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Insight Series: Natasha Hayward

Welcome to the Insight Series, presenting a behind-the-scenes take on GAFSP. The series will feature perspectives from those involved at every level of the Program, from farmers to managers and donors to implementers. It will highlight what has worked and what needs to be done better in the future; reflecting on what makes this Program different, how it benefits those dealing with challenges, and amplifying the voices of those coping with food insecurity, drought, extreme weather events, and conflict and fragility. 


Natasha Hayward, GAFSP Program Manager

Natasha Hayward is GAFSP’s outgoing Program Head. Presenting the first piece in this series, she reflects on her past six years and offers her thoughts on the Program and its future. Natasha is an experienced development professional, having worked on issues related to rural livelihoods, food security, and social development in Asia and Africa. She has a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. 

Natasha Hayward
Delivering remarks at the GAFSP Replenishment Launch in 2020

On a personal level, what first drew you to GAFSP? 

Time has flown! I’ve been with the Program for six years, first as Deputy Head and then stepping into a leading role. The inclusive nature of the Program is something that has absolutely drawn me to it. Everyone has a seat at the table; the leadership and decision-making processes are shaped by input from different voices and stakeholders, from donors to recipient countries and including civil society. It’s been great to see the Program evolve and although it’s sad to walk away when GAFSP 2.0* is poised to move into its next stage, I’m thrilled to have been part of its development up to this point.

*GAFSP 2.0 is shorthand for GAFSP’s next phase through 2030, with some adjustments to the model to reflect lessons of the first decade of experience, and to broaden access to GAFSP financing even further.

Natasha at AFSLD
 Advocating for partnership, collaboration, and strong country ownership at AFSLD2019

Thinking back over the evolution of GAFSP and your time with the Program, what has worked well and what needs to change? 

I’ve had the pleasure to lead and work with a dedicated, passionate, and committed team of hard-working people who go out of their way to do what is needed on a day-to-day basis. The Coordination Unit team has been a real strength and something that has worked well in support of the Program. The team has evolved, and the Program and Steering Committee have learned to tweak processes and reflect lessons. I would say that this flexibility and learning has also been positive and is mirrored in how GAFSP goes about its business. I share the view that GAFSP’s governance model and thoughtful set-up at inception, reflecting a balanced voice from donors and recipient countries, are a significant strength. Civil society and farmer representation and broader government and country perspectives are important, and countries are in the driver’s seat from the start. Our financing can therefore be used to reinforce and support countries and clients in what they have prioritized, leading to a higher degree of ownership and buy-in.

Looking ahead, I feel there is plenty of opportunities to do even more to support countries to meet their agriculture and food security priorities. The amount of available financing is small in comparison to needs, and I hope the Program will be successful in mobilizing additional resources and, in deploying those, will pay even more attention to supporting adaptation and climate resilience. 

How can GAFSP position itself to take advantage of global conversations around food and agriculture this year, for example at the UN Food Systems Summit and COP26? 

Overall, we need partners to step forward and not only ‘talk the talk’, but also put more resources where they are needed and can be most impactful. The need for a program like GAFSP is, unfortunately, increasing, particularly given that we target the poorest countries and those experiencing worsening conflicts, fragility, and vulnerabilities on account of climate change. Demand for grants and blended finance is high – the indicative demand from both countries and producer organizations in our ongoing Call for Proposals is starkly illustrative of that; yet globally the amount of grant resourcing is low, especially in agriculture and food security. GAFSP is well-positioned as a proven and efficient mechanism for the delivery of resources to support that change. 

Meeting with the SUN Movement team
Meeting with the SUN Movement team

Given that one of GAFSP’s strengths is building resilience in the long- and medium-term, what would you say the COVID-19 health crisis has taught us? 

The immediate impacts of the health crisis were felt across food supply chains, with mobility limited, incomes cut, and household necessities affected. At GAFSP, while our primary mandate is to support longer-term development, we were able to pivot and provide shorter-term funding to those in need by channeling investment through projects already on the ground. For example, in Bangladesh, that financing has supported smallholder farmers who were able to establish Virtual Call Centers to keep produce moving during the pandemic. While the crisis has required a humanitarian and emergency crisis response in many countries, it has also underlined the critical need for better long- and medium-term planning, and we must now support governments, farmers, and private sector actors because it will be even more costly if we don’t invest now to build forward better. 

What would you say about GAFSP’s engagement with the private sector, particularly in response to criticisms that the private sector does not have smallholder interests at heart? 

For GAFSP, the private sector spans a huge spectrum – from individual smallholder producers through their organizations, all the way to the more commercial and corporate private sector. All of these actors are important in the agriculture and food system.  It’s at the corporate end of the spectrum where some concerns may lie, in terms of who has control over decision-making and resources, and how and whether diverse perspectives are accounted for. At GAFSP, through both the Private and Public Sector Windows, we have been trying to facilitate sharing of lessons and a more positive relationship, supporting our primary stakeholders – smallholders – through different financial instruments including the pilot Missing Middle Initiative (MMI), and more directly supporting their enterprises with access to finance and markets. We expect and hope that, through collective action, farmers will be able to strengthen their livelihoods, support their families, and successfully engage in more commercial value and supply chains. In so doing, this experience may both benefit them, but also influence those higher up the value chain to be more mindful of smallholder concerns. Those related to credit – seasonality, for example – or technologies, or other factors.  But also what smallholders can contribute. For more than 10 years, we have been fostering this experience, and it is still a work in progress, but we have been successful in bringing all these different voices together to positive effect. 

To wrap up, what is your favorite memory of working with GAFSP?

I have so many good memories from my years with the Program!  I’ve had the opportunity to visit projects that we have helped finance on the ground, including several in Africa. One striking memory was a conversation with a young mother and farmer in Rwanda, standing in front of her home, and who was so proud to speak of the work she had done in producing crops, organizing her cooperative and marketing their produce and how she had been able to bring electricity (through solar)  – enabling her children to study at home. A totally different kind of positive moment was at one of our Steering Committee meetings, when, after months (and months!) of hard work and building consensus, the tenets of GAFSPs next phase – so-called GAFSP 2.0 – were approved.  

And yet another would be the celebrations with the Coordination Unit team, having been able to ‘pivot’ and work with our partners in Germany to successfully launch GAFSP’s five-year replenishment drive, through an ambitious online event during early COVID-times. It’s been a real pleasure and privilege to be a small part of GAFSP’s recent experience and accomplishments. I hope there will be many more!

Natasha in Rwanda
Tomatoes grown as part of the GAFSP-supported project in Rwanda

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