USAID needs risk assessments for global food security program, GAO says

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2013 - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has improved its coordination with several U.S. partner agencies on a program to improve global food security, but needs to conduct periodic risk assessments, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO examined USAID's Feed the Future Initiative (FTF), which aims to target about $7 billion for 19 food insecure countries largely in Africa, and found the program still needs better coordination at three levels: at the Washington, D.C. headquarters, in each of the countries, and between the headquarters and the countries.

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U.S. partner agencies include the Agriculture Department, the State Department, the Treasury Department, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. 

FTF is the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative, which has a goal of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. FTF aims to address root causes of hunger that limit the potential of millions of people and establish a lasting foundation for change by aligning resources with country-owned processes and sustained multi-stakeholder partnerships through a new “country-led” approach. The program also attempts to coordinate existing U.S. government programs in agriculture and food security through a “whole-of-government approach” and complement the related work by multilateral institutions such as the World Bank that receive food security funds from the U.S. government.

The report found that while USAID has facilitated a “country-led” approach to the program, it was not systemically assessing risks with this approach.

For example, the report said, 12 of the 19 country strategies did not contain sections discussing assessments of risks such as the host government's insufficient capacity to meet funding commitments for agriculture and policies that inhibit private sector investment. The report found that less than half of the risks that were identified had corresponding discussions of mitigation strategies.

The report said that although USAID country guidance documents indicate country teams must assess risks associated with USAID's development objectives, the agency does not require country teams to systemically asses and mitigate risks to the country-led approach.

“Without requirements for FTF country staff to identify and mitigate risks associated with the country-led approach, the U.S. government's ability to achieve its goal for improving global food security could be limited,” the report said.

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