International rapid responses to the global food crisis of 2007-08

Research reports and studies
September 2011
Sharada Keats, Steve Wiggins, Edward Clay

What can be said about relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency of international responses to the global food price crisis of 2007/08, four years on?

To address this question, responses by a selection of international bodies involved in humanitarian and development work, including UN bodies, EU departments, and International Financial Institutions, were reviewed.

This paper provides a provisional synthesis of findings from already available documentation including evaluations, completion and results reports, monitoring and progress reports as well as the secondary literature. Conclusions are tentative, since the review has been relatively brief, relies on published documents, and covers only a sample of the involved agencies or bodies.

What is more, the process of review within some major actors remains incomplete.  The international community mounted a response to the food price crisis of 2007/08 that was remarkable and admirable for its size and urgency.

Key points include:

  • Agencies seem to have chosen the right countries to focus their efforts, however it is not clear if the neediest locations within countries were reached.
  • The typical expectation that urban households would be hardest hit may have drawn focus from the more impoverished rural areas.
  • Socially, in some cases, reaching the neediest was too difficult at short-notice.  
  • Most responses fell into two categories: stimulating production and protecting vulnerable people from high food prices.
  • These responses were not as timely as would have been ideal. Inputs were delivered but many arrived after the first half of 2008.
  • Safety nets were similarly delayed: most got going by late 2008 and early 2009, when prices had been high for some months.
  • There were furthermore reports that higher food and fuel prices meant some programmes already underway had to be scaled back, even as funds were allocated to the new responses.
Generally, there is an evaluation deficit. While it may still be early to ask questions about impacts of these responses, not all agencies have made sufficient attempts to evaluate their response.