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From framework to action

National governments and their international development partners must commit themselves to setting common goals, policies and programmes to end famine and food insecurity in the Horn of Africa.


The principal message of this report by the Task Force is that it is within the capacity of the countries concerned and the international community to eliminate famine and tackle food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. Having established the necessary strategy and framework, it is now essential to secure the commitment of governments, regional organizations, UN agencies, donors and civil society, all of whom have key roles in translating common policies into concrete and concerted action.

Commitment by all partners

Governments. At the national level, governments must assume full responsibility for eliminating food insecurity by ensuring such conditions as good governance, health and education services and their people's empowerment. Resource allocation, particularly to support basic agricultural production activities carried out by small-scale farmers, would be a tangible commitment to relieving their dependence on external assistance. Efforts must also be directed at ensuring national and regional peace and stability. A central part of the commitment by national governments must be to put together comprehensive Country Food Security Programmes (CFSPs).

Regional organizations. The main intergovernmental organizations of the region include IGAD, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC). Together with the governments concerned, IGAD should formulate and implement a Regional Food Security Programme (RFSP), encompassing conflict resolution, technical cooperation, the promotion of interregional infrastructure development, the fostering of trade and the liberalization and harmonization of trade policies, economic integration and an integrated early warning system for the region.

UN agencies. Working together closely within the UNDAF, the UN agencies can provide support to governments in many ways, including policy dialogue, capacity building and support for the delivery of basic economic and social services. An important role of UN agencies is to assist governments in setting priorities for development programmes and formulating investments aimed at achieving food security and disaster preparedness and mitigation.

Donors. Both multilateral and bilateral donors need to pledge long-term funding in support of national efforts to end famine and food insecurity at a level that is commensurate with the scale of the problem. In addition to traditional mechanisms such as soft loan or grant-funded projects and sector programmes, this will require a longer-term commitment on the part of donors as well as innovative funding mechanisms allowing greater responsiveness to local-level initiatives. Common mechanisms will also be required to facilitate the implementation of CFSPs.

Civil society. All forms of civil society, including NGOs, farmer- and community-based organizations and the private sector, need to commit themselves to collaborating with governments and international partners and donors to address food insecurity. They should play an active part in policy dialogue and conflict resolution, information and knowledge exchange - especially in support of participatory planning - and the delivery of services that are typically lacking in newly privatized economies.

Securing commitment

To obtain a formal commitment by the different partners involved, the Task Force proposes that a high-level meeting be held in 2001, at which Heads of State, senior representatives of regional organizations, UN agencies, donors and civil society could pledge their support, possibly in the form of a "compact".


Each government will need to formulate a Country Food Security Programme (CFSP), building on the recommendations of the World Food Summit Follow-up Strategies, as well as existing national food security initiatives and Poverty Reduction Strategies. The CFSPs will have two main thrusts: one to eliminate famine; the other to tackle chronic food insecurity.

Famine elimination

One of the main elements of each CFSP should be a programme for disaster preparedness and the elimination of famine. Early warning systems will need to be restructured so as to give better coverage of pastoral and agropastoral areas, and also be linked to regional systems. They should be based on active two-way communication between local communities and national and international decision-makers. Farmers and pastoralists should be able to tell decision-makers when and where their food stocks are running low and their cattle are dying, while international agencies, who have access to meteorological forecasts, should ensure that this information is delivered rapidly to local communities.

Some of the most critical decisions will concern strategic grain reserves, which is a complex issue that calls for specialist expertise. Sufficient food must be provided to guarantee that no one starves but care must be taken not to disrupt local food markets.

It is also important to move swiftly from emergency relief operations to rehabilitation and development activities. The provision of cheap or free farm inputs and credit during emergencies can also help kick-start a recovery as long as it is followed up by targeted investment in infrastructure and services.

One consequence of adopting a longer-term strategy is that donors may want to cut food aid, and this could result in a net reduction in ODA. To avoid this, donors could commit themselves to delivering a base level of food aid for the next five years or so.

Programmes to address chronic food insecurity

Beyond dealing with emergencies, however, governments will also need to address long-term chronic food insecurity with coordinated programmes, targeted at the most vulnerable populations in specific parts of the country. CFSPs would avoid broad and poorly directed national approaches.

Broadening opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. The immediate focus would be on enhancing the livelihoods of small resource-poor farmers, through a combination of agricultural technologies and support services, access to markets and credit, along with rural enterprises and agroprocessing. For those in the highland areas, for example, this will mean making better use of water by adopting small-scale irrigation techniques, building on the experience of FAO's Special Programme for Food Security. In the drier areas, on the other hand, the focus is likely to be more on the promotion of drought-resistant crops as well as the conservation of both soil and water. At the same time farmers should seek to diversify their sources of income, rearing more short-cycle livestock, taking advantage of non-timber forest products and, in some places, developing ecotourism.

Pastoralism represents a sustainable and ecologically sound response to harsh environments. Pastoralists could achieve greater security, however, if they had better marketing and information systems for their stock and broader opportunities for investment instead of simply buying more livestock. Processing milk, meat and other animal products would also be a means of boosting their incomes. All of these measures should, however, be guided by the need to conserve the natural resource base, making the most of the synergies between the agricultural and environmental agendas.

Protecting the most needy. Even in normal times, there will always be groups requiring special support, such as the elderly, the handicapped and orphans. Some of their needs can be met through hospital and school feeding programmes but, given the expense of providing continuous social safety nets, the best option will usually be to strengthen existing community initiatives, with cost-sharing arrangements between communities, governments and donors.

The very poor or destitute who are able to work are best helped through cash- or food-for-work programmes that provide a minimum basic income while also lifting households on to the path of self-reliance.

A growing number of food-insecure people are now found in the urban areas, typically in the informal settlements at the edges of major cities. Some, particularly those in the peri-urban areas, can take advantage of startup assistance to grow their own food, or even to supply local markets. Others can be helped through cash- or food-for-work programmes to maintain the urban infrastructure and environment.

Creating an enabling environment. Governments in the region can take many other steps to bolster food security and create the conditions for sustainable development.

Improving governance. Governments need to strengthen their "core functions", particularly support for agriculture, while decentralizing many of their activities. At the same time they need to make more room for civil society and the private sector; in particular, they must establish a strong legal framework to facilitate action by these partners.

Conflict resolution. Each CFSP should include proposals for the prevention and resolution of both local and international conflicts, working through IGAD and OAU, and perhaps towards a Common Security Framework in the region.

Infrastructure. Proposals for the development of large-scale infrastructure should be reviewed to ensure that they address the needs of remote areas and vulnerable groups. At the same time, governments will need to look closely at small-scale infrastructure, particularly rural roads, livestock markets, and basic services, ensuring that these developments are community-driven.

Civil society. Governments should enable civil society organizations to contribute to food security, by providing an appropriate legislative framework and encouraging the replication of successful experiences. Rural producers' organizations and NGOs should be able not only to offer services but also to participate in planning, decision-making and resource management. They will also be able to work more effectively by networking across the region.


CFSPs will consist of a mix of investment projects, policy and institutional reforms, implemented primarily by government agencies, but with important contributions from the private sector and NGOs. The projects will be financed by international financing institutions and bilateral donors. The UN system will also offer support, aimed at strengthening governments' technical, planning and implementation capacities.

CFSPs will build on existing national food security initiatives, such as Ethiopia's Food Security Programme and Uganda's Poverty Eradication Action Plan, as well as the World Food Summit Follow-up Strategies for National Agricultural Development. They should also be viewed as integral parts of the Poverty Reduction Strategies that are being elaborated in the context of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.

Participation and partnerships

Much of the activity will take place at the district or community level. Local authorities, community leaders, NGOs and other representatives of civil society should form teams - with external assistance where necessary - to formulate investment proposals and initiatives. These teams should ensure the full participation of women and other excluded groups. They must also take a "sustainable livelihoods approach", guided by vulnerability profiles and food security assessments.

At all stages, government agencies will be working closely with civil society as well as with donor agencies who will review the plans and tentatively identify specific elements that different agencies might finance.

Funding mechanisms

The CFSPs will need substantial funding. Much of this can come through conventional channels of bilateral grants and concessional loans but it will also be necessary to create new, decentralized mechanisms to offer community-based initiatives more direct and flexible access to funds.

Some donor funding may come from the reallocation of existing commitments as well as from the proceeds of debt forgiveness but substantial new commitments will also be required.

Institutional framework

The overall responsibility for implementing CFSPs would be with the governments of the region. The institutional framework would need to be tailored to the structures and capacities of the individual countries. However, there needs to be a basic structure underpinning the central role of government and the effective engagement of all other partners.

In each country, these activities will need to be coordinated by a body that represents all line ministries, so it will be important to designate one national agency that can serve as a focal point and operate at all levels, including liaison with international partners, in order to ensure coherence and congruity.

UN agency support

All these CFSP activities can benefit from UN agency support, according to the needs expressed by governments. This might include, for example, help with vulnerability profiling and the collection and analysis of information, or with the exchange of information and ideas among countries.

In each country, the UN Resident Coordinator would take charge, drawing on the resources of the Country Team and, particularly, the UNDAF Thematic Group on Food Security and Agriculture, chaired by FAO. Once the CFSPs are under way, the responsibility for monitoring and evaluation would fall to governments, who could contract these tasks out to local institutions or companies. The progress reports and conclusions could be presented to the Secretary-General through the ACC Rural Development and Food Security Network.

Conflict prevention and resolution

Mechanisms for conflict prevention and resolution would need to be created in each country, including systems for conflict early warning.

Strong links would need to be forged with NGOs and UN agencies that are active in this field, as well as to the OAU Conflict Management Centre, to which early warning information would be supplied and from which advice and technical assistance could be provided.


Regional cooperation can contribute substantially to solving the problem of food insecurity. For this purpose a Regional Food Security Programme (RFSP) should be formulated as a matter of urgency to deal with such issues as external trade, transboundary disease control, international water rights and regional road and telecommunications infrastructures.

The lead agency for formulating and overseeing the implementation of the RFSP would be IGAD, which could expand its Food Security and Environment Protection Programme to provide these services. IGAD's member countries will need to commit the appropriate level of both financial and human resources, while the UN agencies, in particular the Economic Commission for Africa, would provide IGAD with the necessary technical and capacity building support.

Funding would also be needed for the common planning and coordination activities of the RFSP. Investment projects that have a regional dimension would, however, be implemented by governments. In this case, IGAD would play a monitoring and coordinating role.


The participatory approach to programme formulation and implementation outlined in this report is time-consuming, but it is essential if policies and investments are to be coherent and gather broad political and financial backing. The approach advocated envisages three main phases:

  1. CFSP formulation, to be completed by mid-2001;
  2. the mobilization of resources, which can start during the formulation phase;
  3. implementation.


ACC meeting

The elimination of food insecurity is a long-term undertaking, with a horizon of at least ten years. The submission of the Task Force report marks the beginning of the process. The report will be discussed at the ACC meeting in October 2000, which will make the necessary arrangements for follow-up actions and indicate the steps needed to mobilize resources. This will be followed by meetings of the UN Country Teams, after which the process of formulating the individual CFSPs and the RFSP will begin. Priority must be given to mobilizing resources for the preparation of these programmes, which should be completed by mid-2001.

High-level regional conference

The ACC may also decide to hold the high-level regional conference proposed by the Task Force, possibly in July 2001. At this point, the CFSPs and the RFSP would have been formulated and so the conference would effectively launch the implementation phase. The conference would enable governments and international development partners to confirm their commitment and pledge funding as well as to agree on the future timetable and progress reporting system.

Tentative timetable

27/28 October
January - June 2001
July 2001

ACC Meeting in New York
Mobilization of resources for formulation phase of CFSPs and RFSP
Meeting of Horn of Africa Country Teams
Start of CFSP and RFSP formulation
CFSP and RFSP formulation
High-level regional conference

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