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Country Food Security Programmes

In order to define specific actions directed towards famine and food insecurity, each government would need to formulate a CFSP, using the World Food Summit Food Security Strategies as a starting point and comprising the following two elements:

The formulation of CFSPs, and of the concrete investment projects that would translate them into specific activities, is a government responsibility and would attract the support of UN agencies and donors. If it is to be soundly based, the actual process of formulating CFSPs and identifying and formulating projects must be inclusive and participatory.

FAMINE ELIMINATION PROGRAMMES

Each country would undertake to put together, as a matter of urgency, a programme to eliminate famine. Political commitment would be paramount in underpinning this programme as well as in allocating its own resources through the regular budget process. UN agencies and donors would support those governments that make a political commitment by providing technical assistance to help in the design and implementation of the programme and financing towards the cost of its execution. The form, structure and scale of the programmes would have to be tailored to the needs and capacities of the different countries and to the levels of resources that governments commit (see Box 8).

BOX 8
The cost of famine prevention

Dependence on food aid is likely to be difficult to reverse. On average (1990-2000), some 1.5 million tonnes of food aid are delivered to the region each year. Valued in terms of grain prices at source, this is worth at least US$170 million per year, and is close to US$750 million when valued at the full cost of delivery to the beneficiaries. This is equivalent to one-third of the total 1997 official development assistance (ODA) to the region as a whole. To the extent that food aid is not fully fungible, countries that wean themselves off such assistance are likely to suffer a net reduction in external assistance. Not only are the savings in food aid unlikely to be matched by increases in ODA, but shortfalls in aggregate grain production will also have to be met by commercial imports and/or from the national budget.

In order to ease the transition from dependence to self-reliance, and at the same time help governments to eliminate famine, it is important that donors commit themselves to delivering a base level of food aid each year for the next five or more years, as a contribution to the famine elimination programme. Such aid could go into establishing prepositioned strategic grain reserves, which would be available for rapid response to famine situations, or it could help to finance other measures. The cost of guaranteeing the supply of one-quarter of current average food aid needs would be some US$200 million per year.

Early warning systems are at the heart of disaster preparedness and famine prevention. Although governments, external agencies and NGOs have put a lot of effort and resources into these systems over the last 15 to 20 years, there are critical gaps in the way in which they operate and in the response systems that they trigger.
One recent important development has been the ability to provide predictions, with a lead time of a few months, of droughts that are likely to result in famine. As a first step, it will be necessary for governments to diagnose weaknesses in existing disaster preparedness systems and, through the incorporation of climate predictions into these systems, to formulate programmes that improve the capacity to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies. Early warning systems themselves may need to be restructured, consolidated (linking them to regional systems) and refocused to strengthen coverage of pastoral and agropastoral areas and improve their accuracy and policy relevance. Improvements in early warning would need to be complemented by adequate food reserves, improved logistics and contingency planning that address problems of port capacity and access (in a regional context) and commodity tracking systems.

A serious weakness in existing early warning and response systems seems to be the absence of two-way flows of information at the community or household level - communities rarely receive advance warning of impending drought or flood and have no means of alerting decision-makers about emerging food shortages. While international observers across the world may know about impending climatic disasters, the farmers in the area concerned have no means of receiving this information and reacting to it. This need would be met by a system for the provision of essential information to farmers and pastoralists that is based on the predictions available from international centres and the Drought Monitoring Centre in Nairobi, but expressed in the terminology of the farmers of the region.

Similarly, while farmers know that food stocks are running low and their animals are dying, the mechanisms for passing such information on to those who can decide to make strategic food stocks available are flawed. There is a need within governments to create an administrative capacity, especially in high-risk areas, for detecting and responding quickly to incipient food crises. Capacity building is needed for technical and administrative field staff, with special emphasis on measuring key indicators of stress at the community level and on the accurate direction of assistance. Institutional mechanisms must be established that are able to take rapid decisions in the event of impending crises. To the extent that international assistance may be needed, steps must also be taken to minimize response time, particularly by ensuring that the financial capacity exists to commit urgently required resources rather than embark on cumbersome appeal processes.

An important element of an effective famine response system is the design of mechanisms to hedge against emergencies, possibly through strategic grain reserves or other cost-effective but reliable measures with adequate funding. The multifaceted features of such a system make its design rather complex. It needs to balance the demands of rapid and reliable response in the event of disaster against the dangers of under- or over-responding which would cause, respectively, starving people or the damage of local markets by excess food supply. Management of the scale and turnover of strategic stocks must take account of frequently long supply lead times for imports and the need to be neutral with respect to normal seasonal market price fluctuations. All of this calls for specialist design expertise that draws on skills within the commercial world. Other long-term measures would include helping farmers to reinforce existing coping mechanisms by, for example, setting aside land for growing more drought-tolerant crops such as sorghum and millet (see Box 4).

The national agencies responsible for disaster preparedness and mitigation would also commit themselves to adopting measures to speed the transition from emergency relief to rehabilitation and development. The provision of cheap or free farm inputs, tools and/or credit during the emergency interventions might be used to kick-start the recovery of a disaster-affected area through the rapid disbursement of funds for investment towards the rehabilitation of local infrastructure and services.

Examples of famine prevention and disaster preparedness programmes in the region, in other parts of Africa and in other continents 4 should be reviewed as part of the process of deciding on the most appropriate model for each country. The programmes should be designed to operate as partnerships among governments, donors, the private sector and NGOs with a view to minimizing operating costs and neutralizing potentially damaging political influence. They should also involve regional organizations so that complementarities in food production and in the production cycles of different countries can become a source of strength.

Alongside the formulation of a credible famine elimination programme, donors would be expected to make a commitment to provide food stocks, and possibly medicines and family survival kits, to be prepositioned in zones with high risk of food insecurity, as well as budgetary support for the operation of the system.

PROGRAMMES TO ADDRESS LONG-TERM CHRONIC FOOD INSECURITY

Each CFSP would need to include a range of prioritized activities to address the underlying causes of long-term food insecurity. The mix and balance of components would vary from country to country and would reflect the country-level diagnosis of the principal causes of food insecurity, the location and characterization of the food insecure and vulnerable populations, the constraints and opportunities that exist, and the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the overall enabling environment. The CFSP would deliver a coordinated programme aimed at helping the most food-insecure and vulnerable populations in specific parts of the country, and would avoid broad, poorly directed national approaches.

Broadening opportunities for sustainable livelihoods

In view of the fact that the majority of the food-insecure live in rural areas and are almost entirely dependent on agriculture, an obvious starting point for actions to address long-term food security is in the agricultural sector. Actions would be expected to focus on ways of increasing rural household incomes and the productivity of agricultural activities, as well as strengthening existing coping mechanisms. A crucial element in the tailoring of programmes to different areas and types of rural economy is the adoption of a sustainable livelihoods approach to analysing opportunities. All activities supported by the CFSP should, of course, take account of their potential impact on the environment. It is important to promote coping mechanisms, tenure and land management systems that arrest natural resource degradation, contribute to its restoration and reverse the downward spiral of natural resource and agricultural productivity decline.

There are many ways in which small farmers might diversify their household economic base. Diversification is not simply a way of spreading risks, but it can also help to smooth out seasonal peaks and troughs of income and, of course, alleviate the common pre-harvest hunger period. Farmers need technical support and possibly "seed money" to make the best use of the assets to which they have access. Such assets might include crop residues and by-products for feeding small, short-cycle livestock such as poultry, pigs, sheep and goats, or common grazing and forest for the exploitation of non-timber forest products, wildlife and even ecotourism.
Strengthening the institutional and infrastructural framework for the delivery of animal health services to livestock keepers would be an essential part of the support provided to allow farmers to diversify their production base (see Box 10).

There are large populations of food-insecure rural people in the countries of the region for whom, even under normal weather conditions, survival is a constant concern. These are mainly the small farmers in highland areas who, through the growth in population and the degradation of land resources, find themselves with such small and degraded landholdings that they can barely survive, even in a normal year. Drought may be an infrequent phenomenon, but even slight shortfalls in rainfall or extended dry periods during the crop season add to the precariousness of these people's situation. In higher rainfall areas, programmes would aim to promote the use by such small farmers of better land, water and crop husbandry (see Box 3).

The development of water resources is crucial to achieving food security (see Box 9). Where there are suitable water resources, projects for the development of small-scale, low-cost irrigation, when it can be shown to be technically and financially viable and sustainable, would be particularly beneficial and enable rapid leaps in productivity and food security. In some cases, the rehabilitation of existing irrigation systems would be the best solution, as long as the causes of decline can be diagnosed and the redesigned system can be shown to be technically and financially viable and sustainable (see Box 11).

BOX 9
Water and Food Security

Water related issues are fundamentally intertwined with most sectors of national economies. The development of water resources and increasing efficiency in water use are central to ensuring food security and will become increasingly important as population increases.

Fresh water resources in the Horn of Africa are under severe natural and social pressure. Lack of water is a serious impediment to intensifying agriculture and to opening up new land. Water delivery infrastructure, including small-scale irrigation systems and larger, more expensive dams, reservoirs and canal networks, need to be developed.

Natural conditions and human activities have, over the years, affected the quality and quantity of available water. Most countries in the region are subject to recurring floods which damage irrigation schemes. Much of the devastation is caused by lack of flood forecasting systems, and the absence of proper land and water management.

Demand for water grows as population increases, a process exacerbated by rapid urbanisation. Countries, such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, desperately need to develop their water resources. Unless a solution is found, growing water scarcity will severely limit the response of countries in the Horn of Africa to the development challenges of poverty reduction and food security.

There is a need for adequate hydrological data monitoring, collection and dissemination systems at national and regional levels. Up-to-date information on the availability and quality of freshwater resources is needed to support food security plans. The WMO programme, World Hydrological Cycle Observing System (WHYCOS) and the development of its IGAD-HYCOS component, will contribute to information exchange at national and regional levels.

Conflicts over water rights can also arise, and special mechanisms and techniques are needed to strengthen and promote cooperation among the different users.



BOX 10
Helping small, resource-poor farmers

Although drought and conflict are major underlying factors, food production, distribution and access are fundamental to solving the problem of chronic food insecurity in rural areas. Increased agricultural production must, therefore, be at the core of a strategy to help small, resource-poor farmers. Their livelihoods can be improved in a sustainable way, through a combination of agricultural technologies and support services, access to markets and credit, rural enterprises and agroprocessing, all supported by the delivery of sound education and health services.

There are important lessons to be learned from FAO's Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS).1 SPFS has shown that there is substantial scope for resource-poor farmers to broaden their production base and increase their productivity when they are provided with access to improved production technologies (including low-cost, small-scale irrigation). However, realization of this involves the provision of support to address the various constraints that poor, resource-poor farmers face, such as lack of technical knowledge, inadequate support services (including extension and credit), lack of market access and an unfavourable institutional and policy environment.

Increased food production may come from intensification of production through the adoption of improved simple, low-cost, low-risk land, water and crop management techniques (see Box 2). Problems of post-harvest losses must also be tackled, and good quality seed of appropriate varieties must be secured for the following seasons. Most small farmers welcome supplementary sources of income that can help to guarantee food security. Such income may be derived from sales of high-value produce such as horticultural crops and medicinal/aromatic plants grown with the help of low-cost irrigation (see Box 11). Broadening the production base through keeping small stock such as poultry, goats and sheep and through aquaculture and beekeeping, as well as selling non-wood tree products and producing value-added outputs through processing, can also generate extra income. Such developments must be associated with the establishment of appropriate input/output marketing, as well as credit and advisory services.

Especially in areas where rainfall is unreliable, or land and other assets are insufficient to sustain a family solely within agriculture, complementary off-farm income opportunities are even more crucial to survival. These might include cash- or food-for-work schemes, which are aimed at infrastructure development and environmental management, and using artisanal skills for a local market. Part of such income may, in turn, be invested in small rural/agricultural enterprises.

These options for reversing the downward spiral of poverty and food insecurity must be implemented as part of a farmer- and community-centred process, facilitated by public and private partners, including NGOs. Strategies must be developed, and actions agreed, with the full participation of the people concerned. The process should be dynamic and flexible, building on farmers' groups and using participatory monitoring and evaluation methods.

Clearly, education and capacity building programmes, tailored to the needs of both children and adults, are vital to securing a broader economic base for small resource-poor farmers. The development of good communication and transport facilities will help small farmers enter the market and the "knowledge economy", while safe water supplies and local preventive health services will help them to rise above mere survival.


1 Launched in 1994 by FAO to contribute to the implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action; the Special Programme for Food Security is in operation in all Horn of Africa countries, except Somalia.



BOX 11
Promoting irrigation for small farmers

Moisture is the key to agricultural production in the Horn of Africa, and failing rains have been the predominant cause of famine in the region. Food and water security are inextricably linked and can only be achieved through concerted action to raise water productivity by maximizing crop production from both rainfed and irrigated agriculture by a more effective use of water. "More crop per drop" has become the overriding strategy, aimed at increasing outputs per unit of rain and per unit of irrigation water.

Options for increasing rainfed or "green water" productivity include various techniques to increase effective rainwater storage as well as the development of crop varieties with better drought resistance characteristics and a more favourable water conversion rate. Rainwater harvesting can help further to secure water supply at critical stages of growth, restoring the viability of indigenous cultivation practices.

Irrigation is an important option for ensuring a more secure water supply for agricultural production. In the Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti, crop production is largely dependent on irrigation, with more than 70 percent of the total potential area already equipped for irrigation, mostly in government-led irrigation developments and centrally managed schemes. Considerable potential for irrigation exists, especially in Ethiopia, where it is a top priority of government, and also in Uganda and, to a certain degree, Kenya and Eritrea.

The options for further development are seriously constrained by lack of water, degraded infrastructure, salinity problems and the collapse of management. On average, only 60 percent of the area equipped for irrigation is effectively irrigated. Raising performance of existing irrigation systems will, therefore, be a priority action in any food security strategy. Yield levels in existing irrigation can be raised substantially if farmers receive effective incentives and support services.

A greater involvement of farmers in management of the schemes, through setting up water users' groups and cost-recovery mechanisms, has proved effective. This process started only recently in the region and needs considerable support to make it work and to ensure that operation and maintenance are carried out effectively under farmer management. Supporting policies and financial instruments must be developed, as well as important institutional restructuring, including the reform of inefficient irrigation bureaucracies and the promotion of private sector modes of operation.

Small farmer irrigation has proved the most effective form of irrigation development, directly benefiting the resource-poor farmers. The introduction of low-cost irrigation technologies, such as the treadle pump, simple well-drilling techniques and low-cost drip systems for vegetable and fruit-tree production, can raise farm incomes dramatically and have proved highly cost-effective, as demonstrated in several FAO-SPFS programmes.

In drier areas, unless there are reliable perennial water sources that allow the development of small-scale irrigation, improved land management is likely to be the most viable activity. This would include the promotion of drought-tolerant crops and pastures, agroforestry, soil and water conservation and water harvesting techniques, minimum or zero tillage aimed at improving soil moisture retention and increasing labour productivity, other measures aimed at raising soil organic matter levels (such as adjusted crop rotations and enriched fallows), and manual and mechanical forms of land reclamation. Programmes would be formulated to promote conservation agriculture, which would be particularly relevant for this environment (see Box 4).



BOX 12
Pastoral livelihoods

The dilemma:  The pastoral areas incorporate some of the harshest environments in the Horn of Africa and contain some of its most vulnerable communities. One consequence has been a major shift of assistance away from long-term development towards emergency relief. Clearly, there is a moral and humanitarian obligation to alleviate human suffering, yet the dilemma of how to balance humanitarian responses with addressing the underlying development and environmental issues remains. The pastoral crisis in the Horn of Africa is essentially about people, and demands solutions that focus on pastoralists and their livelihoods.

The issues: The rangelands of the Horn of Africa are characterized by ecological variability, climatic unpredictability and resilience. The pastoralists respond with mobility, flexibility and opportunism.

The pastoral systems are based on common property rights and have highly evolved coping mechanisms to deal with stress, including drought. It is now well accepted that pastoralism is a sustainable and ecologically sound response to harsh environments. However, the systems are coming under increasing pressure and it is questionable whether traditional mechanisms can cope. Grazing areas are declining and access is restricted as a result of insecurity. Human populations are increasing and household herd/flock sizes often fall below the numbers needed to sustain the family.

Numerous agencies have programmes in these areas, primarily focused on emergency relief, yet there is little coordination. The pastoral communities continue to be marginalized in terms of access to education, health and other essential services and lack a coherent policy environment. Interventions need to support pastoralism as a sustainable system but provide alternative livelihoods for those that it can no longer support.

The way forward: For those countries where it is appropriate, CFSPs might include a focus on pastoral livelihoods tailored to the specific needs of each country's pastoral communities. Such a programme would involve all stakeholders - CSOs, donors, government and UN agencies. It would be holistic and encompass all the aspects that impinge on pastoral livelihoods and would focus on addressing the long-term issues, while ensuring adequate safety nets when emergencies occur. It would develop the potential synergies between on-going programmes and agencies, identify gaps and priorities, lobby for additional resources and promote the development of a pastoral policy framework. Some activities that could be incorporated would include:

  • human health - recognizing the problems of child malnutrition, pregnant women and mothers and access to appropriate primary health care;
  • land and water - comprising human and livestock water requirements, land degradation, settlement, common property rights, land tenure, etc.;
  • agricultural development - sustainable agricultural practices for dry marginal areas (see Box 4);
  • disaster management - incorporating early warning systems with strategies for mitigation and rehabilitation;
  • investment and infrastructure - access to credit, roads, communications and processing;
  • policy framework - creating awareness of and developing an appropriate enabling policy environment;
  • human education - access to appropriate education and skills development;
  • livestock development - marketing, promoting offtake, disease surveillance, control and health certification;
  • conflict management - linking with the national and regional conflict resolution units;
  • institutional development - capacity building, research and development of strong vertical and horizontal linkages;
  • monitoring - the status of the environment.

In addition to the national programmes, many of the issues need to be addressed at a regional level, such as transboundary diseases,1 movement control and animal health certification and trade standardization. This would be incorporated into the RFSP.


1 Through, for example, FAO's Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES), which includes the control of serious epidemic diseases and the eradication of rinderpest - the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP).

A substantial proportion of the most vulnerable people in the countries of the region are those for whom drought is an ever-present threat. The pastoralists who inhabit arid and semi-arid zones need to be assisted in making the most of the environment in which they live and in reducing the risks that are inherent to their systems. Elements of the programme would include providing access to safe water supply, human and animal health services and education, as well as measures to reduce pastoralists' vulnerability and improve their food security without damaging the environment. Market access would be improved through information systems, stock routes and watering points, as well as through providing pastoralists with access to viable alternative ways of saving and investing. The local processing of dairy and meat products, hides and skins is a generally underexploited opportunity (see Box 12).

In the Horn of Africa, the degradation of the environment can de described in terms of land degradation, losses of biodiversity, deforestation, desertification, reduced ecosystem resilience to adverse climatic factors and declining agricultural productivity. Such manifestations of environmental degradation have an impact at the regional and global levels through their effects on climatic change and international waters. Improved and sustainable livelihoods are closely related to restoration of the natural resource base, and hence to the need to make the most of the synergies between environment and agricultural production agendas. These linkages have recently been emphasized by the international community and, led by the Global Environment Facility (GEF)5 implementing agencies (the United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], the United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP] and the World Bank), an Integrated Land and Water Management Initiative for Africa has been launched. Its activities will help communities to take responsibility for managing their natural resource base, and support best practices that bring environmental, agricultural and livelihood benefits (see Box 13).

BOX 13
Synergies between the agricultural and environmental agendas

Sustainable agricultural management practices contribute, simultaneously, to enhancing agricultural production and providing national and global environmental benefits. Such benefits include prevention and mitigation of land degradation and drought, reduction of carbon emissions or enhancement of carbon sequestration, sustaining of agricultural biodiversity and maintenance of vital ecosystems.

There is a need to develop sustainable cropping and livestock systems and management practices that provide economically viable, environmentally friendly and socially and culturally acceptable alternatives to practices that are degrading natural resources and threatening the sustainability and resilience of agricultural ecosystems. The ecological regulatory functions that sustain ecosystems include the following:

  • humus formation in topsoil through organic matter breakdown and nutrient recycling;
  • nutrient mobilization, retention and slow release in a plant-available form, and breakdown of pollutants;
  • buffering and resilience of land and water systems against sudden alterations;
  • climatic moderation (release of greenhouse gases, carbon sequestration, solar energy, hydrological cycle);
  • provision of habitats for living organisms, including vital soil biota;
  • resilience of plant, fish and animal populations and reduced invasion by harmful/less useful species;
  • conservation of soil and water resources (land cover, landscapes, watersheds).

There is a strong argument for refocusing the attention of stakeholders, from policy-makers to resource users, to finding "win-win" scenarios, or best practices that contribute to agricultural production and provide socio-economic benefits, such as food and livelihood security, as well as environmental benefits. In this regard, Conservation Agriculture (see Box 4), integrated production systems (crop/livestock, aquaculture and agroforestry), complex home gardens and sustainable range management are opportunities for:

  • maintaining a good vegetative cover and rooting structure;
  • maintaining or enhancing soil moisture availability, soil biological activity and soil fertility;
  • conserving and ensuring the sustainable use of biodiversity;
  • monitoring the environment and climate change;
  • sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Not all agricultural systems will provide the full range of benefits. The aim should be to maximize synergies and generate multiple benefits for the diverse stakeholders at the household, community and national levels, while maintaining resources for future generations.

Protecting the most needy

Safety nets. Over and above the measures that should be taken to protect those who are the victims of natural disasters, there is a need to secure the rights to food of those who are chronically food-insecure in a community and are not able-bodied, such as the elderly, orphans, the handicapped and the incapacitated.

Social safety nets, which are needed for such groups on a more or less continuous basis, will always be difficult to maintain. However, such measures are the ultimate solution for these groups of people, and may be tackled through nutrition interventions, such as school and hospital feeding, and by promoting community-based safety nets involving cost-sharing arrangements among communities, government and donors (see Box 14).

The urban food-insecure. The growing numbers of poor and food-insecure in urban areas are particularly difficult to reach. In some situations, it may be possible to provide such people with start-up assistance in growing their own food or even producing vegetables and keeping poultry or small livestock to supply the adjacent urban markets.

BOX 14
Safety nets

Addressing the needs of the chronically food-insecure in a community includes the need to ease the burden of external shocks on the most vulnerable. In normal times, the destitute typically account for 10 to 15 percent of the community and can be divided into productive (or potentially productive) and non-productive groups - a determining factor in terms of defining appropriate measures.

The productive poor have no entitlements, which means that they have little or no access to factors of production (land, capital, labour) and do not have the necessary skills to improve their access.

Nevertheless, the fact that they are able-bodied implies that they can be assisted in generating their own income. Public works schemes, and other employment-generating activities such as the Safety Nets Programme in Ethiopia, provide a minimum necessary income and can serve as a "safety trampoline", lifting households out of dire poverty and on to the road to self-reliance. Cash- or food-for- work programmes have the added advantage of being self-directing and so are more cost-effective in terms of public resource allocation.

The unproductive poor, i.e. the elderly, the orphaned and those who are not able-bodied, cannot rely on their own labour, and addressing their needs requires fundamentally different measures.

Traditionally, communities assist the destitute through the social obligation of neighbours and family to provide food, labour and services to the poorest. However, as the economic environment and social values change and the number of destitute increases (for example through the spread of AIDS), this system begins to break down. In some cases, governments have stepped in to assist the unproductive poor, by providing food or cash payments. Unfortunately, these initiatives have generally failed to deliver the expected benefits to the target group: centralized control and highly complex administration have led to high costs of delivery and leakages. The many inefficiencies of government safety net schemes and the fiscal burden of direct assistance have, in most cases, led to their termination.

A combination of traditional and government-sponsored assistance could supply the needs of the unproductive poor. The basis should be existing community initiatives, be they labour-sharing schemes or the provision of goods (food, seeds, clothes) or services (care of orphans or elderly), which should, ideally, be complemented by a grant from government in the form of cash or food. This system builds on existing structures and activities, thereby ensuring ownership and minimizing the problems of badly directed and misused funds. Another important feature is the concept of cost-sharing between the communities and the government; these are not hand-outs provided with public funds, but complementary funds to enhance the scope and effectiveness of community-initiated activities to protect their own destitute. The handling of public funds at the local level, optimizes their use and allows the system greater flexibility.



BOX 15
Addressing urban food insecurity

Concentrations of vulnerable groups of the urban food-insecure are generally located in informal settlements at the edges of major cities. Here, the constraint is not so much availability as access to entitlements or incomes with which to purchase food, and reduced ability to absorb nutrients through poor health. Intra-urban and peri-urban agriculture can play a significant role in reducing food insecurity for urban populations. It provides incomes by enabling urban farmers to produce fresh supplies of perishable foods to a huge nearby market. It also gives such farmers, many of whom are women, an opportunity to improve their families' diets directly by growing nutrient-rich fresh foods.

Support for food production in cities may include inputs such as information about seeds, fertilizers, chemicals and the safe use of pesticides, organic waste materials and water, as well as credit.

The infrastructure needed to facilitate these activities may be physical inputs such as water supply and improved market sites (both of which also improve hygiene). Since most of the cities in the region still depend heavily on wood for fuel, secure tenure is important so that peri-urban fuelwood plantations can be established. Cash-for-work programmes to provide incomes to the urban poor, through street cleaning and construction or repairing of sewage systems, for example, can reduce food insecurity and, at the same time, help to improve the quality of basic services available to the poorest people.

While many NGOs have emerged in cities in response to urban poverty and squalor, few UN agencies devote resources to working specifically in urban areas. However, the few initiatives that exist could be used as starting points for programmes aimed at eliminating urban food insecurity and poverty. FAO recognizes the importance of peri-urban agriculture and has produced a briefing guide for local authorities and urban planners in developing countries as part of its SPFS. This guide addresses questions of food supply, distribution and health and the associated planning, policy and programme factors.1 The World Food Programme (WFP) is reviewing its projects in urban areas in order to improve its understanding of the nature of urban food insecurity and how it can be affected by rural crises such as drought and conflict. It is keen to address the consumption needs of food-insecure urban populations without disturbing local food markets. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) traditionally addresses food insufficiency through maternal and child health (MCH) interventions.

UNDP has supported the development of school gardens, in Nairobi for example, with land given by the school, and labour by parents and children. The importance of NGOs operating in urban areas suggests that partnerships between UN agencies and NGOs would be especially important in addressing this problem.


1 FAO. Food for the cities. FAO Collection DT/43-00E; food supply and distribution policies to reduce urban food insecurity, a briefing guide for mayors, city executives and urban planners.

In an urban environment, the application of cash- or food-for-work programmes that improve and maintain urban infrastructure and environment could have widespread positive impact on urban communities. The need to ensure the provision of basic health and education and skills training to the urban poor, usually in collaboration with NGOs, is particularly important, because of the frequently overcrowded insanitary conditions that exist and the fact that the urban economy will benefit from a pool of more skilled workers. Some governments have tried the option of resettling the urban poor in rural areas. However, this is always an expensive task if it is carried out properly, with supporting infrastructure development and services, and invariably poses difficulties of finding appropriate land and resolving potential conflicts with people inhabiting the target area (see Box 15).

Creating an enabling environment

Improving governance. A fundamental priority for governments seeking to address food insecurity is to tackle the multifaceted problem of governance. Governments must define and take steps to strengthen their "core functions", especially with respect to the provision of services to the agricultural sector. They must move ahead with effective decentralization and empowerment of people, and provide an enabling environment for the private sector through capacity building. They should also reinforce the market-based policy reforms that have been undertaken, through more rigorous application of non-interventionist policies, and should begin to address the "second-generation" policy issues related to food security, such as reforms in the legal framework. A priority is the strengthening of legislation and the rule of law in general, through putting emphasis on fighting corruption, empowering communities and using local mechanisms for resolving land, water and other disputes.

Conflict resolution. Conflict resolution, whether between nations, ethnic groups, communities or individuals, is a challenge that regional organizations, governments and community leaders must face. Although international conflicts cause massive waste of human and financial resources, conflicts between communities over land, water or pasture are especially disruptive because they create an environment of uncertainty and may lead to the displacement of people, both of which exacerbate food insecurity. Community conflicts increase the risks of investing in land and water development and reduce affected people's ability to adopt effective coping strategies when natural hazards, such as drought, strike.

Each CFSP would be expected to include specific proposals for conflict prevention and resolution. At the regional level, IGAD and OAU would be expected to play a critical role in conflict prevention and resolution, through developing methods of obtaining early warning of potential conflicts and testing ways of resolving them when they do occur, possibly in collaboration with NGOs that have experience in this field.6 Proposals to implement a Common Security Framework in the region, involving collaboration between OAU and IGAD, could also be supported.

Infrastructure development. Proposals for large-scale infrastructure development such as ports, railways, major roads and telecommunications using modern, satellite-based technology would, in most cases, form part of existing national, long-term development programmes. The most important task would be to review these proposals in the light of a renewed commitment to poverty reduction and the elimination of food insecurity. This might mean, for example, reordering priorities to ensure greater coherence in addressing the needs of remote areas or particular groups of vulnerable people, and accelerating implementation. The role of the private sector in undertaking and even financing such developments, should always be sought.

With respect to small-scale infrastructure, rural roads are likely to be a high priority in all countries of the region, because they reinforce integration of the market system and enhance access to basic services. The development of community-based safe water supply for the human population and, where appropriate, livestock water sources and the establishment of markets, especially for livestock, would also be priority areas for investment. However, infrastructure development at this level would need to be community-driven in order to be sustainable.

Strengthening the role of civil society. Civil society, in all its forms, can make a potentially major contribution to solving the problem of food insecurity. Increasingly, the private sector and NGOs have a greater presence at the community level than government agents. They may play a commercial role, providing inputs - often with supplier credit - together with technical advice; a developmental role, promoting rural activities; or an advocacy role, supporting the empowerment of rural people. In all of these activities, the power of civil society needs to be harnessed within programmes that address food security. In each country it would be necessary to examine the roles of formal and informal CSOs and their interactions with government, exploring their strategies, capacity and successes that merit replication. Governments might need assistance in developing legislative frameworks and procedures aimed at creating an effective enabling environment for the operation of CSOs. IGAD could be helped with the establishment of a programme for civil society cooperation that takes inspiration from the experience of its sister organization, the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), in West Africa.

For rural producers' organizations and national NGOs, important areas for participation are in policy dialogue, providing the services that rural producers require in a privatized and liberalized market economy, and in developing their organizational capacity to a level where they are competent in participatory planning, decision-making and resource management. Networking among CSOs within the region would be encouraged through support to electronic exchanges and exchange visits, particularly those involving the arid regions of West Africa, where producers' organizations and NGOs are operating in similar climatic conditions (see Box 16).

BOX 16
The farmers' movement and CILSS in West Africa

Over the past few years effective cooperation has developed between the emerging farmers' movement in the Sahel and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), the sister organization of IGAD. Building on the strength of the farmers' movement in Senegal, where the Comité national de concertation et de coopération des ruraux (CNCCR) has earned the government's recognition as its interlocutor on all questions affecting rural and agricultural development, a Network of Farmers' Organizations in the Sahel was established in 1996 with the official recognition of the CILSS Council of Ministers. This network, which has recently broadened to include other West African countries, serves as a forum for sensitizing farmers' organizations to important policy issues, developing common negotiating positions at the national and regional levels and building its members' capacity to respond to the needs of rural small producers. The network has received support from NGOs, government cooperation programmes and intergovernmental agencies, in particular FAO, the OECD's Club du Sahel and the World Bank.




4 For example, the Maharashtra Employment Generation Scheme in India which gives every able-bodied person the chance to earn enough money to eat each day.

5 GEF Operation Programme No. 12 on Integrated Ecosystem Management supports a land management programme of action to derive global environmental benefits with regard to biodiversity, international waters and climate change.

6 Promising examples of the role of NGOs in resolving conflict between communities may be found in a DFID programme in Kenya.

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