Thanks to Christine for launching this interesting topic. It has been a worry for some time for me. I work in the FAO evaluation office and lead country programme evaluations in African countries. From this work, it seems to me that the Agriculture Ministry is often seen as one of the most bureaucratic and least effective in government, the one least likely to make good use its funding. I venture that the lack of funding for agriculture may be linked to this perception. Consequently, an organization such as mine (FAO) should crank up its assistance to Agriculture Ministries, not to use their programme delivery system without question but rather to ***reform*** it and make them less bureaucratic and more efficient, and therefore more attractive for national and international donors.
This is certainly the picture we got in Uganda, where half of all national treasury funding for agriculture goes to Operation Wealth Creation implemented by the Prime Minister Office and the Army, not by MAAIF (ag. ministry). When we asked why, the response we got was that MAAIF needed to get its act together rather than operate as an unstructured collection of departments competing for resources... The same picture emerges in Ethiopia, where the Government created the Agriculture Transformation Agency in 2010 precisely because they did not trust the Ministry of Agriculture to change, reform and deliver. ATA is getting massive funding from donors, far more than the Ministry of Agriculture, and the two institutions see one another as competitors.
In other words, there may be more funding to agriculture than meet the eye. Some of it doesn't flow through the 'regular' channels, because these channels are seen as problematic by donors and governments. I think this diagnostic applies to FAO itself. There is currently a debate among donors about creating a global fund for agriculture on the model of the GFATM, and the rationale for it is: the current delivery channels can't absorb more funding and make good use of it.
I don’t know if this resonates with others' experience, and welcome both rejoinders and rebuttals!