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Brussels, 24 June 2011

Examples of EU actions to address food insecurity and EU cooperation with FAO, IFAD and WFP

Reducing the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015 is a priority for the European Union and has also been set by the international community as the first Millennium Development Goal. Chronic hunger affects 925 million people worldwide - most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa and in South Asia. The recent rise in food prices has pushed an additional 44 million people into poverty in low- and middle-income countries.

The European Commission considers food security to be a key area where the EU can best support developing countries' efforts to speed up progress towards achieving MDGs. Adopted in May 2010, the EU policy on food security has laid out a comprehensive framework to step up investment in sustainable agriculture and improve access to adequate and nutritious food. In parallel and in close coordination, the EU policy on humanitarian food assistance was adopted, outlining the EU's commitment to provide food assistance in the most efficient and effective manner, using the tools that are most appropriate for a given crisis context (food aid, cash and vouchers etc.) Moreover, the Green Paper consultation on the future of EU Development Policy carried out earlier this year clearly identified agriculture and food security as key areas for the EU in order to promote inclusive and green growth in partner countries.

EU tools to promote food security

For the period 2007-2013, the EU food security policy is financed through three types of instruments:

  • The implementation of food security policy at national and regional level is supported by geographical financial instruments. Under the current EDF, Africa alone has received over €1 billion.

  • Food security issues at global, continental and regional level are addressed by the Food Security Thematic Programme (FSTP). Under the FSTP about €250 million per annum are committed.

  • To respond rapidly to the problems caused by the 2007 - 2008 food crisis in developing countries, the €1 billion Food Facility was launched in 2008. This instrument was designed to counter the rising food insecurity that has been striking millions of people in the poorest countries, through boosting agricultural production, facilitating access to food and by supporting microcredit, investment, equipment, infrastructure and training.

In addition, the EU addresses acute food insecurity and nutrition needs through its humanitarian budget; Humanitarian food assistance is the single largest aid sector. From 2007 to 2010, more than € 1,100 million have been allocated to food assistance to the most vulnerable crisis-affected populations.

EU cooperation with the UN agencies

There has been a continuous global increase of the Commission funding to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD).

Cooperation with the FAO

The European Union became a member of FAO in 1991. In 2004, a Strategic Partnership Agreement was established between the EU and the FAO with the aim of enhancing the effectiveness of both partners in their efforts to achieve common goals and objectives in the field of development and humanitarian affairs. The partnership focuses on fostering closer collaboration areas like: food security, sustainable rural development and agricultural policies, food and quality, natural resources management, etc.

The EU contributions to FAO extra budgetary resources in 2010 were around €80 million, where Africa is the first beneficiary. Most of the projects were related to food security operations.

Following the adoption of the €1 billion Food Facility in response to the food crisis, cooperation with the three agencies has further intensified, as they are the main implementing channels of Food Facility funds. With one of the main objectives of the Facility being increased agricultural productivity, a major part of the funds is being channelled through FAO.

8 contribution agreements were signed with FAO covering a total of 31 projects in 28 countries for an amount of €229 million (54% for Africa, 33% for Asia and Pacific and 13% for Latin America and Caribbean). In total, more than 500 million people in the world benefited from the Food Facility's support.

Cooperation with WFP

WFP is primarily considered a humanitarian partner providing large-scale emergency food assistance. Thus, the EC's support to WFP is mainly provided from the humanitarian budget. Support has also been provided to support vulnerable populations in the transition phase (food for work, food for training, nutritional interventions, local purchases) through the Food Facility, the Food Security Thematic Programme (FSTP) and geographical instruments. The EU is the only permanent observer in the WFP's Executive Board.

The European Union is the second largest donor to WFP but the first one in cash contributions with a total of €220 million in 2010, €193 million of which was for emergency food assistance to help the most vulnerable crisis-affected populations.

Cooperation with IFAD

Cooperation with IFAD is centred on agricultural research support; it has been further reinforced by a more structured cooperation, particularly in Africa.

Since 1978, the EU has co-financed 27 IFAD rural development projects in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Eastern Europe, totalling more than €100 million.

In 2009, IFAD and EU signed two agreements to support farmers' organisations in Africa (€5 million) and to finance operations through the EU Food Facility (€31.7 million).

Concrete results on the ground

  • In Pakistan, farmers have been producing less over the past three years because the cost of seeds and fertilizers has shot up, while food prices also increased due to dry weather. Last year, farmers managed to stop the downward spiral thanks to assistance through a joint EU, WFP and FAO project under the EU Food Facility. Instead of going into debt, 23,000 Pakistan farmers received 400 kg of wheat from the WFP to take them through the lean season before harvest. This enabled them to buy seeds, fertilizers and water pumps that growers used to plant a bumper crop. In irrigated areas the production has almost doubled because of the quality input received. Bakhtawar Mai, a smallholder farmer involved in the project finally grew enough food to feed her family. “My harvest was excellent last year. I produced almost twice as much wheat as I did the year before,” Bakhtawar Mai says. While WFP is providing food assistance, FAO helps small-scale farmers increase their production – in 2009 close to 100,000 of the Pakistan farmers received agricultural inputs. The overarching aim is to make more food available for over 1 million of the country's most vulnerable.

  • In Guatemala, the Food Facility allowed 14,000 small-holders farmers' families to receive fertilizer; "This is a great help to families living in extreme poverty and who have no money to buy fertilizer," says Beteta Arnulfo, a farmer who lives with his wife and three children in the community of Mines, in the Quiché Department. Now they can produce more maize, which represents a better income and an increase in stocks for consumption.

  • In Zimbabwe, in 2009 the EU together with the FAO started a major operation in support of small scale farmers, financed under the Food Facility. 26 000 tons of seeds and fertilizers were distributed to 176 000 vulnerable farmers - representing between 10 to 15 percent of communal farmers in the country.

  • In Nepal, the Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) supports WFP for the distribution of food to Bhutanese refugees who were part of a Nepalese community evicted from Bhutan in the 1990s and who have been since living in camps. This is considered a "forgotten" crisis. Whilst many of these refugees have been resettled in third countries, those still in the camps are dependent on the international community since Nepal does not allow them to carry out any official economic activity and there is no agreement on their possible return to Bhutan. Since 2001, ECHO has provided funding of more than € 30 million, mostly channelled through WFP.

  • In Haiti, after the earthquake in January 2010, the EU funded emergency food supplies through the WFP to the victims in the immediate aftermath.  The disaster also meant that the population's livelihoods were severely paralysed, depriving them of the income on which they relied to feed their families. Damage to the port also meant that rice imports were limited, leading to shortages and high prices in the markets. It was therefore decided that the population would need a combination of food commodities and cash support. Food was provided through the WFP to compensate for rice shortages, and the cash compensated for livelihood losses.

See also

IP/11/782: The Commission and the UN agencies team up to fight food insecurity

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