Special Programme for Food Security

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Special Programme for Food Security is a program of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

"The SPFS began operations in 1994 following the Director-General's review of FAO priorities, programmes and strategies. This review concluded that there was an urgent need to focus on the following:
  • improving food security
  • increasing food production
  • improving stability of supplies
  • generating rural employment
"The main objective of the SPFS is to help Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) improve national and household food security in an economically and environmentally sustainable way. It advocates a participatory approach through demonstrating better ways of increasing production and identifying and resolving the range of constraints which are technical and institutional.
"It draws on Agenda 21, which was unanimously adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro. This states that the major thrust of food security "is to bring about a significant increase in agricultural production in a sustainable way and to achieve a substantial improvement in people's entitlement to adequate food and culturally appropriate food supplies."[1]

Program Phases

"The SPFS is a flexible programme that responds to local opportunities and embraces progressive and iterative learning and reorientation processes. It does not use the FAO framework as a blueprint but models itself after it and draws upon the accumulated experience of FAO. At national level, the SPFS is owned by the country concerned, is adapted to its own realities and is integrated into its strategies. Ownership is evidenced by the considerable investments in kind and cash made by developing countries, some of which have established large trust funds using their own resources. Voluntary donor contributions have also been significant, and FAO has been a frequent broker in securing such collaborative agreements between developing and developed countries.
"The SPFS is implemented in a stepwise fashion, starting with pilot activities initially at a few locations (Phase I) which are progressively scaled up with the aim of gaining pilot experience in all major agro-ecological zones of a country (Phase I extension). Building on this experience and that of other relevant programmes and projects, governments are invited to take the lead in formulating and launching a national-level food security programme (Phase II)."[2]

Phase I

"Phase I involves the engagement of self-selected groups of small farmers at a limited number of sites. As experience is gained and good practices are developed, they are replicated over an increasing number of sites. Depending on locally identified needs and opportunities, this first phase generally consists of four complementary components which touch on most aspects of agricultural development, viz.:
  • Water and soil management: measures to address moisture limitations and excesses through low-cost irrigation, water harvesting and drainage methods, and through land husbandry systems which improve soil conditions (physical, chemical and biological) and avoid soil erosion.
  • Raising productivity: actions to raise land or labour productivity on a sustainable basis, including improved plant varieties adapted to local conditions, integrated plant nutrients and pest management systems (with a minimum dependence on purchased inputs), and improved post-harvest technologies.
  • Farm diversification: measures to improve household nutrition and income and to protect against risk, initially focused on short-cycle livestock such as chickens, sheep, goats, rabbits, bees etc., with an emphasis on enabling farmers to prevent diseases and improve animal nutrition: where appropriate, support is also given to artisanal fisheries and aquaculture...
  • Participatory study of socio-economic constraints that restrict farm-level profitability and food security, prevent the emergence of greater social equity and impede the implementation of the programme on a wider scale. This process, combined with participatory performance assessment studies, provides an input into programme impact monitoring and evaluation, encourages the identification of self-reliant solutions and feeds into the formulation and adjustment of the programme’s second phase as well as national strategies.
"The emphasis on water control is particularly relevant to Africa in that this region uses irrigation least of all regions, and also because, unless water control combines an increase in the area irrigated with efficient water management practices, it has little prospect of raising productivity. It goes without saying that investing in irrigation becomes more worthwhile if productivity is also enhanced by application of improved technologies and yield-enhancing inputs. Text Box 11 profiles one important input – farm energy – that is important for enhancing farm output and the livelihood contribution potential of agriculture.
"As the SPFS programme is extended to include more communities, the range of components and products also tends to broaden, to respond to the growing aspirations of participants and to ensure that constraints to expanded output (for instance relating to input supply, storage, marketing and financial services) are systematically addressed. Communities are encouraged to address problems of inequitable access to food within the community, focusing on vulnerable members including women (especially widows), children (especially orphans) and old and sick people. Such an inclusive approach to food security may lead to the creation of community-managed projects such as school garden programmes."[3]

Phase II

"Unlike the pilot phase of the Special Programme, which focuses on household and community level food security and livelihood issues, the second phase tackles these issues at national level so as to open the way for scaling-up. The second phase of the SPFS is expected to be prepared under national leadership, but with the engagement of all entities – national and international

– committed to improving food security. Its preparation is integrated into the process of formulating and updating the national Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). The national programme is expected to be centred around agricultural and rural sector policy reforms aimed at addressing macro-level economic and institutional constraints: it would usually also include an investment plan for expanding community-led farm level improvements; for addressing physical and infrastructure constraints; and for the preparation of bankable projects. Its objective is to ensure the development of a macroeconomic, institutional and policy framework which is:

  • favourable to demand-driven agricultural production, storage, processing, and marketing, and broadened access to food;
  • supportive of increased private and public investments in agricultural activities and services; and
  • conducive to increasing rural incomes and improving livelihoods."[4]

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