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Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Harnessing Aid and Trade in a Time of Fiscal Austerity

Thursday, April 14th, 2011
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Today’s post is the fifth and final post 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 read the third post by ActionAid USA, click here. To read the fourth post by the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, click here.

Our guest bloggers from GMF say, “By helping build comprehensive trade corridors that connect crop surplus to deficit regions, Feed the Future is leading the way in ‘aid for trade’ and making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and sustainable.”

A Guest Blog Post by Jonathan M. White and Kathryn Ritterspach

German Marshall Fund of the United States

The Marshall Plan helped facilitate Western Europe’s economic integration and revival through market-oriented policies, leaving behind the protectionism of the 1930s. The European Coal and Steel Community – the precursor to the European Union – further encouraged European integration, pooling these much-needed resources among Western European countries.  The EU expanded membership to countries in the East after the Cold War, offering aid, market access and a common regulatory framework. The Marshall Plan and the European Union, while not perfect by any means, are considered among the most successful development programs.

One lesson from these initiatives has been that to get a bigger bang for your buck, you need the alignment of aid, trade and investment policies toward a unified objective – in this case the rebuilding of Europe. Both the Bush and Obama Administrations have sought to foster vibrant private sectors that complement critical health and education programs in the developing world. In that spirit, the U.S. Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development and the U.S. Feed the Future initiative seek to harness both aid and trade to help lift countries out of poverty and become reliable trading partners.

As democracy slowly emerges in Egypt and Tunisia, with other societies in the region on the move and with high commodity prices pushing millions back into poverty worldwide, we cannot waver in our support for these innovative U.S. development policies. In the face of budget constraints, governments must better coordinate aid and trade policies toward common development objectives. Market access, for example, which the United States is very generous in granting to developing countries, can mean little in the absence of cross-border infrastructure, trade finance, reasonable custom regimes, and a sound business climate. Foreign aid supporting small farmers, enterprises, and jobs will only go so far without access to regional or international markets.

Currently, the United States and Europe have a number of trade preference programs that seek to expand markets at home and abroad. However, many of these programs do not adequately reach industries where the poor work. For instance, over 90 percent of African exports under the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) are petroleum products, an indication of the fact that the trade opportunities it provides are severely under-utilized due to lack of trade capacity. Some of the products in which African producers are competitive and able to export, such as sugar, are effectively excluded from AGOA’s otherwise broad coverage. Although it has wide product coverage, Europe’s Everything But Arms program has overly complicated rules of origin requirements that make it difficult for developing countries to benefit from market access.

Pakistan provides another example. In 2009 the United States committed to provide Pakistan a $7.5 billion aid program. Certainly a country with nuclear weapons and a weak civilian government on the border with Afghanistan should merit friendly U.S. trade policies to help bolster such a massive aid program. However, efforts to provide U.S. duty-free access to Pakistani textile and apparel sectors – critical sources of export earnings and jobs – have floundered. It seems senseless, if not irresponsible, to undercut a multi-billion dollar aid program by maintaining high tariff barriers against a strategic ally.

Ultimately, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Arab world need security, reliable governments, and jobs. When countries ask for foreign assistance it is incumbent on governments – both the donor and the partner country – to think about how their trade policies can accelerate returns on development programs or at a minimum not undermine them. While Egypt has a larger population than South Korea and Taiwan, these Asian nations export more manufacturing goods in two days than Egypt does in an entire year. The Arab Spring provides an opportunity to rethink regional trade and investment opportunities. U.S. and EU trade policies that run counter to transatlantic development objectives in the Arab world should, for starters, be reformed or scrapped.

The good news is that the U.S. has launched a new development policy which opens the way for better development coordination. The Presidential Policy Directive on Development resulted in a U.S. government interagency policy committee, which sets priorities, facilitates decision-making where agency positions diverge, and coordinates development policy across the executive branch. U.S. trade officials are playing an active role in this process. This new policy also recommends, through existing policy mechanisms, “development impact” assessments of other U.S. policies, including trade policy through the U.S. Trade Representative’s Trade Policy Review Group.

The Feed the Future initiative is spearheading a more coherent approach to development, involving a wide range of U.S. agencies. This initiative aims to accelerate inclusive agriculture growth and improve nutrition. To achieve this, it will focus on post-harvest market infrastructure, business development, strengthening and harmonizing regulatory frameworks and tariff reductions, and linking smallholder farmers to regional and international markets. By helping build comprehensive trade corridors that connect crop surplus to deficit regions, Feed the Future is leading the way in “aid for trade” and making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and sustainable.

But more could be done, especially in the face of tighter budgets. In February, the U.S. Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program were allowed to expire. The U.S. International Affairs Budget is under threat at a time when events in North Africa and the Middle East require strong diplomats and development experts on the ground. At risk are meaningful U.S. policy coordination efforts that seek to make the most of development investments to end hunger and foster economic growth. Trade combined with aid is a cost effective means to offering countries a sustainable long-term path out of poverty.

Smallholder Farmers Feeding the Future: Opportunities and Challenges

Friday, March 25th, 2011
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Today’s post is the fourth 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 read the third post by ActionAid USA, click here.

Read below to learn about the potential of smallholder farmers and how the Feed the Future initiative “aims to increase food security, improve nutrition, and boost incomes of smallholder farmers by bolstering infrastructure and market access, promoting innovative partnerships, and enabling farmers to produce beyond the subsistence level,” all key elements of reform.

A Guest Post by Rachel Voss

Communications and Research Associate, Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa’s hunger problem is in fact a hunger paradox.  As in other regions in the developing world, upwards of 70 percent of the continent’s population—and often the poorest portion of the population—are engaged in farming.  Despite Africa’s inherent potential for food production, hunger and malnutrition remain core obstacles to the continent’s overall development.  The explanation lies in the small-scale, subsistence nature of agricultural production in Africa and many other developing regions.

The U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative aims to increase food security, improve nutrition, and boost incomes of smallholder farmers by bolstering infrastructure and market access, promoting innovative partnerships, and enabling farmers to produce beyond the subsistence level.  The reasoning is clear: It is increasingly accepted that agricultural growth is an effective method to reduce poverty. A 2007 IFPRI study finds that a 1 percent increase in agricultural income per capita reduces the number of people living in extreme poverty by between 0.6 and 1.8 percent.  In a number of places around the world, programs supporting small-scale agricultural production have found wide success in combating hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.Farmers Assoc 2006 Malawi

Feed the Future’s comprehensive approach has the potential to engage smallholders at unprecedented levels.  A range of stakeholders, including local civil society and private-sector interests, participate in the development and implementation of country-led agricultural investment plans.  Individual producers, farmers’ associations, small- and medium-scale enterprises, and large agribusinesses thus have a seat at the negotiating table.  Feed the Future has also pledged to align its programs with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), an Africa-led initiative to boost government spending in agriculture sectors and support smallholder agricultural growth.

However, Feed the Future’s pledges and broad consultation processes are the first steps down a long road to smallholder empowerment.  With the program’s implementation stage only just beginning, there are many changes needed to ensure that smallholders’ interests come first.  At the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa’s recent U.S.-Africa Forum, discussion groups examined challenges to expanding partnerships while identifying new opportunities in Feed the Future and related initiatives.

Forum participants agreed that the integration of emergency food aid with long-term agricultural development remains a core challenge to U.S. programs.  Feed the Future backs a broad array of approaches to address the supply side of the equation: research on new technologies, the development of regional markets to improve access, better management of natural resources for production, and extension services to smallholder farmers and producers’ organizations.  However, formal mechanisms for linking country priorities and food security programs with U.S. food assistance programs, especially emergency Title II food aid, have yet to be established.  Feed the Future is already supporting innovations such as the UN World Food Programme’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) pilot program and providing conditional cash transfers or vouchers in cases where markets are full but vulnerable populations have no means to buy food.  These innovative food assistance solutions are already producing measurable results and valuable lessons for the development of a wider range of tools and solutions for hunger.  Perhaps most importantly, a new level of monitoring, evaluation, and learning is needed to identify the most appropriate indicators of success and determine what works and what doesn’t, what is most cost-effective, and what complementary efforts yield the highest impacts.  Once best practices are identified, they need to be shared, incorporated into future programs, and scaled up.

The US. government has also expressed support for farmers’ organizations and cooperatives which strengthen the voice, market power, and productive potential of smallholders.  However, Forum participants identified a number of steps that must be taken before the potential of farmer’s associations is realized.  Donor timelines are often too short to develop the organizational capital, partnerships, and human resources within producers’ organizations that are required for success, so multi-year investment plans with longer time horizons are crucial.  Additionally, because improving smallholder access to land and resources can mean changing existing cultural, political, and demographic arrangements, Feed the Future’s implementation plans must be comprehensive and cross-sectoral.  Above all, an explicit mechanism for Grain Storage Malawi 2006supporting farmers’ organizations and trade associations must be established within the Feed the Future framework—one that keeps them independent of government and focuses more on engaging women and youth.

The private sector plays a crucial role in transforming subsistence farming into an income-generating activity for smallholder farmers.  The development of business partnerships, more efficient value chains, and infrastructure for processing and storage has the potential to translate into unparalleled gains for smallholder producers as well as consumers.  However, Forum participants noted that mistrust between the public and private sector, high start-up and operating costs, as well as a lack of information on viable business opportunities in Africa, have long limited U.S. private sector engagement in Africa.  Feed the Future must commit to improving the investment and policy environment for private-sector interests, providing kick-start incentives for business development, building physical and organizational infrastructure, promoting public-private partnerships, and integrating regional markets, all of which will be vital to promoting smallholder farmers and business interests in Feed the Future countries.

Finally, Feed the Future seeks to mobilize higher-education institutions in research for agricultural productivity and human resource development, partly through the Norman Borlaug Commemorative Research Initiative.  However, research institutions, extension agents, and smallholders in Africa are widely known to operate in separate spheres.  Tertiary education institutions are too often “siloed,” failing to impart practical, business-oriented agricultural knowledge to students and producing graduates not fully prepared for the work environment.  Additionally, higher-education institutions have been largely excluded from private-sector partnership agreements and countries’ CAADP Compact strategy development processes.  Feed the Future can help to address this issue by increasing the role of higher-education institutions as partners in agricultural development processes.  The main challenges Forum participants identified will be: connecting universities with agricultural researchers and smallholder farmers; recovering institutional and human resource capacity that has been lost in recent decades; promoting partnerships with the private sector; rebuilding two-way partnerships with U.S. institutions; and ensuring that the contributions of the higher education community are recognized in CAADP investment plan development.

The new opportunities for partnerships presented in Feed the Future have caused ripples throughout the field of agricultural development and food security.  In numerous respects, the leaders of this innovative initiative have expressed commitment to improving the lives of smallholders throughout the developing world.  Experienced practitioners remind us, however, that realization of this commitment will take time.  A degree of flexibility uncharacteristic of U.S. government programs will be required to build up necessary partnerships, measure the real impacts of investments, and apply lessons learned to reform existing programs.  Feed the Future has started off on the right foot, but we are all responsible for holding the U.S. government to its pledge to work alongside partners in sub-Saharan Africa to enable millions of smallholder farmers to build a more food-secure and prosperous future.

Feed the Future: A Promising New Model of Development

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
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A Guest Blog Post by Mannik Sakayan,

Senior Policy Analyst, Bread for the World

Every day, troubling data suggests that the ranks of hungry and poor people around the world are again expanding. For organizations who work to shed light on global hunger and poverty, the data is not news. Yet we hold in our policy cache smart, sustainable solutions to addressing the root causes of persistent global hunger and poverty.

Over the years, Bread for the World has joined forces with other global hunger advocates in calling for sustainable solutions to a path out of hunger and poverty for millions of men, women, and children in developing countries. We have done so by calling for focused agricultural development investments that take into consideration local needs and wants. And we have called for efforts to scale up and replicate the programs that work in order to get the most for our investments.

Fortunately, Feed the Future, the administration’s comprehensive food security and agricultural development initiative that launched in 2009, holds the promise to re-establish U.S. leadership in global agricultural development. It also holds the promise to address the root causes of global hunger through sustainable economic growth. It aims to achieve this through inclusive agricultural sector growth and improved nutritional status of women and children.

We have seen successes. New and innovative approaches to agriculture have helped save hundreds of millions of lives in Asia and Latin America. Yet the promise of alleviating hunger and poverty for people throughout the developing world should have served as an impetus to do more and to commit targeted resources to the programs that worked well. Instead, over the last few decades, changing global circumstances and priorities resulted in a gradual decrease in funding for agricultural development. With declining investments came diminished capacity in U.S. technical expertise. Rebuilding our technical capacity and recommitting the necessary resources will certainly be a heavy lift, but not an impossible one.

Feed the Future takes an innovative approach to bilateral assistance and offers a new model of development that takes stock of global needs as well as our own strengths in order to maximize the impact of the investments. Through country-led investment strategies, the United States will work in partnership with developing country governments to strengthen their agricultural capacity, with particular focus on smallholder farmers. Feed the Future calls for a consultative process with national stakeholders that best understand local needs and wants.

Feed the Future also includes a multilateral component, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), housed at the World Bank, to leverage donor contributions from other governments, foundations, and the private sector. Similar to Feed the Future, GAFSP allocates resources based on country-led proposals.

Both Feed the Future and GAFSP offer a new model of development that holds substantial promise. It is a sound development strategy based on targeted investments and measurable results. It has the all-important elements of reform—rigorous standards for monitoring and evaluation, accountability and transparency, country-led programming, and consultation—that are greatly needed to bring U.S. development policy into the 21st century.

Now is not the time to squander the momentum for lasting change. Hunger has never been a partisan issue. Now is not the time to make it one. Our leadership and commitment to save lives and prevent political instability around the world are at stake.

The way forward is to build broad, bipartisan support for enacting legislation that would codify the goals of Feed the Future so that it lives beyond this administration and truly becomes the cornerstone of U.S. global development policy.

USAID IMPACT Blog: Forming a Strong Partnership with Brazil

Friday, February 11th, 2011
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See below for a  post from Mark Lopes, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Latin America and Caribbean Bureau at USAID. Lopes’ post, which first appeared on USAID’s Impact Blog, discusses a recent agreement made between USAID and its Brazilian counterpart that will leverage the partner countries’ collective resources to fight poverty and promote economic growth.

Photo Credit: USAID/Brazil

Photo Credit: USAID/Brazil

Staff Exchange Program Deepens Relationship Between Brazil and U.S.

By Mark Lopes, Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID/ Latin America and Caribbean Bureau

The US and Brazil took another step yesterday toward deepening our joint efforts in developing countries,  with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to formalize a staff exchange program between USAID and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC). Starting in April 2011, USAID will have a staff member working in ABC’s offices and vice versa. The program will facilitate peer-to-peer learning and create more opportunities to jointly leverage US and Brazilian assistance in third countries.

The USG’s trilateral arrangements with Brazil are a reflection of that country’s emergence as a global economic and diplomatic force and a net donor to development.

For the United States, the more donors with whom we can collaborate to address some of the world’s most intractable problems, the more we advance our national interests and provide paths out of poverty. In Brazil, we have a partner who shares our commitment to advancing global development; and who has come up with effective and innovative approaches to tackling some of the very same challenges facing developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa.

Through the staff exchange program, we are continuing to put into practice President Obama’s commitment to an equal partnership with the countries of this hemisphere, based on mutual respect, common interests and shared values.

MFAN Co-Chairs on the Facts on Foreign Aid

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
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See below for an op-ed  that ran in POLITICO today from MFAN’s Co-Chairs Rev. David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe.

David Beckmann1George Ingram1Jim Kolbe


The facts on foreign aid

Rev. Beckmann and George Ingram and Jim Kolbe

February 9, 2011

With Egypt leading the news and congressional budget discussions coming to a head, there is an energetic debate now about U.S. foreign assistance.

There are many competing arguments, but one thing is certain: This is too important to get caught up in the usual political back and forth. The American people deserve honest facts about foreign assistance before policymakers rush to judgment.

To start, we must correct a widely held misconception: U.S. foreign assistance is less than 1 percent of the federal budget. Despite repeated efforts to correct this, many Americans still believe we spend as much as 25 percent of the budget on it.

More important, we must stop using foreign assistance as a budget piñata. Development is now a key component of U.S. foreign policy — with defense and diplomacy. Our modest investment in strategic and effective foreign assistance programs pays outsize dividends in terms of our security, prosperity and global leadership.

  • On security: The United States Agency for International Development is a crucial partner of the U.S. military and the State Department in frontline states — including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Civilian development professionals support training of security forces; bolster governance and the rule of law, and improve quality of life for people in areas vulnerable to extremism. As Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently, “Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”
  • On economic prosperity: Our development programs improve public health, strengthen agricultural output and promote private economic growth, all of which help stabilize communities and open export opportunities for U.S. businesses in the world’s fastest growing markets. One historical example: U.S. support for the “green revolution” in agriculture helped accelerate South Korea’s agricultural development, setting it on a path to becoming the strong U.S. ally and trading partner.
  • On our global leadership: In the last decade, the generosity of U.S. taxpayers and advocacy of policymakers, community leaders and citizens have been responsible for saving and improving millions of lives in Africa and elsewhere. One vaccination program alone has saved five million children.

Even with these facts, foreign assistance still deserves the same scrutiny as other government programs at this challenging economic time. Our foreign assistance must be effective and accountable — so people know where the money is going and what results are being achieved.

Luckily, we are not starting from square one. Over the last two years, the Obama administration has built on the efforts of the Bush administration to change our development business model through a top-to-bottom reform effort.

President Barack Obama has made economic growth, the strongest engine for social progress, the stated goal of U.S. development efforts. He has promised to be more selective about who gets assistance — particularly when it comes to countries not committed to reform. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has announced a plan to better measure and evaluate programs; “graduate” recipients who no longer need help, and streamline bureaucracy for millions of dollars in.

Most important, a guiding vision has taken hold across the spectrum of public and private players on development. Many developing countries have been able to achieve rapid economic growth and progress against poverty, mainly through their own efforts. For assistance to be effective, it needs to be responsive to local initiative and priorities.

Though a sliver of our overall budget, U.S. foreign assistance delivers a real return-on-investment. The Obama administration and Congress need to support these programs and work together to make them more effective and accountable. And the American public deserves an honest debate about the importance of our foreign assistance.

Rev. Beckmann, a 2010 World Food Prize laureate, is the president of Bread for the World. George Ingram is co-chairman of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. Jim. Kolbe, a former Republican congressman from Arizona, is a Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and a senior advisor at McLarty Associates. They are co-chairman of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.