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The Global Agricultural and Food Security Program (GAFSP): An Innovative Fund to Fight Hunger

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Today’s post is the third in a Feed the Future/Reform blog series that MFAN has been coordinating with key members of the community. To read the first post by Bread for the World, click here. To read the second post by the World Food Program USA, click here.  To see what ActionAid USA’s Director of Policy and Campaigns has to say about GAFSP and its alignment with foreign assistance reform principles, read below. You will see many aspects of country ownership reflected in the post – be sure to comment or share your thoughts!

A Guest Post by Neil Watkins

Director of Policy and Campaigns at ActionAid USA

ActionAid is an international anti-poverty agency working in 50 countries, taking sides with poor people to end poverty and injustice together. Watkins currently serves as the Northern CSO representative on the Steering Committee of the GAFSP.Women farmers

A critical, but less well known component of the USG’s Feed the Future Initiative is the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). Launched in April 2010, the fund embodies many of the principles of aid effectiveness, including country ownership, a strong monitoring and evaluation element, and provisions to ensure transparency and civil society participation.

The GAFSP was established in April 2010 following commitments made by leaders at the G-8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy in 2009 to support global food security. The fund, with a small secretariat at the World Bank, has received nearly $1 billion in pledges from 6 donors including the United States, Spain, Korea, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada and Australia. Unfortunately, the US has only delivered $67 million of its pledge to date; the remainder is currently caught up in the debate around the FY2011 budget.  Congress needs to act with urgency to meet our pledge.

One of the innovations of the GAFSP is its governance structure. It is governed by a Steering Committee that includes 12 voting members (the aforementioned 6 donors, along with 6 developing country governments), as well as 11 non-voting but fully participating members. Non-voting members include three civil society representatives (including a farmers organization leader from Africa and Asia); three representatives from the United Nations system; and representatives from the five development banks which serve as the supervising entities for GAFSP projects. As the fund has evolved, in practice there is little difference between voting and non-voting members: all discussions and decisions are taken with all members present.

In June 2010, the GAFSP Steering Committee approved five grants totaling US$224 million for Bangladesh, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Togo and Rwanda. In November 2010, more than $100 million in grants were approved for Mongolia, Ethiopia, and Niger. The successful country proposals demonstrated a high level of need, an effective agricultural investment plan, and a coherent project proposal.

left_scThe GAFSP has adopted the Rome Principles — agreed to by 193 nations at the World Food Security summit in November 2009 — into its governance structure, planning, and implementation procedures. All GAFSP funds support country-led agricultural development strategies. In Africa, the fund specifically supports countries that have advanced through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program CAADP process. The CAADP process, launched at a summit of African heads of state in Maputo in 2003, commits African governments to spend at least 10% of their budgets on agriculture and includes a peer and technical review process to ensure development effectiveness.

Moreover, official contributions and pledges to the Fund have been able to leverage additional commitments including from non-traditional donors (Korea) and the philanthropic sector (Gates Foundation). The Fund also operates with a high level of transparency, with all Board documents posted to its website within one week of approval, and detailed information and financed projects publicly available.

From the outset, the GAFSP has placed a strong emphasis on civil society participation, recognizing the vital role civil society organizations (CSOs) play in ensuring that its programs have the greatest impact for the most vulnerable. ActionAid has been encouraged by the inclusion of CSOs in the governance structure of the Fund and the responsiveness by the Fund to CSO input provided to date.

The following are some concrete examples of the successes that CSOs have achieved by serving on the GAFSP Board:

  • Instructions are now sent along with grant notices to countries that receive awards from GAFSP directing the countries to ensure meaningful stakeholder participation in the finalization of their proposals;
  • The project financed by GAFSP in Togo involved farmers organizations and civil society organizations in the drafting, finalization, and now implementation of the project;
  • We also successfully pushed the Private Sector Window, a smaller lending window of the GAFSP which specifically supports the private sector, to commit that Environmental and social safeguards apply to financial intermediaries involved in the Private Sector Window; and that the development indicators the IFC uses to evaluate development impact of PSW projects will be shared with the steering committee.

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ActionAid is also working with farmer’s organizations and other CSOs to press the GAFSP to further empower civil society and farmers organizations:

  • At the request of the full steering committee, we are developing detailed benchmarks and guidelines for effective civil society participation at the country level to ensure much deeper engagement and participation of producers’ organizations especially;
  • Pushing the GAFSP to clearly identify and support projects that favor innovative models of agricultural development that are likely to have the most beneficial impact on poor smallholders, especially women;
  • Pressing the Private Sector Window to operate transparently, to directly support smallholders and their organizations, and to demonstrate development effectiveness; and
  • Ensure strong linkages and accountability with the Committee on World Food Security.

ActionAid believes the GAFSP is a promising vehicle through which donors should deliver agricultural development assistance. We are urging Congress to provide full funding for the United States’ pledge to the fund. The current shortfall from the US is a risk to the fund’s sustainability. We are also urging other G-20 countries that have not yet contributed to GAFSP to make pledges to the Fund, which is an important model of aid effectiveness in practice.

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