Incomplete Assistance: Obstacles to Achieving Food SecurityJun 26th, 2012 | By Louise McLarnan
Feinstein International Center. 2011.
Nearly one billion people suffer from chronic hunger every day. Across the globe, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and foundations support efforts to foster agricultural development and provide sustainable resources to vulnerable populations. At the recent G-8 Camp David Summit, world leaders renewed their commitment to achieving global food security.
Despite growing international concern, efforts to address food insecurity involve complex and often unanticipated challenges. In his paper, “Lifting Livelihoods with Livestock,” Yacob Aklilu examines a livestock assistance program for food insecure households in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. He finds that, despite some operational success, a lack of reliable water sources and agricultural inputs inhibit the program’s ability to promote development on a broad scale.
Aklilu examines an agricultural micro-lending program administered by the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), an Ethiopian non-governmental organization (NGO), that provides households with credit for agricultural inputs and loans to purchase livestock – primarily sheep and cattle. REST is part of a consortium of NGOs participating in the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) Plus Program, an initiative launched by the Ethiopian government in 2008. PSNP, in collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other NGO partners, aims to support Ethiopia’s chronically food insecure households. Since its inception, REST has provided credit to more than 5,025 households, including over 2,245 loans for livestock purchases.
The REST program provides households with loans between $58 and $115 to purchase, raise, and sell livestock. All chronically food insecure households participating in PSNP are eligible to apply for a REST loan. The loan period is fixed for two years, with scheduled repayments every six months at eighteen percent annual interest. The program also offers a training program to recipients, which focuses on capacity-building, feed preparation, and loan repayment planning.
Aklilu evaluates REST’s livestock program to determine the feasibility of diversifying and scaling-up the program. Overall, Aklilu observes positive outcomes among the loan recipients. He emphasizes that the program’s flexibility allows participants to use the loans to their best advantage; some recipients use their loans to become livestock breeders, while others become professional livestock traders.
Aklilu finds, however, that a lack of reliable water sources and a shortage of livestock feed significantly constrain loan recipients’ production. He finds:
[Many] of the households involved in the review appeared to benefit from the program using their imagination, luck, and scarce local feed sources, despite the absence of quality supplementary feed.
Aklilu cautions that, without addressing problems of agricultural inputs, REST will not be able to successfully expand its programs. He recommends that the organization invest in improving agricultural inputs, specifically livestock feed, before broadening its client base.
While the report relies on anecdotal information to illustrate REST’s impact on loan recipients, Aklilu’s recommendations are broadly applicable to other programs that provide aid to food insecure populations. Programs like REST that provide loans and training cannot sustainably support food-insecure populations without addressing the underlying impediments to agricultural production.
Feature Photo: cc/Ferdinand Reus