Agricultural Strategy Development in West Africa: The False Promise of Participation?

by | Nov 25, 2019 | 0 comments

What was the issue?

Participatory processes in policy making have been touted as critical for designing and promoting agricultural strategies in Sub-Saharan Africa. But such approaches have been criticized as not being inclusive enough or having limited scope. This case examines why some participatory approaches to agricultural research and policy have yielded little or no tangible results and discusses a range of measures to overcome this conundrum. It reviews participatory processes of agricultural policy formulation at national and regional levels and moves further to demystify participatory processes.

What process was used to ensure Small-holder Voices (SHV) were heard by policy makers?

The study utilizes a multi country approach; Senegal and Burkina Faso are test cases at the national level policy formulation. The two countries formed apex producer organizations mainly to ensure that smallholder farmers speak with a common voice when engaging with the State or Development partners. The producer organizations ensured that smallholder voices are heard by engaging the state severally through consultations at the local, regional and national levels. At the regional level, the Network of Farmers Organizations and Agricultural Producers of West Africa (ROPPA), consisting of 10 national farmers organizations in West Africa had been actively involved and supportive of a regional agricultural policy, having several consultations and participating in regional meetings of West African States.

What was the outcome of this process? Was it a success/failure/mixed?

The national producer groups of Senegal and Burkina Faso had been pivotal in crafting national agricultural policies at different levels of participation. Their participation in policy formulation yielded results but actual policy implementation has been abysmal, largely due to a lack of resources and trade-offs among priorities. On the other hand, ROPPA was involved in  crafting of the regional agricultural policy for West Africa through active participation.  Its representatives presented two main demands during a regional workshop, both of which were incorporated into the policy: an emphasis on family farming and the establishment of a regional fund for agricultural development for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

What key lessons can be learnt? Is this process replicable?

There are lessons that can be learned from these cases:

  1. Broad-based consultations and participation in crafting agricultural and rural development strategies have been prominent in West Africa.
  2. Lack of communication about decisions taken subsequent to stakeholder participation and involvement runs through most participatory processes.
  3. Despite extensive stakeholder consultations, a common trend in the two country cases was that agricultural strategies were not implemented years after participatory processes were undertaken.

Is this process sustainable? What is the latest assessment of the impact of this process?

The participatory process needed to be anchored along the government policy making processes.  When anchored outside the latter, the likelihood of implementation is minimal Providing a platform for stakeholders to add their voice in the decision making process is critical, but more participation does not automatically lead to better outcomes. Sustainable participatory process may lead to tangible policy actions.

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