Regional Plans to Address Food Security in Southern Africa: State of Play

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    SADC never formally launched a regional Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) compact preparatory process as it is currently developing a Regional Agricultural Policy (RAP). The initial ambiguity about the relationship between the CAADP and the RAP is now clearing up. The formulation of the RAP and the regional CAADP compact preparation are now aligned into the same process. Challenges and opportunities remain in terms of learning from the general bottlenecks to regional cooperation experienced so far by SADC.  Stakeholder engagement and SADC’s Regional Agricultural Policy Most stakeholders interviewed in SADC seem to agree that one of the weaknesses of the RAP process so far has been limited multi-stakeholder engagement. Nevertheless, compared to its early stages, RAP consultations are now broader and more aligned to the CAADP methodology. However, it is still unclear for many actors what is the actual way forward for a “CAADP-compatible” RAP, what the concrete plans are for designing the regional compact in the coming months, and what process will be followed to ensure that such compact add value to national food security strategies. It would be important to make this information widely available to the public, so that the SADC agenda, relevant documents, and steps to design a common approach to food security, are accessible for interested stakeholders. This would also counter the perceptions that such regional preparations are slow and inefficient. Most non-state-actors (NSA) lack platforms to engage regularly on food security at a regional level, and creating such platforms for CAADP/RAP would be urgent particularly for small farmers and other intermediary business organisations. A pre-condition for increased engagement would be capacity building for farmers and institutional strengthening for both regional and national farmers associations. This in turn would require a mapping of farmer organisations in each SADC country to assess the type of membership, geographical coverage and assistance needed. These accompanying support measures, and a broader participation, would be very important for the smooth conclusion of the RAP formulation in 2012. Supporting the SADC Secretariat A consensus seems also to be emerging in the region about the need for more institutional support for the SADC Secretariat. The Secretariat is already acting to tackle some of the challenges it traditionally faces, such as the internal ‘‘silos mentality’’ hampering coherence and coordination between different areas of regional cooperation. But also the SADC MS should do more to support the Secretariat. Possible recommendations for the way forward are to strengthen the Secretariat by i) enhancing efforts by MS for more systematic input and interaction with the Secretariat on ‘agriculture and rural development’ (ARD) and food security; ii) increasing support by donors to the ‘Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Directorate; and, iii) increasing the quantity and quality of technical personnel dedicated specifically to food security processes at national and regional level. Lukewarm donor support  SADC development partners' contribution to the regional food security plans has been lukewarm, mainly due to weak donor coordination and not-functioning (though existing) donors-SADC engagement structures. In general, more donors should step up their support to regional food security initiatives in SADC, and in particular to the RAP as the overarching framework that should guide future external support. Many donors assist ARD programmes at national level in SADC countries, but only few of them have a policy to create synergies between regional and national level assistance and between their different sectoral programmes that contribute to food security (e.g. aid for trade). According to many actors in SADC, both types of synergies should be built. If donors are to fulfil their commitment to support implementation of CAADP at regional level, they could: improve operational linkages and coordination around regional CAADP plans between their respective head-quarters, regional and national offices; increase regional donor coordination in SADC around CAADP by e.g. assigning a donor lead agency (possibly in Gaborone) and establishing a specific donor working group for the SADC regional CAADP. Existing formal engagement structures between SADC and development partners have lost impetus, and all parties agree that this type of dialogue should be revitalized (looking possibly at the experience of the water Joint Working Group which has shown better progress). Acknowledging bottlenecks to Regional Integration  Another emerging message from the SADC stakeholders is that the regional agricultural plans, which have the overall regional integration framework (RISDP) explicitly at its core, should take into account the cross-cutting general bottlenecks to RI experienced so far by SADC. For regional integration to work, including cooperation on CAADP, a better match should be achieved between bottom-up, business-led processes and the more top down (government-led) dynamics, such as policy frameworks and protocols. There seems to be no “low hanging fruit” in regional cooperation, and very often formal binding SADC frameworks are not sufficiently followed-up at national level: the same is likely to hold true for a future regional CAADP. In addition, ARD actions will have to be accompanied by much better ‘campaigns’ in each SADC MS to raise awareness about the benefits of regional approaches in every proposed regional cooperation area relevant to food security, and about the results achieved so far. In this sense, the example of the ‘water basin cooperation awareness kits’, which has been disseminated also in the rural areas, could be replicated for future ARD programmes and other initiatives like the ‘trade corridors’. Most of the suggestions by consulted stakeholders on the way forward for a regional CAADP relate to the process and not to the substance. This is not only because the content of the RAP has not been developed yet, but also because only a few SADC countries have signed a national CAADP compact, and the national regional nexus in agriculture is yet to be fully explored within SADC. Such ‘vertical’ coherence (and synergies) between national and regional policies and investments, however, is deemed crucial by many actors in SADC, in parallel with the ‘horizontal’ coherence (and synergies) between policies and investments in food security and in other sectors of regional cooperation in SADC. This process is only in its early stages, and the strategic thinking on regional policies and investment to complement action at national level is still lacking within several SADC governments. Many SADC stakeholders realise the importance of linking a regional CAADP to ongoing initiatives on trade, infrastructure and natural resources, and are willing to explore in detail the opportunities and challenges for the creation of synergies. Some linkages will naturally emerge, such as on sanitary and phytosanitary measures, ‘agriculture trade corridors’, irrigation as well as existing regional agricultural programmes and institutions. Other synergies will need to be carefully analyzed. Differentiated gears A realistic way forward for an overarching multidimensional regional CAADP could be a programmatic approach to different areas of intervention. This could meet the interest of all involved SADC countries and their different stakeholder groups and could be shaped as a 'differentiated gears' regional CAADP framework. SADC countries are very heterogeneous and it would be realistic and useful to build a regional food security compact and an investment plan that take into account:,i) different cooperation areas that are progressing at differentiated gears; ii) and different sub-groups of SADC countries which already cooperate well in specific areas (or are likely to) and do have in place a series of programmatic cooperation initiatives. This could, for instance, be a uniform agricultural markets information system for those where the trade integration de facto happens already; further and faster natural resources management cooperation for countries who share water basins and so on. A faster ‘gear’ would mean a specific investment plan for that specific area or sub-sector, or a pilot joint programme to be initially implemented only by those few willing SADC member states. The added value of such an approach would be to look at existing sector progress and find a niche for CAADP, either as a synergy-creation or in some cases as new ‘multi-purpose’ programmes related to food security, e.g. a value chain development approach which identifies and addresses simultaneously the bottlenecks on natural resources, corridors, and trade. Given the many countries involved and the complexities at stake, the process towards a flexible, differentiated-gear, regional food security framework would necessarily take time for identification, agreement and design of realistic plans. Careful formulation of a 'comprehensive, internally coherent and differentiated gears' compact would require a step-by-step multi-stakeholder consultative process, where all key actors should be represented. This would probably have to start with identifying a minimum common ground among SADC MS on what major bottlenecks and opportunities are for establishing operational linkages between CAADP and other regional programmes; articulating possible multi-sector priorities into the SADC CAADP compact; and finding ways for regional actors and their development partners to work more effectively together to fast-track implementation of a regional CAADP. Francesco Rampa is Head of the Food Security Programme at ECDPM. This article is part of a five part series to share findings from a regional Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) mapping exercise undertaken by ECDPM. Each monthly article will highlight lessons learned from one of four African regions (COMESA, EAC, ECOWAS and SADC). A fifth final article will summarise and present crosscutting lessons relevant for successful implementation of the CAADP process at the regional level. This article is based on ECDPM’s Mapping Study of CAADP in the SADC available This article was published in GREAT Insights Volume 1, Issue 5 (July 2012).
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