20 February 2019

The fruits of funder cooperation: learnings from the EFC’s European Foundations for Sustainable Agriculture and Food (EFSAF) network

EFSAF is an EFC network of European foundations who cooperate at European level to empower civil society engaged in shifting European agricultural and food policies towards more sustainability. EFSAF members are developing medium and long term work, looking at the framework provided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and considering climate change or health negotiations as key elements to advance the work on sustainable agriculture and food systems. It initially started off with a global focus on family farming, before deciding on a close and specific joint action on European policies. This strategic decision was motivated by the conclusion that European policies are a major hurdle to sustainability in the areas the foundations are actively involved in such as agriculture, food, rural areas, agroecology, health and poverty.

EFSAF is one of various EFC networks. The group works on a collaborative and horizontal basis and is open for participation and collaboration by foundations who align in terms of political vision and want to collaborate concretely. EFSAF is an initiative initially developed by some members in the EFC’s European Environmental Funders Group (EEFG).

In a recent Alliance magazine article, EFSAF shared some of its learning and work on the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In a recent meeting, the group unanimously decided to prolong collaboration for the coming two years. It also took stock of its learnings and achievements since 2016. To receive a copy of the detailed analysis and ingredients of success and learning, please contact Silvia Balmas. The following highlights specific achievements that illustrate EFSAF’s out of the box way of working:

National civil society platforms

Support to national civil society coalitions working on CAP reform is a crucial element of EFSAF’s strategy. Fortunately, the EU member states identified as ‘strategic’ coincided with EFSAF member representation. The tendency of renationalisation in the EU as well as funders’ grantmaking restrictions made coalitions possible who could not otherwise exist without EFSAF and is a long term backbone of EFSAF’s strategy. Links to funders’ national activities as well as to activities and synergies at the European level occur and empower the coalitions. Platforms exist in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and further countries can be taken into consideration.

The French platform ‘Pour une autre PAC

Please refer to the Alliance Magazine article for more details about this experience.

The European coalition Good Food Good Farming

Support to a joint European dynamic was a challenge as little funding was available and needs were and are huge. Few funders could invest on the European level and civil society actors were in their own dynamics and struggles to get organised in times of increasing funding needs and complex public-private power plays. Finally, a European campaign supporting activities on the national and local level and facilitating European cohesion to advocacy and campaigning as well as sensitisation work started with the Good Food Good Farming days, launched by the Sustainable food and farming platform with its partners.

CAP Atlas

In the one and a half years from proposal to its full deployment, EFSAF undertook the “CAP Atlas”. Built on an existing information, advocacy and pedagogic tool – the Atlas format – by one member foundation (Heinrich Böll Foundation), and building on the concrete suggestion by its representative, EFSAF and its partners developed six versions of that tool and made a European one. Coalitions in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Spain developed and now display the Atlas. An Austrian version is out, too, and an English joint version will be published before the European elections.

EFSAF strategy and coherence of aligned funding and member activities

This has two sides. One is aligned funding where members co-fund grantees or create synergies between their grants. This concerns for example funding to national platforms, or European initiatives like ARC2020 or IPES-Food’s EU food policy process. The approximate overall aligned funding of EFSAF members was €0.9 million in 2017 and €1.6 million in 2018. The other includes EFSAF as a network. EFSAF works closely together with civil society actors over intense and regular exchanges and meetings, sometimes also bilaterally or online. Achievements here are that EFSAF’s strategy has been set up on the basis of these exchanges, another is that different actors like civil society organisations and researchers enter dialogue and collaboration regionally.

Finally, EFSAF as a network

EFSAF works in a networked way. As a small group with a granting level well short of the 10 million euros civil society considered necessary for a successful campaign reforming the CAP, EFSAF’s methods include doing things better together, creating synergies, circulating information, building on what is already there (e.g. meetings, networks, research), and constantly learning and enlarging scopes. This is hard work and takes time. Examples are the involvement of many grantees and partners in the IPES-Food EU food policy process, a workshop on CAP in the Barilla Food Forum, EFSAF topics and speakers in the annual Metropoli agricole conferences, a side-meeting at a Montpellier SupAgro conference on CAP, etc.

Rendez-vous with us in 2021 to celebrate achievements from the next round of collaboration. Until then, get in touch via Silvia Balmas or Mathilde Douillet.

Network background

EFSAF is not a pooled fund or a funding scheme, and EFC members contribute according to their mission and means. This may take different forms, such as support of coalition building and strategic thinking; implementation of performance measurement of food systems at country level; production of evidence-based research and development of a common narrative; public mobilisation and campaigning; advocacy work towards governments as well as support to grass-root organisations; support of innovative projects; organisation of events for debate with all actors in the field of food systems; and/or thematic workshops with experts and policymakers.

EFSAF proactively looks for activities that fill gaps identified and prioritised together with partners. By doing so, EFSAF facilitates the creation of links. For example, outcomes of research activities can be useful for advocacy and/or practitioners, or networking activities could bring different actors to the table, among others.

This may happen on national, EU or international level. EFSAF is currently focusing on France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain as well as at the European level and potentially in other countries with a priority on under-financed actors.

EFSAF also aims to raise awareness of the issue and bring more funders to the field.


Inga Wachsmann

Former EFSAF Chair