UK overseas aid ignoring small scale agriculture

UK overseas aid ignoring small scale agriculture


3rd February, 2010

Department for International Development (DfID) accused of failing to support long-term agricultural programmes and being obsessed with an ‘industrial model’ of food production

MPs have criticised the Department for International Development (DfID) for overseeing a decline in support for agriculture in international development and ignoring the needs of smallholder farmers who make up the bulk of food production in less industrialised countries.

A new report, ‘Why no thought for food?’, from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agriculture and Food for Development, revealed that spending on agricultural programmes currently makes up just 3 per cent of DfID’s total annual aid expenditure.

Sub-Saharan Africa

In sub-Saharan Africa, where hunger and malnutrition are pronounced, agriculture spending is just 0.3 per cent of the DFID’s total aid spend.

MPs called on DfID and the UK Government to raise that figure and commit to 10 per cent of overseas aid to food security and sustainable agriculture.

They said the funding should, as the findings of the groundbreaking IAASTD report recommended in 2008, focus efforts on small scale farmers, especially women smallholders.


The report said 500 million smallholder farmers across the less industrialised world faced a daily struggle to produce and provide enough food for their families and the 2 billion people they support.

It highlighted that in many parts of Africa women farmers make up to 70 per cent of the total agricultural workforce.

The report also said DfID aid should focus on safeguarding the farmers against unfair land tenure and inheritance and helping them gain access to microcredit facilities.

MPs also called for increased and longer-term funding for the World Food Programme (WFP) to enable it to work on extended projects. They also called for an end trade-distorting subsidies that discriminated against the poorest countries in the world.

These kinds of measures, rather than continued support for short term policies like fertiliser, seeds or the dumping of excess commodity produce in the form of food aid, ‘will help countries bring themselves out of hunger,’ said the report.

DfID reluctance

Patrick Mulveny, senior policy advisor at Practical Action and part of the global agricultural NGO, The UK Food Group, said the MPs’ report had sent a ‘wake-up call’ to DFID to implement the findings of the International Assessment on Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report.

The IAASTD called for a reversal of international development policies and a move away from chemically intensive farming towards promoting localised agro-ecological solutions.

Mulveny, who as part of The UK Food Group, made similar calls for a focus of aid towards the production of food by local food producers, said there was still a ‘reluctance by DfID to be able to visualise a food system which does not have industrial production at its heart.’

Dfid say the UK government has pledged £1.1bn for agriculture and food security for the next three years. They also pointed out a number of on-going programmes they had in Africa that showed their commitment to long-term agricultural programmes.

Useful links
All Parliamentary Group for Food and Agricultural Development

The UK Food Group report: More aid for African agriculture
Dfid case studies on agricultural aid spending
IAASTD report

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