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Formulating Country Food Security Programmes

The shape and content of a CFSP would be determined by the priorities and capacities of governments and the needs of food-insecure communities. Overall, a CFSP would be a mix of large and small investment projects focused on specific vulnerable groups and funded by international financing institutions and bilateral donors, as well as micro-, community-based projects financed through some form of decentralized trust fund mechanism. It would be implemented by government agencies, but with NGOs and the private sector playing an important role. The programme would be sure to include famine prevention and conflict resolution elements, with early warning system development and regional cooperation as integral parts. The programme of UN support would aim to strengthen governments' planning and implementation capacity and would, for instance, help in the profiling of vulnerable people, the analysis of gaps in strategy and policy frameworks and the building of long-term capacity at all levels. UN assistance would also complement specific investment projects by providing technical support and capacity building.


If the governments in the region are to embrace the overall Framework for Action as their own and translate it into CFSPs, it is essential that proposals build on existing national food security initiatives. For example, each country has prepared an outline food security strategy as part of the follow-up to the World Food Summit, and this can serve as a valuable starting point for its CFSP. In Ethiopia, a lot of effort has gone into formulating a national Food Security Programme (FSP), and in Uganda a comprehensive Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) has been prepared. The CFSPs should be viewed as an integral part of the Poverty Reduction Strategies that most countries have either recently completed or are in the process of preparing within the context of participation in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and, more recently, in order to become eligible for concessional finance from the Bretton Woods institutions. Other important national initiatives that should be taken into account are the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) National Sustainable Development Strategies, programmes under the United Nations Special Initiative for Africa (UNSIA) and the World Food Summit Follow-Up Strategies for National Agricultural Development which were prepared under FAO sponsorship and are now being updated with broad-based national participation.
These national strategies form the natural starting point for planning future interventions, and governments and other stakeholders must be sure to take these existing programmes into account when they consider the overall CFSP. The country consultations conducted by the Task Force revealed a number of common elements across countries in terms of the causes of food insecurity and the priorities of governments, but also a diversity of starting points for country programmes (see Box 6)..


As well as building on existing strategies, it is essential to recognize that the foundations for CFSP formulation already exist. Initiatives that are already in operation and projects that have been identified but have not yet been funded should be incorporated into the CFSP. They would need to be adjusted, where necessary, to address the priorities of the potential funding sources, and would be used as the starting point for implementation. This approach is important so that the momentum of the work started by the Task Force can be sustained by initiating activities quickly.


In order to acquire access to decentralized funding sources for local projects aimed at enhancing food security, much of the project identification and design would have to be carried out at a subnational, district or community level. This would require the formation of local groups comprising local authorities, NGOs and representatives of civil society and local communities. The basic platform would be regular meetings, supported by a secretariat charged with arriving at broad consensus over the focus, nature and implementation modalities of local programmes and projects. Its way of working would need to ensure the full participation of the local community, including women and other typically excluded groups. The local administration would have to be fully engaged in this activity so that it could take on the responsibility for overseeing implementation at the local level.


In order to be operational and sustainable, it is important that specific food security investment proposals and initiatives be generated at the local and community levels. While CFSPs will serve to give some structure to these investments, the basic identification, formulation and implementation must be as decentralized as much as possible, to ensure that investment is channelled towards activities that reflect local priorities, respond to needs and opportunities for sustainable poverty and risk reduction, and are considered to be worthwhile and profitable by the direct beneficiaries.


Teams to formulate investment projects would need to be set up or strengthened under the auspices of the national agency selected to take overall responsibility for CFSP formulation. The role of such teams would be to facilitate local people's formulation of projects that would attract funding and meet basic criteria of viability, sustainability and equity. To achieve this, the teams would need to identify the people and groups who would be directly involved in the implementation of the projects that are being prepared. The underlying rationale is that local people are perfectly capable of conceptualizing projects, provided that they are aware of the donor's basic standards and the requirements of the funding agencies. The teams would comprise local agencies, NGOs and private sector organizations with, where necessary, support from donor agencies.

Guidelines and support for investment formulation

The basic approach for donor or government project finance should be that mechanisms for selecting projects must be flexible and demand-driven. However, in order to attract funds, some basic donor and national standards must be adhered to. Local teams would be encouraged to use the sustainable livelihoods approach (SLA), which ensures a systematic examination of the constraints and opportunities of households in different situations, and would be given training and guidance in its use. Formulation teams would also need to be guided by vulnerability profiles and food security assessments which outline the main vulnerability characteristics of particular groups and communities. There has been progress in providing guidelines for creating these profiles, under the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS) programme (see Box 17). Formulation teams would be helped in creating national document repositories, as part of the development of a solid knowledge base on which to build national programmes. This knowledge base would be central to ensuring that a rolling programme of project development became increasingly effective over time.

BOX 17
Information on food insecurity and vulnerability

Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS) is a creation of the Plan of Action of the 1996 World Food Summit. Its objectives are to:

  • increase global attention to problems of food insecurity;
  • improve data quality and analysis through the development of new tools and capacity
  • building in developing countries;
  • promote effective and better directed action on poverty and hunger reduction;
  • promote donor collaboration on food security information systems at the global and country levels;
  • improve access to information through networking and sharing.

Work on FIVIMS is coordinated through an Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) comprising more than 25 members (UN agencies, the World Bank, bilateral donors, research organizations).

IAWG members are united by a shared commitment to reducing hunger and malnutrition and its multidimensional causes rooted in poverty. Both development agencies and countries need solid information on who the hungry and malnourished are, where they are located, what their livelihood systems are, and why they are in this situation. When they have answers to these questions, development partners at all levels can combine their efforts to reduce food insecurity and human poverty through better policies and better designed and directed interventions.

IAWG members are trying to improve food security information systems around the world and aim to work together more effectively at the country level within the UNDAF and Common Country Assessment (CCA). FIVIMS is making significant progress on the basis of solid technical fieldwork enhanced by new computational and communication technologies. At the country level this involves the diagnosis of existing information systems and analysis of how well they are meeting the multiple needs of different user groups, promoting coordination and more useful products from among information and mapping system partners and mobilizing complementary resources for these efforts as needed..


Financing institutions and donors

Experience has shown that speedy and successful funding of projects comes from close partnerships with the financing institutions and donor agencies. While governments must take the lead in formulating overall programmes, specific development investments are most likely to emerge when potential funding agencies have been involved from the very beginning. For this reason, it would be important, during the process of formulating CFSPs, to work closely with the principal multi- and bilateral agencies by mounting multidonor missions to review the CFSP and by identifying, tentatively, the specific elements that different agencies might finance.

Civil society organizations

NGOs, community-based organizations (CBOs) and other elements of civil society can play a critical role in helping to articulate the disparate needs and priorities expressed by different parts of the target communities which are food-insecure. Governments that are formulating CFSPs should be encouraged to bring representatives of civil society into the process and to call on the knowledge base of these representatives when carrying out vulnerability profiling and other exercises aimed at identifying and characterizing the food-insecure. NGOs and CBOs would be particularly strong allies in carrying out project design work at the community level, and should be provided with technical and financial assistance to enable them to play this role.


The Framework for Action is only a general outline. The details of how to formulate specific investments and the identification of the policy and legislative amendments that are needed must be worked out, on a country-by-country basis, in collaboration with development partners at all levels (international, national and local) and in a fully participatory fashion. At each level, the decision-making process should involve a range of institution types, including not only the UN and government organizations, but also NGOs, CBOs and other elements of civil society. Indeed, at the local level, emphasis should be placed particularly on involving non-governmental and community organizations.

At the national level it would be necessary to create a broad consensus on the implementation modalities and priorities for investment, to integrate existing and planned programmes into the strategy, to ensure strong participation of all relevant organizations and to agree on a set of basic guidelines for local investment plans and project proposals. This task would be the responsibility of an appropriate national agency, preferably one with multisectoral responsibilities, which would be strengthened, as necessary, with appropriately qualified staff, capacity building, equipment and adequate operating resources. Governments would be encouraged to draw on the breadth of skills available from the Food Security and Agriculture Thematic Group. At the local level, it would be necessary to identify the needs and priorities of communities, and to tap the knowledge and skills of local administration and NGOs to facilitate this process.

In the first phase of designing a broad Framework for Action, a critical factor has been the fostering of collaboration among the Bretton Woods and UN organizations, through the Administrative Committee on Co-ordination (ACC). This process would need to be broadened to include other UN agencies, major NGOs and CSOs, multi-and bilateral donors and international research centres. Such a process would stimulate the commitment and active participation of all the main international players and draw on international knowledge and experience from the international research and academic community. Outputs of this would be a coherent strategy for addressing food security on the part of UN agencies and effective ways of providing knowledge resources to those involved in formulating programmes at the national and local levels.

The partner agencies would assist governments in formulating CFSPs in different ways. They would prepare detailed thematic and country-level discussion papers, review existing and planned programmes and reach common agreement on the broad priorities for policy and investment. They would also help to develop effective modus operandi for implementation. Links to other regional groupings such as CILSS and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) would be fostered so that the organizational and technical lessons learned might be assimilated into the process for the Horn of Africa.

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