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More Aid for African Agriculture: policy implications for small-scale farmers

Members of the UK for Food Group are calling on governments to increase Aid for small-scale African farmers in ways that will help them to feed their people, improve their livelihoods and sustain the environment.

After decades of decline, aid to African agriculture is back on the international policy agenda in the context of climate change, the current food and energy price crises and the consequent demands for hundreds of billions of dollars in new investment in agriculture.

Increased Aid

African governments have committed to allocate 10 per cent of GDP to agriculture. Many international processes are now focusing on agriculture including the third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, and many processes of the United Nations. These will have the opportunity to decide how to provide more aid to agriculture, especially in Africa.

Aid for whom?

The big question is how much will be available in practice, for what type of investment and for whose benefit? Will increased aid for African agriculture actually benefit small-scale farmers in the long-term?

The evidence presented in this report shows that donors have been using Agriculture Aid to promote globalisation and the production of food and fuel, primarily for more affluent markets, with safety nets for the poor who lose out.

Instead of a focus on food and the the poor and marginalised, there is an apparent consensus among major donors to focus agricultural aid on five main issues that support economic growth and the liberalisation agenda:

    * aid effectiveness;
    * market- and private sector-led agricultural growth;
    * exiting agriculture;
    * improved governance; and
    * African ownership of problems and solutions

The New Agriculture Agenda

The report raises a number of questions about how this new agriculture agenda will be realized.

a) Aid effectiveness. Will there be a shift in agricultural aid towards the production of food by local food producers, involving local communities and farmers' organizations in the design and implementation of targeted programmes that also secure their livelihoods? Or will the policy conditionality attached to aid merely change appearance from an 'aggressive' to a more 'tailored' liberalization tool supported by 'aid for trade'?

b) Market- and private sector-led agricultural growth. Will the 'growth agenda' be tailored to the increasing needs of local communities for the sustainable production of food using technologies that cannot be privatized? Or will it be dominated by export-led and high-value crop production, supported by proprietary technologies including GM crops and increased use of agrochemicals?

c) Exiting agriculture: Will the new agenda defend small-scale farmers, especially women, and protect local food production and food provision? Or will there be continued pressures on small-scale farmers to stop producing food, with safety nets, including food aid, providing welfare for those who lose their livelihoods and the resources with which to produce food?

d) Improved governance and political processes: Will the new aid architecture and related food, agriculture, trade and environment policies respond to the challenges of increasing food provision at a time of significant challenges including climate change? Or will governance systems be unable to deal with the pressures from the corporate-sector and powerful interests, seeking to benefit through dominance of the food system and the resources used, that limit options for local and national control.

e) African ownership: Will African peoples, from local communities to nation states, be allowed to determine their own development of their own food systems? Or will this mean that African states have to take ownership of historical problems and of imposed solutions that are compliant with donors' priorities.

Realising the Right to Food and Food Sovereignty

The new agriculture agenda should give priority to those approaches that can be locally-controlled and would realise the Right to Food and food sovereignty, rather than the use of agriculture as an 'engine of national economic growth'. These approaches are supported by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) whose 22 Findings show the necessity for a radical transformation of agriculture if the world in 2050 is to have less hunger, increased equity and a more sustainable environment, see: www.agassessment.org.

Future aid and investment programmes for agriculture need to change in response to the new challenges. Agriculture and rural development in Africa will have to concentrate on more people-centred, food-focused and environmentally sustainable approaches if the development of African agriculture is to serve the long-term interests of the majority of Africans.


The publication is based on original research by Rachel Dechenne. It has been produced by members of the UK Food Group including Action Aid UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide (UK), Find Your Feet, Oxfam GB, Practical Action and Self Help Africa. Additional support was provided by the international campaign for More and Better Aid to Agriculture www.moreandbetter.org.

Download the full report, supporting, evidence and annexes from the UK Food Group website: