Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Progress monitoring is essential to enhance accountability of both donor and recipient country governments to achieve global food security. Shenggen Fan, DG of IFPRI, calls for strengthened commitment and increased cooperation and coordination between traditional and emerging donors.
Constraints of global food policy implementation
Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
Online, 22 Mar 2013. Shenggen Fan, IFPRI Director General, highlights possible ways to overcome constraints to implementation of global food policies, stressing the importance of coordination between donors of the South and North countries.
// Successful food policies in 2012
Platform secretariat: Shenggen, IFPRI's new report throws the light on policies that impact food and nutrition security: in other words, not only food policies, but also trade policies and alike. What have you found is the best development that contributes positively in terms of policies towards food security?
Shenggen Fan: Well, first of all, food policies include policies related to production, technology, processing, consumption and trade. The trade is a core pillar of food policy. For 2012, positive aspect is that, first of all, many donors and national governments have heavily increased their investments in agriculture, and in agricultural research in particular. These countries include India, China, Brazil and some African countries. The donor agencies include Germany, United States and IFAD. They have committed and implemented many programs to support agriculture and food production. And, indeed, we have already seen a tremendous impact of that heavy investment: increased production and productivity, increased smallholder income and poverty reduction. So there have been some positive aspects in terms of food policy in 2012.
The trade is a core pillar of the global food policy.
// Barriers to food security progress
Platform secretariat: On the other side of the medal, what in terms of policies hinders the food security progress mostly?
S.F.: Watch Some of the policies that have hindered the progress of food security, poverty reduction, and hunger reduction have been the same or similar for the last several years. Yes, many countries have increased investments, but many others have not. Many parts of Africa still underinvest in agriculture and agricultural research. South Asia continues to underinvest in agriculture and ARD. And many countries continue to use export bans or import policies to distort the global food markets. And as you know, when everybody try to isolate their markets from international market, it actually increases global market volatility, this would come back to hit individual countries. So we need to work together to make sure that trade is more open, and that there are no trade restrictions, and in particular export bans, otherwise prices continue to rise.
We have also seen a lot of discussions and commitments and promises to increase the investment, to work together, to tackle some trade issues, climate change issues, to link agriculture to health and nutrition. But we have to make sure that these discussions and debates are also converted into actual implementation. At IFPRI, we call it “Walk the talk.”
// Accountability and assessment
Secretariat: We often have the impression, especially on the development arena, that certain policies never grow teeth. Do you have any indication on why that is? How can certain governments claim certain policies that never really put money on it, how can that be?
S.F.: Watch This is probably due to a couple of interrelated and important issues. The first one is clear accountability. If people keep making promises, who is going to make them accountable to meet their promises. Second, we have to develop indicators, some measures to track the progress. When we have the indicators, we can make people accountable. Without these indicators, we will not be able to do that. These two issues are interlinked: the accountability and the way to track and measure the progress.
// Raising agricultural productivity and sustainable consumption
Secretariat: Usually food policies are looking at raising agricultural productivity and all the processes that are related to the amount of food actually produced. There are scientists, for example Tim Lang, that indicate that this is not going to make the trick for very much longer (innovations of processes and so forth). Are you also looking in that context on overconsumption and lifestyle patterns, and what can be done in terms of policies to change the outlook, maybe also family planning and so forth?
S.F.: Watch Well, we do have to produce more. As you know, by 2050 we have 9.3 billion people. So we have to produce 60 per cent more food. In developing countries, the food production has to double. Therefore, we do have to increase food production and productivity. On the other hand, we have a tremendous opportunity to make sure the diet, particularity in rich countries, is sustainable and healthy. For instance, production of beef or any other meet increases water use and greenhouse gas emissions, making a negative impact on the environment. By overconsumption of these commodities, we also need to treat heart diseases, diabetes, and all these chronicle, non-communicable diseases. So our future diet pattern has to be nutritious, sustainable and healthy. The conclusion is that we need to produce more, but on the other hand, we need to make sure that our consumption pattern is sustainable, healthy and nutritious.
Donor countries should also improve the coordination among themselves and engage with emerging donors, such as India, China and Brazil, that also begin to invest in food and agricultural development in many developing countries.
// Liberalisation of trade and price volatility
Secretariat: Coming back to trade liberalisation, since the discussion is very old: do you think that it is not so much about trade liberalisation, but it is more about state interference that creates volatility, especially if the policy changes too often, and the expectation in the market gives rise to speculation, and therefore, prices might go up?
S.F.: Watch Trade liberalisation needs a framework, needs some regulation from a global level. If we have that framework, no country will interfere their markets unilaterally. If they do that to eventually, they will also hurt themselves. These issues are actually interlinked. We know there is a political interest in countries to protect a certain group of people by trade policy. Whether it is a long-term distortion or a short term-interference - any "economic efficiency laws" will cause more volatile global food market, leading to an increased number of hungry and poor people. It will also give a wrong signal to producers. Because producers would face volatile and unpredictable markets. So it is a "lose-lose" proposition, if a country uses a distortive policy to protect a certain group of people in their countries because of some political reasons.
// Cooperation between traditional and emerging donors
Secretariat: We are working for the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development. Donors are also countries with their own interests. What from your findings could be your message to the donors?
S.F.: Watch Well, first of all, I have to acknowledge that some donor countries have been very committed in supporting agriculture and food security. But they need to do more. More investment is needed to support agriculture productivity growth, particularly a smallholder production and productivity. And to support countries' capacity. As you know, L'Aquila declaration aimed to use 22 billion dollars to support countries-led initiatives and programs. So do make sure that donors support will build up the countries' capacity.
Traditional and emerging donors can work together, share the experience, coordinate their interventions and make sure that there is no duplication and no competition. I think, the potential is just great.
Secretariat: Do you have any particular thing in mind, when you think of concrete actions to take forward? What would have the most positive impact?
S.F.: Watch There are many ways. One is to promote mutual learning among developing countries and North-South learning. Data, policies and statistics are weak. So if we can have these countries to set up a good statistical system to monitor their progress and to build their own capacity, then these countries will bring a very strong case to their political constituency to use agriculture to achieve broader development outcomes, such as nutrition, health or overall economic growth. I think, donor countries should also improve the coordination among themselves and engage with emerging donors, such as India, China and Brazil, that have also begun to invest in food and agricultural development in many development countries. Traditional and emerging donors can work together, share the experience, coordinate their interventions and make sure that there is no duplication and no competition. I think, the potential is just great.
// Do you want to respond to this interview?
The interview was conducted by Pascal Corbé of the Platform secretariat.