ActionAid on Aid to Agriculture

A few days ago, our friends at ActionAid USA released the report, “Pledges, Principles and Progress: Aid to Agriculture since L’Aquila,” which presents a new angle on donor L’Aquila pledge progress. The report is a valuable addition to knowledge about the extent to which donor countries are keeping their L’Aquila food security promises, and in my opinion, it jives well with Thrive, our campaign to end global hunger and poverty.

SEE ALSO: What is the L’Aquila Global Food Security Initiative?

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According to the report, while the overall spending level of the 13 L’Aquila donors increased by 60 percent after they made their pledge, several donors, including Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and France, actually decreased their annual aid to agriculture after making a L’Aquila pledge. Of course, financial pledges were not the only pledges that donors made at the L’Aquila summit, but they are a very important indicator of a country’s commitment to addressing hunger and poverty.

The authors of the report also found that less than 25 percent of L’Aquila donors’ total agricultural aid in 2010 went to poor countries with country investment plans for agriculture (see graph). In 2010, Canada channeled by far the largest share of its agricultural aid (60 percent) to countries with plans. Although there’s currently no way to know for sure, I suspect that only a portion of this aid went to programs outlined in the agricultural investment plans of those countries. Hopefully this tide will turn in the near future and L’Aquila donors — together with developing country governments — will publish statistics on the funding of programs aligned with country investment plans for agriculture.

When ActionAid looked at agricultural aid flows by recipient country, they found that unlike other donor countries, Canada was allocating a significant portion of its agricultural aid to hungry countries. In fact, they found that Canada sent almost 50 percent of its agriculture assistance to the 25 hungriest countries according to the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2011 Global Hunger Index. The UK and the US allocated around 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Overall, ActionAid found that there was very little correlation between countries with high rates of hunger and those that receive aid to agriculture from L’Aquila donors. This is one of the reasons that ONE supports concrete impact targets for poverty and malnutrition -– impact targets have the potential to incentivize donors to concentrate on where the need is greatest and where gains can be made.

Country-owned investment plans for agriculture are key to breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger that plagues 1 billion people around the world. There are 30 low income countries with vetted plans. National governments and donor countries, especially the G8, should prioritize the funding of programs in these plans – and be transparent about it too.