New impact assessment report

Farmers weigh in on FAO support during food crisis

Small farmers around the world, made vulnerable by rising food, fuel and input prices, managed to rapidly boost their food production at a critical time thanks to FAO support, according to findings in a new impact assessment report. 

In mid-2008, when international food prices had reached their highest level in 30 years, FAO, through its Initiative on Soaring Food Prices (ISFP), launched a series of Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) projects in 80 countries to help smallholder farmers grow more food and earn more money. 

FAO made available approximately USD 30 million for the distribution of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and animal production inputs, mostly at no cost to the producers. 

This move not only helped to soften the blow of high food prices on poor families, but it sent a strong political message to donor agencies on the need for swift action and additional resources. 

Experience gained in the early implementation of these projects also provided important baseline information that influenced the design of much larger food security projects such as the European Union Food Facility.

The report, Beneficiary Satisfaction and Impact Assessment of ISFP TCP projects: a Global Synthesis, shows how farmers felt about FAO’s assistance – from their satisfaction with the seeds and fertilizers received to whether they noticed an improvement in their ability to sell their produce.

It also touches on some of the constraints they faced, such as the lack of irrigation, poorly developed seed industries and inadequate access to markets. 

And it maps out a number of recommendations based on lessons learned that can help ensure a more effective response to such emergencies in the future, including:
• linking the TCP project with other ongoing programmes or projects whenever possible
• considering the use of revolving schemes or equity contribution systems
• ensuring that training is incorporated into the project design
• devoting greater resources to project monitoring
• considering the geographic context of the country
• considering the flexibility in procurement rules
• avoiding distribution of live animals unless proper transportation to the beneficiary’s farm can be assured
• considering different possible distribution systems, according to the countries’ reality
• improving Results-based Management by defining measurable project results
• encouraging stronger donor commitment with government engagement in following up short-term emergency projects with medium-term investments to address structural problems with the agriculture sector
• using TCP funding as a catalyst for technology innovation or leveraging investment

Sub-regional syntheses of the national assessments, on which this report is based, are now available on the ISFP regional pages.