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Food-for-work for Poverty Reduction and the Promotion of Sustainable Land Use: Can It Work?


  • Holden, Stein T.
  • Barrett, Christopher B.
  • Hagos, Fitsum


Food-for-work (FFW) programs are commonly used both for short-term relief and long-term development purposes. In this paper we assess the potential of FFW programs to reduce poverty and promote sustainable land use in the longer run. There is a danger that such programs distort labor allocation or crowd out private investments and therefore have negative side effects. How important are such effects, when are these effects small and large, and when and how can they be reduced? How do technology and market characteristic and the design of FFW programs affect the long-run impact of FFW interventions? When, where and how can FFW programs more efficiently reduce poverty and promote more sustainable land management? Could FFW programs even be used to crowd in private investments? The paper attempts to provide answers to these questions, drawing on empirical evidence and an applied bio-economic farm household model for a less-favoured area in northern Ethiopia.

Suggested Citation

  • Holden, Stein T. & Barrett, Christopher B. & Hagos, Fitsum, 2003. "Food-for-work for Poverty Reduction and the Promotion of Sustainable Land Use: Can It Work?," Working Papers 127797, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:cudawp:127797

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Lina Salazar & Julián Aramburu & Mario González & Paul Winters, 2015. "Food Security and Productivity: Impacts of Technology Adoption in Small Subsistence Farmers in Bolivia," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 87853, Inter-American Development Bank.
    2. Andersson, Camilla & Mekonnen, Alemu & Stage, Jesper, 2011. "Impacts of the Productive Safety Net Program in Ethiopia on livestock and tree holdings of rural households," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 119-126, January.
    3. Manjula, R. & Rajasekhar, D., 2015. "Participation of scheduled caste households in MGNREGS: Evidence from Karnataka," Working Papers 339, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore.
    4. Ghebru, Hosaena & Holden, Stein, 2013. "Links between Tenure Security and Food Security: Evidence from Ethiopia," CLTS Working Papers 2/13, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Centre for Land Tenure Studies.
    5. Christopher B. Barrett, 2006. "Food Aid’s Intended and Unintended Consequences," Working Papers 06-05, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
    6. Villegas, Laura & Smith, Vincent H. & Atwood, Joe & Belasco, Eric, 2. "Does Participation In Public Works Programs Encourage Fertilizer Use In Rural Ethiopia?," International Journal of Food and Agricultural Economics (IJFAEC), Alanya Alaaddin Keykubat University, Department of Economics and Finance, vol. 4(2).
    7. Akay, Alpaslan & Martinsson, Peter & Medhin, Haileselassie, 2012. "Does Positional Concern Matter in Poor Societies? Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Rural Ethiopia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 428-435.
    8. Araya, Girma Behe & Holden , Stein T., 2017. "Is Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program Enhancing Dependency?," CLTS Working Papers 5/17, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Centre for Land Tenure Studies.
    9. Bezu, Sosina & Holden, Stein, 2008. "Can food-for-work encourage agricultural production?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 541-549, December.
    10. Tessema, Yohannis & Asafu-Adjaye, John & Rodriguez, Daniel & Mallawaarachchi, Thilak & Shiferaw, Bekele, 2015. "A bio-economic analysis of the benefits of conservation agriculture: The case of smallholder farmers in Adami Tulu district, Ethiopia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 164-174.
    11. Barrett, Christopher B., 2008. "Smallholder market participation: Concepts and evidence from eastern and southern Africa," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 299-317, August.
    12. Abdulai, Awudu & Barrett, Christopher B. & Hazell, Peter, 2004. "Food aid for market development in Sub-Saharan Africa," DSGD discussion papers 5, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    13. ERREYGERS, Guido & FEREDE, Tadele, 2009. "The end of subsistence farming: Growth dynamics and investments in human and environmental capital in rural Ethiopia," Working Papers 2009008, University of Antwerp, Faculty of Applied Economics.
    14. Debela, Bethelhem Legesse & Holden , Stein, 2014. "How Does Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program Affect Livestock Accumulation and Children’s Education?," CLTS Working Papers 8/14, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Centre for Land Tenure Studies.
    15. Marenya, Paswel Phiri & Smith, Vincent H. & Nkonya, Ephraim M., 2012. "Subsistence farmer preferences for alternative incentive policies to encourage the adoption of conservation agriculture in Malawi: A choice elicitation approach," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124010, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    16. Yograj Gautam & Peter Andersen, 2017. "Aid or abyss? Food assistance programs (FAPs), food security and livelihoods in Humla, Nepal," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 9(2), pages 227-238, April.
    17. John Kerr & Grant Milne & Vasudha Chhotray & Pari Baumann & A.J. James, 2007. "Managing Watershed Externalities in India: Theory and Practice," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 263-281, August.
    18. Wunder, Sven & Engel, Stefanie & Pagiola, Stefano, 2008. "Taking stock: A comparative analysis of payments for environmental services programs in developed and developing countries," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(4), pages 834-852, May.

    More about this item


    Food Security and Poverty; Land Economics/Use;

    JEL classification:

    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health


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