WASHINGTON, July 15, 2010 – Three months after international donors set up a new funding mechanism to support low-income countries as they scale-up support for agriculture and food security, almost $225 million for those countries has been approved for distribution and is on its way for implementation. The grants will benefit an estimated two million people in rural areas as each country works to increase food security, raise rural incomes, and reduce poverty.
Meeting in Washington in April, the United States, Canada, Spain, South Korea, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to contribute some $880 million to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). A unique feature of the program is that decisions on the distribution of funds takes place via discussion among donors, recipients, multilateral agencies, and northern and southern civil society organizations (CSOs), through an external Steering Committee.
One seat on the 22 person committee is held on an interim basis by ActionAid (USA) as northern CSOs engage in a self-selection process for longer term representation. Two other seats are designated for southern CSOs, with particular emphasis on organizations representing small farm interests. The Pan African Farmers Platform oversees the self-selection process in the South. It has identified ROPPA (the French acronym for Network of Farmers' and Agricultural Producers' Organizations of West Africa)–an association of small farmers endorsed by farmers’ organizations in other parts of Africa–to hold one seat on the committee, representing African farmers on the committee. Similarly, the Pan African Farmers Platform is in discussions with networks of farmers’ organizations in Asia to identify a representative of small farmers in Asia for the second southern CSO seat.
"We welcome the GAFSP's willingness to include civil society representatives in its governance structure. In the coming months, we will be working to ensure that fund-supported projects benefit smallholder farmers and meaningfully involve national farmers' organizations and civil society in their development and implementation," said Neil Watkins, Director of Policy and Campaigns for ActionAid (USA).
To date, the GAFSP Steering Committee has allocated $224 million for country-devised and led agricultural development plans in five countries: Bangladesh ($50 million), Haiti ($35 million), Rwanda ($50 million), Sierra Leone ($50 million), and Togo ($39 million).
"We welcome the recognition by GAFSP donors of our national agriculture investment plan," said Rwandan Minister of Agriculture Agnes Kalibata. “These funds will enable us to extend our efforts to reduce soil erosion and build soil fertility, both critical for raising crop productivity and incomes.”
In Rwanda, one of the world’s most densely populated landlocked countries, the $50 million grant will help farmers earn more by reducing growing erosion on hillside agriculture. Since about 90% of Rwandan agriculture takes place on hillsides, these measures will bolster productivity in an environmentally sustainable manner. Five such sites are the focus of ongoing donor support, with another eight sites planned to benefit from the GAFSP funds.
The recent G-20 summit in Toronto reaffirmed the importance of food security and acknowledged the ongoing efforts of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. The World Bank Group serves as trustee and host of a coordination unit for the GAFSP trust fund that finances activities. The fund was created in response to a call by G-20 leaders in Pittsburgh last year for the Bank Group to work with donors and set up the trust fund manage the pledges made by G-8 leaders at their meeting in L’Aquila in July, 2009.
The new GAFSP trust fund aims to put countries in the driver’s seat by supporting country-led programs which invest in food security and agriculture and deliver results on the ground. To receive funding, country proposals must demonstrate a high level of need, a supportive policy environment, and a comprehensive plan for agricultural development.
World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick described the selection of the first five countries to benefit from the fund as “an important additional step towards achieving food security and raising rural incomes by giving poor people the opportunity to grow more."
The GAFSP Steering Committee will consider more country proposals in October.