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The Rome-based agencies--the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)--play a central role addressing global hunger and food security. These agencies must deal with the problems of tight budgets, increasing politicization of hunger statistics, and worsening food insecurity in many parts of the world. The separation of donor monies into separate and seemingly immutable categories of emergency and development has only added to the problems caused by the agencies’ divergent histories and differences in leadership, funding, organization, and governance structures.
The Center for Global Development has launched a working group on Food Security to explore how these agencies could work more effectively to improve food security. The group has decided to focus on the largest of the three agencies—FAO—with a particular emphasis on making member states more accountable for their actions related to food and agriculture, especially when these actions have wide-ranging impacts regionally and globally. The election of Jose Graziano da Silva–the former Brazilian Food Minister, who led the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program, which is credited to have reduced poverty and hunger by record levels Brazil– as FAO Director General, presents a unique opportunity in that it followed an extensive reform process and was the first leadership change in decades.
The Working Group’s first meeting, held on March 21st, 2012 in Washington DC, focused on measuring the contributions of national and international actors to food security and rural development, as well as understanding which agencies—often working as partners—should provide which services for which countries. After the meeting, the project coordinators went to Rome to meet with national representatives and staff members at all three agencies. Of the three agencies, FAO is regarded as having at once the widest mandate, the farthest-reaching linkages to other organizations, and some of the greatest challenges. We prepared a draft report for the Working Group, pulling together the findings of past evaluations, measuring the influence of FAO’s knowledge goods, and taking stock of an ongoing reform process in its final stages.
The Working Group convened again on September 25th, 2012 and members provided extensive feedback on the draft report. The Group decided to produce a shorter report with a forward-looking vision, and with attention to specific substantive needs that must be met to feed the world in coming decades.
View the podcast on the final FAO report with Vijaya Ramachandran here.
May 2013 update:
The Working Group will soon publish its report, which focuses on the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – the cornerstone of the global food and agriculture system. Based on our collective experience and expertise, we provide an informed and independent perspective – following the tradition of current and previous CGD Working Groups. In this report, we analyze the normative and delivery functions of the FAO, in an emerging 21st century global food security context that is increasingly characterized by volatile food prices, lowering yields, changing diets and rapidly changing climate. We expect to disseminate the report widely, to management and staff of the Rome-based agencies as well as to policymakers and researchers around the world.
The need for the FAO and its sister agencies in Rome is not an issue of debate: how the FAO adapts to this new context to serve the world’s hungry is what we consider it head-on. We offer a set of actionable recommendations, directed at both member states and management toward this end. Our undertaking ought not to be confused as a meta-evaluation nor is it an exercise in multilateral assessment, like those conducted recently by DFID or AusAID.
The project is coordinated by Vijaya Ramachandran, senior fellow at CGD. Please contact Vijaya at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The net effect of supermarkets in the developing world will be to improve the welfare of consumers, but the extent of that benefit and how well it is distributed are open questions. Many factors, including the fate of small farmers, traditional traders, and mom-and-pop shops, will come into play, and any judgment of the supermarket revolution has to consider them all. In this CGD working paper, non-resident fellow Peter Timmer draws from many perspectives to assess the effect the supermarket revolution may have on poverty alleviation.
Post-doctoral fellow Jenny C. Aker supports the innovation of the World Food Program's new Purchase-for-Progress initiative but argues that it might not be the panacea that others claim. She questions some of the assumptions of the P4P and cites some potential unintended consequences, especially for the thin grain markets of the Sahel. Aker provides five concrete suggestions for the WFP to consider during the pilot phase of this program.
While the precise contribution of biofuels to surging food prices is difficult to know, policies promoting production of the current generation of biofuels are not achieving their stated objectives of increased energy independence or reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Reaching the congressionally mandated goal of blending 15 billion gallons of renewable fuels in gasoline by 2015 would consume roughly 40 percent of the corn crop (based on recent production levels) while replacing just 7 percent of current gasoline consumption. The food crisis adds urgency to the need to change these policies but does not change the basic fact that there is little justification for the current set of policies.