Partnering for Change: Highlighting the Successes of USAID-Funded Agricultural-Policy Research and Capacity Building
USAID’s focus on food systems and inclusive development has driven a change in global agricultural policy research and practice. This was one of the takeaways of an event held on February 23, 2022, at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) headquarters in Washington, D.C., that celebrated the achievements of the USAID-funded agreement, Strengthening Capacities for Evidence-based Policy Making in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean (IFPRI ReSAKSS agreement 2017–2022). Launched in 2017, the agreement was designed to provide support in pursuit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as well as the African Union’s Malabo Declaration. It grew to provide backbone analysis and capacity strengthening for USAID’s Global Food Security Strategy.
At the beginning of the event, USAID/RFS Policy Division Chief Chris Shepherd-Pratt outlined his take on the overarching successes of the IFPRI-ReSAKSS agreement. “First, the world class analysis and research that IFPRI brings to the table shaped how we think about COVID as well as the impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis,” he said. “How we define a problem is as important as the solutions we bring to the table.” Likewise, building country and regional capacity in policy and analysis underscores the importance of the experts that this activity is supporting: “International support of this kind can give researchers the tools but also the confidence to examine ideas and make policy recommendations that might be different or hard to take on,” he noted. Third, collaborating with country researchers is a step toward localization, an increasingly important priority at USAID. “Finally,” Shepherd-Pratt told the researchers, assembled in person as well as online, “the support that you’ve given to USAID has fundamentally informed Feed the Future as well as the country graduation and selection criteria that we’ve used, all based on evidence and analysis that you have provided.”
Important achievements emanating from this collaboration between USAID and IFPRI include:
- The founding of Akademiya2063, a spinoff from the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System activity (ReSAKSS). The organization has seen outstanding success and growth into an African-based and African-led think tank and contributed to USAID's localization goal.
- The development and deployment of the AgGDP+/AgEMP+ indicators, which help define and measure growth, transformation and employment in agri-food systems. Both metrics have become standard FTF indicators.
- Nine COVID-19 analysis activities: Perhaps the most notable outcomes of the COVID impact assessment work were the numerous presentations given to donor groups, USAID missions, local governments and other partners within Feed the Future focus countries. Reports, presentation materials and other knowledge products were produced for each country and posted on IFPRI’s COVID Portal website. See, for example, Malawi’s country reports and slide decks; Ghana’s country report and journal article; or Nigeria’s country report and journal article. The COVID-19 country modeling work also led to the development of a new diet-quality metric and measurement tool. The Rwanda Strategy Support Program provided insight into food price dynamics during the first phase of the pandemic, allaying concerns about inflationary pressures, food shortages, and hunger. Findings were communicated to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning as well as the Cabinet, which was reported to have considered IFPRI’s earliest analyses in the design of the National Economic Recovery Plan. The analysis of the impact of COVID-19 in Honduras, Guatemala and Haiti resulted in virtual meetings with USAID missions in those countries. Different versions of the overall report on Haiti’s multiple tragedies were presented to staff in the Haitian government, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the chair of the U.S. Committee on Foreign Relations of the House of Representatives. Some of the ideas in the report have entered the conversation about policy options in the country.
- Several trade activities: To illustrate, IFPRI, and AKADEMIYA2063 published the 2020 Africa Agriculture Trade Monitor (AATM), 2021 AATM, and 2022 AATM which were launched at the African Green Revolution Forum.
- Many other activities including the 2022 Global Food 50/50 Report: Hungry for Gender Equality and its virtual launch event, Tracking and promoting progress on gender equality: Emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities, which took place in October 2022 as a side event to the 2022 Borlaug Dialogue and was co-hosted by Global Health 50/50, IFPRI and UN Women. The report shines a light on the progress, and lack of progress, made by food organizations in promoting diversity and equality in their leadership and decision-making and in putting gender equality at the heart of their work.
USAID Mission buy-ins to the agreement also led to important outcomes. The Nigeria Agriculture Policy Activity (NAPA), implemented by IFPRI and Michigan State University, included a roundtable discussion with the U.S. Ambassador that focused on Nigeria’s food security situation. The Rwanda Strategy Support Program conducted a series of analyses on the impact of reductions in fertilizer subsidies. These analyses were initially driven by concerns about budget overruns at Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and later by the spike in global fertilizer prices. The results of this work informed the World Bank’s review of Disbursement-Linked Indicators (DLI) under the Program-for-Results (P4R) financing arrangement for Rwanda. Importantly, they also led to Cabinet approval of a fertilizer subsidy reform plan. Finally, the Bangladesh Agricultural Policy Activity conducted the 2018-2019 Integrated Household Survey to assess changes in the Feed the Future zone of influence over the seven-year period on select indicators.
The February event at IFPRI also heralded the launch of USAID’s new follow-on activity, Policy, Evidence, Analytics, Research, and Learning (PEARL). The purpose of PEARL is to generate and apply analytic tools and strengthen policy systems to promote inclusive agriculture-led growth, nutrition and resilience, as well as water security, sanitation and hygiene.
In his final comments, Shepherd-Pratt re-emphasized the activity’s success in fostering and strengthening global and regional networks. “The outcomes of this activity highlight the value and importance of long-term relationships,” he said. “I walk away even more convinced that investing in these networks is essential.”
The ReSAKSS final report can be downloaded here.