Feed the Future needs periodic risk assessments — GAO

Delelegn and his crew pick up milk from Ada's Dairy Cooperative collection site in Ethiopia, where a livestock development project is part of U.S. President Barack Obama's Feed the Future initiative. Photo by: Kelley Lynch / USAID / CC BY-NC

The U.S. Agency for International Development should conduct periodic risk assessments to make its program to fight global hunger more efficient, a government watchdog said on Tuesday.

In its latest report on Feed the Future, the Government Accountability Office found that USAID is implementing a “country-led” approach but not always taking note of the risks this strategy entails.

GAO said that up to 12 of the agency’s 19 Feed the Future country strategies lack assessments on the host government’s role on funding and facilitating private sector investment, and half of 7 country strategies that do include risk assessments lack don’t feature strategies.

USAID guidelines do instruct its missions abroad to assess risks, but not in a systematic way and including mitigation measures that fit with the country-led approach, explained the report.

GAO added: “Without requirements for [Feed the Future] country staff to identify and mitigate risks associated with the country-led approach, the U.S. government’s ability to achieve its goal for improving global food security could be limited.”

Feed the Future, U.S. President Barack Obama’s flagship whole-of-government plan to tackle global food insecurity, hopes to reduce by half the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 by directing resources pooled from various government programs to promoting “country ownership” on sustainable development — complementing but not overlapping with similar efforts by other donors like the World Bank.

According to its last annual progress report published in July, the initiative seemed engaged in a flurry of activity, but Devex reported that a focus on outputs rather than outcomes is limiting the value of monitoring and evaluation systems.

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