The challenges in measuring aid to agriculture

An accurate picture of global spending on agriculture is difficult to get. This is according to two U.K. experts, who cite inaccuracies, inconsistencies and limitations of existing ways to track official development assistance poured into this sector.

The extent of the decline in global spending for agriculture, for instance, has been exaggerated by limitations on how agriculture aid is classified and a failure to adjust to changes in the sectors and policies the aid supports, Lídia Cabral and John Howell of the Overseas Development Institute say in a recently published briefing paper.

At the same time, the recent rise in agriculture spending is also inflated due to the blending of aid for the sector with support for broader food security initiatives, the two say.

Aside from data inaccuracies, the experts note that differences in donors’ definition of agriculture aid and the manner through which they report their spending compound challenges in measuring overall aid to the sector.

To address this challenge, Cabral and Howell propose the development of a new measure of agriculture aid “that reflects the current reality of agriculture and food security assistance.” It is also important to clarify the purposes of agricultural aid in order to measure results more meaningfully, the two add.

“This is not simply an arcane issue of aid statistics,” Cabral and Howell say. “Without clarity on what constitutes aid to agriculture, it is difficult to achieve improvements in accountability and transparency.”

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.