The Technical Review Panel conference was impressive. The brightest of the bright squirreled away in this hotel to seriously take apart the World Food Programme’s ‘Purchase for Progress’ project, put back together or offer a different direction.
Purchase for Progress is that wing of the World Food Programme trying, in twenty countries, to assist small hold farms (~.5 – 2-3 hectares hectares) to increase their quality and quantity of production and to increase their income by selling into new, more profitable and reliable markets. The World Food Programme ought to be and wants to be just one market for small farm grain; they purchase at fair market value, not at inflated prices which lead to unrealistic smallholder expectations. With expertise offered through what now ought to be called ‘Partners for Progress’, farmers are learning to work together to aggregate their crops and to sell to more lucrative markets where they are less at the mercy of traders who, by buying directly from the field, take advantage of the immediate post harvest cash needs of small growers working in isolation.
This United Nations’ agency is in the business of food procurement, and they must appeal to the likes of Canada or the European Community for funding in order to purchase this food. Smallholders supply but a fraction and the consistent availability of quality product is paramount when meeting the challenges of feeding refugees.
Assessing this job is being carried out by Purchase for Progress, and measuring its effectiveness is what the Review Panel came to explore for four rather intense days. The question most non-government organisations now ask themselves is: How to we quantify our efforts to improve the lives of beneficiaries and how do we ‘partner’ with these beneficiaries so we ‘hand-up’ rather than ‘hand-out’? So important is this issue that one day of the conference was given over to the statisticians; donor’s are demanding this.