemic
The World Bank Group COVID-19 shock response framework follows three stages: relief, restructuring, and resilient recovery. Adaptive social protection systems in the Sahel are key to relief, restructuring, and recovery and operate across the different stages and pillars of the World Bank Group response framework.
While the principal focus of the SASPP is climate shocks, ASP systems in the Sahel were leveraged in 2020 for the immediate relief following the onset of the crisis. Countries expanded coverage of shock response cash transfers to households affected by the pandemic. The SASPP supported this short-term relief effort through adaptive social protection systems—thus strengthening these systems and reinforcing their capacity to respond to future climate shocks.
“In line with its long-term strategic agenda of strengthening programs that help build resilience of households to respond to climate shocks, the SASPP has expanded to extend support to countries in leveraging their adaptive social protection systems to protect households from the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.”