Yaounde, Cameroon 21-25 February 2000


Table of Contents

I. Background, Objectives and Main Characteristics

II. Main Achievements

III. South-South Cooperation (SSC): Approach and Initial Results

IV. Organization and Resources of Phase I

V. Extension of Phase I

VI. Phase II: Expanding the Impact of the SPFS to the Sectoral and Macroeconomic Levels


I.   Background, Objectives and Main Characteristics

1. The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) was launched after its unanimous approval by the FAO Council in 1994. It was further endorsed by the World Food Summit (WFS) in November 1996, when the Heads of States and Governments committed themselves to making food security a priority of their national development efforts (beneficiary countries) or of their development supporting policies (donor countries). The Summit further agreed to Seven Basic Commitments aim at reducing by half the world undernourished people by year 2015. The SPFS main objectives are to assist LIFDCs to rapidly increase food production and productivity on sustainable basis, reduce the year-to-year variability of production, and improve access to food, as a contribution to equity and poverty alleviation. The Programme is therefore expected to contribute substantially to the implementation of the WFS Plan of Action Basic Commitments, in particular the following three:

2. The core features of the SPFS strategy are national ownership, partnership with the development partners, including donor countries and multilateral financial institutions, participation of farmers and other stakeholders, emphasis on technical modernization, priority to small farmers, gender sensitivity, and integrated, multidisciplinary and phased approach.

3. The Programme is implemented by governments and rural communities in two phases. Field demonstrations of Phase I involve the mobilization and training of local personnel and farmers and the supply of seeds, tools and equipment. The four interrelated and complementary components of this phase are: water control, including small-scale irrigation and drainage, water harvesting and on farm water management; intensification of sustainable plant production systems; diversification towards aquaculture, artisanal fisheries and small animal production; and analysis of socio-economic constraints. The results obtained at demonstration sites each season are quantified and analyzed to reorient operations and provide a firm analytic basis for replication at additional sites.

4. Phase II, the macroeconomic level of the SPFS, entails a nationally prepared action plan addressing at large scale the opportunities and constraints identified in the previous phase. The plan is composed of national food and agriculture policies intended to lift macro-level and sectoral constraints and provide an environment favourable to agricultural production, processing, marketing and access to food; an agricultural investment programme, to improve the physical infrastructure and increase the private and public financing of agricultural activities and services; and feasibility studies of "bankable" projects ready for implementation.

Chart I



  • sustainable increases of food production and productivity
  • reduction of year-to-year variability of production
  • better access to food, to enforce equity and poverty alleviation



  • national ownership
  • partnership
  • participation
  • emphasis on technical modernization
  • focus on small farmers and gender issues multidisciplinarity
  • integrated/phased approach



  • water control
  • intensification
  • diversification
  • analysis/removal of constraints
  • food security and sector policies
  • agricultural investment Programme
  • feasibility studies bankable projects



  • institutional framework in participating countries
  • management structures in FAO
  • funding
  • South-South Cooperation


5. To facilitate a correct implementation of the objectives and strategy, the Programme assists countries to set up an institutional framework at various levels, to mobilize domestic and international financial resources, and to develop an innovative South-South Cooperation scheme.

II.   Main Achievements

6. Over 75 developing countries applied to the SPFS. The lessons learned and results obtained in some 20 countries during the first three years contributed, in the current biennium, to the extension of on-going country programmes and a rapid incorporation of new countries. By September 1999, the Programme was operational in 47 countries, including 28 in Africa, 10 in Asia, 2 in Eastern Europe, 6 in Latin America, and 1 in Oceania. (Annex 1). The following paragraphs summarizes the main results of the four components of Phase I, with special reference to the African Region.

Water Control

7. In many agro-ecological zones of Africa, water control practices are essential to increase food production and avoid sharp year-to-year fluctuations. They include water management and irrigation, with emphasis on a wide range of low-cost infrastructures and techniques particularly adapted to small farmers' agriculture. Phase I activities in some countries such as Guinea, Senegal entirely addressed the irrigated agriculture, while in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, etc. initial activities started under rainfed conditions with the subsequent incorporation of water control. In most countries, however, demonstrations have covered both types of agriculture.

8. Activities in Senegal have included the establishment of a pumping system in the Senegal River, and small dams in Low Casamance, to avoid salinization and improve water distribution; the main products under intensification and improved water control are rice, millet, sorghum and maize, with substantial yield increases. In Zambia, low-cost irrigation techniques have been introduced, through the supply of various types of pumps and intensive training; a farm has been assisted to serve as demonstration unit on water management and fish ponds; and around 700 imported pedal pumps have been put on sale, and assistance to the local manufacturing of these pumps at lower cost was subsequently provided. In general, demonstrations that included water control have had encouraging results with regard to yields of some staples, in particular rice, wheat and maize. They also provided the best outcome on the level and stability of production, the incorporation or improvement of high value food and cash crops, cropping intensification, farm incomes and food security impact. The Programme is therefore succeeding in introducing and establishing irrigation technologies and practices in specific regions of many African countries, with a relevant impact on food security.

Crop Intensification

9. Agricultural intensification enhances single practices (soil preparation, varieties, fertilization, etc) as well as production and processing technological packages. In the SPFS experience, singles practices tend to predominate in rainfed areas while technological packages are more common in rainfed areas. Crop intensification focussed initially on few products (rice, maize), but sorghum, wheat, millet, cassava, yam and horticulture were incorporated in the last seasons. Monitoring data indicates that the improved farming systems and technologies promoted by the Programme reach high rates of adoption and substantially higher yields and incomes. For example, in Mauritania, the addition of phosphorus in rice was adopted by 60% of farmers, while in Tanzania the improved farming packages of maize and rice were adopted by 86 and 100%, respectively. In the initial 15 participating countries, unweighted average yields of main crops in the last reported seasons exceeded those of the control plots by more than two thirds, with many cases of doubling and tripling yields. Unsatisfactory results in some countries were associated to field demonstrations based on insufficient research or lack of consultation with research centers, unsuitable implementation, and severe droughts and other factors outside the control of the Programme,

Diversification on Small Animals and Fisheries

10. The diversification component, particularly targeted to women and small farmers' agriculture, is generating new skills for small animal production, apiculture, fish farming and artisanal fishery. The incorporation of this component into the SPFS has been strengthened since 1999 and thus has not yet reached its full momentum. However, diversification is generally well suited to small farmers' agriculture and activities are progressing well in many countries. For example, in Mauritania, diversification concentrates on vegetables, small animals and poultry, with a strong female participation; in 1998 a new Diversification Unit within the Ministry of Rural Development and the Environment and a Consulting Group, with the participation of the SPFS, European Union, UNICEF, WFP, etc., were established. In Tanzania, farmers' interest and self-reliance were fostered by good results in poultry and goat production, in particular through 115 participatory demonstrations, training of 27 village extension workers, completion of 146 chicken and goat shelters, vaccination, etc.

Constraints Analysis

11. Analysis and removal of constraints at farmers' level is essential to facilitate the participatory development of concrete farming systems. Similarly, even though most African countries have been implementing structural reforms in order to create conducive institutional and policy environments to agricultural development, the wide replication of innovations demonstrated successful on a limited scale, normally requires the resolution of upstream and downstream constraints of various types. Ad-hoc constraints analysis was carried out by the SPFS for the formulation of the first National Programme Documents.

12. Since 1997, however, participatory and multidisciplinary identification of constraints, as well as ways to remove them, constitute a formal activity of the formulation and implementation of all country programmes. Important progress has been achieved, particularly at farmers' and households' level. Work on constraints analysis at sectoral and macroeconomic levels still require further strengthening and their crucial role as a requisite to launch the Phase II of the SPFS better understood. Many countries are taking advantage of the on-going extension of the Phase I to new sites in order to expand the constraint analysis work.

Other results

13. Although not separate components of the Programme, Phase I is achieving a positive impact on training and institutional building at various levels. A considerable number of farmers (with predominance of women and small farmers) and staff of public institutions and NGOs are being trained, through technological demonstrations, workshops and other dissemination events. The Programme is also contributing to constructive dialogue and collaboration among farmers, farmers' associations, NGOs, and the public sector, reversing past tendencies to isolation or confrontation. National, regional and local steering committees with the capacity to manage food security programmes are gradually being established. For example, in Tanzania, a network of small private input suppliers and 73 saving and credit associations have been created by the SPFS participants; and in Zambia, a number of institutions and NGOs collaborate with the Programme and the extension officers in the pilot districts. This results will facilitate the formulation and implementation of the Phase II.

14. The attached Box summarizes the main activities and results achieved in a few countries.

SPFS Selected Achievements in Africa

Burkina Faso

- The initial 1995 activities in 3 sites have been expanded to 8 sites, covering intensification (new packages for irrigated rice; several improved techniques for lowland and rainfed rice; vegetables, and maize), water control and management, diversification (towards small animals, fisheries, tubers and vegetables in 4 sites) and constraints analysis. The national steering and technical committees are operational, as well as local committees for each site; regional committees have still to be established. Irrigated rice yields in 1997 were between 5,8 and 6,7 ton/ha, below the 7 ton target; however, average yields from 1995 to 1997 show an increase over the control group of 22% for irrigated rice, 55% for marshland rice and 76% for rainfed rice. Phase I is being extended to 20 sites by end 1999; it will be further expanded to 30 sites in all the agroecological regions of the country, with the SSC support of 4 experts and 98 field technicians from Morocco (49 already arrived)


- The Programme started in mid 1995, in the three main agroecological regions of the country, aiming at the intensification of teff, wheat, sorghum, barley and sesame production in rainfed areas. The number of participating farmers rapidly increased from the initial 180 to around 375 in 1997 and 2000 in 1998. The irrigation and diversification components were formulated in late 1997, in the context of SSC with India and Italian financial support, and an Indian Advance Team assisted local teams in preparing the related detailed implementation plans for 6 zones and 19 specific sites. However, effective implementation of these components and the arrival of Indian expert team have been delayed due to the security situation. Systematic constraints analysiswas carried out during 1997.


- Operations started in March 1995 in two districts of the Tigray Region and one of the Amhara Region, devoted to the intensification of teff, wheat, maize and sorghum (the package included improved seeds, fertilizers, and improved cultural practices and implements such as the tie-ridger to conserve soil moisture and broad-based-maker to avoid water logging) and to constraints analysis work. The irrigation and diversification components are to be funded by the Italian Government under a trust fund management. Yields of teff, sorghum and wheat during the 1997 season doubled those of the control farmers, except in one Tigray district, where teff was affected by drought and pests. As cost-benefit ratios were also very favourable, the high interest in the Programme determined a 8-10 fold increases in the number of farmers involved. In view of these results and the forthcoming implementation of the water control and diversification activities, the GOE is making plans to achieving food self-reliance and start Phase II activities as soon as the related requisites are met.

Kenya - Phase I became operational in early 1995 in Western Kenya, to promote intensification of rainfed soybean and maize based systems, as well as diversification to small animals; it progressively expanded to Central and Coastal regions. Improved systems of water management in valley bottom areas in 4 sites started in 1998. Constraint analysis work is on-going. Though not tradicionally grown, soybean is an attractive cash crop in rotation with maize. Yields have considerably increased in both products (for example, in 3 districts involving 234 farmers and 9 sites, 1998 average maize yields increased from 1,3 to around 4 ton/ha, primarily due to improved varieties and fertilization.
Mauritania - Intensification (rice, vegetables, post flood maize and sorghum) and diversification (vegetables with strong women involvement, and fruits) activities started in mid 1995 in 4 sites of the Senegal River delta and the Gorgol zone. Water control has been launched in 1997, particularly for rice, and constraints analysis started in late 1997. The institutional set-up includes a national steering committee, an implementation committee and regional task forces chaired by the related Deputy Governor. In demonstration plots, rice yields increased by 24-32% in 1995/96 and over 42% in 1996/97. In the delta area, they reached 7 ton/ha, which is cost-effective for farmers. In Gorgol, sorghum failed as a result of drought. Several donors have pledged contributions to the Programme and 20 Chinese are on their way to Mauritania, under SSC arrangements signed in 1998.
Niger - Phase I started on July 1995 in three districts, with a total of 50 villages and almost 1400 participant farmers. The technological package for crop intensification includes intercropping of millet and beans, improved seeds, various improved cultural practices, fertilization, and pest control; increasing emphasis has been put in production within farming systems and the rotation of leguminous/cereals, notably niebe/millet. A new small scale irrigation site will be developed in Matameye, with financing from FAO and donors. Constraints analysis has been recently initiated. The institutional mechanism is working satisfactorily, with a National Steering Committee, Regional and Sub-regional Committees, and a National Coordinator of the SPFS. The rainfed area showed negative results in 1995, due to drought, but in 1996 yields were 30 to 60% higher than in control plots. In 1997 in Madarounfa millet yields ranged 600-800 kg/ha, compared to 300 in control farms. In Say, drought affected rainfed agriculture but rice yield on irrigated land reached 5.500 kg/ha, in relation to 2.500 in control areas. Financial support has been approved by Japan, Canada (for women's activities in Say) and the World Bank (low cost irrigation equipment). The Islamic Development Bank is expected to support the SSC agreement signed with Morocco in July 1998.

- Operational since early 1995 in Casamance and Senegal River Valley (4 sites with 302 farmers of which 255 women), the main crops under intensification and improved water control systems are rice, millet, sorghum and maize. Diversification to small animals, beekeeping, vegetables, fruits, aquaculture, and constraints analysis were incorporated later. An appropiate institutional set-up was established Yield increases have been substantial (for example, 5 tons of paddy rice in Matam in 1997 (2,7 to 4,2 in control plots) and 4 tons in Kolda/Kedougou (0,6 to 2,5). Italy is funding the Programme. A SSC, operational since November 1996, facilitated the extension to 18 sites and 7007 farmers in 1999. In view of the success, the Government has allocated from its budget the equivalent of $5 million dollars to a further extension of the SPFS to 30 sites, located in all agroecological areas

Tanzania - The Programme started in July 1995, for rice and maize intensification in 24 villages of two regions. Water control (rice and vegetables), diversification to small animal (particularly goats and chicken) and constraints analysis were incorporated later. 1996 yield increases for rice ranged from 50 to 130% and for maize 118-165%, compared to pre-SPFS situation. In 1997 yields increased a further 10-33% in rice and 43-68% in maize. Yields in 1998 were affected by El Niño floods and in 1999 by drought, but remained much higher than in control plots. The Programme was extended from the initial 669 farmers to 1.116 (4 regions) in 1998, and grant funds up to US$1 million from AfDB will contribute to further extension of the Programme. Due to the excellent results achieved, the GOT is currently formulating a National Special Programme for Agricultural Intensification and Food Security, covering all 20 regions and 120 districts of the country.
Zambia - Crop Intensification activities started in August 1995 in three provinces of Southern, Central and Western Zambia, particularly for maize, bullrush millet, legumes and cassava. Since February 1996, low cost irrigation techniques have been introduced (treadle pumps and intensive training) and water control activities expanded in 1997 to 73 locations in five provinces through an IFAD-funded project with FAO technical assistance. Diversification to aquaculture started in 1996 and a rabbit programme has recently been initiated. Constraints analysis is on-going since 1997. The SPFS has been integrated into the National Agricultural Programme and the World Bank supported Agricultural Sector Investment Programme. The related implementation committee, involving the GOZ, FAO, major NGOs, and the private sector, ensures national ownership. The decentralized teams in each province facilitate coordination and supervision in the provinces and districts. Yields from rainfed maize in 1998 averaged 2,3 ton/ha, compared with 1,7 on control farm. Irrigated crops such as tomatoes, onions and cabbage showed high yields and satisfactory farm returns. With the support of the IFAD funded project, the SPFS has successfully introduced water control technologies in Zambia, focussing on small holders vegetable gardening.

III.   South-South Cooperation (SSC): Approach and Initial Results

15. The South-South Cooperation initiative was launched by the Director General in 1996 within the framework of the SFFS, with the objective of allowing recipient countries to benefit from the expertise accumulated by more advanced developing countries. It is intended to provide a new impetus for cooperation amongst developing countries, which in the past has only been partially successful due, inter alia, to the lack of foreign exchange needed to pay international transport and allowances, prepare feasibility studies, and finance operational and other implementation costs. The SSC fills these gaps through a combination of FAO, bilateral and multilateral support to countries participating in the SPFS. The SSC supplements the intrinsically shorter-term TCDC agreement.

16. The South-South Cooperation consists of a combination of a few senior staff and a substantial number of technicians with strong practical field experience in agriculture who are expected to work directly with farmers, during two to three years, in the rural communities involved in the Special Programme. The teams are not only expected to introduce improved ways of bringing about sustainable and replicable agricultural development, but also, through their commitment and example, serve as an important stimulus for change within the farming structures to which they are assigned. The number of experts and technicians required is determined on a case-by-case basis, but must achieve a critical mass, with site coverage representing all agroecological regions of the country. They are fielded in a phased manner and expected to play a key role in contributing to the implementation and extension of Phase I by the national teams.

17. Over 20 developing countries have already expressed interest in providing support and SSC activities are already on-going in 9 countries. Viet Nam has been collaborating with Senegal since late 1996 with, at present, 100 experts and technicians working at field level. Morocco has fielded 49 experts and technicians to collaborate in the extension of Burkina Faso's Programme to 18 sites by year 2000. Similarly, a first group of 20 Chinese, 19 Vietnamese and 10 Bangladesh are on their way to collaborate with the SPFS, respectively, in Mauritania, Benin and Gambia.

IV.   Organization and Resources of Phase I

Institutional framework and management

18. As a complex and decentralized programme, the SPFS requires well-established institutional structures, in the participating countries as well at FAO. The participating countries has been assisted to set-up mechanisms that facilitate the implementation of the SPFS and its full integration with the overall domestic rural institutional system and programmes, as well as with other food security specific programmes. The recommended framework consists mainly of: an Inter-ministerial Policy Committee (national Steering Committee) preferably chaired by the Prime Minister, to provide policy guidelines and feed-back; an Inter-ministerial Technical Committee, responsible for the technical leadership of the SPFS and of its coordination with other programmes and the private sector; an Inter-departamental Regional Committee, lead by the head of the Region or Province bringing together the representatives of local institutions, to ensure synergy with other programmes in the region; and Local Committees, at district or community level, to ensure a participative formulation and implementation by all local stakeholders (public, private, NGOs, etc.)

19. This institutional mechanism has been established in most countries where the SPFS has been under implementation at least since the second half of 1997. In some of them, however, the full institutional structure is not in place as yet. In Burkina Faso, for instance, the regional committees still have to be created; in Eritrea, where national and local steering committees adequately support the SPFS, but are still missing at regional level; and in Guinea, where there are good local institutions but inadequate structures at national and regional levels. These short-comings are obviously limiting the political and/or technical guidance and private participation needed by the Programme.

20. On its side, FAO management structure consisting of the SPFS Joint Committee, chaired by the Director-General, a Policy Committee and an Implementation Committee, as well as a Coordination and Monitoring Unit, are currently settled down and functioning. As the top priority programme of the Organization, the SPFS activities receive strong collaboration from practically all FAO technical and operational structures at Headquarters and decentralized offices. The Programme also benefits from the advice of an external Oversight Panel, which meets yearly, and from the reviews made by the Senior Field Inspector and by independent Regional Field Inspectors. A considerable number of backstopping reports, dealing with technical, operational and communication matters, contribute also to the SPFS implementation

21. During the last biennium, these reviews and reports have underlined, inter-alia, three management issues. First, the implementation of the Programme is now being facilitated by a consistent (thought still uncompleted) number of specialized FAO documents. These documents are systematically published in a Handbook Series composed of three separated volumes: Overview; Preparation and implementation of National Programmes; and Management and international cooperation issues. Second, special efforts are still needed to share the SPFS concept and approaches with the various national authorities and donors, as well as to ensure its inclusion in and coordination with the regular national structures, as well as its coordination with other food and agriculture programmes. Third, the FAO technical backstopping to the nationally owned programmes needs to be further enhanced, particularly with regard to the formulation of the National Programme Documents, the implementation of the constraints analysis work and the functioning of the monitoring and evaluation system.


22. The SPFS was initiated with a modest FAO and recipient countries resources. This has affected the Programme in two main ways: most national programmes started with a restricted structure, e.g. addressing few sites, areas and farmers, or leaving aside some of the four components of the Phase I; and its implementation had to be limited to a reduced number of countries. However, the gradual implementation of the Programme contributed to a better understanding of its concept and modalities by all the stakeholders and development partners, and led to their increased interest and financial support. In fact, together with the cooperation of other developing countries through the SSC arrangements, the partnership with donors and financial institutions has highly contributed to the on-going expansion of the SPFS to new countries as well as to its extension within countries.

23. Donors are funding activities in 15 countries and UNDP is contributing in approximately 12 countries. Specific Memoranda of Understanding have been signed with UNDP, World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Banque Ouest africaine de développement, IFAD, WFP and other institutions. In this context, AfDB is supporting 8 countries and IDB has committed contributions to the Programme in Comoros and to SSC in 5 African countries. As of April 1999 firmly commited extra-budgetary resources to the entire Programme, provided directly to the countries or through FAO projects, amounted to over US$50 million. In addition, the recipient countries have made substantial contributions in cash and in kind.

V.   Extension of Phase I

24. Good performance during the initial implementation of the Phase I was the base of the on-going considerable extension of the activities in many African countries. This extension to additional farmers and sites, covering at least the most representative agroecologic regions and farming systems in order to ensure adequate field work before launching the second phase, was also recommended by the Oversight Panel in its Third Meeting of March 1998. The extension is also intended to duly perform the required constraints analysis work, an enhanced integration of access issues to the Programme, some wide sectoral/subsectoral expansion of water control or other components/activities for which satisfactory Phase I activities have been achieved, and the networking of the SPFS with other food security programmes being implemented by the country.

25. Most of the National Programmes in operation since 1995/96 are being extended. For example, in Burkina Faso, the SPFS was extended from the initial 3 to 8 sites and will be further extended by the end of 1999 to 20 sites, already selected and representing all the agroecological areas of the country, and completing the implementation of the four components. In Eritrea and Ethiopia, already approved Italian financial contribution and SSC arrangements will permit a substantial increase in sites and the incorporation of the remaining components (water control and diversification in Eritrea, and water control and constraints analysis in Ethiopia). In Guinea, demonstration sites increased from the initial 5 to 9 in 1998 and will reach 12 by the end of 1999. In Mauritania, the original 5 sites in 1995 were extended to 16 in 1998.

VI.   Phase II: Expanding the Impact of the SPFS to the Sectoral and Macroeconomic Levels

26. Phase II is expected to constitute a country driven process, expanding at national level the results of the previous phase. The focus of the Programme, therefore, will shift from field work in specific sites to the formulation and implementation of appropiate policies, investment programmes and bankable projects allowing the country to materialize the agricultural development and food security potentialities identified during Phase I. In view of the considerable efforts involved and the internal and external resources required, the launching of Phase II should be carefully prepared, with the full participation of all national and international stakeholders, and based on satisfactory achievements of the previous phase.

27. The most essential of these achievements are as follows:

28. As seen before, many countries are extending Phase I activities and some of them will be in the possibility of reaching the above mentioned requisites to launch Phase II in the near future. FAO will continue to assist participating countries in these efforts, in particular for the preparation of a national plan of action conceptualizing the objectives, strategy and main policy instruments, investment programme and bankable projects required to implement Phase II. FAO is also prepared to play a catalytic role in collaborating with countries to secure the financial support of donor countries and international financial institutions.

Status of Implementation in LIFDCs




Under formulation

To be formulated

Total 1





  Burkina Faso      
      Cape Verde  
      Central African Republic  
      Congo Democratic Rep.  
        Congo Republic Of
  Côte D'Ivoire      
      Equatorial Guinea  
        Sao Tome And Principe
        Sierra Leone





  Korea, Dem. People'S Rep.      
      Lao Pdr  
      Sri Lanka  
  Syria Arab Rep.      






  Bosnia And Herzegovina      
      Macedonia, Fyr  






      Dominican Republic*  






  Papua New Guinea      
        Solomon Islands
      W. Samoa  







1 = In 1999, 82 countries are classified as LIFDCs of which 79 are FAO Member States.


Highlighted countries changed status in the last month