Working with Governments and Civil Groups to “Feed the Future”

By Alex Tung

This is the second in a series of blogs on the Oversight of the Feed the Future Initiative. This post discuses how the initiative works with governments and civil groups in focus countries.

Working with Governments

The Feed the Future Initiative emphasizes “country-owned” plans and “multi-stakeholder partnerships.”  The initiative’s focus countries include Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia in Africa; Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Tajikistan in Asia; and Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and, Nicaragua in Latin America.

The Feed the Future Initiative emphasizes “country-owned” plans and “multi-stakeholder partnerships.” (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The selection of these countries was a controversial issue at the hearing.  The subcommittee on Africa and Global Health’s Ranking member Chris Smith and several panelists questioned the lack of information on the selection process.

Ambassador Patricia Haslach, Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy at the Office of the Coordinator for the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative at U.S. Department of State assured the speakers that a “comprehensive assessment will be available on the website on how this was carried out.”

Dana Rohrabacher, Ranking member of the subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight voiced his apprehension about working with “questionable governments” with “unacceptable” democratic standards such as Cambodia.  He also cited prior misuse of US aid in Ethiopia.  He urged those in attendance to think about whether the initiative is a sound use of US Government’s “money borrowed from China.”

In response, Ms. Haslach explained that the initiative “involves many partners, and good governance is taken into consideration.”

Ms. Jennifer Smith Nazaire, Rwanda Country Representative of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) urged for a more inclusive approach. She hopes the US does not neglect those in need outside the 20 donor countries.

Mr. William Garvelink, Deputy Coordinator for Development Office of the Coordinator for the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said they would continue food aid to other countries outside of the initiative.

To work with those outside the focus countries, Dr. Hans Herren, President of Millennium Institute, who is also a member of the Nourishing the Planet Advisory Group, recommended sharing information with farmers on a regional basis, through organizations such as Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Ms. Lynn Woolsey, member of subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight was concerned that Feed the Future may add and addition “layer of bureaucracy.”  Diane Watson, member of the subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight shared her concerns and hopes that this initiative will be successful in overcoming “bureaucratic blocking” and not repeat the situation in Haiti, where “food and food products in storage are not reaching people.”

For a successful country-led approach, Dr. Herren advised “countries to come forward to make the planning” and “defend their plans.”

There were unanswered questions regarding “funding implications for whole government strategies” and “how well coordinated the donor monies from other countries will be.”  Ms. Nazaire expressed that while she feels that Europeans donors are cooperating well with the US, she could not speak for the other countries.

Involving civil groups and women farmers

Mr. Smith worried that country-led approaches may not involve faith-based organizations.  Ms. Nazaire echoed this by stating Rwanda as an example, where “discussion is not inclusive of civil society.”  But she believes that even though target governments do not automatically think of including them in the process, the US government can and should influence target governments to include civil society in conversation.

Although Ms. Nazaire was thankful for their involvement in the “consultation and design of Feed the Future,” she was concerned that there has been” limited meetings since November that involved local and civil societies,” and the fact that their organization was the only international NGO present at a recent USAID meeting.  She raised a very important question regarding the nature of future civil groups’ participation.  Is the US making all the plans and simply asking civil groups to “check them and give a “yes” or “no” answer?”  She deemed it crucial to involve civil groups in the planning stages.

To work more closely with civil groups, Ms. Evelyn Nassuna, Uganda Country Director of the Lutheran World Relief,  recommended “going to the districts and providing them with the information that is needed.“

The speakers agreed on the importance of including women in the process.  In particular, Mr. Garvelink stated that in involving women, the initiative is more likely to “fulfill children’s needs” and yield “benefits for the family.”

Chairman Carnahan of the Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight hopes to see an approach that is “desegregated by gender.”  Ms. Nassuna agreed and said while she “looked forward making things more accessible to women,” the initiative should remember to “include men” because of the role they play as “partners” and “fathers,” and their support is crucial.

To learn more about working and women’s groups and rural communities, read Women Farmers: An ‘Untapped Solution’ to Global Hunger, The Abooman Women’s Group: We Started Our Own Thing, The Abooman Women’s Group: Working Together to Improve Livelihoods, Decisions or Development?

Read FANRPAN: Working to connect farmers, researchers, and policy makers in Africa and Creating Game Plans for Investment and Policy to Improve Food Security to learn about working with communities through regional organizations.

Visit the Feed the Future Initiative website to learn more about the initiative. To gain more in depth understanding of the hearing, read official announcement of the hearing and statements from speakers on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ website

Alex Tung is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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