CL 123/INF/21


Hundred and Twenty-third Session

Rome, 28 October - 2 November 2002


Table of Contents

Preparation of a revised concept note on the SPFS
Creation of an SPFS technical support group (TSG)
Creation of technical support teams (TST) and strengthening systematic oversight of the Programme
Monitoring and evaluation
Participative processes


1. An independent external evaluation of the SPFS was carried out by a team of nine senior external consultants in late 2001/early 2002. The evaluation was undertaken in response to a request from the Governing Bodies and to meet internal management needs. The evaluation was designed with two aims, namely to: a) provide a credible accountability report on the SPFS, containing in-depth analysis and assessment of its continuing relevance, effectiveness in achieving results and overall cost effectiveness; and b) consolidate and enhance the knowledge base of the SPFS for the future by learning from the experience to date, especially by identifying emerging issues, strengths and weaknesses (PC 87/4a).

2. Members of the Evaluation Team, mostly working in groups of four consultants, visited the SPFS in 12 countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. The countries (Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Ecuador, Eritrea, Haiti, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia) were selected by the team from a short list of 18 countries where at least three of the four SPFS components had been under implementation for three years or more.

3. FAO Senior Management welcomed the findings and recommendations of the Independent External Evaluation report, commending the Team “for preparing a succinct, helpfully critical and constructive review of the Special Programme” (see Senior Management Response, included in Document PC 87/4). The Secretariat of the Oversight Panel undertook to act on most of the Report’s recommendations (see para. 6, below). It noted, however, that there were three broad themes on which the perception of FAO did not converge entirely with that of the Independent External Evaluation Team. These related to: (a) observations on the processes of innovation and particularly the role of South-South Cooperation and the mode of delivery followed in the SPFS; (b) proposals on criteria to be applied in prioritizing countries for participation in the SPFS; and (c) the extent of the impact of the SPFS on national policies for food and agriculture.

4. The External Evaluation Report was presented by its Team Leader, Mr Dunstan Spencer, to the 87th Session of the Programme Committee (6-10 May 2002). The Committee’s report (decision 14 a) states as follows: “The Committee welcomed this important evaluation, which it felt had been fully independent, thorough and objective, providing balanced and constructive criticism to strengthen the SPFS. The Committee welcomed the commitment evidenced by management to use the recommendations of the evaluation team to strengthen the SPFS and its approach. It requested a follow-up report at its May 2003 session on progress made in implementing the SPFS and in introducing the many positive changes management had referred to in its response to the report.”

5. Moreover, the 88th Session of the Programme Committee and 100th Session of the Finance Committee (9-13 September 2002) received a briefing on the actions taken by the Organization to respond to the findings of the Independent External Evaluation Report. The Programme Committee’s report referred to this in the following terms: “The Committee was pleased to note the actions being taken by the Organization to respond to the findings of the Independent Evaluation of the SPFS, following the Committee’s review of the Evaluation Report at its previous session. It observed that this positive response would be welcomed, in particular, by donor countries.”


6. The Evaluation Team recommended that in future FAO should:


7. The Organization has started taking action on most of the Evaluation Team’s recommendations, taking into account conclusions of the Programme Committee and relevant aspects of the World Food Summit:five years later, including the feedback from Side Events relating to the SPFS and to South-South Cooperation. Actions already taken or under way include:

Preparation of a revised concept note on the SPFS

8. A revised concept note (Special Programme for Food Security: Responding to the World Food Summit:five years later) has been prepared for presentation and discussion at the SPFS Oversight Panel at its meeting on 25-26 October 2002.

9. This draft note seeks to link the SPFS more directly with the reaffirmed commitments of participating countries to the WFS goal of halving the number of undernourished persons by 2015 and to show how it fits within and contributes to Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) and the Anti-Hunger Programme. It outlines a vision of a national SPFS which:

10. These approaches are being tested and refined in an operational context (e.g. Sierra Leone1, Kenya), and the practical experience acquired will provide a sound basis for the preparation of updated guidelines.

Creation of an SPFS technical support group (TSG)

11. The Organization has established a technical support group (TSG) for the SPFS, which met for the first time on 24 September 2002. The TSG responds to, but goes beyond, the Evaluation Team’s recommendation to establish a Guidelines’ Technical Committee. It consists of some 15 in-house specialists in technical and institutional areas of relevance to the SPFS. It acts as a think-tank for the programme, monitors its implementation by reviewing progress reports and through backstopping visits, recommends programme adjustments, identifies guideline requirements and gives technical clearance to draft guidelines. It also intends to contribute to the fuller engagement of the technical strength of the Organization in all aspects of the SPFS and to contribute to greater synergy between the various FAO-led programmes and projects.

12. Networking arrangements are being developed to support the work of the TSG and to provide linkages with projects in the field, which are expected to improve sharing of experience and information.

Creation of technical support teams (TST) and strengthening systematic oversight of the Programme

13. A technical support team will be created for each major SPFS project, with project-level responsibilities analogous to the programme-wide functions of the TSG. This model has already been tested successfully for strengthening the backstopping of the Nigeria SPFS and will gradually be introduced for other projects.

14. In addition to tightening technical and operational backstopping by TSG and TST the frequency of field supervision by TCOS food security officers has increased. The intention is that they visit each of the programmes under their responsibility at least once a year.

Monitoring and evaluation

15. A consultant has been engaged by the Agricultural Support Systems Division to prepare guidelines for improved impact monitoring and evaluation systems, using participative methods. The draft report is being reviewed internally (October) and it is intended that, once cleared, it should be field tested in at least two SPFS projects before finalization and submission to the TSG.

Participative processes

16. A senior officer from the Global IPM Facility, experienced in participative processes, capacity building and Farmers’ Field Schools (FFS), has been transferred to TCOS. Action is being taken in further strengthening capacity of frontline staff and farmers in use of participative diagnoses, planning and implementation methods as well as mainstreaming promotion of community based groups (Water Users’ Associations, Farmers’ Field Schools, Savings and Loans Associations) within the SPFS.


17. The SPFS has been a central theme of high level meetings between FAO and IFAD, WFP and the World Bank, held between August and September 2002. Agreement has been reached with World Bank sector leaders for joint missions (WB, FAO/WB CP and SPFS) to explore opportunities for linking the SPFS and WB-funded projects in eight countries in the Africa Region. These meetings are held as part of a series of similar meetings and agreements with the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, JICA and other development partners, all aimed at establishing partnerships within the framework of the SPFS.

18. In the coming months, regional banks are hosting meetings of the concerned regional organizations, governments and donors to consider proposals for regional food security programmes.

19. Over two thirds (i.e. US$31 million) of the initial contribution of Italy to the FAO Trust Fund for Food Security and Food Safety has been earmarked for SPFS projects. Formulation of some nine projects will be carried out with the full involvement of the concerned governments in the coming months, taking full account of the observations and recommendations of the Evaluation Report and of the revised concept paper.

20. Food security officers have been instructed to meet with interested donors during their country visits.


21. The Secretariat of the Oversight Panel will report more thoroughly to the Programme Committee on implementation of all recommendations at its May 2003 session.


1 Two members of the Independent Evaluation Mission participated in an SPFS programme identification mission in June 2002, led by the Director of the Field Operations Division