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Food security


heading foldHow we are helping

2012/13 Expenditure

$445.7 million


Implementation of the revised 2013–14 budget is currently under discussion with partner governments and organisations.


The Australian aid program has developed a comprehensive approach to food security and rural development by targeting the immediate needs of the poorest, while also strengthening the foundations of long-term global food security. Food security and rural development are key to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goal 1 of ending poverty and hunger.

Australia will spend an estimated $411.3 million or 7.3 per cent of total official development assistance on food security in 2013–14. In line with the Food Security Thematic Strategy, funding focuses on three pillars of food security:

  • improving agricultural productivity
  • increasing rural livelihoods
  • improving community resilience.

Australia also provides immediate humanitarian food assistance delivered through agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

In all major global forums including the Group of 20, FAO, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), East Asia Summit (EAS) and World Trade Organization (WTO), Australia advocates a comprehensive approach to food security that covers the three pillars of our food security program, as well as trade liberalisation.

Our ongoing investment in food security and rural development contributes to farmers accessing more resilient and productive crop varieties, providing greater access to financial services in rural communities and social protection investments around the world. Find more details about specific programs under the ‘See our results’ tab.

Economic development


Under the Comprehensive Aid Policy Framework (CAPF), Australia has committed to assist:

  • 750 000 poor women and men gain access to agricultural technologies, resulting in increased crop value of US$500 million;
  • 2.3 million poor people (at least 50 per cent women) with increased access to financial services;
  • 1.4 million poor people with increased incomes; and
  • 4.2 million vulnerable women, men and children with social protection support such as cash transfers or basic nutritional support.

The Australian Government is on track to achieve these CAPF targets.

More about economic development

Increasing Agricultural Productivity

Results to 2012-2013

  • Seeds of Life (SOL): 33,000 farmers are now using improved varieties of maize, rice, sweet potato, cassava and peanuts that are yielding 20 per cent to 80 per cent higher than existing varieties (and up to 140 per cent for sweet potato).
  • Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) has seen early results in:
    • Rwanda: The hillside intensification program increased the land protected from soil erosion by 27 per cent. At some project sites, potato yields have increased seven fold and cereal yields have quadrupled because of reduced soil erosion.
    • Togo: 1000 ha have adopted natural resource conservation techniques (such as soil and water conservation), new lowland rice varieties are being cultivated on 750 ha and 250 km of rural road rehabilitated for improved access to markets.


  • SOL—81,000 farmers (est. 71 per cent of all farmers) will be using higher-yielding crop varieties by the end of 2015.
  • By 2017, GAFSP expects to:
    • Increase the number of farmers using improved technologies and practice—325,880 farmers in Ethiopia, Haiti, Liberia, Niger and Togo.
    • Increase the farmland where improved technologies and practices are being applied—21,044 ha of farmland in Ethiopia, Haiti, Liberia, Niger and Togo.
    • Expand the farmland with functioning irrigation and/or drainage services—153,088 ha farmland in Liberia, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Tajikistan.

View initiatives relating to increasing agricultural productivity

Improving Rural Livelihoods

Results to 2012-2013

  • Enterprise Challenge Fund (ECF)—Support resulted in:
    • 50,543 (49 per cent women) poor people had increased net income through better access to goods and services, and jobs.
    • The annual net additional income benefit to the poor was $1.5 million.
  • Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP)—Helped increase access to basic financial services for the poor and unbanked. Key results in Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji include:
    • approximately 72,000 additional people including 37,000 women gained access to mobile banking services in 2012 enabling them to receive and remit funds efficiently
    • 108,000 people access funds through new savings accounts with Nationwide Microfinance Bank in PNG or accessed a Westpac banking facility in Fiji.


  • PFIP—Will increase the number of Pacific islanders who use financial services and financial education by 500,000 (est.) by 2015.

View initiatives relating to improving rural livelihoods

Building Community Resilience

Results to 2012–2013

  • Poverty Reduction Support Facility—Indonesia’s National Unified Database is being used to improve targeting of rice subsidy, scholarship, health insurance and cash transfer programs, reaching 80 million poor Indonesians.
  • Kenya’s Hunger Safety Net Program—Australian support has resulted in 151,357 vulnerable people including 79,246 women, provided with social protection support.  


  • Poverty Reduction Support Facility—Australian support will expand the scope of the conditional cash transfer program to 3.2 million households by 2014 (target set by Government of Indonesia).
  • Kenya’s Hunger Safety Net Program—Australian assistance will  help the program achieve its target of providing 100,000 vulnerable households  (720,000 people) with social protection support by 2014–15.

View initiatives relating to building community resilience

Research overview

Three scientists working side by side in a laboratory inspecting and labelling viles.

Scientists work in a laboratory at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya. Australia provides funding to the Institute through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to improve African food security. Photo: Kate Holt/Africa Practice

Australia funds research to improve the knowledge and understanding of the challenges our partner countries face. The research also provides an evidence base to evaluate the impact of our work and improve the quality of the Australian aid program.

We works closely with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the Australian International Food Security Centre [external website] to fund research on how to improve food security by lifting agricultural productivity.

We also work with other partner institutions to understand how we can improve food security, by improving rural livelihoods through strengthening markets and building community resilience by supporting social protection.

Improving Social Protection in the Pacific ‘The Pacific Social Protection Series’

Two women in a forest collecting wood and leaves.

Forests provide a range of products that support livelihoods in rural communities - Solomon Islands. Photo: Rob Maccoll/Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

This research looks at poverty, vulnerability and social protection across the dimensions of health and education, gender, social cohesion, economic growth, and traditional protection networks in the Pacific islands. It aims to improve the evidence base on formal and informal social protection programs and activities in the Pacific region and makes recommendations on support for strengthening and expanding social protection coverage so it can contribute to achieving development outcomes.

The research was conducted by social protection experts and is based on case studies in Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu—representing the three sub-regions of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia—and a review of secondary literature. The research has resulted in a set of thematic papers which comprise:

  • an overview of poverty and vulnerability in the Pacific and the potential role of social protection
  • a briefing on the role of social protection in achieving health and education outcomes
  • a life-cycle approach to social protection and gender
  • an assessment of the role of social protection in promoting social cohesion and nation-building in the Pacific
  • an assessment of the relationship between social protection and economic growth
  • a review of the strengths and weaknesses of informal social protection in the Pacific
  • a micro-simulation analysis of social protection interventions in Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Access the study

Targeting the Poorest: An assessment of the proxy means test methodology

A woman and her young daughter in their home answering questions from a woman in uniform holding a mobile device.

An Oportunidades staff member performs a proxy means test to assess a potential program beneficiary. Photo: Rob Maccoll/Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

As social protection practitioners search for effective ways to target poor people in developing countries, proxy means testing (PMT) has become increasingly popular. This study assesses its accuracy, objectivity, transparency and ease of implementation. The study finds that PMT is inherently inaccurate, especially at low levels of coverage, and is relatively arbitrary in its selection of beneficiaries.

Access the study

Research for Development Alliance—Food System Innovation

Together with the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) we have launched the Research for Development Alliance [external website] to improve the research base that underpins the Australian international development program.

The Research for Development Alliance will focus on key areas of Australia’s international development program, including Food Security Through Food System Innovation.

Research to improve food security through food system innovation will examine the most effective ways to improve agricultural productivity and market links, to achieve our strategic goals of making more food available in markets and poor households, and increasing the income of poor women and men.

The findings of the Research for Development Alliance will improve Australia’s ability to design, implement and evaluate effective international development initiatives to improve the food security of poor women and men and contribute to rural development in our partner countries.

African Food Security Initiative—Research Partnerships

The Australian aid-funded African Food Security Initiative [external website] brings together agricultural scientists from Australia and Africa to address priority agricultural issues in African partner countries.

Australia’s recognised expertise in dry-land farming and livestock management and research, and similarities between various Australian and African climates, open valuable opportunities for African-Australian collaboration in agricultural science.  Research partnerships between the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (WECARD) and Biosciences Eastern and Central African (BECA will focus on improving animal health, land management and crop yields in West, Central and Eastern Africa.

This valuable research collaboration will involve more than 30 countries, spanning more than half the African continent and Australia, delivering important lessons for both African and Australian agriculture and agricultural markets.


Number of people who are hungry

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012.

870 million
Proportion of the world’s hungry living in the Asia-Pacific region.

Source: Know Your World: Facts About Hunger and Poverty, The Hunger Project.

Proportion of the world’s hungry who are women.

Source: UN Economic and Social Council, Strengthening efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger, including through the global partnership for development, 2007.

Proportion of the world’s underweight children living in South-Asia.

Source: UN Children’s Fund, Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition, 2006.

Number of children (under five) who die each year from undernutrition.

Source: UN Children’s Fund, Under five deaths by cause, 2006.

5 million
Proportion of child deaths (under five) in the developing world as a result of malnutrition and hunger-related diseases.

Source: UN Children’s Fund, The State of the World’s Children, 2007.

World’s population in 2000

Source: United Nations (Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs), 2010 Revision of World Population Prospects (released May 2011).

6.1 billion
Estimated size of world’s population by 2050

Source: United Nations (Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs), 2010 Revision of World Population Prospects (released May 2011).

9.3 billion

heading foldWhy we give aid


The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 870 million people go hungry every day. They are hungry either because they cannot afford nutritious food or it is not available to them. Improving access to and availability of food for poor women and men is important to ensure basic nutrition and good health. This in turn can increase productivity and result in higher incomes and better health and nutrition outcomes.

Find out more about why we give aid for food security


heading foldHow we give aid

Australia is working to help poor women and men in developing countries become more food secure. We are doing so by lifting agricultural productivity, improving rural livelihoods and building community resilience. Our biggest investments are currently in Africa (in particular Zimbabwe and Kenya), Indonesia, Cambodia, Burma and Solomon Islands. Our global investments focus on a few highly effective programs, including the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program and the Rapid Social Response Program.

Find out more about how we give aid for food security


heading foldProgress Against MDGs

MDG 1—End Poverty and Hunger

MDG 1.A—Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 day

  • The global economic crisis has slowed progress, but the world is still on track to meet the poverty reduction target.

MDG 1.B—Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people

  • Target likely to be met in Eastern and Southern Asia and Caucasus and Central Asia, but unlikely to be met in Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern and Western Asia, Oceania and Latin America and Caribbean.

MDG 1.C—Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

  • Target is unlikely to be met in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southern and Western Asia, and Oceania.

Source: MDG Progress Chart [external website]


Last reviewed: 30 January, 2014