Measuring aid to agriculture and food security

Briefing papers
February 2012
Lídia Cabral and John Howell

There is a prevailing view that aid to agriculture has suffered a steep decline since the 1980s and is only now beginning to recover its share of total aid, following concerns over food price rises and volatility. While this is broadly true, the extent of the decline has been exaggerated by the limitations of the method used to classify aid to agriculture, and the recent recovery has been exaggerated by the merging of this type of aid with broader efforts to address food insecurity. There are two main causes of such statistical inaccuracies. First, the difficulty of capturing policy changes in the way in which donors support agriculture. Second, the difficulty of isolating the agricultural component in aid programmes.

This Briefing Paper explores the flow of aid to agriculture and reviews how it is measured and counted in terms of overall Overseas Development Assistance. Based on this analysis, the researchers argue:

  • Recent aid pledges to agriculture reveal flaws in the system for identifying and classifying such aid;
  • A purposeful measure of aid to agriculture is required to improve transparency and accountability;
  • The different policy objectives behind aid to agriculture need to be separated to help establish results-based aid.