Effectiveness of European Union Development Aid for Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa

European Court of Auditors


Food security is a major problem in sub-Saharan Africa, where 30 % of the population suffer from hunger.
The Court examined whether European Union (EU) development aid for food securit y in sub-Saharan Africa is effective: whether EU development aid for food security is relevant to the countries’ needs and priorities and whether the EU interventions are effective. The audit focused on EU direct development support for the three dimensions of food security, i.e. food availability, access to food and utilisation of food (nutrition). It did not examine whether food security was mainstreamed in all relevant areas of EU cooperation, such as health, education, or water and sanitation.
The Court concludes that EU development aid for food security in sub-Saharan Africa is mostly effective and makes an important contribution to achieving food security. However, there is scope for significant improvement in several areas.
In countries where food security is part of the EDF cooperation strategy, EU development aid is highly relevant to needs and priorities. The Commission focused its development aid on countries with the highest number of undernourished people. However, the Commission did not sufficiently consider the potential scope for EU support in other countries which also suffer from chronic food insecurity and are off track or late as regards the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 1 (Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) (MDG1).
The European Development Fund (EDF) and the Food Securit y Thematic Programme (FSTP) complement each other. The Food Facility, set up in order to react 
to the impact of the 2007–08 food price crisis, was not designed to address long-term food price volatility.
EU aid properly addresses countries’ needs and priorities as regards food availability and access to food. However, the Commission has not placed adequate 
emphasis on nutrition and could have done more to encourage countries to set up appropriate nutrition policies and programmes at an earlier stage. The Commission has recently taken a number of initiatives to address this problem.
EU interventions are mostly effective. They are well designed, are based on a sound knowledge of needs and priorities, and involve close dialogue with the governments of the partner countries and a wide range of stakeholders. Often, however, the interventions do not set sufficiently clear objectives. They are also 
sometimes overly ambitious, in particular in the case of Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) projects. Interventions aim to achieve long-lasting results by 
empowering local populations to address the underlying causes of food insecurit y, mainly by increasing agricultural production and promoting incomeearning activities.
(c) The Commission and the European External Action Service should give adequate priority to nutrition when defining the cooperation strategy, identifying and designing interventions, and using policy dialogue with partner governments, not ably in t he framework of budget support programmes.
(d) The Commission should set out intervention objectives that are sufficiently precise and measurable through performance indicators. It should ensure that the objectives are achievable by better assessing the risks and assumptions concerning the successful implementation of interventions.
(e) The Commission should better support the financial sustainability of agricultural and social transfer programmes. In doing so, the Commission should:
(i) place more emphasis on the development of effective agricultural extension services, postharvest infrastructure and rural credit;
(ii) ensure that social transfer programmes provide for adequate support to the development of income-earning capacities of the beneficiaries.
The interventions in most cases improve availability of and access to food for beneficiaries. They help to increase and diversify agricultural production and incomes, and support safety-net programmes for the most vulnerable. Half of the interventions have reasonable prospects of being sustainable, but continued 
results are less clear for the other half. Large government agricultural and social transfer programmes are not financially sustainable and largely depend on continued donor support.
The Court makes the following recommendations to improve the effectiveness of EU development aid for food security in sub-Saharan Africa:
(a) For t he programming period aft er 2013, the Commission and the European External Action Service should carry out a structured assessment 
of the food security situation in each country and systematically consider the potential scope for EU support in this area.
(b) The Commission should examine, possibly with other development partners, the feasibility of a permanent instrument for financing urgent and 
supplementary measures that may be required to address the consequences of potential future food crises in developing countries.
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