Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Show Them the Money

Roger Thurow on unmet agriculture commitments:


Show Them the Money

We – “we” being the rich world -- asked the poorest countries to draw up comprehensive agriculture investment plans and tell us which were the highest priority projects to boost food production.  Do that, we informed them, and we will help finance the projects from a new multi-donor trust fund called the Global Agriculture Food Security Program, or GAFSP.

Twenty-two countries, many in Africa, have done what we told them.  They drew up investment plans, vetted them with regional agricultural development authorities, and submitted top priority projects to GAFSP for funding in next month’s scheduled allocation.  Together, the projects add up to nearly $1 billion.

But there’s only about $130 million currently available in GAFSP.  That means only a handful of countries will receive substantial funding of $40 million or more.  The rest will be sent away empty handed.

“Unless new donors come forward, we’re going to have to turn away or push off strong applicants, applications from countries that have done their part,” Mariso Lago, the assistant secretary for International Markets and Development in the U.S. Department of Treasury, said earlier this week.

Is this any way to ignite a green revolution in Africa?

The developing countries who applied for funding showed us their priorities and their good intentions.

We should show them the money.

That was the idea of GAFSP.  Provide financing to help complete agriculture development projects that the countries themselves were implementing.  When it was launched in April, GAFSP was stocked with commitments of $880 million.  The initial commitments came from the U.S., $475 million; Canada, $230 million; Spain, $95 million; South Korea, $50 million; and, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, $30 million.

These initial donations were supposed to attract other donors, and the GAFSP pot was supposed to fill up.  In June, the fund allocated a total of $224 million to five countries: Rwanda, Haiti, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone and Togo.  It was off to a fast start.

The hope was that by now, there would be $1 billion in the fund to finance all the new applications.  But no other donors have come forward.  And the commitment of the U.S. has been slow to be funded by Congress.  The U.S. came through with $67 million from its fiscal 2010 budget.  The Obama administration has requested the remaining $408 million for fiscal year 2011.  But appropriation committees in both the House and Senate have whittled back the request to $250 million in the Senate and $150 million in the House.

For all those countries – particularly the Europeans – who are watching the progress of the fund before contributing, this retreat doesn’t send an encouraging signal.  Hopefully, Congress will ignore the committee whittling and fully fund the request in the new budget.

This weekend’s World Bank meetings should be a prime hunting ground for new money.  The World Bank, which administers GAFSP, will be pressing its members to contribute so the new applications can be funded.  This push will be coming on the heels of the U.N. General Assembly last month which pledged to redouble efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  The first goal: halving hunger and poverty.  Filling the fund to finance agriculture development will help the world get there.

The 22 projects seeking funding aren’t hare-brained proposals, conjured up just to latch on to the GAFSP money.  They are projects already being funded by the developing country governments themselves; some of the projects are already underway.   They need additional funding to reach full ambition.

These countries have made ending hunger through agriculture development a top priority.  Having come this far, they shouldn’t be turned away empty-handed by a rich world that can’t fulfill its promises.

“We’re at an inflection point in which we see the strengths of the program, the strengths of the proposals, and are hoping it will be matched by additional donor strength,” said Lago.

That’s diplomatic speak for Show Them The Money.


Roger Thurow’s blog post appears courtesy of the Global Food for Thought blog. Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, is a senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.



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These initial donations were supposed to attract other donors, and the GAFSP pot was supposed to fill up.

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