Foreign Assistance:

Sustained Efforts Needed to Help Southern Africa Recover from Food Crisis

GAO-03-644: Published: Jun 25, 2003. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 2003.

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The southern Africa food crisis threatened 15.3 million people in six countries (Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) with famine. GAO was asked to look at (1) factors that contributed to the crisis, (2) how well the populations' needs were met, (3) obstacles to the food aid effort, and (4) challenges to emerging from crisis.

Multiple factors contributed to the food crisis. Erratic weather reduced maize (corn) production. A poorly functioning agricultural sector caused food supply shortages. Government actions--including the sale of Malawi's grain reserve and Zimbabwe's land reform--further cut available food. Widespread poverty contributed to food insecurity and the HIV/AIDS epidemic exacerbated food shortages by reducing the labor force. Food aid averted famine, but the overall response did not prevent widespread hunger. About 93 percent of the total cereal gap--the difference between domestic needs and production--was met by the end of the April 2002-March 2003 crisis period. However, food aid deliveries fell short in several countries, and vulnerable households had limited ability to purchase commercial maize. Slow donations, poor infrastructure, and concerns about biotech food were major obstacles to an effective response. Excluding the United States, most donors did not make sufficient, timely donations to the World Food Program. Poor transportation systems and storage facilities hampered efficient food delivery. Zambia rejected food aid because of concerns regarding biotech food; other countries required milling maize for the same reason. This compromised the food aid pipeline given the United States was the region's key donor and its aid may contain biotech food. Declining investments in agriculture and the HIV/AIDS epidemic pose challenges to emerging from crisis into sustained recovery. U.N. and U.S. officials cite the need to reverse declining trends in agricultural investments by international financing organizations, national governments, and donors. Without a strategy that integrates, among other things, agricultural development, the impact of HIV/AIDS, and natural disaster management, food crises will recur.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To further food security in the region, the Secretaries of State and Agriculture and the Administrator of USAID should work with international organizations, donors, and national governments to develop a comprehensive, targeted strategy to ensure sustained recovery that (1) integrates agricultural development, HIV/AIDS awareness and action, natural disaster management, and other appropriate interventions; (2) estimates costs and resource requirements; and (3) establishes a plan for mobilizing resources, a timetable for achieving results, and indicators for measuring performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of State: Agency for International Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the GAO recommendation, State, Agriculture and USAID established a Southern Africa Food Security Working Group in 2003 to coordinate U.S. Government policy and programs on assisting southern Africa to achieve sustainable food security. The goal was seen as supportive of the U.S. Government's pledge, made together with 185 other countries at the World Food Summit in 1996 to cut world hunger in half by 2015. The establishment of the Working Group and a related U.S. southern Africa recovery strategy was superseded by the 2003 Presidential Initiative to End Hunger in Africa (IEHA). The IHEA is particularly relevant to the recommendation in the GAO report. The primary objective of IEHA is to rapidly increase sustainable agricultural growth and rural incomes in sub-Saharan Africa. It was established to respond to the 2000 UN Millennium Goal of Cutting Hunger and Poverty in Half by 2015 and various related G-8 summit initiatives on hunger and poverty. As a Presidential Initiative, IHEA implementation is taking place on an interagency basis with USAID in a leadership position. It involves close participation from USDA and the State Department. IEHA places increased emphasis on programs to increase the use of modern technologies, expand credit to farmers, strengthen producer associations, improve the functioning of markets, and enhance economic incentives for farmers and small-scale entrepreneurs. The IHEA calls for a partnership with committed Africa leaders, with their governments and regional organizations, to work and invest in support of a smallholder-oriented, agricultural growth strategy. It recognizes that long-term substantial development in Africa also requires commitments from a wide array of partners, including other donors, the UN and multilateral development institutions, the private sector, universities and other non-government organizations. The IEHA is designed to facilitate active participation with these groups and African national governments and regional organizations. Under the leadership of USAID, IEHA is the vehicle through which the U.S. government meets its G-8 commitments to support implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), an ambitious agricultural effort for Africa. The CAADP was endorsed in 2003 by African heads of state and government under the auspices of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). The IEHA process includes 35 performance indicators to evaluate performance in each African country. These indicators measure food security, hunger and nutrition, agricultural productivity and the political and policy environment for making improvements in food security. In 1996, IHEA operated on a $195 million dollar a year budget which includes $100 million for U.S. Title II food aid, $75.5 million for development assistance, and $19.8 million for the famine fund. IHEA focuses its limited resources on nine countries with the greatest need and the most conducive environment for change (three in southern Africa: Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia). However, IEHA also encourages political and policy changes in other countries that could eventually qualify for more resources to increase food security.

    Recommendation: To further food security in the region, the Secretaries of State and Agriculture and the Administrator of USAID should work with international organizations, donors, and national governments to develop a comprehensive, targeted strategy to ensure sustained recovery that (1) integrates agricultural development, HIV/AIDS awareness and action, natural disaster management, and other appropriate interventions; (2) estimates costs and resource requirements; and (3) establishes a plan for mobilizing resources, a timetable for achieving results, and indicators for measuring performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the GAO recommendation, State, Agriculture and USAID established a Southern Africa Food Security Working Group in 2003 to coordinate U.S. Government policy and programs on assisting southern Africa to achieve sustainable food security. The goal was seen as supportive of the U.S. Government's pledge , made together with 185 other countries at the World Food Summit in 1996 to cut world hunger in half by 2015. The establishment of the Working Group and a related U.S. southern Africa recovery strategy was superseded by the 2003 Presidential Initiative to End Hunger in Africa (IEHA). The IHEA is particularly relevant to the recommendation in the GAO report. The primary objective of IEHA is to rapidly increase sustainable agricultural growth and rural incomes in sub-Saharan Africa. It was established to respond to the 2000 UN Millennium Goal of Cutting Hunger and Poverty in Half by 2015 and various related G-8 summit initiatives on hunger and poverty. As a Presidential Initiative, IHEA implementation is taking place on an interagency basis with USAID in a leadership position. It involves close participation from USDA and the State Department. IEHA places increased emphasis on programs to increase the use of modern technologies, expand credit to farmers, strengthen producer associations, improve the functioning of markets, and enhance economic incentives for farmers and small-scale entrepreneurs. The IHEA calls for a partnership with committed Africa leaders, with their governments and regional organizations, to work and invest in support of a smallholder-oriented, agricultural growth strategy. It recognizes that long-term substantial development in Africa also requires commitments from a wide array of partners, including other donors, the UN and multilateral development institutions, the private sector, universities and other non-government organizations. The IEHA is designed to facilitate active participation with these groups and African national governments and regional organizations. Under the leadership of USAID, IEHA is the vehicle through which the U.S. government meets its G-8 commitments to support implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), an ambitious agricultural effort for Africa. The CAADP was endorsed in 2003 by African heads of state and government under the auspices of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). The IEHA process includes 35 performance indicators to evaluate performance in each African country. These indicators measure food security, hunger and nutrition, agricultural productivity and the political and policy environment for making improvements in food security. In 1996, IHEA operated on a $195 million dollar a year budget which includes $100 million for U.S. Title II food aid, $75.5 million for development assistance, and $19.8 million for the famine fund. IHEA focuses its limited resources on nine countries with the greatest need and the most conducive environment for change (three in southern Africa: Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia). However, IEHA also encourages political and policy changes in other countries that could eventually qualify for more resources to increase food security.

    Recommendation: To maximize the effectiveness of the U.S. response to future food crises in the southern Africa region as well as in other parts of the world, the Secretaries of State and Agriculture and the Administrator of USAID should initiate a comprehensive review of the issues pertaining to biotech foods in emergency food aid. In anticipation of future food crises, this review could consider measures such as (1) encouraging recipient countries to enhance their capacity to make informed decisions regarding agricultural biotechnology and offering technical assistance in this endeavor; (2) identifying which countries are likely to accept, restrict, or reject biotech food aid; and (3) determining ways that the United States can contribute to emergency food aid needs in countries that decide to restrict or reject biotech food aid.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the GAO recommendation, State, Agriculture and USAID initiated a limited review of biotech food aid issues which involved a comprehensive survey of overseas post and have continued to dialogue with host countries in southern Africa regarding biotechnology, providing technical assistance to improve capabilities in this area. Since the 2002 southern Africa food crisis there have been no further significant delays or logistical problems related to biotech food aid. The regional governments' regulations on food transportation have not changed significantly since that time. The USAID Office of Food For Peace, in coordination with State, USDA, and its NGO implementing partners, has adapted the emergency food aid basket to comply with recipient country regulations in order to avoid any issues. Whole grain U.S. corn has not been sent to region since 2002, except to Swaziland, which continues to accept it. U.S. cornmeal and bulgur wheat shipments have increased significantly to those countries which accept processed corn products. Shipments of whole grain sorghum, which is not biotech, have also increased dramatically, especially to programs in Zambia which continues to reject even processed biotech commodities. USAID, State, and Agriculture have launched a number of coordinated biotech initiatives in Africa which address the harmonization of biosafety frameworks; increased biotech outreach and technical assistance to African countries; increased biotech capacity building and communication, and related technology development.

    Recommendation: To maximize the effectiveness of the U.S. response to future food crises in the southern Africa region as well as in other parts of the world, the Secretaries of State and Agriculture and the Administrator of USAID should initiate a comprehensive review of the issues pertaining to biotech foods in emergency food aid. In anticipation of future food crises, this review could consider measures such as (1) encouraging recipient countries to enhance their capacity to make informed decisions regarding agricultural biotechnology and offering technical assistance in this endeavor; (2) identifying which countries are likely to accept, restrict, or reject biotech food aid; and (3) determining ways that the United States can contribute to emergency food aid needs in countries that decide to restrict or reject biotech food aid.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the GAO recommendation, State, Agriculture and USAID initiated a limited review of biotech food aid issues which involved a comprehensive survey of overseas post and have continued to dialogue with host countries in southern Africa regarding biotechnology, providing technical assistance to improve capabilities in this area. Since the 2002 southern Africa food crisis there have been no further significant delays or logistical problems related to biotech food aid. The regional governments' regulations on food transportation have not changed significantly since that time. The USAID Office of Food For Peace, in coordination with State, USDA, and its NGO implementing partners, has adapted the emergency food aid basket to comply with recipient country regulations in order to avoid any issues. Whole grain U.S. corn has not been sent to region since 2002, except to Swaziland, which continues to accept it. U.S. cornmeal and bulgur wheat shipments have increased significantly to those countries which accept processed corn products. Shipments of whole grain sorghum, which is not biotech, have also increased dramatically, especially to programs in Zambia which continues to reject even processed biotech commodities. USAID, State, and Agriculture have launched a number of coordinated biotech initiatives in Africa which address the harmonization of biosafety frameworks; increased biotech outreach and technical assistance to African countries; increased biotech capacity building and communication, and related technology development.

    Recommendation: To maximize the effectiveness of the U.S. response to future food crises in the southern Africa region as well as in other parts of the world, the Secretaries of State and Agriculture and the Administrator of USAID should initiate a comprehensive review of the issues pertaining to biotech foods in emergency food aid. In anticipation of future food crises, this review could consider measures such as (1) encouraging recipient countries to enhance their capacity to make informed decisions regarding agricultural biotechnology and offering technical assistance in this endeavor; (2) identifying which countries are likely to accept, restrict, or reject biotech food aid; and (3) determining ways that the United States can contribute to emergency food aid needs in countries that decide to restrict or reject biotech food aid.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the GAO recommendation, State, Agriculture and USAID initiated a limited review of biotech food aid issues which involved a comprehensive survey of overseas post and have continued to dialogue with host countries in southern Africa regarding biotechnology, providing technical assistance to improve capabilities in this area. Since the 2002 southern Africa food crisis there have been no further significant delays or logistical problems related to biotech food aid. The regional governments' regulations on food transportation have not changed significantly since that time. The USAID Office of Food For Peace, in coordination with State, USDA, and its NGO implementing partners, has adapted the emergency food aid basket to comply with recipient country regulations in order to avoid any issues. Whole grain U.S. corn has not been sent to region since 2002, except to Swaziland, which continues to accept it. U.S. cornmeal and bulgur wheat shipments have increased significantly to those countries which accept processed corn products. Shipments of whole grain sorghum, which is not biotech, have also increased dramatically, especially to programs in Zambia which continues to reject even processed biotech commodities. USAID, State, and Agriculture have launched a number of coordinated biotech initiatives in Africa which address the harmonization of biosafety frameworks; increased biotech outreach and technical assistance to African countries; increased biotech capacity building and communication, and related technology development.

    Recommendation: To further food security in the region, the Secretaries of State and Agriculture and the Administrator of USAID should work with international organizations, donors, and national governments to develop a comprehensive, targeted strategy to ensure sustained recovery that (1) integrates agricultural development, HIV/AIDS awareness and action, natural disaster management, and other appropriate interventions; (2) estimates costs and resource requirements; and (3) establishes a plan for mobilizing resources, a timetable for achieving results, and indicators for measuring performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the GAO recommendation, State, Agriculture and USAID established a Southern Africa Food Security Working Group in 2003 to coordinate U.S. Government policy and programs on assisting southern Africa to achieve sustainable food security. The goal was seen as supportive of the U.S. Government's pledge, made together with 185 other countries at the World Food Summit in 1996 to cut world hunger in half by 2015. The establishment of the Working Group and a related U.S. southern Africa recovery strategy was superseded by the 2003 Presidential Initiative to End Hunger in Africa (IEHA). The IHEA is particularly relevant to the recommendation in the GAO report. The primary objective of IEHA is to rapidly increase sustainable agricultural growth and rural incomes in sub-Saharan Africa. It was established to respond to the 2000 UN Millennium Goal of Cutting Hunger and Poverty in Half by 2015 and various related G-8 summit initiatives on hunger and poverty. As a Presidential Initiative, IHEA implementation is taking place on an interagency basis with USAID in a leadership position. It involves close participation from USDA and the State Department. IEHA places increased emphasis on programs to increase the use of modern technologies, expand credit to farmers, strengthen producer associations, improve the functioning of markets, and enhance economic incentives for farmers and small-scale entrepreneurs. The IHEA calls for a partnership with committed Africa leaders, with their governments and regional organizations, to work and invest in support of a smallholder-oriented, agricultural growth strategy. It recognizes that long-term substantial development in Africa also requires commitments from a wide array of partners, including other donors, the UN and multilateral development institutions, the private sector, universities and other non-government organizations. The IEHA is designed to facilitate active participation with these groups and African national governments and regional organizations. Under the leadership of USAID, IEHA is the vehicle through which the U.S. government meets its G-8 commitments to support implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), an ambitious agricultural effort for Africa. The CAADP was endorsed in 2003 by African heads of state and government under the auspices of the New Partnership for Africa?s Development (NEPAD). The IEHA process includes 35 performance indicators to evaluate performance in each African country. These indicators measure food security, hunger and nutrition, agricultural productivity and the political and policy environment for making improvements in food security. In 1996, IHEA operated on a $195 million dollar a year budget which includes $100 million for U.S. Title II food aid, $75.5 million for development assistance, and $19.8 million for the famine fund. IHEA focuses its limited resources on nine countries with the greatest need and the most conducive environment for change (three in southern Africa: Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia). However, IEHA also encourages political and policy changes in other countries that could eventually qualify for more resources to increase food security.

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