A Role for Social Protection Investments to Support Food and Nutrition Security

Lessons from Ghana

Social protection programming, such as cash transfers and vouchers provided at the individual or household level, has become increasingly prominent as a tool to combat food insecurity worldwide. Advantages of a social protection approach include the ability to target and reach the most vulnerable segments of society and to provide direct support for basic needs without reliance on complex causal pathways.The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) invests relatively little in social protection despite its flagship initiative, Feed the Future, which seeks to mitigate food insecurity and to reduce the prevalence of stunting in 12 countries (formerly in 19).

Ghana’s LEAP (Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty) program represents an exception to the U.S. investment pattern. In partnership with UNICEF, USAID/Ghana has made noteworthy investments in the expansion of the LEAP cash transfer program to add a new eligible group of beneficiaries: pregnant women and children under one year old. The intention to intervene during pregnancy and the first year of life is motivated by a growing understanding that good nutrition during this window is critical to physical and cognitive health and human development outcomes that last a lifetime. This report explores the development of Ghana’s LEAP program since 2008; its current coverage, successes, and challenges; and opportunities for both the government of Ghana and donor partners to spearhead continuous improvements for program outcomes and resource efficiency.

Reid Hamel