1. What is the scope of your cooperation with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation?
How will you prioritize the longer-term governance changes required with the shorter-term hunger and poverty needs to be addressed?
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation is a funder of AGI and we have worked very closely with them for over a year; they are very supportive of our approach towards governance and are of course especially interested in the work we are doing to foster agricultural reform in the countries AGI works in. Our collaboration has further expanded this autumn with the announcement of the 40 Chances Fellows Programme where AGI; the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the World Food Prize will encourage the development of new ideas to address food insecurity. Fellowship funds will support social entrepreneurs who are addressing issues of hunger, conflict, or poverty in Liberia, Malawi, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone, four of the countries where AGI works.
With regards to prioritising longer-term governance changes with shorter-term hunger and poverty needs, we would argue that these two challenges are not mutually exclusive. Food security is imperative for any country but mitigating against famine does not preclude governments from also trying to move beyond hunger prevention towards more structural changes within the agricultural sector. For example in Rwanda, where we work, the government has successfully reduced the threat of food insecurity and is now focussing on increasing private sector investment in the agricultural sector. This investment will be targeted at factors which lead to raised productivity and sustained growth. The leveraging of private finance allows the government to concentrate on managing food security while allowing private investment to drive an expansion in productivity and value addition through attracting agro-processing investments. This shift results in options for farmers to commercialise their production as well as growth in off-farm job opportunities.. This is how agricultural policy can move beyond simply dealing with food security towards becoming a driver of economic growth.
2. How is AGI’s model different from other charities in the countries you work?
One-off projects versus sustainable initiatives where locals “take off and run with” the new structure in place? What are your plans to involve African entrepreneurs either social or private, in your development work?
AGI is unique in that we work directly, side-by-side, with our counterparts in central government. We passionately believe in government ownership and in every country we work in it is the government that has the vision and plan for how to improve the lives of their citizens, our role is to help strengthen the capacity of the government to implement that vision. This also relates to your point about ‘one-off projects’ versus sustainable initiatives. We believe that development reforms will only be sustainable if they are implemented and owned by the government in question. We are focussed on supporting government-led reforms which will improve the lives of a country’s citizens for the long-term.
Finally, in terms of involving African entrepreneurs either social or private in development work, in every country we work in our overriding goal is to increase the capacity of a country’s institutions to lead their own development. For example in Rwanda we support the government’s new Strategic Capacity Building Initiative (SCBI) which is aimed at recruiting and training young Rwandans to work in and, ultimately , become experts in four critical sectors of the economy; agriculture, mining; private sector development; and energy. The initiative currently has over 60 recruits with more joining each month. By recruiting and training a new generation of policy makers and deliverers countries like Rwanda are building a much stronger and more resilient government system not reliant on external assistance. And, notably, in each of the priority sectors, the government of Rwanda’s overarching aim is to facilitate increased private investment via local and foreign entrepreneurs.
3. In the countries where you work, 70%+ of the population is employed in agriculture, but only Malawi has allocated at least 10% of its national budget to agriculture, per the Maputo declaration. How will you persuade leaders in your countries of operation to raise budgetary ag spending to at least 10% if not more, to reflect employment realities?
How a government allocates its resources is its own decision. AGI is not a campaigning organisation and we do not take a position on levels of individual government expenditure. Where a government does focus on agriculture our role is to help them manage their reforms effectively to get the most from their investment.
4. You have talked about ending Africa’s dependence on aid in a generation. What is your message to charity workers in the UK who risk losing their incomes, as African countries begin to attain food self-sufficiency? How should charities reorganize for increased program efficacy and sustainability? And away from being in continuous crisis or emergency mode?
It’s not our place to advise UK charities. Our focus is on supporting sustainable improvements to governance which will ultimately lead to reductions in poverty and dependence on aid.
5. What are your 3 implementation priorities in 2014? How will you define their success?
In countries where AGI works in which the government has identified agriculture as a priority, the support is focused primarily through two channels – support to avenues for private sector development and the setting up of delivery units. Throughout 2014 this will continue to be a dual focus for us in agriculture. It also reflects AGI’s wider aims of supporting improved policy delivery across government to improve the lives of citizens in the countries we work in, and to increase private sector investment which will ultimately drive growth and employment.