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Platform Policy Brief
No. 4 // October 2011
T Effective aid for agriculture and rural development: the search for coherence
Platform Policy Briefs are designed to inform and guide members in the delivery of assistance in agriculture and rural development. Global Donor Platform for Rural Development Tackling rural poverty, together
he Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness of 2005 aimed to improve coherence and consistency of development policies and programmes. Six years later, which benefits can been seen in agriculture and rural development? For agriculture and rural development (ARD), policy coherence sets a stiff challenge. The sector is usually expected to contribute to a wide range of goals. Since agriculture is carried out across large and varying areas by many private farms, the relation of policies to outcomes can be difficult to judge. Yet it is not easy to set priorities and resolve uncertainties for ARD when rural populations are often not well organised and administrative responsibility of the sector is fragmented. Moreover, the rising importance of global concerns over higher food prices and climate change may increase the potential for incoherent policy.
Sorghum harvesting in Kondogola/Mali. The Platform's work in the area of aid effectiveness aims to benefit farmers all over the world. Photo: © Didier Ruef
A study commissioned by the Platform found • Country ownership is lacking and little progress has been made on aligning procedures. – Aid is often aligned formally due to donor-funded programmes being broad and permissive, but in practice some donors insist on their own accounting, reporting and procurement methods. Country leadership is the key issue to be addressed. – in the absence of clearer guidance and in combination with the uncertainties that surround ARD. Progress can usually be seen when interest groups form that are determined enough to see programmes through to a successful outcome. – Such alliances are possible when attention is focused on a single issue, containing a crisis or opportunity, and preferably when shortterm gains can be made. The main inconsistencies are those between ARD and trade policy. – While not the focus of the study, Policy Coherence for Development – the term commonly used to refer to consisten-
Author: Steve Wiggins of Overseas Development Institute, London
Platform Policy Brief I No. 4
cy of aid and non-aid policies – matters. The study concludes with four policy recommendations • Be wary of detailed public planning and coordination for ARD – rather, success comes from focussing Encourage country leadership by concentrating on keenly-felt issues and build capacity for the inclusion of civil society Prioritize long-term capacity building processes – their higher cost is lower than that of inefficient aid Bring stakeholders together to reduce typical uncertainties of the agricultural sector
For agriculture and rural development policy coherence is even more challenging
ARD is usually expected to contribute to a wide range of objectives: economic growth and export earnings; employment, poverty, equity, gender fairness, food and nutrition security; environmental conservation; and regional equity. Since a given strategy is unlikely to achieve goals equally across the range, priorities have to be set, in large part through value judgments. In addition, agriculture is less technically certain than most productive sectors, requiring adaptation to local conditions. Most farms, moreover, are small enterprises, vulnerable to market failures, especially in finance and insurance, for which solutions are in debate. Hence ARD is an area where commonly there can be uncertainty over both ends and means. Yet it is not easy to resolve such uncertainties. Support for ARD is often weak and unfocussed. Politically, especially in low income countries, rural populations are not well organised to express needs and aspirations. Administratively, responsibilities for providing rural public goods and services are spread over several ministries and agencies; while capacity to analyse the often quite complicated issues in ARD is often limited.
7] Partly compiled from Investing in Women as Drivers of Agricultural Growth (J. Ashby, M. Hartl, Y. Lambrou, G. Larson, A. Lubbock, E. Pehu, C. Ragasa) and IFAD (2010) Special Session Report The Farmers’ Forum in Conjunction with the ThirtyThird Session of IFAD’s Governing Council. Special Session: Promoting women’s leadership in farmers’ and rural producers’ organizations. Held at IFAD Headquarters, Rome, on 13 February 2010. 8] These are the Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook http://worldbank.org/genderinag, The World Development Report: Agriculture for DevelopmentAgriculture for Development. The 2008 World Development Report. The World Bank. Washington, DC. 2007. and the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development [www.agassessment.org ]. 9] Farnworth, C.R. (2010) Gender aware approaches in agricultural programmes: a study of Sida-supported agricultural programmes. Sida Evaluation 2010: 3 10] Lastarria-Cornhiel, S. (2008) The Feminization of agriculture: trends and driving forces. Background paper for the World Development Report. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/I NTWDR2008/Resources/27950871191427986785/LastarriaCornhiel_F eminizationOfAgri.pdf 11] IAASTD (2008) Executive Summary of the Synthesis Report. 12] G. Rebosio, S. Gammage, and C. Manfre, “A Pro-Poor Analysis of the Artichoke Value Chain in Peru,”www.microlinks.org/file_down load.php/Artichoke_Peru_Research_ Brief.pdf?URL_ID=18386&filename=1 1861594421Artichoke_Peru_Researc h_Brief.pdf&filetype=application%2F pdf&filesize=299504&name=Artichok e_Peru_ Research_Brief.pdf&location=user-S. 13] Barrientos, S., C. Dolan, A. Tallontire. "A Gendered Value Chain Approach to Codes of Conduct in AFrican Horticlture." World Development 31 (9) (2003): 1511-1526. 14] Action Aid “Securing women’s right to land and livelihoods: a key to ending hunger and fighting AIDS” http://www.actionaid.org/micrositeAs sets/eu/assets/women's%20right%2 0to%20land%20hiv%20and%20hunge donorplatform.org r%20jun08final.pdf
Overall, development partners have to engage in the long haul of building institutions and capacity – in the widest sense – and finding ways to bring otherwise marginalised stakeholders into political systems where power is unduly concentrated in the hands of elites. This may not be simple, inexpensive or rapid. But neither is it impossible. The costs, moreover, have to be set against the alternative of aid that is ineffective.
// Policy coherence is a challenge for development
Individual policies, however well-conceived, can be undermined by other policies with different objectives. This applies all the more so when providing assistance from OECD countries to developing countries when there are two sets of policies to consider. Potential incoherence is clearest between aid and other policies of development partners. Aid programmes need be consistent across sectors, they need to align with the national policies of developing countries, and within those countries their policies need to cohere. Indeed, if the five principles set out in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness of 2005 – ownership, alignment, harmonisation, results and mutual accountability – are to be put into operation, policies have to be coherent across several dimensions.
// Developments of policy coherence
Policy coherence has been improved in many development agencies by integrating aid effectiveness into performance management systems – setting out the results for which staff will be held accountable, and how much risk is acceptable, decentralising and delegating authority to country level. External monitoring of donor consistency and coherence also exists, DAC peer reviews of OECD donors being one example, the prodding of civil society watchdogs and some parliamentarians another. Within developing countries, national plans and sector-wide programmes have been deployed but partner country reviews of donor performance are still uncommon. Formal assessments of policy performance, however, are not common. Many development agencies do not manage information well, suffer from high staff turnover, and lack incentives. Forms of assessment are not harmonised and policy sequencing is not well managed.
Platform Policy Brief I No. 4
TCONCLUSIONS ON POLICY COHERENCE
// Conclusion 1: Aid is often aligned formally but country ownership is lacking
Formally, the aims and means of donor-funded programmes align with national priorities. This is however often due solely to programmes being broad, highlighting a chronic problem of countries failing to make explicit choices. Liberal strategies are set out, it appears, as an ‘aid maximisation’ approach. Strategies and policies, moreover, tend to accumulate. Failure to prioritise by governments means that development partners usually fill the gap by their own analyses of sectors and issues. Hence, diagnoses and analyses proliferate, while the programmes funded become diverse in both aims and methods. Even less progress has been made on aligning procedures. Many development agencies still insist on their own accounting and reporting systems.
Ending poverty and hunger is a United Nations Millennium Development Goal. To contribute the Platform fosters mutual trust and respect between donor agencies and developing countries. Photo: © Pierre St-Jacques/ ACDI-CIDA.
T Example: Mozambique’s PROAGRI I
Coordination to little effect?
One of the most intensive experiences in aligning policies and procedures for agricultural development was the first phase of the sector-wide programme for Mozambique, PROAGRI I. USD 154m were spent over five years, of which 88% were funded by donors. While much was done to coordinate development efforts and to strengthen the ministry, it failed to galvanise activity in the field – especially to provide effective services for small farmers. One interpretation is that this stemmed from a narrow focus on coordination and capacity building at headquarters, and too little attention to improving performance in the field. This may be an exceptional case but it reminds us that alignment and coordination are a means to an end and not the end in itself.
// Conclusion 2: Further progress on harmonisation and alignment will be difficult without country leadership – the key issue in ARD
Developing countries often fail to make clear strategy choices for ARD. Without clear guidance, policies and programmes proliferate. Some compete, duplicate or overlap. Fundamental issues affecting ARD can be obscured by less important concerns. A sector that lacks a sharp focus may lose out when competing for national resources. Reasons While donors may contribute to the problem by insisting on programmes and policies that reflect their preferences, two factors explain why developing countries do not establish a firmer line on their ARD policy. The relative complexity of ARD – Opinions differ over choices of both ends and means, reflecting differing values and technical judgments – differences that can contribute to fragmented, contested and changing policy. The matter of political economy – The point of how political forces and distributional conflicts affect the choice of policies has emerged more strongly than expected. Problems with policies can be attributed to closely-related political, institutional and operational factors. donorplatform.org
Platform Policy Brief I No. 4
T Obstacles to setting national
Political Governments have to answer to constituencies with incompatible interests. Short-term priorities tend to outweigh longer-run considerations. Rural interests, especially those of poor rural people, find it difficult to be heard, or to organise and place effective demands on leaders. Urban interests and those of elites hold undue sway over decisions. Institutionally Responsibilities for ARD are often split across institutions – of which the ministry of agriculture is just one, often neither the one with most resources nor the one with most prestige and power. Institutional fragmentation leads to fragmented policymaking for ARD issues, while preventing the administration from being an effective advocate for rural issues. Operationally Government agencies lack capacity – especially in agriculture in Africa, where cuts made in the 1980s and 1990s under structural adjustment led to loss of staff and their experience. Consequently, ability to deliver services, make investments and operate public infrastructure as well as to carry out analyses to inform strategic choices is limited. Development partners are not well placed to supplement national capacity since many agencies lack field presence.
Factors that seem to make a difference in otherwise unpromising circumstances A clear, single issue on which to focus. There has to be a substantial issue around which interests can coalesce. It has to be acknowledged, identified by stakeholders, with a degree of consensus about the problem or the opportunity. • A crisis, a promise. Crises can galvanise latent interests, as can clear opportunities that promise high returns to initiative. Engaging only those with a real stake. Negotiations can be difficult enough without involving participants for whom this is not a burning issue. Limit participation to keep the costs of coordination down. • Sustained interest and effort. Continuity of aims, purpose and resources helps. In two remarkable reforms from Mali, government and donors held together in common purpose for at least twenty years. While ideas about how to do things may change over time, leadership and vision must be part of the story. Short term wins. Tangible gains, preferably in the short term, have to be apparent. Not all gains have to come soon, but early progress encourages further effort. Of course, it helps if external circumstances are favourable and the contrary also applies. If intractable technical problems arise, if some leader or technocrat is unwaveringly venal, if stakeholders refuse to bridge the gaps between them and others, or if economic conditions move against the enterprise – then well-conceived efforts may sink.
18] IFPRI, 2009 19] IFPRI, 2009 20] See compilation of studies in Farnworth, C.R. (2008) Module 5: Gender and Agricultural Markets. In Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook. World Bank. http://worldbank.org/genderinag 21] Kitinoja, Lisa. 2002. “Identifying Scale-Appropriate Postharvest Technology.” In Postharvest Technology of Horticultural Crops, 3rd ed., ed. Adel A. Kader, 481–90. Oakland,CA: Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and University of California. 22] Gurung, C., 2006. The role of women in the fruit and vegetable supply chain in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu India: the new and expanded social and economic opportunities for vulnerable groups task order under the Women in Development IQC. Washington, DC: USAID. 23] USAID, “Gender and Economic Value Chains: Two Case Studies from the GATE Project,” www.usaid.gov/our_work/cross-cutting_programs/wid/eg/gate_valuechai n.html.24] Food and Agriculture Organization, 2009. The state of food insecurity in the World 2009. Rome. http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/i0876e /i0876e00.htm 25] DFID/DEFRA (March 2010) DFID/Defra Policy Narrative on Global Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture. 26] Farnworth, C.R. (2010) Zambia Country Report: Sida UTV Working donorplatform.org Paper 2010:8
// Conclusion 3: Progress often comes from bringing interested parties together
It is easy to conclude that priorities will not be set explicitly since that may allow the politically powerful to use aid for ARD for their own benefit. It would be naïve to imagine that this does not occur, but it is far from inevitable. The process of bringing stakeholders together to agree on a common purpose is associated with successes in environmental conservation and rehabilitation of the cashew industry in Mozambique, and in programmes to link small farmers to better markets in Honduras. A common element in these cases is the way in which stakeholders are brought together to form interest groups that are determined enough to see a programme through to a successful outcome.
Platform Policy Brief I No. 4
Cinzana Agricultural Research Station in Mali's Province of Segou works to sustainably increase crop production and productivity through improved seed breeding. Photo: © Didier Ruef
T Example: Cereals reform in Mali
Prior to reform, extensive regulation of cereal markets in Mali saw prices fixed for inputs and outputs, with quotas for import and exports. Designed to provide the urban population with low price food, it was costly – by the end of the 1970s, the agency operating the policy went bankrupt – and did little to encourage domestic food production. Reforms were instituted to give farmers higher prices and incentives to produce, to attract private investment in grain trading, storage and processing, and to redirect state agencies to the delivery of public goods – while reducing their running costs. Step by step, from 1982, cereals markets were decontrolled, prices were liberalised, private trading permitted, international trade in cereals was opened, information systems were improved, and traders’ were given more access to credit. Results have been impressive. Cereals production has grown at an average of 3.6% a year from 1990 to 2006; markets have become more competitive, trader margins are down, returns to farmers are up; and there has been downward pressure on consumer prices.
27] DFID/DEFRA (March 2010) DFID/Defra Policy Narrative on Global Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture. 28] Farnworth, C.R. (2010) Gender aware approaches in agricultural programmes: a study of Sida-supported agridonorplatform.org cultural programmes. Sida Evaluation 2010: 3
// Conclusion 4: Global initiatives may help focus country efforts
Food and nutrition security. In general, global initiatives have been welcomed for additional resources or the promise of them, but above all for helping to focus and galvanise efforts. There are some concerns, however that the attention to food prices may lead to a focus on agricultural production and national self-sufficiency as ends in themselves, rather than as ways to reduce poverty and hunger. While a higher profile for nutrition is welcome, knowledge about this is lacking. Climate change. Concerns have not yet significantly affected aid for agricultural development – the funds and their mechanisms are not yet in place. There is, however, a sense of uncertainty about just how the need to adapt and mitigate would play out for agriculture. Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP). Perhaps the best example of a regional initiative focusing efforts. Previous frustrations at the apparently slow development of CAADP have been replaced by admiration for the way it has become a focus that unites Africa-led plans
Success has come from agreement by government and donors to tackle an urgent problem, sustained support from donors; and coherent and sequenced set of reforms aligned with macroeconomic reforms.
Platform Policy Brief I No. 4
// Conclusion 5: Policy Coherence for Development matters
The most prominent problems with coherence, both in country and internationally, are those of trade policies and development objectives. For example in both Honduras and Mozambique, imports of food are tariff-free, and in one case exports of food were banned, to favour urban consumers at the expense of farmers – despite the avowed goals of agricultural development. While not the focus on this brief, Policy Coherence for Development – the term commonly used to refer to consistency of aid and non-aid policies – clearly matters.
TPOLICY IMPLICATIONS AND
Be wary of a narrow focus on planning and coordination for ARD. The high transaction costs of close coordination are probably a price worth paying when it comes to major service sectors such as health, education, roads and water supply. In these sectors, public budgets are large and the costs of inconsistent initiatives can be high. For example, some water programmes have to maintain many different brands of donated pumps. It is less clear that detailed public planning and coordination are valuable in agriculture. Much depends on the individual decisions taken by farmers, traders and processors within a complex and changeable natural and economic environment. It is thus not surprising to see that reported success in ARD comes from focusing. Look to encourage country leadership. It is unlikely that coordination alone will make a difference – yet the political, institutional and operational obstacles to setting priorities are not easily resolved. Two things may help: Focus political will and resources on keenly-felt but limited priorities and problems. Not only is this likely to succeed, but also it helps development capacity to tackle wider problems. Internationally, concern over food prices and climate change can become opportunities for renewed efforts. Coalitions, however, can form around policies that are not priorities, or plain dysfunctional. Avoiding this is not straightforward, but the next point can help – as can leadership with vision. Build capacity of civil society. In the long run, civil society and the rural majority on low incomes have to able to hold leaders and public agencies to demand effective delivery of goods and services, and to hold them to account. Development agencies need to engage with such capacity building, recognising where some support can make a difference, and providing it. That means having field staff alive to these issues. It means making long-term commitments to working with local partners. Processes matter, so be prepared for the long haul. Building institutions and capacity – in the widest sense – and finding ways to bring otherwise marginalised stakeholders into political systems where power is unduly concentrated in the hands of elites require long-term efforts. This may not be simple, inexpensive, or rapid. But neither is it impossible. The costs, moreover, have to be set against the alternative of aid that is ineffective. Reduce uncertainty surrounding ARD. Bringing stakeholders with differing perspectives together to establish common ground and to see where compromises can be made can help bridge differences in values to establish agreed priorities. When technical means are uncertain, more study is indicated. While there may be few shortcuts to better understanding, one of the simpler and less costly ways to gain knowledge is through learning from experience of development programmes by evaluation, documentation and dissemination.
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