On the eve of the G8 Summit, food security is again taking center stage, and for good reason. Almost 1 billion people are struggling with hunger every day. Most of them are children.
As high and volatile food prices continue to impact the world’s poorest people, global action is critical. Seventy-five percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas, and most depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. In addition, higher food prices have increased undernourishment. As a result, progress toward the Millennium Development Goals closely linked to food and nutrition is lagging, particularly with respect to child mortality and maternal mortality.
In developing countries that face more volatile international markets, it is essential to increase the productivity and resiliency of food production. One program that stands out for its early results and future potential is theGlobal Agriculture & Food Security Program, known as GAFSP, which is drawing acclaim from donors, recipients, and civil society.
Administered by the World Bank, GAFSP was established in April 2010 at the request of the G20 and is a transformational approach to aid targeted to helping countries make lasting improvements through sustainable investment in agriculture and food security. Seven countries and the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation have pledged about $1.1 billion over 3 years.
Neil Watkins of ActionAid noted, “One of the best outcomes of the L'Aquila summit three years ago was the creation of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), an innovative multi-donor trust fund that backs country plans and engages farmers and civil society in decision making and implementation. It's already making a huge difference in 12 countries.”
In its first call for proposals, 7.5 Million beneficiaries in 12 countries were reached by GAFSP's work. In four countries that are reporting results targets – Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Niger, and Rwanda – 44,415 hectares are expected to have new, improved, or rehabilitated irrigation and drainage services.
In Togo, where the agriculture sector contributes 40 percent to GDP, GAFSP is working with other donors to support is helping the country to implement their national agriculture plan and has funded seeds, fertilizer, and training for farmers. It has helped farmers to organize better, improved the production of maize and cassava, and increased donor coordination. The project is expected to directly benefit 62,000 people, including crop farmers, fish producers, and fish merchants.
In Rwanda, one of GAFSP’s first beneficiaries, the funding is co-financing a project to reduce erosion and bolster productivity in hillside agriculture with tremendous results: potato yields are seven times higher than before and cereal yields have quadrupled. GAFSP is transforming lives, said Hon. John Rwangombwa, minister of finance in Rwanda. Next week, this groundbreaking partnership will meet to choose another batch of countries that will receive approximately $180 million in grant funding.
In Nepal, GAFSP will support a project that seeks to explicitly integrate food and nutrition security issues by increasing productivity of agriculture (crops, livestock and fisheries), strengthening the livelihoods base for food insecure communities, and improving the nutritional intake of adolescent, pregnant, and lactating women and children under two years old. The direct beneficiaries for this project are expected to include 150,000 small farmers and 25,000 adolescent girls, young mothers and children.