Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Dr Michel Pimbert, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) [12]

  I shall confine my remarks to DFID's aid to Andhra Pradesh for food, agriculture and rural livelihoods. The state of Andhra Pradesh (AP) receives over 60% of the total British aid to India. AP is an essentially agrarian economy with 70% of its population engaged in farming (over 80% of these farmers are small and marginal).

  The case for aid to AP is undisputed. However, serious questions need to be asked about what kind of aid, for whom and with what consequences? I am particularly concerned about the validity of DFID's assumptions on food, livelihoods and farming futures. As currently framed, DFID's aid portfolio for food, agriculture and supporting infrastructure tends to adopt pre-formed and generalised economic formulae based on unproven assumptions about the needs of the poor in rural areas. It is noteworthy for example that DFID aid portfolios for AP (and India as a whole) are premised on a view of economic efficiency in which the number of farmers and farm families engaged in agriculture rapidly decreases with modernisation. Accordingly, off-farm livelihoods and capital-intensive infrastructure receive a far greater share of aid than interventions aimed at regenerating sustainable food systems, local livelihood assets (natural, human, social, physical, financial) and more localised economies and regulative institutions. It is simply assumed that globalisation[13] and trade are necessary for poverty alleviation. By implicitly adopting an industrial and market oriented model of food systems, there is a real risk that DFID's agricultural and related policies will induce further uniformity, centralisation, concentration and structurally induced coercion in food and farming—harming both the poor and the environment. Alternative and more open framing assumptions are needed for DFID's agricultural related policies—ones that resonate more with principles of diversity, dynamic adaptation, decentralisation and democracy.


  The extent to which DFID's programme in AP is focusing its activities on the most vulnerable and marginalised groups, including through engagement with civil society, is deeply problematic. The democratic deficit in framing policies, aid interventions and resource allocation needs to be addressed in a more pro-active and imaginative manner by DFID. More specifically, DFID's agricultural policy needs to show more commitment (in terms of political leadership and resource allocations) to large scale and systematic participatory processes of co-learning and action that include women, excluded and marginalised farmers, food workers and citizens in framing agri-food policies, setting agendas for social, scientific and technical research, evaluating technological risks and setting food and safety standards and regulatory frameworks. Resources need to be allocated to ensure that independent oversight panels can guarantee the credibility, trustworthiness and validity of citizen participation in policy processes on food and farming, at local, national and international levels. A recent international initiative on citizen juries/scenario workshops on food and farming futures in AP offers an example of the potential of such inclusive participatory approaches (see Many more innovations of this kind have the potential to strengthen the voices of the poor in decisions on aid allocations and technical support by DFID India.


  The outcome of the recent State elections in AP suggest that DFID has been supporting a model of development (the so called Vision 2020) which the majority of rural people do not want. DFID had been previously made aware about the perceived mismatch between its overall aid programme and the needs of the rural poor in AP. In future, DFID as an organisation will need to continue developing its "listening skills" and processes of two way accountability (to British tax payers and to aid recipients, particularly the poor)—rather than deny the validity and relevance of critical feedback on its performance and priorities (see for example DFID's internal governance and organisational culture needs to be encouraged to be more transparent and receptive to "voices from below", criticism and suggestions to change course when needed.

May 2004

12   The views presented here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of the IIED as a whole. Back

13   By globalisation I mean the ever increasing integration of national economies into the global economy through trade and investment rules, privatisation and technological advances, and driven by institutions like the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and bilateral trade agreements. Globalisation is very different from the process of "internationalism" which refers to the positive global flow of ideas, culture, technology and knowledge, together with growing international understanding and cooperation. Back

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