Responding to the food crisis: Synthesis of medium-term measures proposed in inter-agency assessments

Executive summary

The food crisis of 2008 provoked a strong coordinated response from the world community and exposed fundamental problems in the agrofood sector, which continue. Prices remain high in many domestic markets of developing countries, and the risk of future volatility persists. The present economy-wide crisis creates severe economic and social difficulties, which aggravate agricultural problems and the food situation -particularly for least-developed countries and small farmers - and which require stronger actions. More than ever, agriculture-led growth appears to be a major element in the fight against poverty. The Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA) adopted in July 2008 provides a joint strategy and action plan based on two sets of approaches to promote a comprehensive response to the global food crisis. The first set focuses on the immediate needs of vulnerable populations, including boosting small farmer food production. The second set aims to build long-term resilience and contribute to global food and nutrition security. The CFA also underlines the need to strengthen the global information and monitoring system.

Among the numerous activities carried out in the context of this coordinated response are a series of inter-agency assessments (IAAs). These include full-fledged IAA missions and rapid appraisals in the context of the European Commission (EC) Food Facility, conducted between early 2008 and early 2009 in nearly 60 countries (Annex 1). This synthesis report aims to identify the priority actions, measures and policies that have emerged from the IAAs, at both the national and global levels. The IAAs confirm the necessity, recognized in all international fora, to increase investments in agriculture substantially, through both physical and human capital, and to give higher priority to agriculture in all domestic and international policies. This requires significant additional funding, better coordination from the donor community and greater attention to food and agriculture in domestic policies and public expenditure. The IAAs give some indication of financial requirements and show that there is still an important gap, in spite of the support programmes that are being implemented or are envisaged. More generally, the IAAs show the need to articulate short- and medium-term actions and to start the medium-term actions immediately. These require an integrated approach at several levels: i) addressing the agricultural system as a whole, and not through piecemeal actions on isolated factors; ii) giving more emphasis to the upstream and downstream sectors, notably to improve the participation of smaller farmers and the private sector in general; and iii) ensuring that non-agricultural policies (fiscal, social, environmental, etc.) contribute to the strengthening of the agrofood sector. Improving this policy and institutional coherence requires strengthened capacity building, particularly for farmers' groups strengthen the regional approach.

The IAAs were carried out through a coordinated programme by international and regional agencies working in close cooperation with each of the countries concerned, often with the participation of other stakeholders, such as donors or organizations. Although they have different methodologies and contents, all the IAAs cover actions required in both the short and medium terms, and most provide details of financial requirements. They are based on a concrete analysis of the situation and problems faced in each country, and propose policies and actions that are often innovative. This synthesis report has been prepared in the framework of the FAO Initiative on Soaring Food Prices (ISFP) programme, in close cooperation with the other agencies involved in the process (in particular, WFP drafted Chapter 2 and reviewed it together with FAO). It is based entirely on the IAAs and does not aim to be another comprehensive report on food and agricultural strategies. It presents the IAA outcomes thematically, covering the key issues of safety nets, strengthened agricultural production, markets and trade measures, and other general issues from across the agrofood system. It underlines the need for a global approach that combines all of these measures. It summarizes the conclusions and seeks to identify concrete recommendations, which are presented at the beginning of the report. The synthesis report can be seen as an original contribution to a dynamic action-oriented process that should be continued in a coordinated manner by the competent institutional frameworks.