New analysis tool shows low support for agroecology in international and national agricultural funding in Africa
With increasing global consensus on the need to support a transition to sustainable agricultural practices, the Partnership for Social Accountability (PSA) Alliance has launched an innovative tool to assess the degree to which national budgets and overseas development assistance (ODA) in Africa support a transition to agroecology.
In response to growing interest in the potential of agroecology to improve food security, reduce poverty and improve resilience to climate change, African countries are explicitly adopting agroecology in their national agricultural frameworks as a holistic approach to transforming their agricultural and food systems to meet the commitments of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 more effectively.
This transformation, however, requires substantive investment (both in mindset changes and financial terms) and the redirecting of investment to promote agroecological approaches throughout the whole food system. International research has found that agroecological approaches are marginalised in existing funding streams, and when they are supported, it is often done in unhelpful and even damaging ways. According to FAO, current agricultural support “is biased towards measures that are harmful and unsustainable for nature, climate, nutrition and health, while disadvantaging women and other smallholder farmers in the sector.”
The PSA Alliance’s Agroecology Financing Analysis Tool (AFAT) offers an innovative approach to identifying the current levels of support, investment and commitment to agroecological transitions, with a focus on climate-resilient and gender-responsive agricultural practices that benefit smallholder farmers. You can see the AFAT data analysis worksheet here. In particular, the tool helps analysts and activists answer the question: to what extent is current public financing for agriculture in Africa, from both overseas development assistance (ODA) and national budgets, supportive of a transition to agroecology?
The AFAT utilises the 13 principles of agroecology developed in 2019 by the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food and Nutrition Security (HLPE) of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS, under the FAO). The tool provides a set of specific indicators for each of the 13 HLPE principles alongside a scoring system based on a spectrum of values to assess the degree to which national budgets or ODA support agroecology.
The tool has gone through several revisions, based on input from an advisory group of experts from ESAFF, ActionAid, FAO, BioWatch, CCARDESA and the Environmental Monitoring Group, as well as a community of practice facilitated by the Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité (CIDSE) and Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) at Coventry University. Adaptations were also made following three pilot studies conducted in Zimbabwe and Malawi and at regional level in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
These pilot studies, as detailed below, showed that while policy commitments claim to support agroecology, the actual flow of resources towards supporting the adoption and strengthening of agroecological practices is widely insufficient.
Malawi – 2022/23 draft national agriculture budget
- A policy analysis of the Ministry of Agriculture’s headquarters budget showed that it has embraced the global call to ‘scale-up’ and ‘scale-out’ agroecology. With its mission statement clearly stating that it seeks to improve agricultural productivity and sustainably develop and manage land and water resources to achieve food, nutrition and income security for economic growth and development.
- A review of the 2022/23 sector budget to assess its alignment to Malawi’s National Agricultural Investment Plan (NAIP) shows that the resilient livelihoods and agricultural systems programme remains the least funded of all NAIP programs with an allocation of MK 1.4 billion, representing only a 1% share of the four NAIP programs – same as the previous financial year. Low funding affects this critical programme that is key to supporting agroecology, i.e., strengthening resilience of livelihoods and natural resource base for agriculture.
- Overall, programme and project level budget analysis at both the central and decentralized levels show that the majority of funds in the 2022/23 FY have been allocated to conventional agriculture. An analysis of 45 sub-programmes for the four votes shows that only 20% (19.89%) of the funded sub-programmes are supportive of agroecology.
- You can read our analysis report on Malawi´s 2022-23 agriculture budget here.
Zimbabwe – 2020/21 national agriculture budget and ODA
- Over 26.7% of ODA funding (US$49.3 million) over a ten-year period (2016 – 2027), approximating a simple annual average of 2.7%, based on the seven programmes analysed, could be allocated toward promoting agroecology in Zimbabwe.
- In its National Agriculture Policy Framework (2018), Zimbabwe was the first Southern African country to explicitly adopt agroecology at a policy level. However, despite such policy commitments to agroecology, only 1.27% of the Zimbabwe 2021 national budget allocated to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement (US$ 5.3 million) could be considered as supportive of agroecology. Clearly, Zimbabwe’s national budget allocation towards agroecology needs to significantly increase for long term transformational and sustainable agriculture through agroecology practices as enunciated in its policy framework.
Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Level – funded programmes at SADC Secretariat
- Funding for agroecology from contributions by SADC member states showed that there was very little available for programme support. However, the guiding frameworks in the agriculture sector, the Regional Agricultural Policy (RAP) and Regional Agricultural Investment Plan (RAIP), show considerable focus towards agroecology, although these both remain unfunded.
- The current main source of funding for SADC regional programmes is from international cooperating partners (ICPs). This funding, however, is targeted at these ICPs’ priority areas, which overall has not included funding for agroecology. Currently, funding including through the SADC Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) Financing Facility has mainly supported SADC programmes in sustainable management and conservation of natural resources with little targeting agroecology. Donor and development partners should prioritise funding toward agroecology for real impact at the smallholder level.
- In view of the limited funding for agriculture in general and more specifically agroecology, the importance of funding the SADC Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) cannot be overstated. The SADC Secretariat should mobilise resources for support of the RAIP with funding targeted toward agroecology. Potential sources of funding include the Global Climate Fund and other climate financing schemes (such as carbon trade funding).
- SADC member states should increase their budgetary funding for agriculture and more specifically for agroecology through the effective implementation, at the national level, of their national agricultural investment plans (NAIPs).