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$162 million in 2016 , 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 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; 7%).

After a peak of US$301 million in 2012 – due to high contributions for rural development through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) – funding to the sector has mostly decreased, reaching its lowest level since 2008. Spending is budgeted to increase again in FY2017-18 budget, to A$340 million (US$252 million; 9% of total ODA).

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 as an important element of agriculture support and includes three core components: 1) strengthening markets (e.g., by increasing market access of small-holders); 2) improving productivity and sustainable resource use; and 3) 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 in partner countries. For FY2017-18, DFAT plans to focus on promoting food security through sustainable and resilient agriculture practices.

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Australia channels most of its agriculture ODA bilaterally. Only 24% (US$40 million) in 2016 was channeled through multilateral organizations. This is well below the DAC average of 45%.

In 2016, bilateral agriculture ODA amounted to US$123 million. 45% of this funding went to agricultural research. Other focus areas included agricultural development (16%) and agricultural policy and rural development (15%).

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, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, Australian state governments, and universities.

Australia's priority countries for bilateral cooperation in agriculture include:

  • Cambodia
  • Fiji
  • Indonesia
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Solomon Islands
  • Timor-Leste

Australia committed and disbursed A$100 million (US$74 million) to the public-sector window of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) for 2013 to 2015. In June 2015, Australia provided an additional A$8 million (US$6 million) to GAFSP’s private sector window.

Australia also committed A$92 million (US$68 million) over 2015 to 2020 to the Cambodia Agricultural Value Chain Program for greater productivity in smallholder rice-based farms in Cambodia. It provided A$20 million (US$15 million) for 2012 to 2014 to the ‘AgResults’ initiative and made contributions to the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program, as well as the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Rural Economic Development.


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DFAT leads on policy development for agriculture; ACIAR implements research

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) manages development investments according to the ‘Strategy for Australia’s aid investments in agriculture, fisheries and water’ issued in February 2015.  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.