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close this bookOvercoming Global Hunger (WB)
close this folderSession three - targeted interventions: what works best to reduce hunger
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View the documentTargeted interventions: what works best to reduce hunger
View the documentDiscussant remarks
View the documentDiscussant remarks
View the documentWorkshop spokesperson remarks
View the documentWorkshop spokesperson remarks
View the documentFloor discussion

Floor discussion

A number of participants commented from the floor; then the speakers responded

Participants' Comments

[First floor participant It seems as though in the past, there was a certain amount of disagreement about whether or not poverty had actually been alleviated in Mexico or in other places because of World Bank interventions. In this connection, what are the indicators that show that poverty is being alleviated, and how will World Bank lending officers in the field be given the incentives to make the kind of loans that will make a difference for the poorest people? Won't they have to have their whole psychology changed about the kind of loans we need to be making to end poverty?

Second floor participant Fawzi Al-Sultan said that it is the rich who have food, but even the rich eat potatoes and rice that were grown from soil, not from fields of dollars Because of the economic focus of this conference, we have thus far largely ignored environmental problems associated with agriculture that are now beginning to threaten our food supply, such as erosion, desertification, salinization, deforestation, overgrazing, and the depletion of aquifers. Also of concern are monocropping and diminishing genetic resources, as well as the abuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and potentially catastrophic are the as yet unknown effects of the destruction of the ozone layer and global warming. These trends are all exacerbated by agribusiness oriented, capital-intensive pro grams frequently pushed by multilateral aid institutions such as the World Bank Unless these.

Institutions are willing to chat he their approach to agriculture to a more sustainable one, we cannot share the World Bank's assurances that the food supply will always keep up with population. Mr AlSultan, in the vein of what you said about business as usual not being enough, do you believe that IFAD and the Bretton Woods institutions are willing to work with NGOs in combating hunger by promoting sustainable agriculture?

Third floor participant In the late 1970s, targeting assistance to the poor was a principal focus of attention In 1978, half of the resources from the IDB's Fifth Replenishment were supposed to be targeted to help the poor in Latin America In 1981 Congress enacted legislation that urged the World Bank and the other multilateral development institutions to emulate the stated objective of the IDB by putting half of their resources into helping people who were absolutely or relatively poor. After 1981 other issues were emphasized. Are we now going back and picking up where we left off, and essentially dropping this whole twelve years or so of emphasizing economic policy reform in borrower countries, or is this something we are now factoring in as we are trying to target assistance to the poor? Do we look at economic policy reform as limiting our capacity to target assistance to the poor, or is it another factor that we keep in mind as we try to target assistance?

Speakers' Responses

Caio Koch-Weser: The first question was about the indicators on which we can base the argument that poverty has been alleviated. The picture is mixed. In some countries poverty has clearly been alleviated and poverty indices reduced In other countries the situation is much less clear. We could even argue that the crisis of adjustment in many countries in the 1980s led to a demonstrable increase in the incidence of poverty.

When it comes to measuring how we have done, in a number of countries, Morocco, for example, we have established, together with governments, careful systems of household surveying, of measuring living standards, that give us much better idea of the incidence of poverty than we had some years ago. These measurements show that in Morocco, ten years of successful reform and adjustment, which had its social costs, have reduced the incidence of poverty from 21 to 13 percent In some other countries, Egypt, for example, the situation is much less clear. However, we also have to ask ourselves what would have happened if no reform policies had been introduced We have to do much more work on measuring poverty, on having benchmarks, and on having governments accept them, but overall we are on the right track.

As to how committed to poverty reduction Bank field officers are, and can we really expect them to do a good job unless attitudes change, I believe that the vast majority of Bank staff is truly committed to the Bank's central objective, which is to reds e: poverty How to achieve that is a much more complex issue I would point to one important area here, the training and sensitization that takes place in the Bank across departments and across regions based on years of experience, so that we learn, say, what China has done or what Morocco has done for the Egyptian case or the Yemeni case This cross-fertilization, training, and sensitization needs further strengthening. We are not doing enough yet, but we are doing it.

Fawzi Al-Sultan IFAD's projects are essentially at the level of the poor beneficiaries. Sustainability is the key element in project design Let me give you a couple of examples One is the high-lands in Central America, where the predominant technique of the poor is to slash and burn to get access to more land so they can feed themselves. The land has very low productivity. This is a major environmental disaster that takes place on a daily basis. What we first have to do is to teach the poor new techniques of intensive agriculture that use natural fertilizers. We have to teach them terracing, which is a form of more intensive agriculture. We have to do research on the varieties of the foods that the poor grow and eat There is also intercropping In Nigeria, for instance, we are growing cassava with coffee, and in the highlands they have been growing plantains with coffee and some other crops. So at this stage we should focus on this type of sustainability, particularly using techniques similar to what the farmers already know and understand, while at the same time trying to solve the problems of environmental degradation.

Fundamental to almost all IFAD's projects is research that goes into the types of crops that people grow. To take Nigeria as an example, cassava was a small investment, less than US$1 million. We were able to develop a variety of cassava that produced almost three times as much. Almost overnight we had a food that made almost every poor home self-sufficient in the basic crops that the family ate, and families even had surpluses.

Another issue is that you need resources. We can only go so far at the basic beneficiary level with the resources that we have. When we talk about participation, that is not talking to governments. It is talking to the beneficiaries, forming groups in much the same way Grameen Bank has been doing. We get the women together, we get the men together, and we understand from them what they want.

One constraint that we have in common with almost every multilateral organization is that we have to work through governments We would all like to be able to deal directly with the beneficiary groups, but then you cannot really complete projects in the sense that you have to have infrastructure, for which you have to talk to the government.

Participants' Comments

Fourth floor participant: We speak of the poor and the very poor and the poorest We have to be aware that if we do not have the specific will to reach the poorest, we will not reach them. Most of our programs often not only do not reach the poorest, but contribute to increasing the gap between the poorest and the rest.

My second comment is about women. It is true that women are central for overcoming hunger, central for overcoming poverty, it is nor always true to say that women are the poorest, or that we can work with women and this is almost enough. Just look around Washington, D.C., look around this country. Who is in the street? Who is in jail? It is not the women. It is the men. This is not unique to the United States. It is something you and in many countries. We need to work with families, and we need to work with women in a way that will not reinforce the breakdown of families and the disappearance of the men.

Fifth floor participant I am encouraged that the WFP is beginning to take a more integrated approach to food, agriculture, and long-term development. However, I found one comment disturbing, and that was that it seemed to be alright to rely on wealthy nations to send food as food aid. The problem with this is that it feeds into a system of chemically-intensive overproduction in the United States and Europe that destroys small farmers, rural communities, and the environment Some sustainable agriculture and farmers' groups around the world are beginning to Look at alternative ways to provide what is clearly needed in terms of food aid. This gets back to food security being based on food produced, processed, and stored as close as possible to where it is consumed, and this also applies to food aid. So 1 wonder to what extent the WFP is looking at ways of not necessarily providing food aid from wealthy countries, but from neighboring countries or regionally. Is it examining the possibility of international grain reserves that would be used only for humanitarian aid, and to which all countries could contribute, thereby eliminating the justification for overproduction?

Speaker's Response

Catherine Bertini: The food aid that we provide is provided primarily but not exclusively, by the wealthy donor countries. Contributions come in from around the world. The major donors, like the United States, the European Community, Australia, Japan, Canada, and others, contribute either food or cash or both depending on the situation in their country; and naturally domestic priorities, politics, and interests in the donor countries govern what kind of aid they contribute. We and others are given the surpluses sometimes, but the United States and other countries also make a conscious effort to make specific budgeted pledges to help the poor throughout the world.

Some countries give primarily cash. Japan, for instance, which does not have a food surplus, purchases food. Some countries like Sweden have gone much more to giving cash, which we use to buy food. The WFP is the largest purchaser of food for triangular transactions in the world. Last year we spent US$200 million buying food in developing countries for distribution in developing countries. .

For all of us in this business it is important to try to ensure that food is not used either to keep people dependent or to disrupt the local marketplace. Sometimes the wrong kind of food or too much food gets to a place, but it is critical for us in such situations to move the food, to make a difference, rather than just keeping an earlier commitment that might now actually be harmful to the local economy.

To sum up, we are strongly committed to helping to improve the local economy in the country we are attempting to help. Our absolute priority is to help people become self-sufficient and self reliant. We want to use food as a tool, whether it is food that is contributed by donor countries or whether it is food we have purchased for consumption in the developing country.

Participant's Comment

Sixth floor participant Fawzi Al-Sultan said that IFAD, as a multilateral agency, has to work with governments, but you also said that IFAD discusses projects from the beginning with the potential beneficiaries. You have also worked in the World Bank Can you offer the Bank some suggestions? The Bank seems to have difficulty in getting into dialogue with beneficiaries.

Speaker's Response

Fawzi Al-Sultan: Earlier we outlined different approaches whereby the Bank could move closer to beneficiaries. One of them is where you replicate an activity that has already worked. This can be done quickly A second is subcontracting, working through NGOs. The key is how to change the way we do business' not just ear marking more resources, but using a much simpler project cycle.

Caio Koch-Weset As Fawzi Al-Sultan has pointed out, there is no tradeoff between sound macroeconomic policies and adjustment on the one hand, and well-designed, targeted interventions on the other. Good macroeconomic policies will also produce the robust growth that gives asset and income distribution and redistribution a better chance These are complementary actions, not alternatives.

We have heard a call for renewed political commitment on all sides, recipients and donors, to a food security vision and concept for the future, and we have discussed participatory approaches that stress empowerment, particularly of women. These participatory approaches are a necessary, though not a sufficient, condition. By participation we must mean not just hearing and consulting, but, as the NGO representatives pointed out, we must trust local communities and recipients to make decisions about the use of resources. We now have an opportunity for joint complementary action guided by a vision of food security, a coherent approach based on complementarity, on the relative strengths of the various actors, and on division of labor.

A number of people have suggested that the Bank, IFAD, and some other international financial institutions should do business differently, become committed to learning the techniques appropriate for participation, not just consultation. The poor have to become our real clients. This requires establishing the legal and policy environment for participation, delegating local control of resources to community-based organizations, having components in our lending addressed to women that are not just add-one, and encouraging self employment by providing working capital and training in a cost effective manner.