Community-based social protection in the dry zone
HelpAge International (Myanmar Country Office), with funding from LIFT donor consortium, has embarked on a three-year project to expand social protection to vulnerable households in Myanmars central dry zone. The project seeks to strengthen community and government capacity to protect vulnerable groups such as disabled and older people, and will deliver cash benefits to vulnerable households. As part of the project, HelpAge also seeks to enhance informal and community?based systems and practices that are already working to provide support and assistance in the dry zone. To inform project activities and discussions of social protection generally, this research was undertaken to investigate community?based mechanisms, structures, and practices in dry zone villages that might be providing forms of social protection for vulnerable people living in these communities.
- there is real need in dry zone communities that is not being met through current informal and community?based practices. Cash transfers will reduce vulnerability and, if administered sensitively, should strengthen existing informal systems
- principles of social hierarchy will structure villagers interpretations of cash benefits: these are likely to be treated as a form of patronage, perhaps entailing return obligations
- to select beneficiaries, it would be most straightforward to rely on categories that villagers have already identified as people deserving of assistance: the elderly and those with disabilities. Poverty targeting is not recommended, at least not until villagers become more familiar with the principles of social protection
- high?status individuals should be advisors for the program. Perhaps the village administrator and/or the sayadaw (senior monk) could make case?by?case decisions about extending grants to those in situations of extreme vulnerability or destitution, assuming the role of patron. They already play that role to some extent
- expanding the amounts and extending the repayment periods for no?interest loans would be helpful for vulnerable people who are afraid to take loans because they cannot repay. I do not recommend setting up more revolving loan funds, as these seem to encourage indebtedness