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Committee on World Food Security takes step towards pro-poor procurement

Added 14 Nov 2012

by Francesca Giubilo

The 39th session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) drew to a close on 20 October. Its final report endorsed some interesting recommendations, including a clear message to support local purchases. Recognising the relevance of local procurement for food security may hint at a positive change in mindset for the years ahead.

Based on the High Level Panel of Experts’ report on social protection and food security, the CFS – the most inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders working on food security and nutrition – recommends that Member States and international organisations should launch programmes aimed at supporting “agricultural livelihoods and productivity for the poor”. In an exhaustive list that includes “production input support” and “agricultural livelihood packages and extension services”, there is a strong message on procurement, supporting “home-grown school feeding that purchases food from local smallholder farmers”. In line with recent Eurodad research, buying locally is recognised as an important way of developing domestic resources and eradicating hunger.

Over the years, pro-poor procurement has come back onto the international agenda, including at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness and the recent Rio+20 meeting. Research conducted by Eurodad highlights how sustainable and public procurement can generate income, reduce costs and support the transfer of skills and technology. Local procurement allows aid monies to have a double dividend and to support domestic enterprises. It helps smallholder farmers to access markets, as well as strengthening farmers’ organisations. Moreover, through the use of country procurement systems, developing countries’ governments can increase their accountability and ownership, which allows them to launch social programmes efficiently and to provide for their own people.

However, the CFS also includes another element in the list above: the “in-kind transfers”, which is problematic. At present, some countries abuse this food delivery system to raise the incomes of their own agribusiness companies, instead of boosting domestic resources. Strong positions must be taken against this form of food assistance. Eurodad has been fighting for smart procurement and untying aid for a long time. For instance, with the support of partner organisations, we are currently calling on the World Bank to review its procurement policies and to promote pro-poor procurement guidelines.

The CFS recommendations are a small step forward in this struggle. Nothing will happen overnight, but now is the time to make faster progress and to convert this positive change in the international mindset towards something concrete.