This blog entry by U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin was originally posted to the Department of the Treasury website May 18, and is in the public domain. There are no publication restrictions.
At this weekend’s G-8 Summit at Camp David, President Obama and his counterparts will discuss an important global initiative to promote food security in Africa. Helping poor countries improve agricultural productivity and boost the incomes of smallholder farmers is a priority for the United States and many of our partners in the international community. The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) is one of the most effective ways the United States is supporting the effort to end hunger and poverty. Last week, during a visit to a rice cooperative in the small, West African nation of Togo, I had the opportunity to see first-hand the tremendous impact this U.S.-led, multilateral initiative is having on the lives of some of the world’s poorest farmers.GAFSP is the multilateral component of President Obama’s Feed the Future (FTF) initiative and represents a unique partnership between donors, partner countries, civil society, and multilateral development institutions to scale up financing for agriculture in the poorest countries. The fund provides financing through a competitive process to countries that have in place technically sound agricultural development strategies. To date, GAFSP has awarded $481 million to twelve countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. These grants are expected to raise the incomes of 7.5 million smallholder farmers and their families.
Togo is an excellent example of how African countries are transforming their agricultural sector. Togo was the first country in West Africa to develop an agricultural development strategy through the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program – an African Union-endorsed process that emphasizes country ownership, evidence-based decision making, and broad consultation with interested stakeholders. In June 2010, Togo received one of the first grants from GAFSP ($39 million) to support agricultural productivity growth through adoption of technology, increased value addition, and promotion of agricultural diversification. The GAFSP grant helped to mobilize additional financing of $90 million from other development partners such as the African Development Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Bank and the West African Development Bank.
Togo and its development partners have only just begun implementing the national agricultural development strategy, but already 19,000 farmers have benefited from the program as a result of GAFSP support. Last week, in Togo, I had the chance to meet with a few of them in the small town of Mission-Tové, on the outskirts of Togo’s capital city. There, Togo’s agricultural potential was on full display. Whereas most Togolese farmers subsist on crops grown on unfertilized, unirrigated plots, the rice cooperative I met in Mission-Tové was producing commercial volumes of rice seed on large, irrigated paddies. The manager of the cooperative’s seed storage facility proudly showed me the bags of seed, stacked floor-to-ceiling. Togo’s Agriculture Minister highlighted the positive impact that the GAFSP project has had, noting that the Togo aims to replicate the success throughout the country.
Projects like the one I visited in Togo represent the first steps of a global effort to tackle the long-term challenge of food security. The GAFSP Steering Committee (comprised of representatives from donor countries, potential recipient countries, civil society, and multilateral development institutions) will make approximately $180 million in additional awards at its next meeting on May 22.
Once those awards are made, no additional resources will be available until GAFSP’s donors fulfill their remaining pledges to the fund. Seven donors have pledged $1.1 billion to GAFSP: the United States, Canada, Spain, South Korea, Australia, the Gates Foundation, and the Netherlands. Approximately $700 million has been paid in to date. The United States, which has contributed $302 million to GAFSP to date, is likely to complete its $475 million pledge in the next year, through $39 million in transfers from USAID and Treasury’s FY 2013 budget request of $134 million.
Even then additional new commitments will be necessary to meet the strong demand for GAFSP’s resources (at the May 22 meeting, the Steering Committee will be considering proposals from 18 countries totaling approximately $750 million). This is why it is critical that we make 2012 the year to help sustain the GAFSP fund so that it can be a long-term partner for countries like Togo.
Neal S. Wolin is Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.