Risk and vulnerability have been rediscovered as key features of rural livehoods and poverty, and are currently a focus of policy attention. The poor themselves try to manage uncertainty using a variety of ex-ante and ex-post risk management strategies, and through community support systems, but these are both fragile and economically damaging. State interventions working through food, labour or credit markets have proved expensive and unsustainable in the past, through encouraging and innovative institutional partnerships are emerging. This article argues that the way forward lies in new approaches to social protection which underpin production as well as consumption: new thinking recognizes the food security and livelihood-protecting functions of public interventions (such as fertiliser and seed subsidies) which were previously dismissed as ‘market-distorting’.
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