By Christopher Delgado
Christopher Delgado is Strategy and Policy Adviser in the World Bank’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department, and leads the agricultural policy work program at the Bank that includes the Secretariat of the Bank’s Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP) and the Coordination Unit for the Global Agricultural and Food Security Program (GAFSP). GFRP is a World Bank program set up in 2008 to expedite financing for urgent food security activities and has reached 47 poor countries. GAFSP is a multilateral funding mechanism requested from the World Bank by the G20 Summit in September 2009 to assist in the operationalization of the large donor commitments to longer term agriculture and food security made at L’Aquila in July 2009.
The seminal FAO and WFP joint report: The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2010: Addressing food insecurity in protracted crises (SOFI 2010) focused on people living in 22 countries in which the incidence of hunger is particularly high and especially persistent over years, even decades in some cases, which it called countries in protracted crisis. The report found that 166 million people were undernourished in these 22 countries, representing nearly 40 percent of the population and nearly 20 percent of all undernourished people in the world at the time. Drivers included armed conflict and natural disasters, often in combination with weak governance or public administration, scarce resources, unsustainable livelihoods systems, and breakdown of local institutions. The U.N.’s Committee on Food Security is sponsoring a meeting this week in Rome of a high level forum to look at what can be done to address in a more durable manner the urgent and persistent issues involved in alleviating food security concerns for countries in persistent food crisis.
In this context, it is instructive to look at the experience of 6 countries included in SOFI 2010 as being subject to persistent food crises: Burundi, Ethiopia, Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Tajikistan. These countries all received grants after the 2008 price spikes from the World Bank’s Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP), targeted at fast-disbursing response in the form of budget support, safety nets and short term agricultural production support to deal with food emergencies. Yet within three years the same countries succeeded in winning substantial awards from the highly competitive and independently reviewed Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). GAFSP is a multilateral facility open to all poor countries targeted at supporting the most strategic, evidence-based, inclusive, and convincing country-led agricultural and food security plans arising from ongoing aid effectiveness programs, such as CAADP in Africa. A GAFSP award is a concrete testimonial to a country being serious about doing what is necessary to promote its food sector, and is necessarily based on substantial country-led preparation, consultation, and peer review.
A look at the 6 countries suggests the following:
- Targeting was critical to both efficiency of resource use and the
chances of success in reaching the vulnerable; targeting also increased
positive cross-cutting impacts.
- Data and analysis were generated and used, and the key stakeholders beyond government entities and international development partners were engaged by government.
- Robust monitoring and evaluation systems promoted efficiency and effectiveness, and helped build the trust necessary for dealing with the especially sensitive issues under protracted crisis; they also surely helped maintain the continuity of effort that was needed to transit to a longer term perspective.
- National and international partners were willing to build institutions to serve as repositories of knowledge and expertise.
- Capacity-building was essential to supporting countries’ efforts to cope with an emergency while at the same time building resilience.
- Confidence in the predictability of foreign assistance to support country-led plans was vital to encourage national leaders to make the hard choices and key investments necessary for change.
More fundamentally, the long-run sustainability of effort is vital for addressing protracted crisis, if not usually the first priority in emergency operations. Alignment with true government priorities is the premier route to ensuring that progress will continue once funding for the project in question is over. The key is to assist governments of countries under protracted crisis do what is needed to have and own strategic investment plans for agriculture and food security at the same time as they address short run emergencies.
Plans need to be both technically sound in addressing the drivers of food insecurity under protracted crisis, and also be widely accepted by stakeholders within the countries concerned. Technical soundness and stakeholder buy-in taken together require improving the evidence base of planning through peer review and consultations with relevant parties, especially farmers groups and the private sector in agriculture and nutrition.
The need for more strategic, more evidence-based, and more inclusive country-led plans is of course the main motivation of aid-effectiveness programs such as CAADP in Africa, which has been operational since 2003, but only took off more recently when it looked as if donors might change their funding plans, at least to some extent, to fit the process. Having an aid architecture that provides tangible incentives to countries to be serious about using the evidence base, using peer review, undertaking consultation, and promoting inclusion is still a larger work in progress for most poor countries.
Supporting the efforts of the countries to prepare such strategic and policy frameworks that are both sound and owned by the stakeholders is in fact also the key requirement to get countries out of protracted crisis. There are not a lot of short-cuts, but the longer term path is now known and can be followed, if there is the will to do so.