By James Naughton

With the imminent closure of the DAI-lead Food Trade Eastern and Southern Africa (FoodTrade ESA) programme (funded by DFID), it is a good time to reflect on the story of FoodTrade ESA, and the success the programme delivered.

The Story So Far

FoodTrade ESA began in 2013 and was a 5-year trade enhancement and promotion programme that focuses on staple foods across nine countries. FoodTrade ESA engaged in the maize and rice value chains to promote and enhance regional trade, aiming to improve livelihoods of small-scale farmers (the FoodTrade ESA beneficiaries), with the programme active in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda and Rwanda and covering Malawi, Mozambique, Burundi and Zimbabwe.

Through their interventions, FoodTrade ESA worked in both input and post-harvest markets to help a greater number of beneficiaries benefit from participation in national and cross-border value chains, and to increase the overall amount of staple foods traded (focused on maize and rice).  Looking at input markets, FoodTrade ESA grantees have a focus on working with beneficiaries to access improved inputs- specifically looking at quality and certified seeds, along with fertilisers. In the last 6 months of the programme, 200 MT of seed and 1,606 MT of fertilisers were traded by FoodTrade ESA partners, bringing the total value of seed and fertilisers traded since the introduction of FoodTrade ESA to 11,281MT and 14,677MT respectively. Through the work of FoodTrade ESA input suppliers, a total of 237,530 (132,529 Male; 105,001 Female) farmer beneficiaries have used improved inputs.

On the post-harvest markets, FoodTrade ESA grantees work to increase the aggregation and storage of staple foods. Since the introduction of FoodTrade ESA, 554,363 farmers have accessed new and improved storage and aggregation facilities. Contribution to the aggregate and storage of staple foods is spread across both non-profit and profit grantee initiatives as 303,699 (55%) beneficiaries were through Challenge Fund grantees and 250,664 (45%) of beneficiaries were assisted by development fund grantees – with a substantial 50% of the development fund contribution coming from FoodTrade ESA’s engagement with WFP and their PPP (Patient Procurement Platform) across Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.

FoodTrade ESA’s efforts to improve market knowledge for farmers regarding price information was delivered through the work of E-Soko and a Farm Africa led NGO consortium. This led to 189,076 beneficiaries being able to access improved market price information. The post-harvest role of FoodTrade ESA is not just limited to engaging with small-scale farmers through grantees, as larger private sector companies have also benefitting from the technical leadership of the programme with nearly 300 private sector companies adopting and applying common grades and standards to enable increased productivity through greater ease of determining the value and quality of staple foods.

Delivering Policy Change

The food crisis in Southern Africa from 2015 could have had a disastrous impact on FoodTrade ESA’s goal of increased cross-border trade in staple food. With the advent of the food crisis, multiple countries limited export licenses or closed borders to formal trade. As a result, the integral trade policy component of FoodTrade has increased importance in the final years of the programme. FoodTrade ESA focused on delivering achievable change to mitigate against the crisis. FoodTrade ESA invested heavily in key activities and succeeded with the removal of VAT on soybean meal and processing equipment imports in Tanzania, the establishment of the Tanzania Mercantile Exchange,

and with finalising the domestication of the COMESA Regional Seed Policy in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Rwanda.

In response to the crisis despite their surplus, Zambia instituted an official ban on all grain exports (indeed Kenya and Tanzania recently had grain export bans as well). The advocacy response of FoodTrade ESA highlighted the actual impact such bans have on national farmers by destroying their formal market access. FoodTrade ESA employed a multi-faceted advocacy approach including the use of public-private dialogue (PPD) platforms on the maize import/export bans, and the advocacy strategy contributed to the lifting of the export bans in Zambia and Tanzania.

Creating Additionality

The last 12 months of the programme saw emphasis shift from a fund programme managing grants to private and public sector organisations, to a fund programme seeking to leverage and combine grantee strengths to generate wider impact. Intertwined with this role was the increasing importance of FoodTrade ESA’s work as a regional trade policy advocate.

Establishing linkages between grantees under the Challenge Fund (for private sector grantees) and the Development Fund (for public sector grantees) held challenges given the distinct terms of reference held by individual grantees to achieve individual milestones. With grantees focused on delivery of their activities, the challenge existed for DAI to display to grantees the added value for their organisation in going beyond what is needed for FoodTrade ESA delivery. To create such linkages, DAI needed to appropriately match grantees showing the complementarily activities that they are doing and the benefits of collaboration. With strengthened grantee integration, then the impact of the FoodTrade ESA programme was further enhanced, and additional results were achieved. National and regional coordination events delivered a focused forum for developing collaborative programming and creating synergies.

The End of the Beginning

To leave a lasting legacy for FoodTrade ESA, the programme went beyond the funding instruments to increase coordination efforts across grantees through connecting individual grants. This was vital to fully achieve the potential for complementarity and additionality built into its portfolio. In addition to the fund management role of FoodTrade ESA, policy influencing priorities focused on addressing the systemic reasons for the Southern African food crisis, as a contributor along with all other regional DAI projects towards delivering lasting reform to mitigate against future crises.

FoodTrade ESA leaves a legacy of success in improving beneficiary participation in staple food value chains by improving input and post-harvest markets. Interventions made by FoodTrade ESA grantees have influenced other firms, and through the process of adoption introduced systemic change into the value chains, benefitting a large number of people who were not directly involved in the original intervention. Such systemic change continues past the end of the programme, leaving a sustainable legacy.

Yet there continues to be a need for action to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers with greater access to improved inputs by strengthening the farmer aggregation mechanism and improving trade flows of staple foods. Further commercialisation of food production at smallholder level offers one avenue, but it must be done in a way which ensures equitable and inclusive growth. FoodTrade ESA has helped launch grantees and beneficiaries on a growth trajectory, and initiated systemic change necessary to achieve greater results in the future, and the journey begins now.