FAO Special Programme for Food Security. (Focus)

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In 1994, the FAO Director-General initiated a review of the Organizations priorities, programmes and strategies, which concluded that improving food security should be reaffirmed as its top priority, and the urgent need for its programmes to focus more sharply on increasing food production, improving stability of supplies and generating rural employment, thus contributing to more accessible supplies. The Director-General also proposed that FAO should launch a Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), focused on the 86 Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs)--countries least able to meet their food needs with imports. This approach was endorsed by the 1996 World Food Summit, with a Plan of Action in the following areas: ensuring enabling conditions; improving access to food; producing food; increasing the role of trade; dealing adequately with disaster; and investing in food security.

SPFS commenced its operations in late 1994. A budget of $10 million was provided for the 1996/1997, 1998/1999, and 2000/2001 bienniums. Its main objective is to help LIFDCs to improve food security at the national and household levels, through rapid increases in food production and productivity, by reducing year-to-year variability in production on an economically and environmentally sustainable basis and by improving people's access to food. The underlying assumption is that in most LIFDCs viable and sustainable means of increasing food availability exist but are not realized because of a range of constraints that prevent farmers from responding to needs and opportunities. By working with farmers and other stakeholders to identify and resolve such constraints, whether they are of a technical, economic, social, institutional or policy nature, and to demonstrate ways of increasing production, SPFS should open the way for improved productivity and broader food access. Its formulation is a national responsibilit y, supported as necessary by FAO, and usually carried out by a team of government staff or national consultants, guided by a Steering Committee, bringing together representatives of the public and private sectors, farmers' organizations and in some countries NGOs active in the rural sector.

The South-South Cooperation Scheme under SPFS strengthens cooperation among developing countries at different stages of development, with the support of interested donor countries and FAO. It allows countries to benefit from the experience and expertise of more advanced developing countries, who provide a considerable number of experts for two to three years to work in the recipient countries, directly with farmers in rural communities involved in SPFS. FAO launched the South-South Cooperation Scheme at the beginning of 1997. In addition, arrangements to support SPFS have been made under the programme for technical cooperation between developing countries (TCDC).

SPFS is also a vehicle for collaboration between FAO and its development partners. When FAO receives a request from a member country for the initiation of the Special Programme, the organization initiates discussions with interested development partners--bilateral and multilateral--as well as with NGOs and the private sector, through its representation offices at the country level. Where concrete agreements are reached, joint missions are organized at the formulation stage, as well as during the implementation process, to monitor progress and ensure the achievement of the Programmes objectives.

SPFS: Structure and Dimensions

In June 2001, SPFS was operational in 64 countries covering more than two thirds of the countries listed as LIFDC. The regional division is as follows: Africa, 38 (LIFDC coverage, 86%); Asia, 14 (58%); Europe, 2 (67%); Latin America, 8 (86%); and Oceania, 2 (33%). SPFS is in various stages of formulation in another 17 countries. Besides LIFDCs, more and more developing countries are coming forward to implement SPFS and managing to find resources to do so--examples are Zimbabwe, Uganda, Peru and South Africa. …