The International Food Policy Research Institute and the World Food Programme held a joint reception for the signing of their new Cooperation Framework Agreement on February 27 at IFPRI headquarters. Both IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan and WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran put pen to paper after speaking positively of the two institutions’ past collaborations and future plans.
Fan’s comments focused on IFPRI’s ability to provide WFP with evidence-based research to inform the Programme’s actions and improve its effectiveness. He highlighted three main goals of the new agreement: (1) to conduct evidence-based assessments of different food-assistance strategies; (2) to provide results, strategies, and lessons that donors and governments around the world find useful; and (3) to increase the relevance and impact of IFPRI’s research while strengthening WFP’s capacity for applied research and evaluations.
Sheeran lauded IFPRI for being a “can-do,” action-oriented research organization, and said, “At WFP, we’re not about theory; we’re about practical application.” She demonstrated this by describing some of the actions WFP has taken to use research to make measurable gains in the fight against hunger and poverty. Sheeran highlighted an innovative WFP approach to food aid called “digital food.” Rather than giving food directly to the hungry, WFP gives them a card they can use to buy food at the local market. This is intended to allow many different groups—including shopkeepers, local farmers, children, and families—to share in the benefits of food aid. IFPRI is evaluating the effectiveness of this approach in five countries.
Along with the signing of the agreement, the reception served as recognition of Sheeran’s five years of work at WFP as she prepares to move on to a new position as Vice-Chairman of the World Economic Forum. Fan praised Sheeran for WFP’s many innovations under her leadership, including a more than 20-fold increase in private-sector funding from 2007 to 2010 and the implementation of Purchase for Progress, an initiative aimed at helping smallholder farmers become competitive players in the marketplace.
The reception highlighted the many goals and concerns the institutions share, from building resiliency to food price shocks to improving value chains and empowering smallholder farmers to feed themselves and their communities. IFPRI and WFP have had what Fan called a “vibrant and productive” partnership in the past, making this new agreement “not really a new start but an enhanced continuation” of a collaboration built on a wide expanse of common ground.