There has never been a greater need for coordinated donor investments and collaboration that align with the needs and priorities of partner countries. How can this be improved, particularly at the country level? What are some good practices on donor cooperation for food systems and rural development?

This interview series explores some of the thinking behind these questions, and took place alongside the GDPRD's workstream on donor coordination. For a summary of the workstream research and recommendations, read the full report here.

Juan Echanove

Associate Vice-President, Food and Water Systems, CARE

Juan Echanove is the Associate Vice-President, Food and Water Systems, at CARE.

GDPRD Secretariat/Michelle Tang: Food systems and donor coordination are both very complex processes that require high levels of coordination on their own. What are some practical and feasible ways to improve donor coordination on food systems? What have been the main challenges and barriers to good coordination at the country level?

Juan Echanove: I'm going to start by saying that donor coordination is always important in food systems, even more so now, as the world is facing this horrific food crisis which is affecting almost every country in the Global South, and in so many ways. So that when the resources are that scarce, there is a strong case to be more efficient, and basically that is what donor coordination is all about.

There are quite a number of positive things that different donors have been trying in the past in terms of aligning their priorities and establishing platforms, such as the coalitions that have been created after the UN Food System Summit. or also the pathways for Food Systems Transformation, which were also result of the UN Food Systems Summit, they create really very good foundation for that donor coordination. Those are really great starting points,

Still, as you said, there are many difficulties at the country level. Donors have their own agendas, and those agendas often are contradictory. They can be very, very political. So, sometimes what we really need is a space for negotiating priorities amongst donors, and also recognizing the political nature of those agendas and that donors have different interests.

We must create a space of mutual trust for donors to talk to each other, negotiate and in principle be able to join forces together. But definitely the most important thing to me is that the processes are to be driven by the governments of the recipient countries. We should talk about the priorities of the country, priorities of the people, not priorities of the donors.

Michelle: The process of this workstream has included key informant interviews of high-level participants from donor countries and international organizations like yourself. How can we bring this process closer to countries, to the people who we are serving as most of them would not have a place at the table? Is there scope for the process to be more inclusive?

Juan: Totally, and it has to be more inclusive. It would not make any difference if, at the end of the day, we set up a perfect coordination mechanism that really does not cascade to the level or affects the people day-to-day. So that basically means making sure that not only governments at national level, but also at sub-national level, regions, localities, and municipalities have a seat on the table, and they are part of this process.

Also important is to make sure all the different stakeholders, aside of the government bodies, are part of this process, that they have a say and can influence on our priorities. And that includes of course the private sector, but also farming organizations, women organizations, food producers etc.

The process has to be inclusive because from experience, there were segments in society and particularly women farmers, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups face a hard time to raise their voice and be listened to when there is dialogue on food systems. So, we have to be very intentional in creating the opportunity also for women farmers to have a say in these processes.

Another thing I would like to mention is accountability. There are mechanisms to make sure that people can make donors accountable. For instance, in CARE, we promote something we call Community Score Cards, which is a very simple tool for communities themselves to evaluate the quality of the programmes they are getting. Accountability is very important as a way to engage society in this coordination process.

Michelle: What are the essential ingredients to good coordination, the so-called building blocks that need to be in place? Could you share some examples or good practices from your experience?

Juan: Absolutely, I'm going to start with as I mentioned before, alignment with the priorities of the country. And maybe a good example is what the aid delivery mechanism called budget support. This is something many donors have been trying in the past, which basically means that in funding on the State budget of the country, upon the requirement that the country will fulfill certain conditions Such as progressing in reducing food insecurity, or malnutrition.

Transparency is also key. All donors should be sharing their evaluations and their plans, which unfortunately, is not always the case.

Also finding ways for blending the different mechanisms for putting forward their programs. There is no reason why donors should duplicate similar programs if they can do that together, so there is a call for generosity on the side of the donors, to understand that unless they are looking for better coordination, what they are trying to do will not be efficient and they will pay back negatively because our food systems are broken and unless we fix them what we will see is more poverty, more migration, and communities which are less resilient and poorer, all over the world.

Photo: ©IFAD/Flavio Ianniello

The GDPRD conducted a year-long workstream on donor coordination in 2023, which culminated in the final report  "From Rhetoric to Reality: Donor coordination for food systems transformation".



Latest Interviews


Maurizio Navarra

Secretariat Coordinator at the
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rome/Italy


Michelle Tang

Secretariat Communications at the
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Rome/Italy