One month after the start of the war in Ukraine on 24 February, France, as part of its Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), proposed a framework for solidarity-based coordination to address the global food insecurity caused by the blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports and the sanctions against Russia. Here we present to our readers and aid actors the features of this internationally adopted Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission (FARM) initiative.
The impact of the war in Ukraine on food insecurity is now more than clear and affects us all. According to the UN’s World Food Security Report published in early summer 2022, nearly one in ten people suffer from hunger. Russia and Ukraine alone account for about 30% of global wheat exports. Russia, the world’s largest exporter of cereals since 2016, and Ukraine, the world’s largest and fourth largest exporter of sunflower and corn, are at the heart of the global food system and ensure the supply of cereals for a large number of countries, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. The soaring cost of imported fertilisers and the drop in production due to the conflict is seriously disrupting supply systems and putting nearly 750 million people living in countries heavily dependent on Russian and Ukrainian exports in a vulnerable position. While African countries are heavily impacted, due to their already high levels of debt, the conflict also poses significant risks to Europe. Indeed, the European continent imports sunflower oil and corn from Ukraine, as well as N and K fertilisers (nitrogen and potassium fertilisers are part of the primary nutrients for plant growth) which ensure the fertilisation of European agriculture. In this context, it is therefore essential to strengthen support for the World Food Programme (WFP) and to reinforce the coordination of the various actors to maximise the impact of humanitarian and food aid.
The Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission (FARM) initiative was set up under the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union in order to respond to the food crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and to help the most vulnerable countries affected. This project was launched in March 2022, following a meeting between members of the French government, private stakeholders, representatives of the WFP and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the European Commission and the European Investment Bank, and was endorsed by the European Union, the European Council, members of the G7 and the African Union. This meeting then led to the creation of a Private Sector Coalition for Food Security (PSCFS) in which each of the companies committed to ensuring the implementation of FARM missions by supporting :
- The Ukrainian agricultural sector in its production and export capacities, in line with European efforts
- Access to agricultural and food commodities and inputs for the most vulnerable countries alongside the WFP
- The development of sustainable production capacities and robust value chains in fragile countries, particularly in Africa
This initiative is based on three major pillars: trade and transparency, solidarity and sustainable production. These three pillars aim to ensure trade in cereals, guarantee cereal supplies to vulnerable countries, support Ukrainian agricultural production and develop sustainable agricultural production capacities. Within these three pillars, four areas of action have been identified: increasing local production capacity, encouraging the consumption of local products, developing local markets, and limiting food waste.
|Pillar||Aim||Partner organisation||Key actions|
|Trade||Ease tensions on agricultural markets, ensure full transparency of flows as well as stocks and fight against unjustified trade barriers||WTO||– exemption from restrictive export measures for all WFP purchases|
|Solidarity||Support Ukrainian agricultural capacity, ensure affordable access to agricultural commodities in the most affected countries, and prepare for the effects of the war on agricultural production levels.||WFP, OECD||– Solidarity corridors initiative|
|Sustainable production||Build agricultural capacity in a sustainable manner in the countries most affected.||IFAD, World Bank, African Development Bank, Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme + French Development Agency (AFD)||– capitalising on and developing existing initiatives such as the Great Green Wall, the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Plant Protein,
– Agricultural Value Chain Development Support Project
- Example of the IFAD-AFD partnership in Cameroon – Agricultural Value Chain Development Support Project (Piler Sustainable Production)
The partnership is based on three streams: a reaffirmed strategic dialogue, the development of operational synergies and the identification of coordinated financing opportunities. The aim of this IFAD-AFD partnership is, with the Cameroonian authorities, to strengthen the technical and management capacities of agricultural producers, the sustainability of agricultural practices and sustainable and responsible investment in the sector. To this end, the AFD-FIDA group is committed to strengthening human capital by offering professional training and agricultural advice.
Thus, as a first concrete and joint contribution to the FARM initiative, AFD has expressed its interest in engaging in a joint dialogue with the Cameroonian authorities and IFAD on a five million euro financial contribution to the Support Project for the Development of Agricultural Sectors – Phase 2 (PADFA II).
2. Development of the Great Green Wall Initiative, CAADP and Plant Protein Initiative (Sustainable Production Pillar)
Initiated in 2007, the Great Green Wall project for ecological restoration and the fight against food insecurity in Africa aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land. The project covers a strip of 8,000km, from Senegal to Djibouti (including Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia). Reforestation of this region helps combat climate change and desertification by promoting the evapotranspiration mechanism of plants on the land. Increasing the number of trees also helps to store CO2. On a socio-economic level, reforestation helps in the fight against poverty and food insecurity. Indeed, the project generates employment and produces food resources (fruits, vegetables). During the last 12 years, the project has not achieved these objectives because of several obstacles. Indeed, the project is not always the priority of governments, which are often preoccupied with geopolitical problems and violence. The countries also face a considerable lack of financial resources, which makes the implementation of the initiative more complex. Thus, the support of the FARM project to revitalise this project by increasing the financial and human resources will enable the countries to reclaim their territory in a sustainable manner.
CAADP is part of the Agenda 2063 aspiration to help African countries eliminate hunger and reduce poverty. The programme, under the FARM initiative, will be upgraded and expanded to foster economic growth by developing the agricultural sector through increased national budgetary allocations to the sector. The aim is for African countries to devote at least 10% of their national budgets to agriculture and rural development and achieve an agricultural growth rate of at least 6% per year. The African Union is emphasising African ownership and leadership to pave the way for more sustainable agricultural change.
The Plant Protein Plan was created following the launch of the Great Green Wall Accelerator in January 2021 after the One Planet Summit. The aim of the plan is to speed up the transformation of African food systems to more sustainable models. The development of protein crops contributes to food security objectives and socio-economic development in the region. The initiative aims to strengthen sustainable plant protein value chains, with the long-term goal of agricultural self-sufficiency in Africa.
These three concrete actions of the FARM initiative are in line with a sustainable food and agricultural sovereignty approach for the African continent to reduce dependence on Ukrainian exports and thus minimise the consequences of the conflict on the continent.
3. Solidarity Corridors
The main objective of the corridors, set up by the European Commission, is to help Ukraine export its agricultural products through several concrete and joint actions, but also to import the goods the country needs. In May 2022 (when these corridors were set up), the European Commission (EC) Commissioner for Transport, Adina Valean, announced that 20 million tonnes of grain would have to leave Ukraine in less than 3 months in order to free up storage capacity for the 2022 harvest. Short and long-term solutions, such as corridors, are being organised in coordination with the Ukrainian authorities and EU members.
Firstly, solidarity corridors were set up to facilitate border crossings between Ukraine and EU member states. The European Commission has asked to make additional transport means available as a matter of urgency and to set up a logistical matching platform (EU-Ukraine Business Matchmaking Platform) as well as to designate corridor-specific contact points. The Commission also calls on infrastructure managers to prioritise agricultural exports from Ukraine by reserving rail slots for them, and on national authorities to show flexibility in speeding up procedures at border crossings. Finally, the Commission calls its members to coordinate to promote and facilitate the temporary storage of Ukrainian exports.
Another axis of the solidarity corridors focuses on the connections between the EU member states and Ukraine, with the aim in the medium term of increasing the infrastructure capacities of the new export corridors and establishing new infrastructure connections. In this perspective, on 10 May, talks were held on an agreement on road freight transport in the EU Member States, Ukraine and Moldova. In addition, the EC has also proposed to extend the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) to Ukraine and Moldova to enable both countries to obtain European funding for their infrastructure and to facilitate post-war reconstruction in Ukraine.
- 4. Exemption from restrictive measures on exports of WFP purchases
On April 27th 2022, the EC presented a proposal for a European Parliament and Council Regulation, approved on 24 May, to introduce trade liberalisation measures over 1 year. Three measures are proposed:
- The temporary suspension of all customs duties for industrial products, fruit and vegetables subject to the entry price system and agricultural products subject to tariff quotas
- Temporary suspension of anti-dumping duties on imports originating in Ukraine
- The temporary suspension of the common import regime for imports originating in Ukraine.
The primary aim of these measures is to promote trade flows between Ukraine and the EU and to create conditions for strengthening economic and trade relations with a view to the gradual integration of the country into the EU market.
In order to benefit from these measures, Ukraine commits itself to respect the rules of origin of products and procedures, not to introduce new duties, taxes or restrictions on imports originating in the EU (unless justified in the context of war), and to respect the principles of democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.
In this context, the signing of an agreement on 22 July in Istanbul between Russia and Ukraine on the export of Ukrainian and Russian grain from Black Sea ports, thanks to the good offices of Turkey and under the direction of the UN, is a major decision which remains to be implemented in the long term.
Possible risks of the FARM project
While the adoption and implementation of the FARM project is the most important thing, it is also useful to anticipate the risks of malfunctioning that would affect its effectiveness. The Ukrainian conflict and the food crisis, not to mention the energy crisis, is creating tensions and adjustments between countries and reshaping the framework of international relations. Therefore, the project will only be a success if the EU member states overcome the inconsistencies that often accompany decisions taken by the 27 member states. Moreover, there is a real risk of duplicating existing initiatives in the food and agricultural sectors. Indeed, since March, three initiatives similar to FARM’s have been launched: the Global Alliance on Food Security launched by Germany (holding the G7 presidency), the Roadmap for Global Food Security by the United States and the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance announced by the United Nations. These initiatives show the interest and the need for concrete measures against food insecurity but underline the importance of good international coordination to optimise the FARM project.
In this context, civil society organisations are making proposals. In a press release, CCFD-Terre Solidaire states that “any real international response to the crisis will require more market regulation, more transparency on private stocks and a profound transformation of our trade system in favour of people’s food sovereignty. CCFD-Terre Solidaire, based on the government’s past experience with agricultural and food policy, also warns against making the same mistakes. The organisation recalls the launch of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition by the G8 in 2012 in a similar crisis situation, which had similar objectives to those of FARM. The alliance relied on multinationals and allowed legislative changes liberalising land, seeds and taxation to the detriment of local producers. Faced with its lack of results, its limitations and the negative impacts it generated (land grabs, indebtedness of farmers, lack of accountability of the companies involved), Emmanuel Macron made the choice in 2018 to withdraw from it. It is therefore important to keep these considerations in mind during future evaluations and analyses of the FARM initiative.
Aid actors, both macro and micro, are concerned at various stages by this FARM project, which aims to limit the global food consequences of the war in Ukraine, particularly for the populations of the poorest countries already affected by other crises. With this article, Humanitarian Challenges aims to better inform aid actors in order to improve the effectiveness of aid for populations at risk. We would be grateful for any testimonies or information you may have about this FARM initiative.
Eva Miccolis in collaboration with Axel Bonnechaux.