ODA to agriculture is a priority area, but funding for it has decreased in line with overall budget cuts
Agriculture (‘agriculture, fisheries and water’) is one of six priority areas of Australia’s development policy. Funding to the sector stood at US$215 million in 2015, or 5% of Australia’s total official development assistance (ODA). This share remains below the average for ‘agriculture, forestry, fishing and rural development’ among members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD (7%). After a peak of US$366 million in 2012 – due to high contributions for rural development through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund ((ARTF); US$105 million) – funding decreased to US$237 million in 2013, before increasing again in 2014. The increase between 2013 and 2014 was mainly driven by a three-fold increase in funding for rural development, especially through the ARTF. For fiscal year (FY) 2016-17, Australia is expected to spend around A$314 million (US$283 million; 9% of its development budget) on agriculture, fisheries and water.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) ‘Strategy for Australia’s aid investments in agriculture, fisheries and water’, published in 2015, highlights women’s economic empowerment and includes three components: (i) strengthening markets (e.g., by increasing market access of small-holders); (ii) improving productivity and sustainable resource use; and (iii) promoting effective policy, governance to enable trade, and private investments. These priorities are in line with Australia’s strategic goal to use ODA to promote economic growth. For FY2016-17, DFAT plans to focus on addressing barriers that prevent producers from accessing domestic and international markets.
Australia channels most of its agriculture ODA bilaterally. Only 19% (US$42 million) in 2015 was channeled through multilateral organizations. This is well below the DAC average of 45%.
In 2015, bilateral agriculture ODA amounted to US$173 million. 37% of this funding went to rural development. This share was reduced from 49% in 2014, which may reflect decreased contributions to Africa. Other focus sectors included research (23%) and agricultural development (11%). As part of its strategic priority on innovation and agriculture research funding, Australia funds the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR). ACIAR is a government authority that reports to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and works closely with researchers in developing countries, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centers, Australian state governments, and universities.
Australia's priority countries for bilateral cooperation in agriculture include:
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
Within ACIAR, Australia established the Australian International Food Security Research Centre (AIFSRC) in 2011, to which it committed US$30 million over four years. Following a review in 2015, this initiative was terminated, and Africa-related research has been folded into the mainstream ACIAR program. Australia committed US$18 million for 2012 to 2014 to the AgResults Initiative. In addition to CGIAR as an international partner, Australia committed and disbursed US$90 million to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) for 2013-2015. In June 2015, Australia provided an additional US$6 million to GAFSP’s private sector window.
DFAT leads on policy development for agriculture; ACIAR implements research
DFAT manages development investments according to the ‘Strategy for Australia’s aid investments in agriculture, fisheries and water’. ACIAR and other Australian government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources deliver Australia’s ODA for ‘agriculture, fisheries and water’. With regards to research, ACIAR plays a distinctive role as it partners with developing countries to foster the use of science and technology to address local challenges.