Geographies in Depth

Can partnerships feed the world?

Lisa Dreier
Managing Director, Advanced Leadership Initiative, Harvard University
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Global food systems are increasingly at risk. Rising demand, scarce resources and increased volatility are putting new pressures on agriculture and food systems. More than 870 million people are chronically hungry, many of whom are small farmers.

Farmers are not the only ones struggling. Governments, companies, international agencies and civil society groups are looking for new approaches to food security and agricultural growth, leveraging new investments while ensuring sustainability for communities and the environment.

A new partnership model developed by the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative seeks to address these needs by helping stakeholders to coordinate efforts and investments to achieve shared goals in the agriculture sector. The initiative has catalysed innovative multistakeholder partnerships in 11 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America to achieve a vision of agriculture-sector transformation. These partnerships have generated over US$ 3 billion in investment commitments to date and will benefit more than 12 million smallholder farmers in the next three to five years.

Today the initiative is launching a report which outlines progress to date and the key actions to scale the impact of these partnerships. Titled Achieving the New Vision for Agriculture: New Models for Action, the report’s recommendations will form the basis of discussions among global leaders at next week’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters.

The New Vision partnerships bring together relevant stakeholders at the national level to accelerate progress towards shared goals. Leaders of government, private sector, civil society, donor and farmer associations work together to increase investment, productivity and sustainability in specific crop value chains or regions of the country. For example, in Tanzania stakeholders are developing agriculture value chains and infrastructure along an agricultural growth corridor, and in Vietnam a public-private task force is focusing on five commodities. In Mexico, a partnership comprising more than 40 organizations is focusing on five commodities plus cross-cutting issues such as water management, information access and infrastructure.

In Africa, the African Union and NEPAD joined with the New Vision for Agriculture to create the Grow Africa partnership to support public-private partnership for sustainable agricultural growth in seven countries: Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Ghana and Burkina Faso. An eighth country, Nigeria, has joined in 2013.

Partnerships supported by the New Vision for Agriculture initiative have established new levels of trust and collaboration between stakeholders who traditionally have not worked together. All partnerships have set specific goals, developed work plans and mobilized activity or substantial investment commitments. However, the partnerships are still in an early stage, having been formed one to two-and-a-half years ago. Work is in an early stage, with tremendous potential for broader impact.

This report highlights specific actions that government, the private sector, civil society and others can take, calling on stakeholders to intensify their efforts to realize the transformational potential of these partnerships. This includes:

  • Refining partnership strategies to strengthen key areas, such as environmental sustainability or innovative financing, and to ensure scalability;
  • Engaging and activating key stakeholders, broadening networks to include perspectives and partnership from important sectors ranging from civil society to logistics experts, while reinforcing global support;
  • Strengthening implementation capacity of partnerships working at national level, to ensure the resources needed to deliver impact are in place, and to monitor, evaluate, learn from and share emerging results.
  • In Davos, leaders of national partnerships will join with global leaders to chart a path for strengthening and scaling the New Vision for Agriculture in 2013. We look forward to sharing an update on the results.

 Author: Lisa Dreier, Director, Food Security and Development Initiatives, World Economic Forum USA

Image: Ethiopian farmer threshes maize in Abbay REUTERS/Barry Malone




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