French food aid in 2012

Stakes and strategy of food aid

In 2012, chronic starvation affected close to 870 million people worldwide, including 150 million children. According to estimates by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the vast majority – some 850 million people, or a little less than 15% of the world’s population – live in developing countries.

In 1990, this proportion was 20% of the world population: 1 billion people. It was above all before 2007-2008 that global progress was made in reducing hunger. There was then a slow-down and decline because of rocketing food prices in 2008.

Differences between regions and countries remain considerable. In Asia and Latin America, the number of starving people has fallen, whereas it has risen in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Beyond this chronic situation which calls for structural answers, some 100 million people are affected every year by acute food and nutritional crises caused by natural disasters, political crises, conflicts, or the degradation of their conditions of existence, while 5 million children die every year because of causes linked to malnutrition.

Programmed Food Aid (AAP)

To address the most serious situations, where the life of populations is threatened, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs mobilizes Programmed Food Aid (AAP), in addition to emergency aid implemented by the Crisis Centre (CDC). The implementation of AAP fits in with the framework of the conclusions of the European Council conclusions of 10 May 2010 on humanitarian food aid.

This aid helps address the most urgent food and nutrition needs while contributing to safeguarding and rehabilitating the subsistence conditions of the populations concerned. It also helps strengthen population resilience: their capacity to face up to the risks of shocks, to address them, and to recover and adapt sustainably.

AAP promotes the use of diversified instruments (food aid in-kind, but also money transfers, coupons, specific nutritional products, support for means of existence, distribution of tools, training, etc.) that help satisfy the needs of beneficiaries as well as possible. This diversification marks the transition from an approach based on in-kind food aid towards the concept of food assistance.

Moreover, AAP fits into the framework of the commitments made by France under the international Food Aid Convention. This Convention, the only international text on food aid, has been in force since 1967 and sets the minimum commitment of its signatory countries and codifies certain food aid modalities. In this framework, France is committed to mobilizing, on a predictable basis and despite price fluctuations, the equivalent of 200,000 cereal equivalent tonnes (CET) per year.

This Convention has been renegotiated in order to provide a modernized text that reflects the transition towards the wider notion of food assistance. A new convention entered into force on 1 January 2013. It aims to address emergencies while contributing to the long-term improvement of food security and promoting the resistance capabilities of populations though long-term development activities for local agriculture, particularly involving the promotion of local and regional purchasing. The palette of tools eligible under the Convention has been widened (seed, veterinary interventions). The new Convention will also make it possible to shift the nature of commitments and express them in monetary value rather than in-kind.

AAP also contributes to the attainment of two goals of the sectoral strategy of the interministerial committee for international cooperation and development (CICID) for agriculture and food security:

  • prevention and management of food crises (including post-crisis rehabilitation);
  • support for populations that are vulnerable in nutrition terms and threatened by the deterioration of their conditions of existence.

Geographical targeting of French food aid

In 2012, 19 countries and territories benefited from AAP (22 in 2011), including 12 in Sub-Saharan Africa. The top ten beneficiaries (Niger, Chad, the Palestinian Territories, Mauritania, Mali, Haiti, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) represent more than 75% of the budget, indicating a clear concentration of resources on a limited number of countries.

The portion of the budget dedicated to Sub-Saharan Africa, a stated priority of French AAP, is just under 70%, following a trough in 2010.

From September 2011, France mobilized to respond to the challenge of the Sahel food crisis, allocating €10 million of aid to countries in the region because prevention is ten times more effective and less costly than handling the consequences of food crises. This mobilization was continued and enhanced throughout 2012, reaching a total of close to 41% of AAP.

Elsewhere, like in operations in Afghanistan, Haiti, Madagascar and the Palestinian Territories, food aid respects a continuity of financing, promoting long-term efforts.

Lastly, targeting of the budget towards the least developed countries (LDCs) is close to 80%, in accordance with the orientations of France’s AAP strategy.

Operations supported by France

The portion linked to emergency operations in the 2012 AAP budget (58%) makes up the majority of the budget, given the 2011-2012 Sahel food crisis.However, a significant portion of the supported efforts are still linked to prolonged crisis situations and rehabilitation (42% of the budget), focused on countries experiencing "forgotten crises" such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Yemen. The lack of visibility of these crises often leads to a shortfall in financing of aid programmes, which increases the relevance of our operations.

The portion dedicated to maternal and child nutrition efforts represents close to half of activities in 2012, compared to 15% of the 2011 budget. This development can be explained by the increase in emergency operations during the Sahel food and nutrition crisis. Support for means of existence corresponds to operations in prolonged crisis and rehabilitation contexts. The diversification of supported actions corresponds to the shift in budget use towards food assistance.

As French food aid comes without ties (no condition of acquiring products in France), and as France promotes local and regional procurement, local and regional purchases always represent a major part of product acquisition sources: 23% of purchases made by partner organizations are local, 8% are regional and 69% are international. For small producers to benefit from these purchases, France supports the World Food Programme (WFP) Purchase for Progress programmes in several countries.

A few examples of French-supported projects

Myanmar: €0.8 million

Aid for the recovery of areas affected by cyclones Nargis and Giri:

  • Distribution of family rations to targeted populations, particularly women, children, elderly people, orphans and the disabled. Beneficiaries: 20,000 people.
  • Support for the programme to improve food security in the rural areas of Chin State, through food for work activities. Beneficiaries: 2,536 people.

Mali €2,595,593

  • Nutritional supplements for 39,000 children and food support for 7500 pregnant and lactating women for 3 months. Beneficiaries: 46,500 people.
  • Joint ICRC Mali/Niger project.
  • Support for the programme to strengthen the food security of nomadic populations in North Mali in a post-food-crisis context and security crisis situation, July-November 2012. Beneficiaries: 15,000 people.
  • Provision of immediate access to food for vulnerable populations in the Gao region and support for the rehabilitation of their means of existence by distribution of staples during the hunger gap between harvests. Beneficiaries: 12,000 people for 7 months.
  • Programme distributing emergency food kits in rural areas, building production capacities of smallholder populations and distributing grain to grain banks. Beneficiaries: 8000 people, including 5600 displaced persons, for 3 months (August-October 2012).

Palestinian Territories: €3.3 million

Continued support for the actions of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), for vulnerable Palestinian populations and refugees:

  • The French contribution covers 3 weeks of flour needs for 207,000 beneficiaries, as well as 8 weeks of need for fortified biscuits stuffed with dates for 7000 people. Beneficiaries: 214,000 people.
  • Reduction of food insecurity through provision of in-kind food aid to Palestinian refugees in 2012. Beneficiaries: 145,658 people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
  • Local purchasing of fortified biscuits distributed to children of State primary schools in the 5 Gaza Strip Governorates. Beneficiaries: 80,000 children.
  • Reduction of food insecurity through provision of in-kind food aid to Palestinian refugees in 2013. Beneficiaries: 150,756 people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
  • Distribution of snacks to children in 145 State primary schools in the 5 Gaza Strip Governorates for 1.5 months. Beneficiaries: 80,000 children.

Haiti: €2.5 million

  • Relaunch of the local grain purchasing programme initiated in 2005 through integration of local production to promote the recovery of agricultural production. Food is distributed to the World Food Programme (WFP) to support its national school canteen programme. These purchases made it possible to distribute 8,241,667 meals from 15 April 2012 (beginning of local purchasing) and 31 January 2013: 130 school days. Beneficiaries: 63,400 primary school pupils, 4-14 years old.
  • 2.5 million meals served between 1 October 2012 and 31 January 2012: 77 school days. Beneficiaries: 32,470 primary school pupils, 4-14 years old.

Lessons learnt and orientations for 2013

The convening of a first Interministerial Committee for Food Aid (CIAA) on 9 December 2011 made it possible to schedule an envelope of €10 million for the Sahel. This allowed AAP to be mobilized from the outset of the Sahel crisis. This mechanism will be renewed in the future during food crises needing a quick response.

The January 2012 CIAA scheduled a tranche of €10 million and the June 1012 meeting a tranche of €15.19 million euros.

Close coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Crisis Centre helped established joint analyses and close cooperation to respond to the Sahel crisis. However, the difference in implementing procedures for operations did not allow us to coordinate AAP with AFD instruments to support NGOs.

Close coordination with other food assistance donors – and firstly, the European Commission – continued, through regular consultations and co-financing.

The implementation of France’s humanitarian aid strategy will enable greater complementarity and coordination between the different humanitarian instruments managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as with crisis exit operations.

In accordance with the new Food Assistance Convention, programmed food assistance should help boost population resilience. It aims to contribute to long-term improvement of food security and promotion of population resistance capacities through local agriculture development activities, while responding to emergencies. The new Convention will enable the eligibility of a greater number of response procedures (money transfers, food vouchers, nutrition actions, etc.), which will increase the adaptation of operations to their contexts and to the needs of beneficiaries – and thus boost their effectiveness.

Lastly, the growing number of food and humanitarian crises must not lead to a dispersion of our aid, which would reduce its effectiveness. Constant attention should be paid to "forgotten", under-financed crises where our added value is significant, while remaining vigilant to emergency situations.