Publication: Before Crisis Hits : Can Public Works Programs Increase Food Security?

Thumbnail Image
Files in English
English PDF (1.61 MB)

English Text (19.49 KB)
World Bank
Fighting famine is basic to ending poverty and saving lives. Emergency aid, which arrives after the food has run out, isn't enough. Households most in need of emergency aid often don't have enough food during other times of the year, posing a broader challenge for devising programs that can cut hunger and build food security. Social protection programs, including grants, social assistance and public works programs are one way to transform people's lives and protect them both before and when disaster strikes. What works and under what circumstances is what policymakers and development experts want to know, especially those focused on famine breakouts in Africa and Asia. In 2003, the Ethiopian government partnered with donors and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) to create a working coalition to improve food security for the poor. The result was the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), which went into effect in 2005. This program, the largest of its kind in Africa, initially targeted 7.6 million people (8 percent of Ethiopia's population) who suffered chronic food shortages and lived in areas prone to drought. Through a public works component and direct grants for those who can't work, the program aims to help households meet their food needs, keeping people fed and reducing the need to sell off productive assets. Ethiopian policymakers and international donors have long struggled with the challenge of reducing poverty amid weather shocks that disrupt harvests and threaten households with starvation. After years of emergency aid programs designed to provide short-term relief, both Ethiopia and donors wanted to create a program that could help people secure and build their lives, rather than just react to disaster. The result is Ethiopia's PSNP, which uses public works employment, social transfers and an agricultural asset-building program, to stabilize and strengthen poor households.
Link to Data Set
World Bank. 2012. Before Crisis Hits : Can Public Works Programs Increase Food Security?. From evidence to policy;. © Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
Report Series
Report Series
Other publications in this report series
  • Publication
    Kenya: Can Scripted Schooling Improve Learning?
    (Washington, DC, 2022-10) World Bank
    Before the COVID pandemic, more than half of children in low and middle-income countries suffered from learning poverty: they either were out of school or failed to learn to read with comprehension by age 10. At the same time, numerous studies have documented serious challenges related to the quality of education services, particularly for those serving poor students. In a country like Kenya, for example, teachers exhibit low levels of content and pedagogical knowledge. Previous research has shown that highly structured teaching guides could improve literacy, but scripted lessons are not without critics, who worry that teachers will not be able to adapt content to student’s needs. In places where teachers may be less prepared to tailor high quality lessons to their students, however, scripting may offer a way to standardize a minimum level of quality at scale.
  • Publication
    Rwanda: Can Parenting Programs Improve Child Development and Prevent Violence Against Women and Children?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-11) World Bank
    Children need a safe, nurturing, healthy, and stimulating environment to thrive and reach their full potential. But millions of children living in poverty don’t receive enough stimulation or good nutrition in their first years of life, and poverty also makes them more likely to experience neglect and violence in the home. Domestic violence, however, is rarely addressed in programs promoting young children’s development, which also typically focus on mothers, with little attention on fathers. Previous research suggests home-based parenting programs can lead to positive improvements in children’s brain development. Can these programs be adapted to address family violence as well Can these services be effectively delivered through government social safety net programs which often target poor, vulnerable families
  • Publication
    India: Can We Make Parenting Programs More Cost-Effective?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-07) World Bank
    In the first years of life, all children need healthy food, a clean environment, and stimulation to thrive and reach their full developmental potential. However, poverty prevents millions of young children in low- and middle-income countries from receiving adequate nutrition and stimulation. As a result, many disadvantaged children’s brain development lags behind that of their well-off peers, which can have lifelong consequences. Previous research from low-income settings has found that encouraging parents to play and interact more with their children can improve children’s brain development, with impacts that can last into adulthood. Delivering these parenting programs at scale and in a cost-effective manner, however, has been a challenge, in part because some of the most successful programs have been delivered through intensive and relatively costly home-based programs.
  • Publication
    Armenia: Increasing Preventive Screening for Non-Communicable Diseases in Armenia
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-04) World Bank
    More people around the world are dying from noncommunicable diseases than ever before. These diseases, which include cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, and heart disease, prematurely kill more than 15 million people between ages 30 and 69 each year. Many of these health conditions also make individuals more susceptible to severe forms of other diseases like Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This study targeted adults between the ages of 35 and 68 in Armenia who had not been screened in the preceding year. The baseline data suggests this population was not economically secure: half of participants responded that their income was sufficient for basic family needs, such as food, clothing, and utilities, but not enough for big purchases like a car, while 35 percent responded that their income is sufficient for everyday food but not for clothes and other basic needs. More than half of those in the study were unemployed. This research finds that conditional incentives and personalized invitations can substantially increase screening for diabetes and hypertension for those who haven’t been recently screened. Further research may be needed to evaluate these interventions at scale.
  • Publication
    Rwanda: Can Performance Pay for Teachers Improve Students’ Learning?
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-01) World Bank
    Performance pay for teachers generates debate. Proponents argue that many school systems have low levels of accountability and advocate incentivizing teachers by linking their pay to either their own efforts or their students’ learning. Critics, however, raise concerns that performance pay attracts people to the teaching workforce who are in it for the money and can diminish the intrinsic motivation to teach among teachers already in classrooms.
Journal Volume
Journal Issue
Associated URLs
Associated content