Regional Integration for Food Security in East Africa: The Role of CAADP

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    his 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.

    The East African Community (EAC) is one of the few regional economic communities (RECs) which has made substantial progress on its regional integration agenda. Within a short period of time, the EAC has been able to attain a common market status and is currently working towards establishing a monetary union by 2012. Given that the region is prone to food shortages and drought, promoting regional integration and cooperation around agriculture has the potential to help the EAC address its and food security challenges.

    A greater focus on regional agricultural development in East Africa could not be more timely. In addition to growing climate change challenges and recent food price volatility, the Horn of Africa food crisis has brought food security concerns to the forefront. However, despite being a relatively homogenous REC with higher chances of successful agricultural integration, because national interests are usually stronger than regional priorities, East African countries have often resorted to measures that go against promoting integration objectives.

    Additionally, because agriculture is inherently linked to other sectors, actions – or lack of them – taken in other domains have consequences for regional food security and agricultural development. Divergent trade policy tools and non-tariff barriers, for example, greatly constrain intra-EAC trade in general. Intra- regional trade in agriculture products, which is largely informal, is particularly hampered by the inconsistencies between partner states’ trade and agriculture polices. Without harmonisation of national policies there are no checks and balances to prevent situations where food deficits lead to hunger and famine or surpluses induce low food prices and economic losses for farmers.

    CAADP as a regional integration and regional food security tool

    The CAADP process operates in a unique way, seeking to place the national and regional reform and investment process firmly in stakeholder’s hands. A crucial part of this process is the formulation of national and regional compacts. Compacts are a form of ‘agreement’ amongst all agricultural stakeholders, outlining priority areas for action in each country and region, and are elaborated though national and regional consultations. Compacts are then followed by investment plans, concretely outlining projects in the areas identified in the compacts. Ideally, national compacts and regional compacts and the investment plans that accompany them operate in synergy.

    Although CAADP has progressed steadily within the EAC region, most success - in terms of developing compacts - has been achieved at the national level: all EAC partner states have signed national compacts and are at different stages of the national agricultural investment plans (NAIP) process. The EAC Secretariat is now keenly interested in and working towards developing a regional CAADP compact in 2012. The Secretariat proposes a compact that adopts a bottom-up approach, building on the existing national compacts and addresses regional challenges shared among partner states. It also proposes to integrate existing and emerging regional initiatives such as the Food Security Action Plan into the regional compact.

    Most stakeholders within the region agree that a regional CAADP process is the appropriate framework to stimulate improved coordination of regional agricultural initiatives addressing food security. There is consensus among the various actors working in the EAC that developing a regional compact would be a useful rallying point for REC, partner states, DP, private sector and other stakeholders around regional agriculture.

    Making regional integration work for food security

    In order to make regional integration work, and successfully implement the food security action plan or even a regional CAADP compact, the EAC and its partner states would have to address the usual regional integration challenges, localise regional decisions are the national level, think beyond safeguarding national priorities and interests, and adopt measures that capitalise on the synergies which exist between agriculture and other cross-cutting sectors.

    In the elaboration process of a regional CAADP compact, progress and obstacles in cross-cutting regional initiatives need to be taken into account. In addition, synergies between agriculture, trade, infrastructure and other related sectors should be further explored if the region is to become food secure. The guiding criteria being that the regional compact provides added value to existing initiatives, addresses the loopholes and weaknesses of current schemes and brings them together in an all-encompassing framework.

    In spite of the fact that all partner states have endorsed the CAADP framework, the regional dimension was not properly articulated in the national compacts. The current process to develop a regional compact is an opportunity to strengthen coherence and complementarity between the national and regional levels. In that regard, it would be useful to map insecure regions, analyse national compacts, and related regional policies on trade, infrastructure, etc, to identify gaps that could be addressed with a regional compact. The EAC Secretariat, with support from development partners, could facilitate such analysis and dialogue among national governments, national and regional farmers organisation and other key stakeholders as part of the preparatory process for a regional compact.

    Building broad-based support for regional agriculture

    Non-state actors such as the East African Farmers’ Federation (EAFF) see the current process as an opportunity to strengthen coherence and complementarity between the national and regional levels. Most non-state actors view CAADP as an opportunity for more for organised and better targeted non-state actor input into regional agriculture policies and strategies. These regional stakeholders call for stronger commitment and action from the regional level that allows farmers, especially smallholders, to move beyond the basic subsistence level.

    Moving forward with CAADP, the EAC Secretariat needs to place more emphasis on building multi-stakeholder dialogue and partnerships, especially with national and regional farmers’ organisations and agro-industries. Opportunities to form public-private sector-development partner alliances should be identified and exploited. The EAC’s private sector rather than a state-led development approach towards regional integration is also a step in the right direction. This should be matched by increase in investments in the agriculture sector, at national and regional levels.

    EAC partner states and the Secretariat should also be committed to substantially increase budgetary allocations for agriculture, as well as focus spending on those areas that are necessary for better access to markets and improved regional trade. A mind-change is also needed to look beyond donor aid and start developing partnerships with the private sector, including three-way partnerships between the EAC-DPs and private sector, for investments in agriculture. Although it could be a challenge to stimulate private sector interest, the EAC and its members should be willing to develop quality financial feasibility studies and investment strategies that highlight the business value of agriculture and mutual benefits for all parties involved.

    Working toward a regional compact: applying a flexible, ‘differentiated-gear’ approach

    The EAC faces, a clear opportunity to design a multidimensional regional CAADP, while at the same time using the current traction (political and financial) of CAADP to push other regional cooperation sectors. The difficult part, however, will be effectively shaping and managing the synergies that are likely to emerge across different sector policies and programmes, as well as coordinating the different sub-sectors and initiatives under one overarching ‘umbrella’ (which should also ‘respect’ other existing regional frameworks and institutions).

    A realistic way forward for an overarching ‘umbrella’ and a multidimensional regional CAADP could be a programmatic approach to different areas of intervention, to meet the interest of all involved EAC countries and their different stakeholder groups. This would be a 'differentiated-gears' regional CAADP framework. It would be realistic and useful to build the regional food security compact and investment plan around different cooperation areas that are progressing at different pace, as well as identifying areas of possible cooperation between some EAC countries. For example, “different gears” for EAC countries could mean, a uniform agricultural markets information system for those countries where, de facto, the trade integration is already there, or further and faster natural resources management cooperation for countries who share water basins. A faster ‘gear’ could mean, very concretely, a specific investment plan for a specific area or sub-sector, or a pilot joint programme to be initially implemented only by those willing EAC partner states.

    The added value of such an approach would be to look at existing sector progress and find a niche for CAADP, either as 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. This type of coordination in the context of a regional CAADP would need to be funded as well, because it is a demanding exercise for all stakeholders involved.

    Dolly Afun-Ogidan was Policy Officer for the Food Security Programme at ECDPM

    This article is based on ECDPM’s Mapping Study of CAADP in the EAC available at:

    This article was published in GREAT Insights Volume 1, Issue 4 (June 2012).

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