More Effective Aid: the G8’s Approach to Food Security

As G-8 leaders meet to review their progress around the 2009 L’Aquila commitments on food security, they should borrow lessons from previous G-8 initiatives and foster more participatory and performance-based institutions. In the 21st century, the state-centric paradigm of development must increasingly embrace a greater role for non-state actors in order to successfully leverage resources, catalyze effective implementation and achieve results. The focus on private sector investment in food security at this year’s G-8 summit reflects this reality, however key governance structures have not yet adopted the best practices from earlier G-8 initiatives in fields such as global health. The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) should move toward more participatory governance, especially at the country-level, and more performance-driven approaches to allocating resources to those countries facing the greatest risk of malnutrition.

As we found in a recent paper examining vertical funds across global health, education and agriculture, the structural characteristics of development institutions are critical to shaping their ultimate impact. More independent, more participatory and more performance-based vertical funds are outperforming less independent, less participatory, and less performance-based vertical funds when it comes to resource mobilization, learning and development impact. In the agriculture sector, GAFSP reflects some of these insights in that it allows civil society organizations to be non-voting members of its board and requires that 30 percent of its public sector window investments be assessed through rigorous impact evaluations. However, GAFSP does not engage adequately with non-state actors to scale up programs, has limited mechanisms for country-level participation, and does not yet explicitly tie future funding flows to performance.

In the wake of the 2009 L’Aquila commitments, there was initially a significant increase in agricultural funding in 2010. However, only seven of the 40 donors in L’Aquila have actually pledged resources to the GAFSP and less than one-quarter of the $22 billion commitment was disbursed as of last July. In addition, just 17 percent of all agricultural aid is currently directed towards the 25 countries with the highest levels of hunger. The latest round of proposals to GAFSP is slated to total less than one percent of the L’Aquila commitment and multilateral vertical funds still represent less than one-quarter of funding for the sector. In order to come close to meeting the original G-8 commitment, more effective global financing mechanisms and more diverse implementers will be required along with more robust commitments of resources from G-8 countries and private actors.

The G-8 should support a greater role for non-state actors in the governance and implementation of GAFSP resources as it seeks higher levels of investment from private actors. Specifically, it should require all national plans that it funds to be truly country-driven with civil society actors actively involved in creating and implementing the underlying strategy. In addition, GAFSP should encourage non-state actors, as well as national governments, to scale up initiatives using its resources in order to expand the capacity to rapidly scale-up impact. Finally, GAFSP should more explicitly embrace a performance-driven model of financing by requiring that funding flows for all recipients be tied to their contribution to achieving key targets, including reducing malnutrition and improving small-holder productivity. With stronger financial backing from the G8 and reforms along these lines, the GAFSP could make an important contribution to furthering food security.