Together with consultants and policy makers, researchers in Wageningen have developed guidelines concerning support for agricultural sectors in developing countries and emerging markets. Entitled 'Guidelines for Aid & Trade Support in Dutch PSD-partner countries,' they seek to establish more effective aid and trade policy.
There is increasing demand for food in developing countries and emerging markets. To increase food security, more productive, resilient and market-oriented agricultural sectors are needed. Private-sector development incorporating Dutch expertise can help to achieve exactly that. This is the main goal of Dutch policy in this area. However, in practice, it is difficult to juggle the combined goals of achieving food security, boosting the sector and promoting the interests of Dutch businesses. The new guidelines provide embassy staff, policy makers and project managers with tools to achieve a more structured approach to private-sector development.
The guidelines were created on the initiative of Geert Westenbrink, who works for the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality in The Hague, as well as being a former agricultural counsellor in Ethiopia and former initiator of the agricultural programme in Myanmar. Westenbrink explains that the guidelines were developed in collaboration with Wageningen Economic Research, Wageningen Livestock Research and a number of consultants and policy makers actively working in the field of sector development. 'Various consultations and presentations have been conducted, including at embassies and at the ministry. The guidelines are the outcome of dozens of people's input' Youri Dijkxhoorn, a researcher at Wageningen Economic Research who was involved in the process, explains the role the institution played: ' We tried to develop a more generic approach based on recent practical experiences. ' The guidelines are being presented as a 'discussion paper' and could well be supplemented in the future.
The core of the guidelines is a systematic approach to achieve the best balance between food security achieved by sustainable and inclusive economic growth on the one hand, and private-sector development supported by Dutch businesses on the other. The first and most important step is to select subsectors that have economic potential, such as horticulture, dairy farming or poultry farming. 'First, investigate which of the subsectors has potential and set your sights on them,' explains Westenbrink. 'That's the key to sector development. You must then examine how inclusive you can make them, i.e. can you achieve development that also creates opportunities for poor farmers and women?'
'Inclusive development is vital,' says Westenbrink, as contributing to food security and boosting incomes for as many people as possible is the entire justification for using public resources to support the sector. 'You can also explore commercial opportunities for the Dutch business community and identify areas in which Dutch knowledge may help to strengthen the sector. It's important to look at the long-term positive effects on the country: that is also in the interests of the Dutch businesses involved.' Westenbrink emphasises that the economic potential of the sector should be the key factor in setting up sector-development projects. 'It's essential that you select subsectors with potential,' says Dijkxhoorn. 'In practice, this decision is made by embassy staff, and sometimes based on fragmented information. These guidelines enable a more substantiated and structured decision to be made.' This also helps to set priorities: embassies can't do everything on their own, and it's better to avoid initiating projects in sectors with no potential.
Contribution to SDGs
According to Westenbrink, the guidelines satisfy a pressing need and they have been well received. 'They contribute to further development of aid and trade policy and allow the Netherlands to do its bit to find solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The guidelines will be used by agricultural counselors and policy makers at embassies, as well as by NGOs, consultants and other parties concerned.'
'If you find the right match between local companies and Dutch expertise in the right sector,' says Dijkxhoorn, 'then you can run more successful projects and hence make a greater contribution to food security and inclusive development.'