Senator Lee Rhiannon questions AusAID about cuts to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the Independent Air Review and aid programs in the Pacific, Burma and Sri Lanka
Senate Estimates - Thursday 14 February 2013
FOREIGN AFFAIRS DEFENCE AND TRADE COMMITTEE
Senator RHIANNON: ... How was the decision to reduce the final year's contribution of a three-year commitment to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria by $11 million reached?
Thursday, 14 February 2013 Senate Page 89
FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Mr Baxter: It was one of a number of decisions that had to be made as part of the reprioritisation. I point out that Australia's contribution to the Global Fund has grown very rapidly over the last four or five years. So while there was a reduction, as you refer to, as a result of the reprioritisation, since 2004 Australia has provided almost $310 million to the Global Fund with a further $100 million committed by December of this year.
We certainly value our partnership with the Global Fund and we recognise the very good work it does. That is why we have increased our funding so rapidly to the Global Fund. But as with all reprioritisations decisions have to be made and that was one of the decisions.
Senator RHIANNON: I appreciate that it is a much larger amount but even $11 million will go a long way in this important work. Could you outline the likely adverse impact of reducing our three-year commitment by this $11 million in terms of people not receiving treatment and the reduction of planned malaria prevention measures. Could you quantify what we have lost?
Mr Baxter: What the Global Fund does is when it receives funds, it then programs them. It does not program in advance. So, in that sense, no programs that were in existence would have been cut, because they would have applied that money once we had contributed the funding. Undoubtedly, with less money the Global Fund is going to be doing less of its business, but, again, I say, after very substantial increases over the last three or four years, and we are committed to continue to support the Global Fund.
Senator RHIANNON: I think you said at the start of your answer that the money is only allocated for programs once the money is there.
Mr Baxter: Yes.
Senator RHIANNON: But I understand that there was a three-year commitment of $210 million. We make that commitment to a multilateral aid partner—is that correct?
Mr Baxter: Yes, and that is a marked increase on previous contributions, which over the same period were only a small percentage of what we have pledged over the last three years.
Senator RHIANNON: So we have a three-year commitment of $210 million—it is very clear—and then the final year's disbursement is reduced from $70 million to $59 million. That seems to go against your answer to the previous question. I asked what programs we have lost and you said, 'We didn't lose any programs because the money wasn't allocated,' but there was certainly a clear understanding. It had been there for more than two years, because there was—
Mr Baxter: There may have been an expectation, but the Global Fund has gone through a major reform process over the last 18 months, including changes to its funding allocation model. So, undoubtedly, there were plans to spend it, but it was not as if we took money from programs that had been, if you like, rolled out; it just means that, as a result of the reprioritisation, we go down from $70 million a year to a figure that is only slightly less than that.
Senator RHIANNON: When you say there were plans to spend it, what do you understand there were plans to spend that $11 million on?
Mr Baxter: It would have been on the Global Fund's core business of dealing with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Senator RHIANNON: Programs like local health clinics—
Mr Baxter: I do not know the details of the particular programs that might have been impacted by this, but, as I said, this was a small reduction following a very significant increase.
Senator RHIANNON: What message does it send our multilateral aid partners with regard to our standing and reliability?
Mr Baxter: Aid donors' budgets go up and down depending on circumstances. They change within themselves as new priorities emerge, as we have seen happen here in Australia. I will give you a couple of examples. The Netherlands has recently announced a very significant cut in its aid program. It was one of the few countries that was above 0.7 per cent of GNI and, as a result of the cuts, it is going to go down below that because of the economic circumstances of that country. The Spanish aid program has been cut by about one-third and Greece and Portugal's by even more. So aid programs do go up and down depending on the financial circumstances of the governments. I know the Global Fund considers Australia to be a very strong supporter, and we will continue to support the Global Fund while ever it achieves good results.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Regarding the aid effectiveness review, how much was spent undertaking the independent review of aid effectiveness and putting in place the new policy framework and the raft of policies associated with this to ensure Australia's aid was effective?
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Mr Baxter: I can give you a figure for the cost of the independent review. I do not have that on me because, as Senator Kroger pointed out, it completed its work two years ago. We have put it on the record here at Senate estimates, but I am happy to provide that to you on notice. Regarding the implementation, the implementation costs have been absorbed as part of AusAID's normal running costs, so we did not get a specific allocation to implement the recommendations; we have just incorporated that as part of our work because, most fundamentally, the government agreed in principle to 38 of the 39 recommendations, and they have really become the basis of our new aid policy, Effective Aid.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for clarifying.
Senator RHIANNON: My questions are on the Pacific. Is AusAID involved in assisting people to lease their land in the Pacific?
Ms Wilson: We do not support individuals in leasing land.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you comment on the Mama Graon Project. I imagine that you are acquainted with it.
Ms Wilson: I will have to take that on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: Is there anyone who can talk about it? I thought it was something that AusAID had been extensively involved in.
Mr Batley: In general terms, the Mama Graon program is a program that we are working on together with the Vanuatu government. The program was launched last year at an event that involved the government of Vanuatu, the council of chiefs and AusAID. It is working to assist the government of Vanuatu in its policy to regularise and regulate land laws in Vanuatu. I do not have the detail at hand. I would certainly underline that it is a program that we are doing with the Vanuatu government, following their priorities.
Senator RHIANNON: In looking at it, I noted that some controversy about it broke last year, with the former president of the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, Chief Gratien Alguet, saying that he felt that he had not been properly informed. He was led to wrongly believe that the program was benefitting his people. Are there now differences among the chiefs about it? How are you handling those differences?
Mr Batley: Land ownership has always been a sensitive issue anywhere in the Pacific and particularly in Melanesia, and in Vanuatu that is certainly the case. The Malvatumauri, which is the council of chiefs in Vanuatu, has certainly been involved in talking with the government of Vanuatu about land policy. But there is no doubt that land policy has been a controversial issue in that country. I am not able to respond in detail to the question about the particular chief that you mentioned. I can take that on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: Maybe you could take this next one on notice, too, because I realise that this is a challenging area. Will the end product of your work in this area be that there will be titles distributed to individuals or will land be kept in customary ownership? What is the objective here?
Mr Batley: The objective is to observe the laws of Vanuatu. Indeed, one of the shortest chapters in the Constitution of Vanuatu states simply, 'All land belongs to the custom owners.' It is certainly not AusAID's intention to undermine or challenge in any way that fundamental tenet of Vanuatu law.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. I understand that the Vanuatu Cultural Centre accepted funding for the field workers workshop last year. I understand that this was AusAID funding. As a precondition of accepting the funding, the cultural centre had to accept two extra days at the end of the workshop for AusAID to promote the Mama Graon program, which is quite controversial with the field workers. Do you know anything about that issue? How are you managing it?
Mr Batley: The field workers program is a very well-regarded and respected cultural program that has been supported by Australia for a number of decades now. It is a world-leading program in terms of cultural preservation and protection of cultural heritage. We continue to support that program. We have as a matter of administrative efficiency and convenience funded the program through the Mama Graon program. As you say, the field worker program was held last year. On the details that you raised I am unable to comment. We certainly did not make funding for the field workers program conditional in any sense. We are committed to supporting that program.
Senator RHIANNON: Is there controversy among the field workers about the Mama Graon program? Was this something that you had to manage at that workshop?
Mr Batley: I would have to take that on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: My questions are on Burma. What advocacy efforts are the Australian government making with regards to having all restrictions on humanitarian access lifted and how is the Australian government encouraging increases in state spending on education and health in Burma?
Mr Baxter: I was in Myanmar three weeks ago. I met with a range of ministers, along with my UK counterpart, the head of the Department for International Development, based in London. We made joint representations to a number of the ministers that we met with there on the issue of humanitarian access to those areas of Myanmar that have been affected by conflict—in particular Kachin State and Rakhine State.
Senator RHIANNON: Is spending on education and health something you advocate for?
Mr Baxter: It is. I know you are very familiar with the circumstances there. Up until very recently Myanmar and the lowest proportion of GDP spent on health and education of any country in the world. It is coming off a very low base. They have effectively doubled spending on education and health over the last year. One of the issues that is facing Myanmar is the lack of skills within the bureaucracy, in particular to develop budgets that we would recognise as being based on sound evidence and being able to project accurately what their costs are. We are very pleased that they have increased their spending, but they know, and certainly development partners like Australia are pressing for the government to continue to increase its spending in those key sectors. It is a real issue. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit a hospital in Irrawaddy Delta and some schools that we are involved in constructing. The needs are enormous, as you know.
Senator RHIANNON: You mentioned in your talks you had covered the Kachin issue. Could you outline what aid Australia has provided to this state?
Mr Baxter: I think—Mr Brazier will correct me if I am wrong—we have provided $600,000 in emergency relief so far. We also, during my visit, encouraged the government to continue its efforts to start a dialogue. You are, no doubt, aware that here has been some dialogue between the government and those groups in Kachin State. Hopefully, that will lead to the signing of the 11th ceasefire agreement after the 10 previous ones.
Mr Brazier: Mr Baxter mentioned that we are providing $600,000 in humanitarian assistance to help displaced people in Kachin State. That is being delivered in partnership with Oxfam. We are also working with the World Food Programme to deliver around 230 tonnes of rice to people left homeless by the conflict since late 2011.
Senator RHIANNON: On the education issue, I was interested in the Myanmar Education Consortium, which I understand AusAID is funding and you have probably looked at. I understand it educates a lot of children—I have here the figure of 160,000 students. Can you provide more information about the disaggregation in terms of gender, ethnicity and religion, and also what states it is operating in?
Mr Baxter: Some of that I will have to take on notice, but it is a jointly-funded program—indeed the minister launched it during his recent meeting with the UK minister of state for development. The consortium is really looking at targeting the poorest of the poor—those children who, in many cases, have never had an opportunity to go to school, living in ethnic minority areas or from very underprivileged backgrounds. We have decided that education will be our biggest sector of our program in Myanmar. At the moment around half of all primary school-aged children do not finish five years of schooling. That is about 2½ million children. This year, in addition to the work we are doing with the consortium, we are going to provide 620,000 children with essential school supplies—that is, text books, writing materials, storybooks and pens. We are going to train 9,000 teachers. We are going to provide 20,000 children with access to early childhood education. I visited an early childhood centre—which was terrific—in one of the villages that had been badly affected by Cyclone Nargis a few years ago. We are going to feed half a million children from poor and remote areas as an incentive to attend school. That is a program that we are going to implement with the World Food Programme. We are the largest donor in the education sector in Myanmar and we have committed $80 million over the next four years to the education sector.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you take on notice the disaggregation by gender, ethnicity and religion?
Mr Baxter: Sure.
Senator RHIANNON: One issue that is coming up for us and on that I am interested in is about these monastic schools. Could you clarify whether the monastic schools targeted for training support by the consortium are run in association with government's ministry of religious affairs and/or the ministry for border affairs, and if they operate independently, and what criteria will be used for the selection of monastic schools?
Mr Baxter: As you know, monastic schools are often the only option that very poor parents have in terms of giving their children access to school. My colleague Mr Brazier might know more, but certainly the consortium's work will focus on monastic schools.
Senator RHIANNON: I was particularly wanting to know if the Chin and Karen children are coming into these schools. I want to know if they are being covered.
Mr Brazier: We may need to take some of the details of your question on notice. I can add to Mr Baxter's comment that it is not only parents who send their children to monastic schools but also orphans who are taken in by them for education.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, if you could take that on notice.
Senator KROGER: I remember an article I read in the paper a little while ago about the ethnic tensions in the refugee camps and the difficulties that that was causing the aid workers on the ground. The suggestion was that some were being harassed or intimidated by various ethnic groups in doing their job. Are you aware of any problems that have been experienced in regard to that and do we have any aid workers in the area that are being affected in this way?
Mr Baxter: As you know, there have been long-running ethnic conflicts there—and I am going back 60 years. There is quite a large internally displaced population as well as ongoing tensions in Rakhine State in particular. The conditions under which some people who have been displaced from their homes are living in are very poor. We have allocated $3 million in humanitarian assistance to Rakhine State to try to deal with some of the worst impacts of those problems. But there are still quite significant tensions between the different religious groups in that area.
Senator KROGER: Do we have Australian aid workers who have been threatened or hurt?
Mr Baxter: Yes. We recently had a visit by our ambassador and the head of the AusAID post in Yangon and they made a visit to those areas to see themselves, firstly, where our aid and humanitarian assistance was going; also to encourage both sides to settle their grievances in a peaceful way through dialogue. I met with most of the leaders of most of the ethnic groups in my time there and I was struck by the sense of sceptical optimism from groups that have been in conflict with the government for many, many years. It is remarkable that in just under two years the government has signed 10 ceasefire agreements and has hopefully commenced a dialogue that will see an 11th. Then people can return to their home safely, hopefully, and there will be a need for support to resettle people back in their communities. Certainly there has been a lot of internal displacement.
Mr Brazier: If I could add to that. I think you might be referring to comments made by a delegation from Doctors without Borders, who were registering concern about their access in Rakhine State. I can report to you that our partners are not experiencing impeded access for the supply of humanitarian assistance in that state.
Senator KROGER: I think it was reported late last year.
Mr Brazier: The MSF people were here just a few days ago, I understand.
CHAIR: We are moving on now to Sri Lanka.
Senator RHIANNON: Does AusAID fund building of houses for Tamils displaced by the war in northern Sri Lanka? If so, how much money has been allocated to this program?
Mr Baxter: We have had a program, and my colleague Mr Dawson can provide more details. In late 2009 I visited northern Sri Lanka with the then Foreign Minister, Mr Smith. As a result of that visit we provided funding to UN Habitat to help people resettle in their houses almost all of which had suffered some level of damage as a result of the conflict. Associated with that housing program we increased our support for de-mining and we also with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank provided accountable cash grants for people to help them restart their livelihoods.
Senator RHIANNON: How much money would you estimate has gone into the bilateral and multilateral programs?
Mr Baxter: In 2009-10 our total ODA spend in Sri Lanka was a bit over $80 million. At the moment it is almost half that, it is $42.5 million. So there was a big spike.
Senator RHIANNON: After the war.
Mr Baxter: There was a very large internally displaced persons camp with about 180,000 people. At the time the Sri Lankan government closed that camp very quickly and people had to leave the camp and go back to their areas of origin. Our program came in behind the closure of the camp and the resettlement of people back in their areas in northern Sri Lanka.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you take on notice the AusAID funding for the building of houses for Tamils in northern Sri Lanka?
Mr Baxter: Certainly.
Senator RHIANNON: Staying with that housing program, who selects the beneficiaries? Does AusAID have a say? How is it determined?
Mr Baxter: We worked with our partners UN Habitat and multilateral organisations. We did not then and we do not now deliver our assistance through the Sri Lankan government, we do it through NGOs and multilateral organisations.
Senator KROGER: Could I make a contribution to that answer, Mr Baxter? When I visited there 18 months ago it was very impressive because it is actually the community leaders who recommend who should benefit from a house, whether it is a single mother who has lost her husband through the war with children and so on. So it is actually the local community that determine the priorities of those who should be getting houses.
Mr Dawson: The program has reconstructed about 5,000 houses. We have been working with the European Commission and Switzerland together with UN Habitat in funding the program. As Senator Kroger said, it employs an owner driven approach. It has been generally recognised as amongst best practice in terms of reconstruction activities. Grants are given directly to people to rebuild their own houses, so they have a particular stake in the activity and contribute to it themselves and can basically decide the sort of consideration of the house et cetera to suit their own needs.
Senator RHIANNON: What districts are we talking about in northern Sri Lanka where this program has resulted in houses being built? Can you take that on notice?
Mr Dawson: Yes.
Mr Baxter: In addition to the housing program, we are currently involved in rebuilding and rehabilitating 23 schools in those same conflict affected areas and that will benefit about 12,000 students.
Senator RHIANNON: This excellent. How do you guarantee that the Tamils displaced by the war will be living in these houses once the project is complete? I am prompted to ask that question because you did make the point, Mr Baxter, that you do not carry out this project with the government, you do it with multilateral and bilateral partners and other foreign aid donors.
Mr Baxter: One way we do that is we visit them. We have an AusAID team working in Sri Lanka and they will travel very regularly to monitor our projects directly. One of the reasons that we have our people overseas at posts is to implement, monitor and evaluate the work that we are doing. They will physically go to see them.
Senator RHIANNON: After it is completed?
Mr Baxter: After it is completed.
Senator RHIANNON: Are you working with local government groups as well as the Tamil National Alliance local government? I am just trying to get a sense of who is involved as well as the foreign bodies.
Mr Baxter: There is no doubt that we would be liaising with the community leaders when we visit those areas. The exact details of who we are working with I would have to take on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.
Mr Dawson: This is an indication of our monitoring efforts. In 2011, AusAID staff based in Colombo conducted approximately 18 field visits to AusAID funded projects throughout Sri Lanka, including 14 visits to the north and east.
Senator RHIANNON: Are you aware that the government of Sri Lanka is resettling Senegalese families and members of their military in Tamil areas? Is that something you are aware of and is it something you have to manage to ensure the success of this program?
Mr Baxter: I am aware of what you are saying but I am not aware of any impact on our programs.
Senator RHIANNON: I have finished Sri Lanka. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Senator RHIANNON: I want to explore some of the issues to do with aid in the Middle East by looking at some of the Palestine programs. They may come under the Australia Middle East NGO Cooperation Agreement, AMENCA. I noted with the Rural Livelihoods Project, which I understand is part of that, there has been some destruction of those projects. Some people have died, there has been a loss of greenhouses and damage to agricultural land, crops and tools. I was interested in how AusAID handles it when a project that considerable Australian money has gone into is destroyed?
Mr Baxter: I will ask my colleague, Mr McDonald, to answer that question.
Mr McDonald: In relation to the recent conflict, 120 structures supported through the Australian aid program were damaged, with an estimated replacement cost of just over $1 million. This included $500,000 for damage to 72 schools and six health clinics supported by UNRWA and UNICEF, and over $500,000 damage in crop losses and damage to 38 greenhouses, home gardens, sheep and chicken farms. Much of the damage was light and quickly repaired, though three UNRWA schools were extensively damaged, and 185 out of 330 farmers supported by World Vision or UAWC lost their entire crop.
Senator RHIANNON: The rest of my question was: how do you respond? I appreciate that some of it is bilateral and some of it is multilateral, but I was interested in how different agencies handle this—I am obviously interested in AusAID, but also how your work with multilaterals plays out.
Mr McDonald: The first thing was that there was a consolidated appeal of $27.3 million in response to the conflict.
Senator RHIANNON: By consolidated appeal, do you mean that destruction has occurred and then there was an appeal for the donors to put in more money?
Mr McDonald: Yes. There was a consolidated appeal for the area in terms of a response to the damage that had occurred, and that was an appeal of $27.3 million. The priorities, as a result of that, were around shelter rehabilitation, psychosocial support for children, medicine, repairing damaged residences, schools and productive assets. In addition, within the AMENCA program—which is an AusAID program—we have repaired a lot of the damage. For example, the greenhouses were quickly repaired through that program. We were able to use funding within our existing program to respond to that damage quickly. That was particularly important, especially for some of the crops. As you may know, some of the farmers' crops were damaged in terms of the loss of the greenhouses. In order to preserve those crops, you had to get those greenhouses rebuilt and over the top of those crops very quickly. Last week I was in Gaza and saw some of the repairs that were occurring to those greenhouses, and the farmers were very pleased with that because of the impact on their livelihood and food production within Gaza itself.
Senator RHIANNON: Were you at the greenhouses that are in the buffer zone towards the border? Are they the ones you are referring to?
Mr McDonald: I was in the ones in North Gaza.
Senator RHIANNON: It is not very far from the border?
Mr McDonald: That is correct. Those greenhouses, as you know, were having a major impact in terms of yields of food occurring within Gaza; the irrigation and water changes, the fertiliser, the type of seed that is being used have had an impact not only in terms of the volume of food for Gaza, but also on the water supply which is critical in that area as well.
Senator RHIANNON: Of the $27.3 million from this consolidated fund, how much did Australia put in?
Mr McDonald: I would have to take that on notice. I do not have that in front of me.
Senator RHIANNON: Just going back to my question about the response: we have had a response in terms of money—and maybe this is back to you, Mr Baxter—but, is there a response in terms of any dialogue with the Israelis about this destruction?
Mr Baxter: That would be an issue that would be taken up by our colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In addition to Mr McDonald's answer, we also provided almost $600,000 in immediate food assistance and support for children as a result of the conflict. That was aimed at two things: (1) was to provide basic food for farmers who had lost the last six months of their income as a result of the conflict; and (2) we provided 10 additional child-friendly spaces to provide counselling and community volunteers to help children develop skills to cope with distress as a result of the conflict.
Mr McDonald: I attended a number of those child centres as well, and they were working very productively. Not only in terms of—
Senator RHIANNON: Are these UNRWA?
Mr McDonald: Yes. Not only UNRWA, but World Vision child centres also. Not only in terms of the food, but also the learning; the activities within the child centre were working well.
Senator RHIANNON: Regarding how you respond when aid projects are destroyed: Mr Baxter, are you aware that UNRWA has actually received compensation from Israel for projects that have been destroyed. I understand that the Israeli government paid over US$10 million to the United Nations as compensation when, in 2008-09, during that bombardment and invasion, an UNRWA food warehouse and the materials and equipment that it contained were destroyed, and that is how they came to get the compensation. My two questions are: (1) are you aware of that; and (2) has consideration been given to seeking compensation in a similar way?
Mr Baxter: I was not aware of that and it would really be for UNRWA to approach the Israeli government if they felt that they were entitled to compensation for damage that has been done as a result of recent actions.
Senator RHIANNON: I totally appreciate that and I was not suggesting that Australia would do that. But as there know appears to be a trend where multilateral and bilateral agencies are taking it up with Israel, I want to explore where Australia is at. I understand also that the German and I think the Polish governments have taken up the issue of destruction of aid projects in Susya in Hebron. Some solar panels that Germany put in were targeted to be destroyed, but then the German government were successful in calling on Israelis not destroy them, and they are still there. I was wondering if you aware of these developments where agencies and countries are being proactive in defending or agitating for their projects not to be damaged. Are you aware of it? Are you considering working in a similar way?
Mr Baxter: I am not aware of that and I am not aware of us considering working in a similar way.
Senator RHIANNON: Would that be AusAID or in the first instance would it be DFAT?
Mr Baxter: If there were representations to be made to the Israeli government, it would be something that our colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would deal with.
Senator RHIANNON: On 12 May 2009, the Australian government announced a $464 million Global Food Security initiative—Food Security through Rural Development. How much money has been disbursed through this program since it was launched in May until now?
Mr Baxter: That is from May 2009 until February 2013.
Senator RHIANNON: Yes. How are we going with the $464 million?
Mr Baxter: I will ask my colleague Mr Gilling. We may have to take some of that on notice. Certainly, I am aware that we have disbursed the vast bulk of that funding in a variety of ways through both our multilateral and bilateral programs.
Mr Gilling: The answer is in fact that we have been spending considerably more than the sum of $400 million-odd under the initiative on rural development activities. As the director-general suggested, we will have to take on notice the specific components that are related to that budget initiative. Our spending on areas around food security and rural development will be around $400 million this budget year; it was $403 million last budget year and it was $381.9 million the budget year before that. This is an instance where, because of the importance of food security to the Australian government's aid program, we are actually spending quite a lot of money on a range of food initiatives.
Senator RHIANNON: For what you are taking on notice, I would ask if you could provide a list of all bilateral, regional and multilateral projects or initiatives funded to date by money spent through Food Security through Rural Development. I was interested in some detail here, so if you could give me the date of the funding, the amount of the funding, the funding destination in terms of organisation and geographic location and the name of the project or the initiative fund. I imagine you have a spreadsheet somewhere or the information would be there. If you could share that it would be very useful.
Mr Baxter: Some of the funding has been provided to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research; some has been provided to the World Bank for global food security programs it operates and some has been programmed bilaterally. We will get you that breakdown.
Senator RHIANNON: Within the program, how do you balance the emphasis on small-scale food producers?
Mr Baxter: It is a really good point. The smallholder farmers, as you know, are usually the poorest of the poor. It is one of the great attributes of ACRL—our colleagues engaged in agricultural research—that they have put a lot of focus on how to improve the productivity of the smallholder farmers through the adoption of better varieties of crops, better animal husbandry techniques, water conservation and storage of produce from farms. A number of the multilateral programs that we have supported have also had a focus on smallholder farmers.
Mr Gilling: If I might add to what the director-general has said, some good examples of the work that happens on smallholder farms is the work that is funded through our support to the Global Agriculture and Food Security program. We were talking about Africa before and we particularly would draw your attention to activities—for example, in Togo where we have adopted natural resource conservation techniques for smallholder farmers to look at soil and water conservation, and we have worked on new lowland rice varieties. In addition, we have hillside activities in Rwanda, again as we have been discussing, where we have projects that have generated yields of highland potatoes that have increased by up to seven times. Through this Global Agriculture and Food Security program we have actually increased the number of smallholder farmers using improved technologies by over 300,000.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Mr Baxter, and congratulations on the work of you and your team.