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The World Bank’s Mark Cackler on the Bank's newly created Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP).
Mark Cackler has been with the World Bank since 1981 and is currently the manager of the Bank's Agriculture and Rural Development Department. Among his many responsibilities he also represents the World Bank in the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development. Cackler originates from Moline, Illinois in the United States. He has lived in Germany, Finland, Thailand, Malaysia and India. He has degrees in economics from Oberlin College, Ohio (US) and the University of Jyväskylä (Finland), and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Agriculture has often been relatively neglected, by both rich and poor countries, since the 1980s for a variety of reasons. For example, low commodity prices for many years made the expected economic returns unattractive. Some leaders in poor countries thought agriculture was too “old fashioned” and that industry was the only way to develop their economies. Poor countries have sometimes had an anti-rural, anti-agriculture bias for political reasons because city people have disproportionate political power (the opposite is true in many rich countries, of course). Donors supported new priorities such as the environment or HIV/AIDS or girls education, which are vitally important. However, it resulted in “crowding out” investments in agriculture when overall donor budgets were stagnant or declining. And, it must be said, some donor-financed agriculture and rural development projects failed to achieve their expected success.
Even before the recent increase in food prices the World Bank was putting agriculture back on the development agenda. After many years of decline, agriculture lending by the World Bank has been rising since 2004. The World Bank's annual flagship document is the World Development Report (WDR), and the World Development Report 2008 is on ‘Agriculture for Development’. We believe that the WDR 2008 has had a significant impact in increasing attention to the need for greater investments in agriculture throughout the world. We have also tried to work intensively with other donors and with developing countries to respond to the food crisis, including the creation of a US$1.2 billion facility ( the Global Food Crisis Response Program; GFRP) to finance short-term and medium-term measures. This also includes immediate safety nets to protect the most vulnerable today, and support for agriculture investments to produce more food and raise rural incomes in the future.
Agriculture was a major sector discussed at the Accra High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. Accordingly, the World Bank’s Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP) also seeks to be very effective. It is based on a number of different dimensions, across time (including support for short-term and medium-term needs), across countries (with different vulnerabilities to both food and energy price shocks), across sectors (e.g., agriculture, health, social protection and energy), and across instruments (budget support to help mitigate short-term financial stresses, safety net programmes for the most vulnerable and investment lending to stimulate an agricultural supply response). The GFRP is also based on working across organisations with (a) governments and other stakeholders, including civil society organisations, in the affected countries, and (b) donor partners in a way that is consistent with the Paris Declaration principles of ownership, alignment, harmonisation, managing for results and mutual accountability.
With respect to ownership, a basic principle of the GFRP is that a country can select from a large comprehensive menu of possible interventions, depending on its own specific needs. One size most definitely does not fit all, and through the GFRP countries can receive support for activities as varied as:
With respect to alignment, harmonisation, managing for results and mutual accountability, the food price situation has to a large extent built upon the successful experiences on the global response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). Different agencies have supported each other in a variety of ways; the World Bank's advocacy for greatly increased funding for WFP's emergency food programmes is one example. A UN High Level Task Force, chaired by Ban Ki-moon, is functioning, and different agencies have made significant shifts in their internal budgets and staffing deployments to respond to a common cause. The Global Donor Platform for Rural Development has been an important mechanism for information sharing at the global level.
The WDR 2008 makes a strong analytical case for the need to support a strong smallholder agriculture sector, especially in Africa. Good policies in both rich and poor countries are mostly needed, including the reduction in rich country subsidies that hurt farmers in poor countries. More and better investments throughout the entire food chain are essential. This includes basic agricultural research (especially in the face of climate change), the security of land tenure, better access to inputs such as good seeds, fertilizer and water, and support to infrastructure (roads, markets, ports). Furthermore, access to better financial services, including exciting new risk management tools such as weather-based insurance are vital. There is no single magic bullet. Rather the entire value chain needs to be looked at, recognising that environmental sustainability, including forests and fisheries, and gender equity are not “nice to have”, but are essential to a healthy productive agricultural sector.
Yes we do, but in addition, the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action should be implemented in the agricultural sector. Ownership of development, alignment of efforts and mutual accountability, as well as participation of CSOs and people’s movements, must be basic principles in agricultural development, just as in any other sector.
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