DFID accused of having deliberately run down its support for agriculture in international development

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agriculture and Food for Development has just published a new report, ‘Why no thought for food?’, which compiles responses from leading authorities in the field of agriculture to its inquiry into the UK’s role in addressing global food security.

This report unveils the fact that spending on agricultural programmes currently makes up just 3% of the Department for International Development’s (DFID) total annual aid expenditure. Despite the World Bank having uncovered that economic growth from agriculture generates at least twice as much poverty reduction as growth from any other sector, DFID has continued to oversee the steep decline in global Official Development Assistance (ODA) spent on agriculture, its share having fallen from 17% of ODA in 1982 to just 3.7% in 2002. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region worst hit by hunger and malnutrition, agriculture spending represents 0.3% of the DFID’s total aid.

Members of the APPG called on the UK Government to raise these figures and commit at least 10% of overseas aid to food security and sustainable agriculture. Efforts should focus on small-scale farmers, who make up the bulk of food production in developing countries, and especially on women smallholders who represent up to 70% of the total agricultural workforce in Africa.

DFID aid should also promote programmes that will safeguard farmers against unfair land tenure and inheritance laws, and support their access to microcredit facilities. RESULTS UK has long been stressing the invaluable contribution that increased and amplified microcredit and microinsurance programmes would bring to agricultural development and food security in less industrialised countries (read previous posts on a recent parliamentary debate promoting the use of microfinance in development aid and on RESULTS’ urging recommendations on microinsurance).

Increased long-term funding for the World Food Programme (WFP), in order to enable it to work on extended projects, as well as putting an end to trade-distorting subsidies that discriminate against the poorest countries are also among the actions recommended in the report.

The report asserts that these kinds of measures, rather than short-term policies like provision of fertilisers, seeds or food aid ‘will help countries bring themselves out of hunger’.

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