The Ford Foundation and CIAT: An enduring partnership supporting pro-poor policies
It has been over 45 years since Dr. Lowell S. Hardin of the Ford Foundation proposed the establishment of an international institute for agricultural research and training, which led to the creation of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), yet the partnership between the two organizations is stronger than ever.
As part of the Foundation’s strategy to expand livelihood opportunities for poor households, they have recently granted CIAT funding for an 18-month long project entitled “Public Policies on Linking Farmers to Markets in Colombia and the Latin American Region: Farmers More Competitive, Less Poor”.
Strong evidence-based public policies are crucial for rural development and poverty alleviation. The Colombian government recognizes agriculture as an engine of growth, and it is not misguided in doing so. Agricultural jobs constitute 18.1% of the country’s total labor market and play a major role in the national economy. With the aim of promoting a competitive rural economy in an increasingly globalized world, Colombia is implementing an innovative policy approach that focuses on the development of supply chain organizations at the rural level.
Photo Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)
A previous Ford Foundation funded study by the Linking Farmers to Markets Unit, a research area of Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) at CIAT, found that Colombia’s strategy has enormous potential when well-targeted and paired with strong institutional support. From 2010 to 2013, the “How effective are public sector chain policies for rural poverty reduction: Lessons from Colombia” project evaluated whether public policy measures for agricultural supply chains have been effective in increasing sectorial competitiveness and rural prosperity.
The project found that while in some cases Colombia’s public policies have been effective in decreasing poverty and increasing the competitiveness of agricultural supply chains, such policies often do not target the most vulnerable, rural populations. Furthermore, researchers concluded that the degree of implementation of these policies varies greatly by product and location.
“The research findings have significant implications for public policy and livelihood opportunities across Latin America. The generous grant from the Ford Foundation will ensure that these important research findings are not in vain,” said Mark Lundy, Senior Researcher for Linking Farmers to Markets.
The next piece of this initiative, “Public Policies on Linking Farmers to Markets in Colombia and the Latin American Region: Farmers More Competitive, Less Poor”, aims to share results and recommendations with policy makers, producers’ associations, academia, and non-governmental organizations to ensure policy benefits the poor and has a greater impact on reducing poverty and hunger. A workshop, coordinated with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and further debate and communication with key stakeholders will bring greater awareness and understanding of innovative agricultural supply chain public policies and approaches of linking farmers to markets.
Furthermore, the project seeks to assess the effectiveness of a major Colombian public-sector market access project, Support to Productive Partnerships (PAAP), implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development with support from the World Bank since 2002. PAAP seeks to identify profitable business opportunities that involve a formal buyer and small- to medium-scale farms, and then invest in building business capacities and providing access to assets so that farmer associations can enter and maintain their businesses.
While the Ford Foundation and CIAT’s partnership and programs have evolved over the years, the objective and determination to reduce global poverty and injustice, and advance human achievement have remained the same. Now, diminishing natural resources, environmental degradation, climate change, emerging pests and diseases, among other obstacles, make the fight more essential than ever. Strides towards these goals are not made in isolation. Strategic partnerships, such as the enduring one between the Ford Foundation and CIAT, are essential to respond to today’s rapidly changing challenges.