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Australia's relationship with the countries of Africa

CHAIR —I welcome the representatives from World Vision Australia to our hearing today. Thank you for your attendance today and for your submission. I trust you are all aware of the requirements regarding the conduct of proceedings of the parliamentary committees. We have your written submission, but I would invite one or each of you to briefly make some opening remarks and then we will go to questions.

Mr Tardif —I will be making some opening remarks. World Vision welcome the opportunity to appear before the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s inquiry into Australia’s relationship with the countries of Africa. We would also like to express our appreciation of the work of the committee secretariat and their support for the inquiry.

World Vision commends the Australian government’s commitment to enhance its engagement with Africa, including the development of its framework for development assistance to Africa 2009-16, and its commitment to assisting developing countries to make progress towards the Millennium Development Goals as a key objective of the Australian aid program and as a major global challenge. Australia as a niche donor in Africa will need to deliver its aid in sustained, creative, flexible and innovative ways to ensure the maximum effectiveness of Australia’s aid to Africa. We welcome the strategic focus on the three sectors of maternal and child health, food security and agriculture, and water and sanitation within its development assistance program to Africa.

Our opening remarks to the committee will refer to the three key areas outlined in our submission and supplementary comments. The first is agroforestry, to support reforestation and food production. The second is the acute shortage of midwives in Africa and the need for greater Australian support of community led maternal, newborn and child health interventions in Africa. Please note that we have also tabled a proposal document that examines how Australian aid can be used to effectively achieve improved maternal, newborn and child health outcomes in Africa. The third area is how Australia can proactively respond to Africa’s multiple humanitarian crises.

The first key area is farmer managed natural regeneration. Often we hear negative news from Africa, so it is easy to forget the success stories. World Vision would like to share a success story about a simple agroforestry approach: farmer managed natural regeneration, or FMNR. FMNR has had large-scale, positive implications for addressing climate change and food security in the region over the last two decades. It has been successful in reforesting five million hectares in southern Niger, many times faster than planting can achieve. This is evident in the images we have tabled for the committee today demonstrating the effectiveness of FMNR. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2009 Millions Fed report, this technique has contributed to the production of more than 500,000 additional tonnes of food per year. Many villages have 10 to 20 times more trees than 20 years ago. World Vision is also supporting the FMNR technique in Senegal, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and Mauritania.

This approach is also part of Africa’s largest carbon credit project, a joint initiative of World Vision and the World Bank. We are tabling here today two articles, authored by the World Bank and the International Food Policy Research Institute, on the extraordinary achievements of the FMNR approach, and supporting images, for the committee’s reference. The three images before you, from Chad, are in sequence; they show three fields side-by-side. One is the field of a farmer who is not practising FMNR, the next is a field where FMNR was begun about 18 months ago and the last is a field where the farmer has done FMNR for over three years. Clearly, the environment is in far better shape in the last photo, and agricultural yields are also far higher than the neighbours’. My colleague Peter Weston is happy to provide more information on the statistics and the achievements of FMNR in Africa.

The second key area is maternal, newborn and child health, and Australian support of midwifery training. Australia can play a high-impact and innovative role in Africa by supporting skilled staff in Africa, especially midwives. According to USAID, maternal deaths alone account for global productivity losses of $7.5 billion per annum. Most African countries have not invested enough in nurse and midwifery training schools for the last 20 years, yet more trained, retained, supervised and equitably distributed health workers are at the forefront of saving lives.

We recommend Australia consider funding reputable health worker training institutions in select African countries, in particular, expanding the quantity and quality of onsite training provided to midwives and nurses. This has the potential to address chronic health worker shortages and highlight Australian identity in Africa. Examples of African countries that provide the most reliable midwives are outlined in appendix 1 of the proposal document tabled to the committee today.

Finally: protracted humanitarian crises. The vast majority of the world’s protracted crises are in Africa including but not limited to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Chad, the Central African Republic and Sudan. Protracted crises can arise from state versus state or intrastate civil conflicts. They can occur as a result of a continuing series of external shocks such as political instability, poor rains, drought and high food prices. They differ from humanitarian crises arising from unforeseen, rapid onset emergencies or natural disasters such as flood or earthquake.

Australia’s refugee intake includes countries where protracted humanitarian crises continue such as Somalia and Sudan. This is one example of why this type of assistance is relevant to Australia. Australia’s humanitarian funding to protracted crises remains largely inconsistent, reactive and unpredictable. Funding to the UN forms a crucial part of the response and World Vision does not discount the value of this, but we question the strong bias towards UN agencies when funds via the UN can often be delayed, slow and inefficient in reaching affected populations and communities.

This preference can often neglect the longstanding expertise and experience of NGOs in Africa, who are often the primary distributors of aid in humanitarian contexts. Many NGOs also face a deficit in preparedness in part because they do not have direct access to flexible funding such as the UN Central Emergency Response Fund. To increase the effectiveness of Australia’s response to protracted crises in Africa, World Vision suggests it redirect some of its existing or expanding emergency funds to the creation of an Australian NGO multiyear funding agreement for protracted crises and to the expansion of Australia’s ‘humanitarian plus’ approach adopted in Zimbabwe to other priority protracted crises in Africa and beyond.

In conclusion, World Vision has a comprehensive suite of programs in many African countries and would welcome a field visit from the committee members. To conclude, we thank again the committee for inviting World Vision to appear before you today and look forward to your questions.

CHAIR —Thank you. We will now go to questions.

Senator MOORE —There are a number of areas for discussion and I will leave reforestation to someone else. Thank you for your photographs, Mr Weston, but it is not my area and I know somebody will follow up there. I want to concentrate on the Darfur situation, because it follows on from the last witnesses, and that the statement that World Vision was one of the few remaining NGOs there. I want to find out a little about why and whether you know. You also asked for increased focus on support for your work there because of the lack of other engagement. I want to get some idea about how much and how and whether that translates to the argument you made about protracted areas of need. It would seem to me that that may come under the kind of heading you talked about in your opening statement. I am also interested in the idea about our aid process going to multilateral UN type agencies as opposed to direct on the ground. It has been an going issue in our process. First of all, with the Darfur situation, World Vision is still operating there, I know. Do you have any idea whether that is going to continue or not, or is it still day-by-day?

Mr Tardif —There is nothing to suggest we are not able to continue. We still have licence to continue working there. It is a day-by-day thing in the sense that there has been an election. We do not know what the outcome of that is going to be but at this point there is nothing to suggest that we are not still going to be functioning there into the future.

Senator MOORE —Has your organisation had to pick up an expanded role because of the removal of licences to other aid providers?

Mr Tardif —I think we would like to be able to pick up an expanded role but the timing will not allow it. Certainly a number of other agencies have asked us to assist by picking up the work that they have been doing. One of the recommendations we have made to this committee is that we receive more funding. I know agencies that are still functioning in Darfur will receive more funding to be able to pick up that extra work. Without that extra funding that will not be possible.

Senator MOORE —Would that be an example of the kind of process you have described about our engagement with protracted areas of need? Would Darfur be an example of that?

Mr Tardif —Yes.

Senator MOORE —Would you run through exactly how that would operate from your position and the government’s? So you would expect that there would be another stream of funding that would come through AusAID and would take into account the particular nature of the crisis? Is that right?

Mr Tardif —Yes. It would be specifically for protracted emergencies, which historically have been difficult to fund, both for us and for AusAID. For example, three million has been recently put aside for Sudan, both for Darfur and Southern Sudan, but that has gone through the periodic funding agreement mechanism. The PFA was set up initially to allow rapid access to funds for rapid-onset emergencies in Asia. Now it is being used for protracted emergencies in Africa because there is no other funding mechanism available.

Senator MOORE —There are a few immediate ways of getting funding. The rest of our scheme is based around an annual effort or so. So they are using the PFA model.

Mr Tardif —They are actually using the PFA itself. Clearly, it is not what it has been set up to do.

Senator MOORE —Yes, not what it was originally meant for.

Mr Tardif —So it is to consider another funding mechanism that would be ideal. The humanitarian reference group, which has a number of NGOs, is still working on some recommendations to AusAID about what a periodic funding agreement which would be for these protracted emergencies would look like. It would be perhaps a multiyear funding arrangement which would allow the NGOs to have immediate access to that fund and spend as to where they see their most capacity.

Senator MOORE —So the area of need would be determined by the agency rather than the government?

Mr Tardif —As I say, that is still being discussed. I do not think that the government or AusAID would allow that to happen. I think it would still be in consultation. As I say, that is still being worked on.

Senator MOORE —As for those negotiations, my obvious question is: how are the negotiations going with AusAID through, as I would imagine, Mr McMullan’s office, as would be the process?

Mr Tardif —Yes, that is correct. But at the moment the discussions are still happening within the NGO community before we can submit something that we all agree on.

Senator MOORE —Yes, on our aid framework into the future.

CHAIR —Excuse me, but this is on that. Has there been any similar model or arrangement in the past?

Mr Tardif —Not with AusAID but there are other examples in other agencies, such as DFID, who have a similar kind of arrangement with NGOs and other agencies.

Senator MOORE —The other issue is the midwives process. We have got the focus around maternal and pregnancy help. That has been very clearly identified by the government, by Mr Smith in a number of public statements. The way I read your proposal is that certainly you are going to focus on the training of midwives and that fits into the UNFPA process of focusing on trained birth attendants and midwives where possible. The way I read it is that you would work with internal processes of training. So, rather than bringing scholarship people to Australia and training them and sending them back, the preferred model—and this is as I read it—would be to do with whatever the training model is in the countries or in nearby countries in Africa. So you would prefer people to get help to get their training locally and stay. That is how I read the paragraphs in your submission.

Ms Dowling —What we have been suggesting is this. Regional expertise has mainly been around strengthening community structures and encouraging women to seek skilled care. Then when they often get there there is no-one there. World Vision is mainly working on that angle and then suggesting that AusAID, through their mechanisms, look at programming around training midwives—so not necessarily World Vision training midwives but AusAID looking at their mechanisms to do that. We are suggesting this. One of the reports looked at the effectiveness of training and found that onsite training is effective. The other thing is that there is less likelihood of brain drain as well as midwives are not given incentives to stay. So we are asking for a more comprehensive look at midwife training as well as for incentives to go to the areas where there is greater need.

Senator MOORE —Have those discussions been had with AusAID?

Ms Dowling —I think they have begun. I think they have agreed that there is going to be some focus on midwife training, but I do not know if it has been decided completely. Maybe we need to take that on notice and find out for you.

Senator MOORE —We know that these discussions have happened and there has been a commitment to maternal health and that is the focus. A subset of that is having trained birth attendants. That is all agreed, but we are not aware and you are not aware of the actual detail and whether how it is going to operate has been concluded.

Ms Dowling —No. I think we are both at the same point then.

Mr HAWKER —Thank you for your presentation. In your submission you said that in 2008 nearly 34 per cent of Australian private donations were expended in Africa and, by comparison, six per cent of Australian government aid was allocated there. Can you give us a bit more of an idea of why that is happening. Is it because some of that money is being directed to Africa through non-government organisations such as yours or is it because people are being encouraged to support programs to foster children and that sort of thing? There seems to be a big difference there and I am wondering how you might explain it.

Mr Weston —Maybe I will address that from being in a privileged position of many years ago working on the telephones at World Vision responding to people wanting to sponsor World Vision, as well as currently, and for the last 10 years, being involved directly in programming in Africa. I can only speak in terms of speculation as I do not know that there has been a lot of statistical analysis of why Australians prefer to sponsor in Africa or have a strong identification with Africa. The background for World Vision as an organisation is that we have historically perceived a greater poverty need in Africa, not surprisingly. I think the Australian community awareness about global poverty really seems to be informed by the events of the 1980s which revolved around Ethiopia, primarily across the wider northern sub-Saharan Africa famine conditions. I think that continues to inform a certain understanding by the Australian public of global poverty—that it is deepest in Africa.

In our fundraising approaches, we have a concept called ‘donor promise’ that ensures that, if we raise funds for a particular concept, the funding goes to that area, in terms of both sector and geography. In that respect, historically we have found as an organisation that the Australian public responds quite readily to calls for funding and so on for development and poverty alleviation in Africa, somewhat more so than responding to calls for poverty alleviation in the Asia-Pacific, Latin America or the Middle East, which are our other areas of engagement. There is certainly a perception in the Australian public that the need in Africa is greater than it is in other areas and a willingness to respond.

Mr HAWKER —The photographs that you passed around are quite an impressive demonstration of what can be achieved, and I commend you for your involvement in that. On the question of food, you talk in your submission about the threats to food production over coming years due to environmental and climate change et cetera. You give pretty stark figures. One of the things with food that is often a problem is not only the question of producing it but it is the inefficiency in harvesting, storage and distribution. Are you able to play any role in trying to tackle some of those problems or are you always trying to deal with the very urgent problem that so often occurs?

Mr Weston —No. All of those tend to appear with different emphases within World Vision Australia’s food security projects around the world. The emphases will vary, but the reason we have tabled agroforestry as one approach is that food production is the primary issue and will often inform the main basis of the project, and things like food utilisation and food storage will then be the peripheral add-ons to a project.

I am quite familiar, for example, with some of the frustrations that I have in my programming where in dryland areas—in fact, in the country where those were taken; I was the individual who took those three photos—one of the challenges we have is that grain production takes place at a single time of the year, and then after harvest time—storage is a relatively straightforward event because it remains in the drier season. So as long as it is kept off the ground, you reduce rodents and rot and so on then storage in dryland is relatively easy with home constructed silos and so on. One of the challenges is that as income generation in the dry season, converting those crops into alcohol for sale can be more profitable than storing them for home consumption. So when there are immediate needs then that is an easy avenue for quick cash. And so, yes, that then becomes part of our programming that presents some enormous challenges, but ones that we—it is an example of the kind of thing that we do find ourselves with. It is around behaviour change as much as technique—more than technique even.

Mr HAWKER —In appendix 5 of your submission you have ‘Global Hunger Index: Winners and Losers’. Again, that is a very stark illustration of some of the problems. If you look at the winners list, only one out of the 10 comes from the African continent. If you look at the losers list, I think it is only one out of 10 that does not come from the African continent. Looking at appendix 4, more than half of those countries that are listed as countries in food crisis requiring external assistance have words appearing next to them like ‘civil strife’, ‘conflict’, ‘war related damage’ et cetera. I know you obviously cannot get involved directly, but is there any way of indirectly trying to help people appreciate that having a sound system of government is one of the best ways of trying to alleviate this major problem?

Mr Weston —It is a tough one.

CHAIR —It is one of the reasons why we are having this inquiry!

Mr Weston —Yes, and it is definitely true. Even within the sphere of agro-forestry, one of the biggest challenges we find is not the farmers’ willingness to take it on board and not their willingness to experiment and so on, it is that well-meaning government policies that are in place impede farmers’ motivation to grow trees again on their own land. Most countries that I work in across West and Central Africa have well-meaning policies that suggest that if there is a tree on your land, you are not allowed to cut it down. It sounds like a good policy, it sounds very conservation oriented, but it means that farmers are not willing to grow or regrow a tree in the first place for fear of then losing control of that asset. They will not be able to cut it down, but someone will steal it during the night anyway and there is a net loss. The short answer is: yes, government policy, but more so government capacity and accountability to enforce those policies is quite central.

My personal observation is that generally most of the right policies are in place. I have referred to one that needs a lot of work on it, but the right policies and well-meaning policies exist in most of the countries that we are working in, but it is the activation of those policies at the local level that is really quite absent. I think it is unspoken and quite latent in our reasoning, but we focus more upon the community and the community’s capacity than the government’s essentially because we can. We can work with the community and interact with the community. We can advise the government, but we cannot necessarily rapidly change the structures that inhibit the local level being resourced by the national government. In all of our programming we work closely with the local government functionaries with the department of agriculture, or forestry or health or whichever project we are in to ensure that the local representatives for those ministries become as versed as the local farmers and the local population in those activities to build up their local skills, but, yes, those connections between national, provincial and local that allow the policies to be really implemented strongly is a very difficult and long battle to fight.

CHAIR —I want to follow up on Mr Hawker’s opening question about the ratio, the 34 per cent to the 6 per cent NGO to government ODA. Can I assume that there has been a fairly similar ratio pattern over a number of years? You refer to 08.

Mr Weston —Can I talk about World Vision’s experience?

CHAIR —Of course.

Mr Weston —As an agency, historically we have tended to program close to 50 per cent of our programming in Africa for several decades. I think with other agencies the figure would be somewhat lower based on the fact that most other agencies have a slightly greater reliance on government funding and therefore—and again I can only really speculate—their programming tends to follow where government priority lies because then they can tie government funding through AusAID with private funding as well, whereas for Australia I think government funding represents historically no more than 14 per cent of our total budget.

CHAIR —You can tell me if I am wrong, but one thought that I had is that it seems to me that maybe it also reflects a long tradition of the churches based work in overseas aid, charity, NGOs and that heavy focus on Africa. Do you agree? It is certainly my own recollection and anecdotal evidence.

Mr Weston —I cannot comment on whether or not churches respond more to Africa or have a greater tradition in Africa, but certainly I would suggest that the wider picture of compassion within the Australian community reflects more readily into the African context.

CHAIR —Sure, I do not disagree with that. I am not suggesting that was the sole reason.

Mr Weston —But that compassion has both a faith basis and otherwise.

CHAIR —I can certainly recall that over many years a lot of the work of the Catholic Church, for instance, was with the missions and that it had that Africa focus as compared to an Asian focus, but without being exclusive. Anyway, it is just an observation.

Senator MARK BISHOP —Thank you for your submission, it is very good, very useful. Before you spoke to us, I was struck with paragraph 2 on page 6 of your submission concerning reforestation, and then you supplemented that with the photographs. I take it that by ‘reforestation’ you mean revegetation preparatory to making the area suitable for cropping in the area of grains. Is that what you mean?

Mr Weston —We use a technique that we are referring to as FMNR in two slightly different ways. The first way, which we use much more and have used much more in depth in a country like Ethiopia, is where we apply it in an area that is considered community forest, so it is not farmland but is degraded land. It tends to be classed as communal and therefore is exploited by everybody and nurtured by none. I have used it there to bring back the forest that used to be there, have the community work to maintain it as a forest, but then to exploit the natural or wild harvest of the forest, whether it is honey growing, whether it is fruit harvesting, whether it is selective timber.

The other way, which I am much more versed with in terms of application in west Africa—Senegal, Chad and so on—is where we work with farmers who use existing crop land, continue to use it as crop land, but regrow trees amongst the crops simultaneously. So there is no hiatus in production. The way that works is that most of the farmland that we are working with—and if you take Senegal as an example and what is called the ‘peanut basin’—was heavily forested up until 30, 20 or even 10 years ago in some areas. The trees were cut down to open up crop land. For certain species, maybe I am estimating, about half of all indigenous species, the root system underground continues to live and so each year they regrow shoots. During the dry season they are allowed to grow because there is no farming that happens in the dry season such as crops or broadacre production. But then normally what happens at the end of the cycle is that just before planting time they will burn and clear all of that scrub that looks like hearty desert tufty stuff and be rid of it.

We are working with them to select a number of those regrowing indigenous trees, prune them back from, say, 20 shoots down to five or three, protect those ones and continue to crop around them. Because you have an enormous root system underground, as opposed to planting a tree seedling with a root system only so big, all of the energy of that giant root system is concentrated into two or three shoots. In a conventional reforestation project where you are planting seedlings, you can expect that two-thirds of your plantings will die off in the dry season and another third might or might not get there but either way will be growing pretty slowly.

With the FMNR approach, after one year even in dry land—such as the west African areas—you will have trees taller than you or me. After two years, you will have some significant trunks that, if managed well, can be selectively harvested for sale into the local timber market whilst increasing the overall number of trees in the field. So it adds to income in terms of harvesting of selected numbers while regrowing others. It adds to leaf drop. That then renourishes the soil. In the dry season it attracts animals that will then feed off it when the farm is not being used and the manure and the urine that reinvests into the soil reduces transpiration during the end of the rainy season to maximise soil retention of moisture and so on. It is about growing and reforesting existing farm areas so that the trees and the crops coexist and reinforce one another.

Senator MARK BISHOP —In your final sentence you were talking about reforesting traditional areas that grow crops. The figure that struck me is the five million hectares of southern Niger. I had assumed you were talking about developing, say, huge pine, karri or marri forests. I come from Western Australia. But you are talking about—as these pictures reflect—making the soil suitable for human use in terms of cropping. Is that what you mean?

Mr Weston —That is completely correct. In the Niger experience—and I have to qualify too that the five million hectares in Niger was not specifically done by World Vision, although the technique was invented in Niger by one of our contemporary colleagues back in the 1980s famine when he was working there with the missionary organisation SIM—most of that has occurred from farmer-to-farmer spontaneous replication. Because it is a cost-free activity, it is purely a technique and a motivation kind of thing rather than an intensive input kind of thing. A number of farmers adopted it. A number of farmers observed their neighbours doing well and so on and so forth. They have been retreeing areas that have continued to be cropped the last 20 years since it started.

Mr FITZGIBBON —Thanks for your submission. I thought a pretty good way to test the efficacy of the government’s approach in Africa was to try to compare it to World Vision’s view of what needs to be done in Africa. I do not say this as a means of supporting the government; it is just the contrary. I am giving you an opportunity to criticise the government if you feel you would like to. If you have a look at AusAID’s framework for development assistance and compare it with World Vision’s programming, I think they are pretty well matched. I think you would agree with that. But when you draw down further you give us eight recommendations in your written submission and I would like to invite you to indicate where you think the government is doing well in terms of those strategies and where you think it could do better. Some of them have been mentioned already.

I will just go through some of them quickly. The first one is the midwifery thing. If we assume that some of the additional scholarships are going to midwifery maybe there is a tick there. On water and sanitation, according to AusAID’s submission some $300 million in the 2008-09 budget went towards sanitation, so possibly that is a tick. On agricultural intervention, I will just say something about that. In particular, all our money and our focus seems to go to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program. Does that mean we are on track? The next one is support for reforestation. That goes to whether what we are doing through the ACIAR has us on the right track.

Then it gets a bit skinnier. On support for disaster risk reduction approaches, we do not know. On allocation of dedicated resources for protection of civilians within sectorial programs, we do not know. On increased resources to NGO’s working in Darfur, we have talked about that and I think that is probably no. On the recommendation that the proposed African partnership and capacity building facility include support for demand-led governance initiatives that promote civic education and support to civil society organisations, again I do not know. You make eight recommendations. On which of those recommendations do we already get a tick? On which of those recommendations do we have a lot more work to do?

Mr Weston —Let me kick off with a brief commentary on the first two, because the rest of you might have some opinions on the latter—that is, midwifery, which is more Margy’s area but I will chip in anyway, and the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Program. The scholarship program that brings people out to Australia will not really have any impact on midwifery in Africa. The level of education that African midwives have automatically excludes them from that program and the numbers make it inconsequential with the same amount of money. I am not suggesting that you scrap bringing African people to Australia for training on different aspects, but in this aspect it is a non-event. You could achieve so much more in country than you can by exporting people to Australia when they may or may not go back to their own countries and, if they do, you can guarantee they will not be working at community level.

On Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, yes, I agree. It is an existing AusAID priority. From what I have seen they are continuing to endorse that as a priority. It is certainly one of our priorities as well. One of the challenges that I do not want to criticise the government for but which I want to raise as a challenge to be cognisant of is that the lay approach to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene is around infrastructure—we need more boreholes and more latrines and that informs what follows. In practice, you can achieve much more by starting with and surrounding that with behaviour change—community knowledge and behaviour and a kind of community consensus to improving sanitation behaviours and hygiene behaviours, which dollar for dollar will achieve a much greater result than infrastructure, though that is not to say it should be one or the other.

I will give you an anecdote about a challenge I have had recently in being involved in putting in a submission in for Sudan—the $3 million we were referring to before. The window that was put on that was that it had to be expended in 12 months, preferably less given the referendum coming up. That allowed enough time for infrastructure but no real time for community behaviour change. When you get these short windows of 18 months or a year, they are infrastructure windows and you miss out on the richness that you can get with a longer term window of opportunity where you are going to work, say, three or four years with a community. So the WASH program can be crippled by a time frame.

Senator MOORE —That cannot be either/or.

Ms Dowling —No.

CHAIR —Are you going to comment on the other recommendation?

Mr FITZGIBBON —The next one was the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program. That seems to be where our money is going. Are we devoting our funding to that process or should it be more bilateral, for example?

Mr Weston —I guess I had better stick with agriculture even though I promised to let my colleagues talk. You mentioned ACIAR. I do not have any direct experience of working with them. My limited understanding informs me—and I am open to be corrected—that, along with the government’s priorities, their focus is primarily in South-East Asia and to some extent in the Pacific, I think, and not particularly in Africa. This might be my own ignorance, but I have not seen a great deal of evidence that ACIAR has a lot of experience in what we were referring to in terms of dryland agriculture in Africa, which is the real cutting edge of African survival, really. If that is correct, as I understand it to be, I think that is a real opportunity and a challenge for the government, given that we are the driest continent on earth. As a nation we have a lot of dryland experience. I do not see that invested particularly well in the government’s approach to agriculture internationally.

Mr FITZGIBBON —If I remember correctly, their submission would claim a little more knowledge and activity, but I stand to be corrected. What about the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program? Does anyone know much about that here?

Ms Sullivan —We will take that notice.

Mr FITZGIBBON —Okay. Then there were the disaster risk reduction approaches.

Mr Tardif —AusAID released their disaster risk reduction policy last year. We were part of the group that helped them form that. The issue I have with their DRR approach is that they are not looking at it comprehensively in the sense that when we look at disaster risk reduction we try to incorporate things like agricultural approaches. We look at long-term development through the lens of disaster risk reduction rather than just limiting it to areas such as providing immediate safety and the concentrating on the saving of lives, which is of course critical. But if we are looking at a continent where there is rapid climate change then looking at long-term development through a DRR lens means looking at what crops are going to be able to be harvested before a flood season comes through, what crops are more resistant to drought and how we can adequately diversify the income of people in those communities so that they are not dependent on single crops. If there were to be an upscaling of the approach, it would be to take that more broad approach to the DRR.

Mr FITZGIBBON —The next one sounds very hard: the protection of civilians in sectoral programs. I am sure that is an old one and a difficult one.

Mr Tardif —I know that they have committed a fair bit of funding to that through multilateral agencies, but I cannot comment on the effectiveness of it.

Mr FITZGIBBON —Can you take that on notice?

Mr Tardif —Yes.

Mr FITZGIBBON —Just so that we can get your view. We spoke about increased resources to NGOs in Darfur, and you have made your views known. The last one was the proposed partnership and the inclusion of support for demand led government initiatives to promote civic education and support for civil society organisations. That is pretty broad. You made the recommendations. I just wondered if there was something in particular that you had in mind. I am happy for you to take that on notice as well.

Ms Sullivan —We will take that on notice.

Mr FITZGIBBON —I am trying to measure the government’s action against your recommendations, as a bit of a benchmark. Finally, I will ask a trivial question. On page 3 of your submission, in the last dot point, you talk about achieving ‘pro-poor outcomes’. Did I miss something? I do not understand what that means.

Mr Tardif —It means outcomes that benefit the poor.

Mr FITZGIBBON —Did I miss the use of that term throughout the inquiry or is that the first time we have heard it?

Mr Tardif —That may be World Vision speak.

Mr FITZGIBBON —I am happy to plead my ignorance.

Ms GRIERSON —Obviously there is a need for a balance between the rapid response required to humanitarian crises and disasters and then the sustaining of sectoral and long-term programs. Do you silo those? How do you manage that and get the balance right between those two?

Mr Tardif —That is a very good question because it is something that we have been grappling with for the last few years—the integration of that approach and the connection between where the response to the emergency finishes and how we hand that over to long-term development. The sector, through the cluster system, is geared to early recovery. Our approach has been to bring the development people into an emergency a lot earlier to do some analysis, particularly around things like economic recovery, to do assessments of existing economic networks and to determine how we can rebuild those following an emergency.

Ms GRIERSON —So do you design the sectoral type programs and networks so that they have the ability to then go in a little bit earlier, as you are suggesting?

Mr Tardif —Yes.

Ms GRIERSON —Do you try to have that capacity within them?

Mr Tardif —Most certainly, and, although it is part of a different continent, Haiti is the most recent example of that, where we brought in as part of our rapid response team the economic development group to do that analysis, to work with the communities, to determine where they were prior to the emergency, to do an assessment, particularly in that case, of the migration away from Port-au-Prince towards their home villages, which were becoming overcrowded and overpopulated with an economic base that was not able to sustain them, and to assess how we could work in those outlying regions to promote a longer term development. We need long-term development people in there rather than people who are delivering aid to do that analysis, as early as possible.

Ms GRIERSON —Is there sufficient capacity to do that?

Mr Tardif —There is a growing capacity and a growing understanding that it needs to happen. As I say, the United Nations in this cluster system set up this early recovery cluster precisely for that reason. So it has been around for a few years.

Ms GRIERSON —In your submission you say you identify a gap in Australia’s enhanced development assistance program to Africa as being a lack of a humanitarian action strategy that outlines how Australia will determine and proactively respond to Africa’s humanitarian crises. What elements are missing from Australia’s strategy in that area?

Mr Tardif —I think it is particularly in the funding area for us: funding on the ground, but capacity for those long-term protracted emergencies is the main thing we want to be addressing—a strategy for how the government and AusAID would be funding those so that there is not a need to go to mechanisms that were not designed for that purpose and so we could continue to not have a situation where as soon as the interest runs out after three or four years in a protracted emergency we are going back to try to find other funds.

Ms GRIERSON —Does the same apply to the UN? Can it do both, and does it do both well? You do mention in your submission that there are long delays in UN delivery of services; they are slow, and are inefficient at times. Is it something that no-one has got right yet? Is anyone getting it more organised in terms of being able to do both?

Mr Tardif —What is good is that everyone acknowledges that there is an issue here, particularly for example with the World Food Program. There have been long delays in sourcing food and getting it to the port. Not only that; there is the matter of having the quantity of food that is supposed to be delivered to those communities. What has been happening, for example, particularly in countries in southern Africa, is that if we have in our contract for delivery—we do a significant amount of delivery with WFP projects—that we are going to be delivering 15 kilograms of meal per family for a month and we only receive nine, then we only have sufficient for nine and that will be below the required standard. What we need is a more innovative, imaginative approach to be actually finding ways of covering that shortfall. We need to understand that there are going to be broken pipelines and gaps and delays, but how can the World Food Program be more creative in its approach to things like cash transfers in arrangements like cash for work to enable us to meet that shortfall. That is just one area.

Ms GRIERSON —How does World Vision interact with governments? When you do have these crises that you have to respond to very quickly, we are not just talking about your agency—there are international countries, AusAID programs and aid agencies and the UN, but you have a government of some sort of nation state there with some sort of structure, and how is that improving or not improving in Africa? How are you building sustained and long-term systems, or how impossible it?

Mr Tardif —I do not think we can say the same thing across Africa, because it is such a diverse continent. In a country like Somalia we clearly do not have any relationship with the government at all. In countries like Lesotho, Swaziland and Zambia, particularly the countries in southern Africa, we have a very strong relationship and in rapid onset emergencies we would be working very closely in conjunction through the UN cluster system with the government as the lead in that particular response. In some countries we are much better positioned to be having relationships with local government and delivering our assistance and long-term development through those local government agencies when the central government is not functioning.

Mr Weston —To add to that slightly, from the longer term development perspective as opposed to the emergency relief perspective, what Graham said is right in that the way we have developed has focused our attention much more on developing capacity at the local levels of government. But I would say with relative confidence that in almost all the countries that we work in, with some exceptions such as Somalia, we interact at the national level, generally through bodies similar to ACFID in Australia, where you have a grouping of NGOs that are present in that country that then act as a reference body or an advisory body, usually at the national level. But most national ministries will tend to have an advisory group for their sectors as well, so that, say, the World Vision representatives will sit on the government’s water and sanitation advisory body et cetera.

Mr MURPHY —Ms Grierson picked up on what I predominantly wanted to ask you about, but is there anything our government can do to improve food security for the African continent? That is emerging us such an important issue. You acknowledge in your two submissions our geographic location in the world and our interest in South-East Asia, obviously, and that we are considered a small donor to Africa. What would you recommend to this committee in terms of doing more for food security for the African nations?

Mr Weston —I will just march off the script with my own thinking about this. I think an area that we as a nation are just not exploiting is what I referred to before about the fact that, as the driest country on earth, we have both formal and informal capacities for good interaction on coping with food security issues and techniques and so on from a dry land perspective. Interestingly for me, coming much more from a west and central African perspective, the climatic conditions around that area are absolutely parallel with parts of Australia where we have agriculture. Western Australia is a great example. But when you go to Africa and you talk to people about foreign investment in improving the farmers’ capacity and so on everybody mentions Israel as the one that uses its niche capacity in dry land farming and so on. Its ODA is far smaller than Australia’s but it is on everybody’s lips in Africa when they talk about gaining dry land capacity.

A challenge for Australia in that respect is that our approach to agriculture tends to be the big farm approach, the commercial approach, and that is not really applicable to the kind of poverty and pro-poor approaches we are discussing here. So we need to think beyond those kinds of commercial approaches to agriculture to soil conservation and so on. This is a broad, fairly unspecified recommendation—forgive me for that—but we need to hone our ability to recognise our own capacities as a country and work out how to translate that to government level advisory and consider whether in fact we invest Australian personnel or government personnel in that capacity.

Again, this is off the script in terms of the World Vision collective approach, but when I think about our voluntary program sending Australian volunteers around the world it is again focused on South-East Asia and the Pacific. There are so many people in Australia who would be capable of doing a voluntary program secondment to Africa, working with communities to develop their dry land capacities, their soil capacities and so on, which we just cannot tap. Anecdotally, last year I looked into getting a volunteer from Australia seconded to Rwanda and because there was no government program that supported that it was completely uneconomical. It was far cheaper to find an expert or something close to an expert in Africa paid a full wage than it was to find a volunteer in Australia and support them to be seconded over there. I think we could therefore use our volunteer program better and have an agricultural voluntary program that focused on Africa.

CHAIR —I believe you are right.

Ms GRIERSON —I have one more question. It is a bit off the script, but many of us had great hopes for progress in South Africa, where we have all had long involvement, and we would perhaps look at it and say that progress has been disappointing. Just quickly, what do you see as the main barriers to the achievement of the progress that perhaps the investment should have generated in South Africa?

Ms Dowling —In terms of what?

Ms GRIERSON —All the indicators of social welfare, I guess.

Ms Dowling —I think we are going to have to take that on notice.

CHAIR —Obviously your submission, like all the others, has generated a lot of questions and discussion. Many of these issues are recurring, which tells us something. You have already taken some questions on notice. I have a couple more that I wanted to put to you, but time prohibits me from doing so. They relate, for instance, to your relationships with CSIRO and groups like that. Also, there was a comment in a paper by the Lowy Institute suggesting that our aid program is spread too far and that ODA should be narrowed back to two key areas. We will send these questions through to you, and I would appreciate your written responses. Mr Weston or anyone, if you wish to give some more thought to those off-the-script questions or answers, we would be more than happy to receive further written submissions on those issues. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for your attendance this afternoon and your interest. We will keep in touch.

[4.47 pm]