Global Food Security Fund: In crisis when needed most

March 17, 2011 By Molly Lester

Despite the recent spike in global food prices and efforts to make food security a priority, current budget concerns are jeopardizing critical programs. The multilateral component of the USAID’s Feed the Future initiative, The Global Agriculture and Food Security Fund (GAFSP), is in danger of vanishing because of slashes to multilateral assistance accounts.  Held up by continuing budget debates in Congress and significantly reduced as part of the 19% cut to the International Affairs Budget in H.R. 1, GAFSP is now facing collapse due to unrealized pledge commitments.

GAFSP is a multilateral trust fund administered by the World Bank that issues grants for projects designed to promote food security and agricultural development in the developing world.  Grants are awarded to countries for projects aimed at raising agricultural productivity, reducing risk and vulnerability, and providing technical assistance and capacity building.  Launched in April 2010 with much fanfare and high hopes, the U.S. initially pledged $475 million to the fund.  To date, only $67 million of that pledge has actually been received.

The administration requested $408 million in FY 2011 to fulfill the initial pledge and a further $308 million in its FY 2012 request.  H.R. 1 offers no FY 2011 funding for GAFSP, while the alternative Senate CR would have provided $200 million—still a more than 50% decrease.  With U.S. pledges accounting for more than half of the total commitment, inability to meet our financial commitments has severely hamstrung GAFSP’s awarding capabilities.  In the latest proposal period, twenty applications were received but only three grants were issued.  Less than a year after its launch, GASFP is “already gasping”.

Assistant Treasury Secretary for International Markets and Development Marisa Lago spoke recently about the importance of GAFSP during a time when food prices are rising and driving more people into poverty and food insecurity.  “Tackling global food security requires collective action.  At a time when many donors, including the United States, face resource constraints, leveraging those resources and strengthening international cooperation is vital… GAFSP brings us together to make tangible progress in reducing hunger and poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries,” she said.  In January, a letter from almost thirty organizations was sent to President Obama expressing concern about the FY 2011 budget for GAFSP and urging him to authorize an interagency transfer of $100 million to keep the fund afloat.  The letter argues that failing to fund GAFSP will undermine the Feed the Future initiative efforts, “ultimately undermining U.S. leadership on global food security and hunger.”

GAFSP represents a new and innovative mechanism for combating hunger and providing targeted development assistance through a multilateral framework.  It would be a shame for it to disappear before its impact could really be known.  The fund has already proven to be successful at creating partnerships between host governments, donor states, and non-governmental organizations to invest in smart projects promoting food security.  GAFSP will continue to hang in the balance during the ongoing budget debates for FY 2011 and FY 2012, but failing to meet our financial commitments to combating hunger could cut this program down in its infancy.