Our Project

Professor Sir Gordon Conway at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is leading a small team to explore the potential for new or improved European support for agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa. Part of this work is what we call strategic mapping: finding out what the major European donors are doing, and are planning to do, in relation to agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa. We do this through visits, personal contacts and phone calls. We worked with Rothamsted International to produce this desk based review of the EU, European governments, foundations and private sector commitments and actions in this area. We have also worked with Professor Colin Thirtle, Imperial College London, and Professor Jenifer Piesse, Kings College London, to track donor financial commitments and disbursements on agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa. We are also seeking the views of prominent African policy makers on European funding and what they would like to see happen in the future.

The Global Context

1.02 billion people, or 1 in 6 of the world’s population, is hungry today, more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union. (FAO, 2009) The global food price crisis of 2007 served as a catalyst to refocus attention on the challenges of ensuring access to food security and agricultural development for people in developing countries. This short term crisis brought to prominence the deeper agricultural crisis caused by a number of longer terms trends: rising populations; rising per capita incomes; growing demand for livestock products; growing demand for biofuels; increasing water and land scarcity; the impact of climate change; the slowing of productivity increases; trade inequalities; lack of access to markets for smallholder farmers; and the lack of public funding for agricultural research.

Why Sub-Saharan Africa?

In sub-Saharan Africa, over 200 million people are undernourished. Africa is home to 15 of the 16 countries where the prevalence of hunger has exceeded 35 percent. Only Ghana is on track to meet and exceed the Millennium Development Goal 1, target 1C to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger (FAO, 2009). Average cereal yields in Africa sit currently at 1.3 tonnes per hectare, which is the equivalent to average yields obtained in the Roman Empire (World Bank, 2007). Nevertheless at national level the picture is varied, and there has been significant improvement in some parts of the continent. Countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Sudan and Malawi are making progress towards meeting the MDG target, and look likely to reach it if progress is sustained. But in some countries including DR Congo, Madagascar, Tanzania and Zambia have seen an increase in undernourishment since the 1990s (Wiggins & Keats, 2009).

82% of the rural sub-Saharan African population lives in agriculture-based countries: countries where agriculture if a major source of growth, accounting for 32% of GDP growth on average. (World Bank, 2008). These agricultural-based countries often have hugely different structural features, in terms of size, agricultural potential, transport links, reliance on natural resources and state capacity (World Bank, 2008). It is clear that this wide-ranging diversity of structural challenges and rates of progress across the continent means there can be no universal blueprint for these countries’ agricultural development.

The Global Donor Response

The global donor community has responded to the global crisis with a series of high-level events and initiatives including:

  • The United States, Canada, Spain, the Republic of Korea and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation set up a global trust fund of $900 million in support of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), with the World Bank serving as trustee and host of a coordination unit for the fund in April 2010;
  • G8 countries agreed the L’Aquila Initiative on Global Food Safety to provide $20 billion over the next three years for agricultural development in impoverished countries in Italy in July 2009 – this included commitments from non-G8 countries such as Spain, and rose to a total of $22 billion at the G20 meeting in September 2009;
  • President Barack Obama announced that the US would increase its support for agricultural development assistance to over $1 billion by 2010 at the G20 meeting in London in April 2009, and the US launched a new food security programme ‘Feed the Future’ in May 2010;
  • the Spanish government and the UN hosted a High-Level Meeting on Food Security for All in Madrid in January 2009 to review progress since the High-Level Conference in June 2008;
  • the European Union established a €1 billion ($1.48billion) Food Facility in December 2008, with key implementation decisions made in March and April 2009;
  • the UN Secretary General established a High-Level task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis which produced the Comprehensive Framework for Action in July 2008;
  • the UN held a High-Level Conference on World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy in Rome on 3-5 June 2008;the World Bank Group announced a new $1.2 billion rapid financing facility called the Global Food Crisis Response Programme (GFRP) to address immediate needs, including $200 million in grants targeted at the vulnerable in the world’s poorest countries, in May 2008. The World Bank Group increased GFRP to $2 billion in April 2009.

Work has also been undertaken by other international bodies and organisations, including the FAO, IFAD, WFP, and the Commission on Sustainable Development. Donor networks such as the Global Platform for Rural Development and the European Initiative for Agricultural Research for Development have also been active to encourage more donor cooperation and coherence.

Through these events and initiatives the G8, the G20, the EU, and other such actors have delivered lofty statements that are strong on rhetoric, but lack substance on how these global goals will be achieved and how any new financing will be spent.

The African Union’s Response

In 2003 the African Union Assembly agreed to establish the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the agricultural programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). CAADP’s goal is to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture. To do this, African governments have agreed to increase public investment in agriculture by a minimum of 10% of their national budgets and to raise agricultural productivity by at least 6%. CAADP also seeks to bring together diverse key players – at the continental, regional and national levels – to improve co-ordination, to share knowledge, and to promote joint and separate efforts to achieve the CAADP goals.

CAADP has identified four strategic pillars around which CAADP and national governments can align the ir agricultural develop ment work:

  1. extending the area under sustainable land management
  2. improving rural infrastructure and trade-related capacities for market access
  3. increasing food supply and reducing hunger
  4. supporting agricultural research, technology dissemination and adoption

CAADP has the full support of the members of the African Union, and in 2009 started to make good progress on getting national governments to engage in round table processes to align with CAADP’s agenda. Rwanda was the first country to go through the roundtable process and signed a CAADP Compact in 2007. Further progress can be tracked via the CAADP website. There is now a focus on how to ensure success for countries in a post-Compact phase.

Europe’s Response?

In March 2010 the European Commission adopted two new EU policy frameworks to help developing countries address the issue of food security. One is on Food Security Challenges and the other on Humanitarian Food Assistance. The communications have been discussed by the Council of Ministers and will now be presented to the European Parliament.

 Europe is part of the global response to this crisis, and we believe Europe is uniquely placed to make a leading contribution. Europe’s historical and cultural connections to Africa are extensive, and in terms of agricultural development and agricultural research, there is a long history of research and practical partnerships on which Europeans and Africans can and should build.
In December 2008, the European Parliament and the Council adopted a regulation establishing a facility for rapid response to soaring food prices in developing countries. The ‘Food Facility’ was created to support of farmers hardest hit by the global food crisis. It consisted of €1 billion ($1.48 billion) spread over a three year budgetary period, to be made available to 50 priority countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
In addition to the geographical programmes of the Commission through instruments such as the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), the Commission’s Food Security Thematic Programme (FSTP) addresses food security at global, continental and regional levels, complementing country food security programmes where other EC instruments cannot fully operate. The total financial allocation for FSTP from 2007-2010 is €925 million ($1.3 billion). A mid-term review of FSTP (2007-2009) was published in the autumn of 2009, and new strategy for 2011-2013 will be launched in 2010.
The European Commission has also recognised the importance of partnering with Africa scientists and researchers to improve food security in Africa. In September 2009 EU Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potočnik made his first official visit to Africa. His visit was part of an EU-Africa partnership framework to strengthen African research capacity in the area of science and technology. During the visit Potočnik announced a €63 million call for research proposals dedicated to Africa launched through the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research. The call was for proposals for EU and African scientific teams to improve health conditions, water and food security in Africa.

European networks already exist to try and coordinate some of Europe’s work in this area, including:

  • EU Heads of Agriculture and Rural Development
    Senior officials working on agriculture and rural development from member states, convened by DG Development of the European Commission
  • European Initiative for Agriculture Research for Development (EIARD)
    Donor group facilitating the coordination of European policy and support for agricultural research for development.
    ERA-ARD is project of the Framework Project (FP) 6 of the European Research Area (ERA) ERA-NET programme. ARD is research which addresses the agricultural challenges and issues faced by developing countries, emerging countries and countries in transition. ERA-ARD aims to improve synergies between European national ARD programmes, and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of European research planning, funding and implementation to fight poverty and hunger to support a more rapid and sustainable development in the poorest countries in the world.
  • European Forum on Agricultural Research for Development (EFARD)
    Platform for cooperation and coordination of activities carried out by government, private sector and non-profit actors on agricultural research for development
  • Standing Committee of Agricultural Research (SCAR)
    Network for coordinating the agricultural research work of member states, supported by DG
  • Research of the European Commission
    Previously more focused on agricultural research work in Europe, but in the process of broadening its interest
    A merger of two previous consortia of European institutions: ECART-EEIG (focused on research) and NATURA (universities), so now research and universities are working together.

But there is no doubt that the diversity and complexity of European political systems, cultural approaches to development actions, and differing research traditions means that Europe’s response to the crisis is difficult to understand – both by those in Europe and those outside of the European community. In part this is because in many countries agricultural development actions, including agricultural research for development, has dropped down national political agendas. In many cases, it has also fallen down the agendas of African national governments. Despite CAADP’s efforts, progress to develop clear African national and regional visions for future agricultural development has been slow.