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Sunday, December 20, 2020

December 20, 2020
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(United Nations) - During the past two decades, population growth, improvement in incomes and diversification of diets have steadily increased the demand for food. Prior to 2000, food prices were in decline, largely through record harvests. At the same time, however, public and private investment in agriculture, especially in the production of staple food, decreased, which led to stagnant or declining crop yields in most developing countries.1 Rapid urbanization has led to the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses, and low food prices have encouraged farmers to shift to alternative food and non-food crops. Long-term unstable land use has also caused land degradation, soil erosion, nutrient depletion, water scarcity and disruption of biological cycles. Food prices began to rise in 2004 and production increased but more slowly than demand.2 The past few years saw a steep rise. In 2005, extreme weather events in major food-producing countries caused world cereal production to fall by 2.1 per cent in 2006.3 In 2007, rapid increases in oil prices not only increased fertilizer and food production costs but also provided a climate favourable to expansion of coarse grains and oil crops for biofuels. Many countries began to impose export restrictions on commodities to control prices; others purchased grains at any price to maintain domestic food supplies or considered taxes on imported food. This has led to panic and instability in international grain markets, attracted speculative investments and contributed to a surge in food prices.

While some food prices appear to be stabilizing, most are expected to remain high. Good harvests anticipated in key grain-producing countries and indications that some major producers will relax export restrictions have calmed grain markets. International prices have come down from their recent peaks. However, over the medium-to-long term, supply and demand dynamics, high fuel prices, global threats, such as climate change,4 water stress and scarcity, and degradation of natural resources are expected to keep food prices well above their 2004 levels.

A triple challenge
The current global food crisis is a huge challenge. It will require sustained political commitment at the highest levels for many years if we are to deal with it successfully and prevent further mass pauperization and the rolling back of development gains painfully won. It cannot be seen in isolation. Indeed, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has identified the global food crisis, the Millennium Development Goals and climate change as the fundamental triple challenge for the world over the next few years.

At stake is whether the international community is capable of working together to genuinely promote sustainable development, given a rapidly growing population and increasing scarcities of key land, water and energy resources. In response to this food crisis, the United Nations established a High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, under the leadership of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It brought together the Heads of the United Nations specialized agencies, funds and programmes, the Bretton Woods institutions and relevant parts of the United Nations Secretariat.5 The aim of the task force was to create a plan of action in response to the crisis and coordinate its implementation. The result is the Comprehensive Framework for Action, which proposes ways and means to respond to threats and opportunities resulting from high food prices; create policy changes to avoid future food crises; and contribute to national, regional and international food and nutrition security.

While the Comprehensive Framework for Action is the agreed product of the high-level task force, other parts of the UN system, international experts, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement, private-sector companies and non-governmental organizations have been widely consulted. The Comprehensive Framework for Action does not claim to offer a magic solution to all the problems of the global food crisis, let alone to the triple challenge. However, I believe it does set out a programme of coordinated actions and outcomes that can make a real difference over time, in an area fundamental to all human life, that is, food and nutrition security.

What the problem is
Food prices began rising in 2004, with a particularly steep increase in 2006. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations forecasts that the world will spend $1,035 billion on food imports in 2008, about $215 billion more than in 2007.6 This will severely strain the budgets of Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries whose food bills will soar by more than 40 per cent in 2008. This may also cause inflation, disrupt the balance of payments and increase debt for many low-income countries.

The dramatic rise in global food prices over the past twelve months, coupled with diminishing food stocks and escalating fuel costs, has gravely jeopardized global food and nutrition security, and has re-emphasized the critical actions needed to realize the right to adequate food. Hunger and under-nutrition are the greatest threats to public health, killing more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Each day, 25,000 people, including more than 10,000 children, die from hunger and related causes. Some 854 million people worldwide are estimated to be undernourished, and high food prices may drive another 100 million into poverty and hunger. The risks are particularly acute among those who must spend at least 60 per cent of their income on food: the urban poor and displaced populations, the rural landless, pastoralists and the majority of smallholder farmers.

Urbanization is a crucial dynamic for food supply. The urban poor, approximately 1.2 billion people, are highly vulnerable to rising food and energy prices. Even under normal price conditions, they often cannot produce or purchase enough food or energy for household use. Urbanization is further changing both consumption and production patterns through the conversion of agricultural lands and competing demands for water and energy. Lastly, urban food habits change and become more vulnerable to outside shocks when a dependence on imported staples occurs at the expense of locally produced food.

Smallholder farmers and their families represent some 2 billion people, about one third of the global population. An estimated 85 per cent of farms (or 450 million) worldwide measure less than 2 hectares, and the average farm size is shrinking. The majority of smallholder farmers and landless farm workers live on less than $2 per day and buy more food than they produce. Many of them are women who face disadvantages in access to land tenure, agricultural inputs, extension services, markets and financing. The capacity of smallholder farms to grow more food is limited when farmers cannot afford quality seed, fertilizer, veterinary drugs or services. Expanding agriculture onto less suitable lands degrades the ecosystems, with severe consequences for surrounding communities.

The Comprehensive Framework for Action aims to be a catalyst by providing governments, international and regional organizations, as well as civil society groups, with a menu of policies and actions to address the crisis. It recognizes that any response must consider the specific needs, capacities and circumstances of particular countries or regions. While many actions may require external assistance, the policies and actions described in the framework are intended, above all, to improve country capacity and resilience to absorb future shocks. The key to achieving the outcomes set in the framework will be close partnerships between national governments, the high-level task force, civil society and private-sector organizations and donors.

Undernutrition and chronic disease:
A dual threat
The immediate consequences of escalating food prices highlight the vulnerability of households, governments and the international system to food and nutrition insecurity.7 The risks may be more pronounced in urban areas where people are dependent on markets for food. However, 75 per cent of the world's poor reside in rural areas and most must buy as well as produce food. It is already evident that many smallholder farmers, who constitute the large majority of agricultural producers, cannot benefit from high food prices. They cannot boost production because they lack access to financing, agricultural inputs, such as seed, fertilizer, power and markets. As a result they, too, are struggling to feed their families.

Inadequate means to assist vulnerable populations may have irreversible impacts on human development, particularly for women and children. Over 80 per cent of the world's population presently lacks access to social protection systems of any form. The most vulnerable must resort to limited, often harmful, coping mechanisms, such as eating fewer and less nutritious meals, taking children out of school, selling livestock and other assets, or borrowing money to feed their families. Low nutritional intake may increase malnutrition levels for generations to come, worsening the health status of populations and reducing resilience to disease and shocks. Thus, the food crisis is a dual threat to health: under-nutrition, mainly in young children, and chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes and some cancers) strongly linked to poor diet.

Groups that face social exclusion are likely to be more vulnerable to the surge in food prices. These groups include indigenous communities, ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, displaced populations, stateless people and migrants. In particular, many refugees and internally displaced persons depend on food assistance for survival and do not have access to land for farming or employment opportunities. In effect, the global food crisis endangers millions of the world's most vulnerable and threatens to reverse critical gains made towards reducing poverty and hunger to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Governments react
In the face of high food prices, several governments are considering trade and taxation measures that will complement or substitute domestic social safety nets. However, policies such as direct price controls, export restrictions, generalized subsidies or wage increases can further distort markets, be ineffective over time or be fiscally unsustainable. Price controls may initially stabilize food price expectations, but in the longer term act as disincentives to food producers and retailers. Price controls may be difficult to enforce and may lead to food shortages and increased black market activity. Similarly, export restrictions can increase price instability and tighten food supplies in international markets, and dissuade farmers from investments to boost productivity.

High food prices are affecting inflation rates in many countries and the balance of payments of net food-importing countries. About 44 per cent of total inflation in 2007 could be attributed to food price hikes at the year's end. This is a significant threat to overall growth rates for many countries that have made hard-won gains in controlling inflation. Inflation further reduces standards of living, particularly for poor populations, and undermines growth and development. A domino effect
Ever-rising food prices bring the threat of unrest and political instability. This threat is particularly acute in countries in conflict or post-conflict situations, where political and social institutions are fragile and less able to calm social panic. Of particular concern are countries in delicate political transitions, or with organized groups ready to harness popular frustrations into a challenge against government authority. Others to watch include those already suffering from grave humanitarian situations or confronted with economic sanctions or embargoes. It should be noted, however, that the vast majority of the world's hungry continues to suffer in silence. In placating the dangerous, there is the risk that the peaceable hungry are overlooked.

The current food crisis also threatens the larger international food market. The worldwide reduction of national grain stocks in recent years stemmed from a confidence that prices would remain relatively stable and that global trade would permit countries to acquire grain quickly and easily through international markets. The recent combination of recent export restrictions and severed access to existing food stocks, compounded by subsidy and biofuel policies of major exporters, is undermining that confidence. This could threaten progress towards a fair and equitable international trade system, if countries refocus on national food self-sufficiency based solely on domestic production and stocks -- policies, which in the past had undermined agricultural growth and have had limited success in meeting national food security.

What the crisis can teach us
Escalating food prices can benefit smallholder farmers if appropriate assistance is available. Interventions should ensure access to inputs, i.e. seed and fertilizer, rehabilitation of infrastructure and methods to decrease post-harvest losses. This will boost crop yields, improve rural household welfare and local food supply. Such measures must be complemented with significantly higher investments in agricultural research and infrastructure, as well as environmentally sustainable practices to sustain the productivity of smallholder farmers.9

Policies and programmes that address constraints faced by smallholder farmers will encourage public and private agricultural and rural development investments in many low-income food-deficit countries. Consistently applied, these measures, along with improved access to financing facilities and markets, will greatly increase agriculture's contribution to economic growth and poverty reduction.

The current situation offers a critical opportunity for more focused attention to assessment of needs, early warning, contingency planning, risk management, and participatory and accountability practices. These can pre-empt and lessen risks associated with volatilities in the food market. International food assistance programmes address the needs of vulnerable populations and prevent harmful coping mechanisms; however, they cannot reach all of the malnourished and hungry. Comprehensive social protection systems that progressively achieve universal coverage of vulnerable groups are critical to building social resilience and enhancing social capacity to absorb shocks. Protection programmes for the elderly, the disabled, children, refugees and displaced persons should provide linkages to other basic social services. In addition, expansion or revision of nutrition, water and sanitation, including health programmes, are crucial in realizing the right to adequate food and in promoting sustainable nutrition practices.10

There is now a clear opportunity for international leadership in adopting a renewed strategy on agricultural trade and reassessing the most effective ways to tackle food market instabilities. High prices could lead to responsible agricultural trade policies that benefit low-income countries in developing a viable domestic commercial farming sector. Strong commitments to reform agricultural subsidy programmes and market access would help remove a major barrier to progress in the World Trade Organization Doha Round trade talks*, while still implementing the existing agreed provisions to protect consumers in low-income, food-importing countries.11 In addition, provisions to complement efforts to increase investment in smallholder agriculture in developing countries would support national efforts at improving food production.

Meanwhile, consensus is required to ensure greater complementarity between food production priorities, biofuel development and environmental management. This includes reassessment of current subsidy policies for biofuels. Moreover, measures should be considered to rebuild confidence in international and regional trading systems, including assessments of whether to (re)build well-managed global and regional grain stocks, or make greater use of financial market instruments that could reduce and protect countries from volatility in food markets.

The Comprehensive Framework for Action: Improving on what we have
The framework presents two sets of outcomes to respond to the global food crisis.12 Both require urgent attention. The first set focuses on meeting the immediate needs of vulnerable populations, and the second aims to contribute to global food and nutrition security. These actions are neither exhaustive nor exclusive. They are intended to guide assessments and strategies developed at the country level and support international coordination efforts.

To be most effective, these actions must be taken simultaneously at the local, national, regional and international levels. They should be adapted to national and local conditions, taking into account the global climate change and poverty reduction initiatives. Actions include coordinated efforts by key stakeholders, particularly national governments, civil society and the private sector.

Action 1. Meeting immediate needs of vulnerable populations.
The Comprehensive Framework for Action proposes four basic outcomes critical to addressing the threats of high food prices on vulnerable populations and developing countries. These outcomes will contribute towards the needs of those already impoverished and minimize the number of new families falling into food insecurity when their incomes can no longer buy sufficient food. They aim to meet current and future demands for food availability. The outcomes would also ensure that:

a) Emergency food assistance, nutrition interventions and safety nets are improved and made more accessible;

b) Food production by smallholder farmers is boosted;

c) Trade and tax policies are adjusted; and

d) Macroeconomic implications are managed.

Thus, the outcomes embrace the "spectrum" of actions needed to improve access and availability of food.

The Comprehensive Framework for Action emphasizes building upon available resources and capacities, scaling up activities that are already underway and improving current interventions, rather than launching new ones. The emphasis is on actions that can produce immediate results; however, the duration of activities will vary depending on factors such as lifting export bans, the speed and scale of responses, and adjustments in food prices.

Action 2. Building longer-term resilience and contributing to global food and nutrition security.
The Comprehensive Framework for Action proposes four basic outcomes to address opportunities arising from the spike in food prices, to build resilience, contribute to food and nutrition security, and address the underlying factors driving the food price crisis. The outcomes propose that:

a) Social protection systems are expanded;

b) The food production growth of smallholder farmers is sustained;

c) International food markets are improved; and

d) An international biofuel consensus is developed.

These outcomes recognize that immediate needs must be complemented and supplemented by longer-term actions that will contribute to a greater degree of self-sufficiency of vulnerable populations, farmers and countries. Achieving these outcomes will allow people and countries to better absorb new food and fuel price shocks, while working to minimize the occurrence of such shocks. These outcomes also directly contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goal to reduce hunger,13 and focus on actions to support smallholder farmers, in particular, vulnerable women and the rural and urban poor. Many actions, nevertheless, support infrastructure and other public goods, such that larger commercial farmers will benefit as well. This is intended to encourage greater and more sustained private-sector investment into smallholder farms.

The outcomes also reflect the need for sustainable agriculture in order to avoid further environmental damage. Governments, civil society and the private sector must agree with the outcomes and move ahead. They also require concerted, long-term commitments from all stakeholders, as well as actions to be flexible and adjust as conditions evolve.

Early warning
Underpinning the two sets of outcomes is the need to ensure that stronger assessment, monitoring and surveillance systems are in place. More reliable and consistent information will improve preparedness for new shocks and ensure that actions taken by governments and the international community are indeed minimizing risks and mitigating the effects of high food prices on the most vulnerable.

Much of the ongoing work at the country and global levels can be expanded. Monitoring and information systems are being strengthened and harmonized to capture developments in food access, availability and utilization, and to identify the magnitude of needs among different livelihood groups. More resources are required to strengthen monitoring of communities, households, markets, as well as cross-border trade, to enable effective management of the crisis.

Significant attention is given to countries at high risk, which are likely to see the biggest changes in their food security. These are countries which (a) exhibit high levels of food and nutrition insecurity and poverty and low capacity of emergency response, (b) have high food and fuel imports compared to total imports, exports and international foreign reserves, (c) have relatively large urban populations, (d) have already experienced high inflationary pressures and a politically unstable environment, (e) have populations spending a significant proportion of household income on food and are vulnerable to food insecurity, and (f) are increasingly exposed to extreme climate change.

How to achieve the Comprehensive Framework for Action?
National governments bear ultimate responsibility and therefore are at the centre of responding to the food crisis. They are joined by private entities, farmer/producer organizations, civil society organizations, regional political and financial bodies, donor agencies, as well as United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions. These stakeholders have already begun to address the most urgent manifestations of the crisis. They have reallocated resources in existing programmes and mobilized new funds to ensure delivery of food assistance, nutritional care and support, including prevention and management of under-nutrition and support of social safety nets for the most vulnerable. They are supplying seeds, fertilizers and other basic inputs to small farmers.

Government leadership will be essential to driving country-level response. To permit well-informed, targeted and efficient responses, international agencies are working with national counterparts to implement national assessments of food security. The Food and Agricultural Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Food Programme and the World Bank have completed common assessments in 22 countries, while agency-specific assessments have been undertaken in more than 60 countries. Using existing Global Nutrition Databases, the World Health Organization has also assessed country-nutrition vulnerabilities. These assessments reveal significant increases in current operating costs and the additional financial and technical support required to respond to the crisis in both rural and urban areas. Based on such assessments, efforts are underway to focus interventions by the high-level task force in countries.

During the next six months, the crisis is expected to deepen. The high-level task force will pay concerted attention to several global priorities: responding to needs for food assistance and broader social protection; distributing inputs and other agricultural support; influencing policies; advocacy; and responding to requests for support.

For a global partnership for food
To support government leadership, the high-level task force considers a broad and inclusive partnership to be central to the Comprehensive Framework for Action and a key factor in achieving food and nutrition security in countries. Therefore, the task force members strongly commit themselves to a more unified approach, a more concerted action and strengthened coordination in countries. In addition, the partnership will consist of the private sector, farmer/producer organizations, donors, non-governmental organizations, and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. The high-level task force will also engage regional organizations, regional development banks and other multilateral banks as they expand their roles in supporting coordinated analyses and responses to the food crisis.

The Comprehensive Framework for Action should serve as a blueprint for coordination. Specifics of coordination will vary from country to country but will typically be characterized by systematic joint action. Close cooperation on assessment and planning, and regular consultation and sharing of analysis will help strengthen the overall partnership for food in ways that governments and their partners can avoid duplication of efforts and gaps in response.

The high-level task force will facilitate the formation of a global partnership for food, and ensure monitoring and assessments of progress made in achieving the outcomes of the Comprehensive Framework for Action. It will work with United Nations Member States to undertake regular advocacy to stakeholders and stocktaking of progress. Other functions include providing sound analysis of the evolving food situation, continued coordination at the highest level and expanded partnerships with key stakeholders.

What does it cost?
The current financial challenges are the consequences of a number of factors and trends. They include imbalances in supply and demand, limited coverage and capacity of existing safety nets for the poor, under-investment in agriculture, transport and market systems over recent decades, and non-conducive policies that magnify the problem.14 For example, the share of agriculture in government public spending is only 4.5 per cent for African countries,15 or about $13 billion.16 Globally, agriculture's share in official development assistance (ODA) has also dropped from 18 per cent in 1979 to 3.4 per cent in 2006, or approximately $4 billion.17

Increased financial support needs to come from a variety of sources, including national budgets, ODA, the private sector, farmers and communities themselves, and broader civil society. More innovative instruments, e.g. private foundations and sovereign wealth funds, could also be explored. The Comprehensive Framework for Action focuses on public expenditure and investments. Two items to note:

How much from each: It is not yet possible to set a robust estimate of the global incremental financial requirements for food and nutrition security, social protection, agricultural development and functioning food markets, or the amount that must be covered through public financing, including both national public expenditure and ODA. Recent preliminary studies and estimates have ranged from $25 billion to $40 billion a year.18

How much for each: Approximately one third of the overall amount is needed for immediate requirements in food assistance, agricultural inputs, and balance of payment support. Two thirds should be invested in building longer-term resilience and contributing to food and nutrition security.19 Broadly speaking, at least 50 per cent of the total amount will be needed for agriculture and local transport and market systems.20 The majority of the remainder is needed for food assistance, nutrition interventions and social protection.21 These figures are consistent with the estimated investment costs in social protection and agriculture needed for Africa to address the Millennium Development Goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.22
Spend more on agriculture
These estimates suggest a formidable challenge, viz. the financial needs far exceed the current level of response. Hence, it is essential to scale up immediately and substantially public spending and investments. In this respect, the high-level task force encourages:
Developing countries to provide additional budgetary resources to strengthen social protection systems, and more particularly to increase the share of agriculture in public spending.
Donor countries to double ODA for food aid, other types of nutrition support and safety net programmes, and invest an increased percentage of ODA in food and agricultural development, from the current 3 per cent to 10 per cent within five years -- and beyond, if needed -- to reverse the historic under-investment in agriculture.
Developing and donor countries to improve food and nutrition security risk-management through better use of local physical food stocks, support for development of infrastructure, market and food preservation systems, and to explore innovative use of local production surpluses and emerging financial instruments.
Increased allocations to represent true additions, not diversions, from other social sectors critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and other national development priorities, such as education and health.

The high-level task force also appeals for more flexibility and predictability in the funding of food assistance and safety nets, an exemption to export restrictions for humanitarian food purchases, unhindered movement of humanitarian food across and within borders, and better access to food stocks through the establishment of physical or virtual humanitarian food reserves.

Making sure we do it
The High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis was established on 29 April 2008 with a mandate from Heads of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes. Though not envisaged as a permanent fixture, it aims to foster links between stakeholders by building upon ongoing initiatives and capacities, drawing on the expertise of relevant national, regional and international organizations, the scientific community and the private sector, and focusing on coordinated, coherent and active responses. The high-level task force should act as a centre of gravity for encouraging stakeholders to work as partners.

It is considering the next steps: how best to proceed with country-level coordination of activities, financing and progress; tracking information, including financing, within and across countries; and resource mobilization.

Recognizing the critical roles played by the private sector and civil society, the high-level task force is exploring mechanisms to engage them more systematically in achieving the outcomes of the Comprehensive Framework for Action. The outcomes and actions identified in the framework can only be achieved through partnerships at all levels.

The high-level task force will continue to provide leadership and coordination in this respect, to help governments and affected communities address the challenges of the global food crisis. Above all, the policies, actions and outcomes are all eminently feasible, given reasonable amounts of political will, resources and readiness to work together.

The techniques are all, more or less, known and tested. The money involved, while large in one sense, is little indeed compared with the enormity of what is at stake, or with the huge daily flows in financial or oil markets. Every country in the world is affected, though to different degrees. In other words, we know what to do to overcome this crisis. We just have to make sure we do it.

(This article is based on the work of the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis and in particular its Comprehensive Framework for Action.)

Notes 1 External assistance to agriculture dropped from 18 per cent of official development assistance in 1978 to 3 per cent by 2007. 2 2007/2008 world grain stocks are forecast to fall to their lowest levels in 30 years, to 18.7 per cent of utilization. 3 FAO, Crop Prospects and Food Situation, April 2008. 4 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that climate change alone could lead to an increase of 40 million to 170 million in the number of undernourished people. 5 The High-Level Task Force participation has included: Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); International Monetary Fund (IMF); UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS); United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); World Food Programme (WFP); World Health Organization (WHO); World Bank; World Trade Organization (WTO); UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs; UN Department of Political Affairs; UN Department of Public Information; UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations; the Special Adviser on Millennium Development Goals; and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 6 FAO, Food Outlook, May 2008. 7 Food security comprises access, availability and utilization issues. Nutrition security is achieved when secured access to appropriately nutritious food is coupled with sanitary environment, adequate health services and care to ensure a healthy and active life for all household members. 8 See 9 Increased agricultural production is heavily dependent on the availability of rich soils, water resources and catchment areas, such as forests. Therefore, an environmentally sustainable approach must be taken to avoid depletion of water sources, salination of soils and water tables, and permanent loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. 10 The right to food is not a right to be fed, but primarily a right to feed oneself with dignity. Only if an individual is unable, for reasons beyond his or her control, to provide for himself or herself, does the State have obligations to provide food or the means to purchase it. The right to adequate food is recognized under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 11 See the WTO website: 12 See 13 Millennium Development Goal #1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. This includes reducing by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. See goals. 14 The World Bank's World Development Report 2008, Agriculture for Development, explains that the drop in agricultural investment during the past 25 years is largely reflected by failure to address macroeconomic and sectoral policy biases against agriculture; dependence on the State in activities, such as input supply and marketing, which overwhelmed public capacities while crowding out the private sector; and limited opportunities for farmers and other rural stakeholders to influence public investment priorities or to hold the State accountable for implementation. In addition, donor agencies did not invest sufficient time in working towards coordinated, sector-wide approaches to strengthening public service delivery. International institutions also tended towards narrow specialized approaches, which largely ignored linkages between research, marketing, the environment and public finance. Finally, there was little effective evaluation of programme impacts to inform programme design or identify constraints. 15 FAO, Financing of Agriculture: Issues, Constraints and Perspectives, 2007. 16 Stephen Akroyd and Lawrence Smith (2007), Review of Public Spending to Agriculture. A Joint Study by the Department for International Development and the World Bank, page 2. The World Development Report 2008 indicates that "the share of public spending in agriculture-based countries (mostly in Africa) is significantly less (4 per cent in 2004) than in transforming countries during their agricultural growth spurt (10 per cent in 1980)", page 40. 17 In 2006, agriculture's share represented 3.4 per cent of ODA commitments or approximately $3.99 billion, and only 2.6 per cent or approximately $2.3 billion in terms of ODA disbursements (data extracted from OECD Stat database). 18 Based on early estimates from the high-level task force members and international research organizations, these figures will be updated as information from country-level assessments is compiled. 19 World Development Report 2008, Agriculture for Development; International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Policy Brief, "Rising food prices, what should be done?", April 2008; IFPRI Policy Brief "Investing in agriculture to overcome food crisis and reduce poverty and hunger", June 2008; IMF, Food and Fuel Prices -- Recent Developments, Macroeconomic Impact, and Policy Responses, June 2008; and IMF, The Balance of Payments Impact of the Food and Fuel Price Shocks on Low-Income African Countries: A Country-by-Country Assessment, June 2008. 20 According to IFPRI (S. Fan and M. Rosegrant, 2008), public investment required for agriculture in developing countries to meet MDG 1, including research, rural roads and irrigation, and partial input subsidy for poorest farmers, is estimated at $16.3 billion. 21 The WFP annual requirements, which are expected to grow to $6 billion per year, traditionally account for 50 per cent of global food assistance, with NGO and bilateral assistance accounting for the rest (ref. 2007 Interfais report). 22 Agriculture and Food Security Thematic Working Group, MDG-Africa Working Group Business Plan, 15 May 2008.

About the author:
John Holmes

John Holmes is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and had been the Coordinator of the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis up to 31 December 2008. He also served as British Ambassador in Paris, from 2001 to 2007, and in Lisbon, from 1999 to 2001.


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