Secretariat: How would you describe Sweden's engagement in agriculture, rural development and food systems? What are the current priorities of your government?
Elisabeth: With a new government since September, it is too early to tell what the differences will be in development aid for agriculture and rural development. What we do know is that the foreign aid target will not go below 0.8% of gross national income. Trade collaborations for aid will also become more important in the future.
Historically, around 5% of Sida’s total budget is focused directly on agriculture and rural development, going, for example, to supporting cooperatives. There's also been a shift from more focus on agronomy to being more integrated with other strategies like economic development, climate and the environment.
About 90% of our funding towards agriculture development and SDG2 is shared between multilateral institutions and civil society organizations, with the majority going to Africa and the MENA region.
Secretariat: How do you see Sida's priorities blend with those of other members in the donor community? How do you collaborate and coordinate with other donors? Could you share some examples?
Elisabeth: Since Brexit, more of our coordination is shaped within the European Union. Sida’s work is guided by five perspectives: a focus on poverty, based on rights, with a conflict perspective, fostering equality, and environment and climate. We look for like-minded colleagues who share similar perspectives.
Our collaborations also depend on thematic areas. In general, we collaborate a lot with Norway and Canada, working together with organizations like ONE UN initiatives and supporting NGOs and CSOs. With NORAD, for example, we've supported the programme Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment, a collaboration through UNDP, implemented by UN Women, FAO and IFAD, in Nepal, Niger, Pacific Islands. Tanzania and Tunisia.
With the Scandinavians, we share some history, so we talk a lot together. Historically, we developed our strengths based on our own development. Finland is strong in forestry, Norway on fishery and aquaculture, and Sweden on farmer cooperative organisations. Before Sida, I was a scientist working at ICRAF in Vietnam and got involved with the Forest Farm Facility, a Sida-funded FAO program which seeks to integrate sustainable food systems through increased agrobiodiversity. This approach works in many countries through big farmer organisations and where it is possible to make a change.