Be Like Spiderman
(A speech delivered by Soc Banzuela, Alternate Asian CSO Representative to the Global Agriculture Food Security Program (GAFSP) Steering Committee, in one of the Sessions during the Spring Meetings of World Bank in Washington D.C., 19 April, 2013)
Good afternoon friends and colleagues. I take this session as an opportunity to dialogue with our northern CSO counterparts and to our friends in IFC and WB Coordination Unit.
I am Soc Banzuela, national coordinator of PAKISAMA, a national confederation of peasant organizations in the Philippines. We are a member of Asian Farmers Association (AFA), an Asian Confederation of 12 national farmers federations in ten countries in three regions of Asia, providing Secretariat services to the Asian CSO representative to the GAFSP Steering Committee, Dr. Saing Yang Koma. I sit as his Alternate and have attended four Steering Committee meetings, with two other CSO representatives one representing African farmers, ROPPA, and the other the Northern NGOs, Action Aid. I have conducted two missions in Bangladesh, three missions in Nepal, two missions in Mongolia, and one mission in Cambodia over the past two and a half years. Most of the projects funded by GAFSP in 18 countries, are still in the start up stage. Bangladesh, one of the early grantees has just recruited and deployed its 700 project personnel to help enhance the production and income of some 350,000 farmers located in two regions. Thus, we cannot show you much yet in terms of outcomes.
But what I would like to do this afternoon is to show you a 5-minute video on the possibilities of GAFSP. The video is about our 18-year experience on how we successfully engaged government in a food security project in the Philippines. The video will try to demonstrate the key issues we push in the GAFSP Board room and in our field missions. (video showing of PECUARIA).
I have three points to make.
Firstly, on project development. as shown in the video, we have been insisting in GAFSP three things:
One, it is important for farmers to have control, access, and ownership of the basic food security endowments such as land, seeds, production capital, and agro-ecological production technology.
Two, it is important to have access and control over the market.
and three, it is important to have strong cooperatives, farmers organizations, to be able to achieve the first and the second.
These are possible in the GAFSP but project development is a key challenge.
The GAFSP project framework document already has provisions allowing country proponents to include these components in their respective project proposals. But project development, as we all know, is in itself a battlefield. While country-led, very few proposals received so far from IDA countries have had the benefit of organized CSO input, thus, most of the projects that are eventually funded have no land tenure component and are not very strong in ensuring agro-ecological approaches in enhancing production nor in building capacity of farmers’ organizations to perform higher level intervention such as in marketing , post-harvest /agro-processing, value-addition and governance. GAFSP provides for multi-stakeholdership and encourages CSO participation in various levels and processes. A new call for proposal for public sector window has been opened and will close on June 5. But it has been quite a challenge to organize CSOs in IDA countries to engage their respective governments in coming out with proposals that would include the above-mentioned components. We hope we can inform our CSO counterparts in IDA countries to do exactly this. And once the projects are funded in accordance with these themes, that we encourage them to actively participate in the implementation by insisting their participation in the national project steering committees, in monitoring and evaluation, and in providing technical assistance to farmers and their organizations.
The second point I want to make is on GAFSP Governance. GAFSP I think provides one of the most innovative governance structures among the current global programs and has shown its commitment to multi-stakeholdership and inclusivity not only by including CSO participation at the highest policy making body such as the Steering Committee but by ensuring a tradition of consensus decision-making in Board processes, thanks to the previous and current leaderships. But there are elements that we agree must continue to undergo improvement such as the cohesion of the private and public sector windows, the loan and grant components, and CSO participation in the private sector window processes. Given the 14 funded projects and the forthcoming projects, what can be done to ensure the private sector window, providing concessional loans, will be able to build on the public sector window-funded projects and help build smallholders power not only in production arena but also in the market as well? These are exactly the themes we would like to discuss in our forthcoming meeting on the 22nd of April. Laura has shown to us the direction of IFC, of working with an institution that supports farmers cooperatives producing fairly-traded agri-ecological products. To me this is already a big step at the right direction even as we CSO representatives hold the view that perhaps IFAD should be the one to handle the private sector window given its experience and commitment to working with agricultural cooperatives and that focus on production must address more the domestic food security needs of IDA countries. I believe we will be able to reach an arrangement acceptable to all stakeholders.
The third and final point I want to make is about Synergy and Responsibility. GAFSP was born out of the 2008 global food crisis. The number of hungry people grew by 46 million people last year even while governments promised in 1996 World Food Summit to halve the 824 million figure (at 1990-1992 baseline) of undernourished people by 2015. This magnitude of hungry people in Sub-sahara and Asian countries, which are largely rural and female, is just so scandalous given we know that another third of the global population is obese and over-fed and that global budget for the war industry ridicules global budget for food security. GAFSP, I believe, given the stakeholders involved, is in a unique position to make a big difference. GAFSP can provide the global standards and leadership in effectively waging war against hunger and poverty. But we barely raised five percent of the original 22 billion dollars original target for the facility. And the demand is so huge.
We would need to continue to improve ourselves and find innovative ways to bring about greater synergy and cooperation among various stakeholders. I don’t think this is a choice. It is an imperative. And I think CSOs, especially, northern NGOs, may just have to take greater leadership in continuing to remind and engage especially donor governments and multi-lateral institutions, who are key players in a funding facility such as GAFSP, to be like Spiderman, to exercise greater responsibility in proportion to their powers, to reach out to the hungriest and the poorest and to collectively facilitate their empower ment process leading to transformed lives and transformed societies.