In 1992, European Heads of State and Government found their way to Maastricht to sign off on, with hindsight not always respected, Treaty revisions of the European Union. Maybe due to the unpopularity of the “3% budget deficit” or “60% public debt to GDP” limits among a growing number of politicians and the wider public, it has not led to a line-up of international gatherings in Maastricht since then.
You will understand that this is a great sorrow to organisations working on international relations based in Maastricht, like ECDPM, forcing them to often keep the principle “Don’t come to us, we come to you” high. How great was our joy therefore to welcome a select number of development partners from across the world in Maastricht last week, for a retreat to reflect on support to the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme, (CAADP).
This retreat organised by the World Bank fits in the context of the “Sustaining the CAADP momentum into the next decade” exercise led by the African Union Commission and the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA) to rethink the CAADP agenda on the occasion of its 10th anniversary.
A key issue emerging from this AUC/NPCA initiative is an increased emphasis on the need to promote private sector development along agricultural value chains, from input providers, farmers to agri-business processors and retailers. Indeed, creating a more enabling environment to step up the volume and quality of domestic and foreign private sector investments is seen as critical to achieve the desired CAADP outcomes of agricultural transformation and increased food security.
Particular attention is paid to farmers, with a call to consider farming as a business, including smallholder farming. In fact, the realisation that farmers are important is not new, but the “how” is being reconsidered, i.e. the identification and actual implementation of measures to enable viable farming businesses also at smallholder-level. The “sustaining CAADP momentum” exercise furthermore recognises that private sector development can’t optimally be promoted at national level only: integration of markets across the continent, within and across African Regional Economic Communities, is seen as an integral part of success. In this light, promoting increased private investment in agriculture was one of the main themes of the Maastricht retreat, with due attention for regional integration dimensions.
Susan Bingi is Trade and Regional Advisor at Global Mechanism, a specialised body of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. In this interview with ECDPM’s Francesco Rampa, head of the Food Security programme, she speaks on a number of these themes, including:
- Working with ECDPM on regional integration
- The implementation of activities and the framework of CAADP as an opportunity to strengthen links between trade and agriculture
- Regional integration process to help small holder farmers
- Private sector investment
- How the process is likely to bring concrete progress; feasibility of the value chain approach to integrate the private sector.
- The involvement of donors and assistance – financial and co-assistance
- The role of emerging economies
- Is Uganda benefitting from being in the Eastern African regional community?
The retreat, which interestingly was also attended by Brazil, an important player not officially engaged yet in the CAADP process, focused on the identification and discussion of “work streams” to support CAADP moving forward and ensure that increased sustainable and inclusive private sector development materialises. Areas that were recognised in the discussions as requiring specific attention in the decade to come included, access to land, access to finance, regional and global integration. Key enablers to progress in these areas that were discussed encompassed: improved policy design and implementation; institutional capacity building; and better data analysis and knowledge management. A threat running through the retreat discussions was the recognition that dialogue and partnerships between the public and private sector deserve to be improved. Basic but essential elements to step up such dialogues and partnerships are:
While the retreat concluded with more questions than answers, it can be considered to be one of the efforts of development partners to respond to the changing CAADP agenda in a coordinated manner and shape up for the 2014 African Union year of Agriculture and Food Security. While we encourage CAADP discussions to primarily take place in Africa, we can’t help finishing this blog on a warm recommendation to come to Maastricht, if not for a strategic retreat than to visit the provincial house where the table seating political leaders in 1992 can still be admired…or despised?
Jeske van Seters is Deputy Programme Manager Food Security at ECDPM.
This blog post features the author’s personal view and does not represent the view of ECDPM.
A recent discussion on interplay of trade and food security: @EP_Trade #foodsecurity with @DeSchutterUNSR @FAOnews @ICTSDAG @UniHalle Video recording: http://is.gd/tradefoodsecurity Presentations: http://is.gd/INTAhearings