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Evaluating the extent of implementation of current regional food security policy processes and building the capacity of the informal maize marketing system to advocate for increased participation in regional maize trade
2006
Southern Africa Trust


Strengthening civil society engagement in regional food security policy processes:

Summary of Project

The FANRPAN and SARPN partnership, in this concept, is building on work initiated in 2005, in partnership with ODI, to strengthen civil society engagement in regional food security policy development. FANRPAN and SARPN would like to:
  1. Build the capacity of the informal maize marketing system to participate more in regional maize trade for improved food security. This will target a specific civil society group: the smallholder farmers, small-scale traders and small millers and will be led by FANRPAN


  2. Assist civil society organisations in evaluating the extent of implementation of current region food security policy processes towards improving food security in the region. This will target the conventional NGO sector and will be led by SARPN. It will focus on evaluating the status of implementation of 4 regional policy instruments: The Dar el Salaam Declaration, the Maseru Declaration, the SADC RISDP, and NEPAD's CAADP.

    FANRPAN and SARPN will undertake these initiatives in four SADC member states: Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa where preliminary work has already been done. The key activities will include:

    1. 4 National Maize Marketing Advocacy and Training workshops in 4 countries for key actors in the informal maize marketing system
    2. 4 country assessment reviews on the implementation status of 4 regional policy instruments
    3. Preparation of Policy papers and briefs for wide dissemination to policy and decision makers
    4. Organising one (1) regional policy dialogue for lead actors to share findings and advocate for appropriate policy actions
Regional Maize Marketing

Over the last two years (2004-05) FANRPAN, in collaboration with Michigan State University (MSU), undertook a study on the dynamics of maize trade and marketing in the SADC region. The study was conducted in Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa. The study revealed that, even in a reasonably good rainfall season, at least 50% of small farm households in the region are net-buyers of maize or maize meal. The study, also, revealed that even during periods of national food shortfalls, most rural and urban poor rely more on markets than on emergency distribution to secure their residual food needs. The study established that 40 - 60% of the cost in maize marketing is borne by consumers of maize meal. Farmers are typically paid about US$80 - $140 per tonne for maize while consumers pay $150 - 250 per tonne for maize meal. Low-income consumers pay as much as 30% of their income on maize or maize meal. When maize supplies are available through informal channels - many consumers prefer to buy maize and take to local small millers for processing. This is a popular option especially among the urban poor and rural food deficit households because it is less expensive. Consumers can save up to 25% on maize meal costs as long as grain is available in local markets.

Thus, a comprehensive food security strategy in Southern Africa requires that maize grain and meal, and other food staples such as cassava or rice, are accessible at affordable prices through the market system. The future of the small-scale farming sector's ability to prosper from maize production and marketing will depend on strengthening the performance of the marketing system serving farmers, and on integrating the "informal marketing system" with the more developed "formal" marketing channels. FANRPAN and SARPN would, thus, like to specifically focus on building the capacity of the informal maize marketing system (small farmer organizations, small grain traders and small millers) to advocate for itself - in order to open up spaces for increased participation in regional grain trade - for improved regional food security.

Evaluating the status of implementation of regional commitments on food security

Four (4) regional policy instruments have prioritized poverty and food insecurity as the leading development challenges in the region: The 2004 Dar el Salaam Declaration; the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Plan (RISDP); the 2003 Maseru Declaration and NEPAD's Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Programme (CAADP). These policy instruments express the total commitment of the region's leadership to address these two priorities. The main challenge, thus, lies in the level and quality of implementation of these commitments - both at the national and regional levels. In addition, lack of awareness on the implementation status of policies and accompanying commitments inhibit effective CSO participation. Civil society organizations are in vantage positions to assess the level of rollout of these commitments and provide operational options - since most of them operate in the space between communities and governments. SARPN is already involved in some preliminary work to assess implementation and will work with various CSOs in the 4 countries to intensify these assessments and develop implementation options.

Civil society organisations, in their respective national level contexts, have been variously engaging national governments on food security policy issues related to areas highlighted under the SADC RISDP and the Dar-el Salaam declaration. These organizations have, however, been facing challenges on how to play an effective and influential role at regional level. They are not able to effectively hold regional institutions like SADC and NEPAD accountable to their commitments to stimulate agricultural growth and production. The findings of the proposed evaluation will create new avenues for civil society engagement and participation in key regional processes - and will be shared at the proposed national and regional dialogues.

Motivation for the Concept

Relevance to regional level priorities for poverty reduction

Arguably the most critical challenges facing the southern Africa region, at the moment, are how to arrest poverty and food insecurity. There is widespread agreement that agricultural growth will be the main engine for tackling poverty and food insecurity. Because such a large percentage of all rural households in the region grow maize, and because maize comprises such a large fraction of total cultivated area, maize productivity growth is going to be an essential part of kick-starting the agricultural and rural income growth processes in the region. Productivity growth of the main staple crops has been a pre-condition to poverty alleviation and income growth in almost all regions of the world. Staple food productivity growth is an important means to achieve crop diversification and the potential growth benefits associated with it.

The Importance of strengthening the informal maize trade system derives from the need to improve marketing incentives for small farmers and reduce the cost of food for consumers. When locally produced surpluses are depleted, informal channels become thinly traded. Small millers and traders tend not to import grain because they are either unable or unwilling. Imports are coordinated between formal channel suppliers and large millers, which, in turn, implies much higher milling and retail margins, and hence relatively high maize meal costs to consumers (approximately 25 - 40% higher). In Zambia these findings have led to two major policy changes by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOCA): reduction in inter-district grain levies and waiving of the maize import tariff.

Some of the key issues that the informal maize marketing system will be trained to advocate for, through this project, include:
  1. How could governments ensure that grain remains available in local markets for consumers to be able to buy - during food shortfalls?
  2. If Food Reserve Authorities (FRA) import maize during shortfalls, could they sell it in small lots to small traders in informal markets to ensure that grain is directly available for consumers and small millers?
  3. Could governments allow large traders and millers to import for themselves during deficit periods? Could governments allow small traders and millers to import for themselves as well?
  4. Export bans - what are their effects on regional trade, on local production incentives, and on investment in the grain marketing system?
  5. Import tariffs - can these be waived? If these are not waived, no private imports will occur, which causes shortages.
  6. Government predictability - can government positions on maize tariffs and trade be more predictable to markets? This will allow markets to play a more positive role in importing adequate volumes during crises.
There is considerable evidence in the SADC region, that poor progress with strengthening food security over the last two decades has been, as much, the result of weaknesses in policy processes as failures in food production and utilization technologies (e.g. negative outcomes relating to issues surrounding distribution and strategic grain reserves in Malawi; and the disastrous consequences of Zimbabwe's land reform policy implementation). A contributing factor to the weakness of policy processes has been the marginal participation of members of civil society in the development, implementation and monitoring of policies relating to food security. This has, in part, been attributed to the limited awareness on progress regarding the implementation of regional level food security policies such as the 2004 Dar el Salaam Declaration; the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Plan (RISDP); the 2003 Maseru Declaration and NEPAD's Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Programme (CAADP). Such awareness complements the CSO hands-on and grassroots experience and will ultimately strengthen policy processes. This is because CSOs operate in the arena between the household, the private sector and the state and can thus effectively negotiate matters of public concern.

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