Sida's Strategies for Natural Resources and the Environment
by Johan Holmberg
Important changes in the global development paradigm are reflected
in the recent priority setting exercise of a major donor agency.
CGIAR News is reprinting this interesting analysis with the kind
permission of Development Today, Oslo.
The work of the Swedish International Development Cooperation
Agency (Sida) in the area of natural resources and the environment
should be seen in the context of four policy papers adopted during
1996 and 1997 in the areas of sustainable development, poverty,
gender equity, and human rights and democracy.
These policy papers are closely aligned with the politically established
objectives for Swedish development aid and set a framework for
all of Sida's operations.
It is the paper on sustainable development that is of most direct
relevance to Sida's work with natural resources and the environment.
It specifies that priority should be given to five subject matter
areas and two crosscutting methodological approaches, namely:
water resources management; sustainable land management, including
soil conservation; the marine environment; the urban environment;
environmentally sound production and consumption of energy; capacity
building and institutional development; and NGOs and civil society.
But what became of agriculture and forestry, subsumed above under
"sustainable land management?" And what about fisheries?
Sweden was very much part of the trend in the aid donor community
in the late 1980s and early l990s when aid to agriculture declined
as the combined result of political pressure for environmental
action and disillusion with the performance of aid to agriculture,
primarily in Africa.
It is therefore reasonable to ask whether this remains the predominant
view. Is it reflected in the aforementioned priorities of Sida's
work with natural resources?
The short answer is no. There is a gradual shift under way back
to agriculture in Sida's cooperation with African countries. In
1995 Sida commissioned a major review of its possibilities to
contribute more effectively to African food security. The report,
available in mid1996, recommended that Sida strengthen its
professional presence in Africa in fields related to food security.
It also recommended more support to decentralized programs to
tackle issues related to productivity in smallholder agriculture.
Major programs in this area are now in various stages of planning
in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique. These are all areabased
programs with several different components designed to address
the multiple needs at farm level. They resemble the integrated
rural development programs of the 1970s. But there are major differences.
The new programs set out to strengthen the local government administrations
instead of creating separate organizations. They are based on
a bottomup planning approach where priorities for intervention
are determined by the beneficiaries. They use low quantities of
imported farm inputs and more emphasis on locally produced, improved
seeds. They all have significant components of agricultural research.
In addition, support to international agricultural research through
CGIAR is Sida's single largest research program. There are signs
that this support may increase further in future years.
So what has changed? Why does Sida now consider conditions for
success in agriculture to be more propitious in Africa than in
the 1980s? First, with structural adjustment many of the economic
distortions discriminating against agriculture have now been removed.
Economic incentives now exist for farmers to grow more food. Second,
there is the belief that food security in Africa is an issue that
needs to be tackled headon and that improving the environment
in rural areas is not sufficient to increase farm productivity.
Third, many of the components of these programs, such as strengthening
local government institutions, gaining knowledge through research,
and improving rural roads, are prerequisites for future agricultural
productivity increases. And fourth, there is increasing realization
that more support to agricultural research is a necessary, albeit
insufficient, precondition for future food production increases.
Interestingly, the development has been similar in forestry, previously
considered one of the highprofile areas of Sweden's development
assistance. It is Sida's experience that to reduce deforestation
rates, support to improved agriculture and security of tenure
is often likely to be more effective than direct forestry assistance.
That has lead to a gradual disappearance of separate forestry
projects. They are being integrated into programs for natural
resource management that emphasize agricultural extension, provision
of water and credit facilities. Examples of programs where this
development has been evident are found in Vietnam, Laos and India.
Support to fisheries development by Sida has almost ceased, as
the last project is being phased out in Angola. This is being
replaced by an interest in coastal zone management, and a review
of Sida's work in this area is under way.
An important new priority area for Sida is water resources management.
In 1996 Sida took an initiative in southern Africa with a focus
mainly on capacity building and awareness raising for water development.
There is a long Swedish experience in the area of rural water
supplies and sanitation with successful projects in several countries,
including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Laos and India.
In 1996 Sida decided to host the secretariat of the Global Water
Partnership (GWP), a network of organizations interested in the
sustainable development of water resources in developing countries
cosponsored by the World Bank and UNDP. The network is active
in all fields within the water sector, not only rural water supplies,
and hence forces Sida to broaden its expertise. With the Stockholm
Water Symposium already one of the major annual scientific conferences
on water in the world, the planned creation of the Stockholm International
Water Institute to administer the Symposium and to conduct research,
and the Stockholm Environment Institute already active in this
area, Sida's involvement in GWP will contribute to raising the
Swedish profile in water resources development.
Swedish development assistance is declining and will in 1997 be
0.7 per cent of GDP, the lowest since 1974. In many areas Sida
is now cutting back its programs and staff. However, the government's
parliamentary bill directing Sida's work in 1997 singles out natural
resources management as the only sector (in addition to democracy
and human rights) where Sida's programs should increase in scope.
In 1995/96 this sector accounted for 13 percent of Sida's disbursements,
and it has remained at that level for the last four years. When
the programs now being planned have reached maturity in a few
years, this percentage should increase substantially reflecting
economic realities in many of the traditional Swedish aid recipient
(Johan Holmberg is director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment at Sida, and Executive Secretary of the Stockholm-based Global Water Partnership.)