International Masters in Rural Development: Field Visit to Soc Trang Province, Vietnam

As I explained last week, I am representing the Rural Sociology Group in a case study summer programme organized by Can Tho University’s Mekong Delta Development Research Institute.

Meeting with district representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
Meeting with district representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

On Friday, August 7th, the Case Study group visited two areas in the Soc Trang province of Vietnam. The first stop was a visit to a district office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Here, students and staff were able to ask officials questions related to their selected research topics and interests. One policy initiative we learnt about was a plan to increase the number of dairy cows in rural areas as a poverty reduction strategy. This programme stems from the national Agricultural Restructuring Plan where key crops and animals were identified, dairy cows being one of them.

Pigs for bio gas and food
Pigs for bio gas and food

From there we moved to My Xuyen district where food production is centred on upland crops. We visited two farms here. The first had cows and pigs and were producing bio gas. In this family, the husband undertook farm labour and the wife worked a government job.

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L’Aquila Food Security Initiative has its first meeting of 2012

In July 2008, G8[1] Leaders meeting in Hokkaido Toyako, Japan issued a Leaders Statement on Global Food Security.[2] In the statement, G8 leaders stated their ongoing commitment to pursue all possible measures to ensure global food security, noting that since January 2008, they had committed over $10 USD billion to support food measures to increase agricultural outputs in affected countries.  The Statement emphasized the urgency of short-term needs (e.g., access of small-holder farmers to fertilizers), a commitment to increase food aid and investment and recognised the coordinating role of the UN through their support for the High Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis (HLTF).  They also encouraged countries with surplus to released food stocks and called for the removal of export restrictions (G8 2008).

At the L’Aquila Summit, the following year, the G8 issues a stronger declaration highlighting the need to increase agricultural production. Twenty-six nations and fourteen international organizations launched the “L’Aquila” Food Security Initiative.  The Declaration was reinforced through the “L’Aquila” Joint Statement on Global Food Security[3] and a commitment to raise $22 billion over three years for agricultural investment and agreement on a comprehensive and coordinated approach, partnering with countries facing dramatic food insecurity to jointly implement national food security strategies.

The approach is articulated around five principles:

  1. Investment in country-led plans and processes;
  2. A comprehensive approach to food security that includes support for humanitarian assistance, sustainable agriculture development and nutrition;
  3. Strategic coordination of assistance;
  4. A strong role for multilateral institutions; and,
  5. Sustained commitment of financial resources.

The L’Aquila Food Security Initaitive, chaired by the USA,  has been meeting quite regularly and just had their first meeting of 2012. A video of US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s statement and the transcripts can be viewed here

“As the United States looks forward to our tenure as Chair of AFSI in 2012, our primary goal is to ensure not only that donor countries are living up to our own financial pledges, but also that these contributions are being allocated strategically and making a real difference in the fight against global hunger. To do this, we will expand reporting on our investments at the country level, deepen our engagement with developing country partners, track our spending on research for agricultural development, and measure the impact of our investments.”

Want to know more about the AFSI? Keep on reading!

Continue reading “L’Aquila Food Security Initiative has its first meeting of 2012”

The World Bank Group and Global Food Security Governance

The World Bank Group is an international financial institution tasked with providing loans to developing countries to support various programmes. Since the onset of the food price spikes, they have played an active role in reshaping food security governance, returning to the role it played in the 1980s as a donor and coordinator for agriculture and rural development.

In 2008, the World Bank’s World Development Report focused on agriculture: Agriculture for Development. This was the first time in a quarter century that the World Bank had focused its annual research report on agriculture, highlighting an important shift in the Bank’s international focus. In May of that year, the World Bank established the Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP) in to provide immediate support to countries significantly impacted by rising food prices. The GFRP used the World Development Report as a framework and implemented processes to expediate the funding of projects up to an initial $1.2 billion, so as to ensure timely a response. In April 2009, the World Bank increased the Fund to $2 billion. When food prices continued to rise through the summer of 2011, the Board of the Fund expended the processing of accelerated processing to June 2012. The focus of the funds are targeted towards:  feeding children and other vulnerable groups,  nutritional supplements to pregnant women, lactating mothers, infants and small children, meeting additional expenses of food imports, and buying seeds for the new season (WB 2011).

Beyond the GFRP, the WB has made funding available through external-funded trust funds. Specifically, a “Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) has received contributions of AUD 50 million from the Australian government, €80 million from the government of Spain, 7.6 billion Korean Won from the Republic of Korea, CAD 30 million from the government of Canada, and $0.15 million from International Finance Corporation (IFC)” (WB 2011).

In July 2009, the WB released Implementing Agriculture for Development, World Bank Group Agriculture Action Plan: FY2010-12, as follow- up to the World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development.  The Action Plan build on themes outlines in Research the Rural Poor, the 2003 Agriculture and Development Strategy and follows up on proposals advanced in the World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development. The Action Plan is meant to outline the WB’s commitment food security through improved agriculture, raising the incomes of the poor, facilitating economic transformation, and by way of environmental services.

The Agriculture Action Plan (WB 2009) is organized around five thematic areas:

  • Increasing agricultural productivity, “which includes supporting increased adoption of improved technology (e.g., seed varieties, livestock breeds), improved agricultural water management, tenure security and land markets, and strengthened agricultural innovation systems” (WB 2009: vii).
  • Linking farmers to markets and strengthening value addition. Here the aim is to support “the Doha round, investments in transport infrastructure, strengthened producer organizations, improved market information, and access to finance” (WB 2009:vii).
  • Reducing risk and vulnerability through support for “social safety nets, for better managing national food imports, innovative insurance products, protection against catastrophic loss, and reduced risk of major livestock disease outbreaks” (WB 2009:viii).
  • Facilitating agricultural entry and exit and rural nonfarm income through “improved rural investment climates, and upgraded skills” (WB 2009:viii).
  • Enhancing environmental services and sustainability through the “better managed livestock intensification, improved rangeland, watershed, forestry and fisheries management, and support to link improved agricultural practices to carbon markets (e.g., through soil carbon sequestration)” (WB 2009:viii).

As of September 2011, the GFRP had approved $1,502.5 million of funding for various projects. According to the World Bank, through the GFRP, nearly forty million vulnerable people in forty-four countries have been helped (WB 2011). Yet, far from progressive, the Bank’s proposals continue to push for a productionist paradigm based on neoliberal principles of increased market access and improved technology, suggesting a lack of critical reflection on not only the causes of the 2007-8 food price crisis, but also integrated solutions for improving food security.

Beyond the GFRP, the World Bank has supported the newly reformed Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and hosts and manages a CGIAR Multi-Donor Trust Fund to harmonize donor investments. Furthermore, and the World Bank has been asked by the G20, under the French Presidency, to support agricultural and food security working groups and plays an active role on the United Nations High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis. The World Bank also participates in the Multilateral Development Banks’ (MDB) Working Group on Food and Water Security.

In 2009, when the G8 committed $20 billion in funding for sustainable agriculture at the l’Aquila Summit, the World Bank created an agriculture trust fund committing $1.5 billion of its own resources. This became the fund managed by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). The Fund has secured pledges from donor countries but has also attracted private investment.

To summarise then, in the wake of the 2007-8 food price crisis, the World Bank has undertaken a number of activities which  responded to the crisis in several ways which can be categorized as follows:

  • Policy advice: engagement in policy dialogue and undertaking research.
  • Financial Support: through the Global Food Price Crisis Response Program and later the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program.
  • Increasing investment in agribusiness: through the Action Plan, the WB aimed to increase support for agriculture and related sectors to upwards of $8.3 billion annually between 2010 and 2012. In 2011, the WB group lent $5.8 billion to these sectors.
  • Development and implementation of agricultural sector and supply chain risk management strategies developing countries through the provision of technical assistance, capacity transfer, and training.
  • Analytic programme of research in partnership with other agencies and through ongoing support of the CGIAR.

While the Rome-based food agencies (FAO, IFAD, WFP) employ the majority of specialized staff working on issues of food security, they often lack the agility and financial resources necessary to undertake innovative work at the country level (Ahmad 2011:4). The World Bank, by taking advantage of this disparity, has the capacity to exercise a disproportionate amount of influence on policy making nationally and internationally (Ahmad 2011:4). And thus, while the World Bank’s technical expertise pales in comparison to that of the Rome-based agencies, it has access to the required resources and increasingly, to science, as a founding member and co-sponsor of CGIAR. With ample funding (albeit less than what was pledged), a slim bureaucracy, country-level presence and links to politically powerful ministries (e.g., ministries of finance), the World Bank is positioned to remain the primary source of funding for agriculturally-related assistance (Ahmad 2011:4).


Ahmad, M. 2011. Improving the International Governance of Food Security and Trade. ICTSD #38 (September). Geneva. Available:

World Bank. 2011. Food Crisis: What the World Bank is Doing. Available:

World Bank. 2009. Implementing Agriculture for Development, World Bank Group Agriculture Action Plan: FY 2010-12. Washington: WB and IFC. Available: