African Green Revolution – Theme 3

There has been much debate about the importance of coordination and alignment of initiatives and institutions. It is recognized that there are many actors involved in the “Green Revolution” and that the challenge lays in linking up various agendas to make sure we are moving in the right direction and not working at cross purposes.

Contributions on this theme should focus on concrete actions to address the following questions:

  • Which of the recommendations and proposed actions from the Conference Report will enable coherence and encourage strategic partnerships and alignment?
  • What are the best methods to coordinate actions among the key process and initiatives, such as CAADP, AGRA, and other public and private efforts?
  • How can we ensure that the policy processes enhance the compact and roundtable processes of these initiatives and ensure that policy stability, transparency and coherence are created at national and international levels?
  • What are the best methods to ensure bottom-up (i.e. locally driven) initiatives are incorporated into these alliances?

Latest articles

Solomon Bangali
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

African Green Revolution is geared towards making every African hunger free, following a balanced diet and with enough resources to take care of other needs. This objective is in line with AU/NEPAD CAADP objectives. The CAADP Round Table process initiative is an evidence-based and outcome-based policy and implementation framework that encourages collaboration and peer review and learning across countries. It forms an important opportunity platform for exchanging ideas and information between stakeholders, development partners, donors and researchers to map out ways to an increased agricultural productivity in Africa. The food crises coupled with the problem of climate change all have significant implications for our ability to improve and increase agricultural growth. These crises came at a time when Africans had already taken their own destiny into their own hands by their governments committing 10% of their GDP to agricultural development.

Agriculture is often neglected as one of the major factors that have contributed to Africa’s economic growth over the last decade. There is no doubt that the sector has underperformed over the last decade as a consequence of its neglect by governments and development agencies that provide virtually all the funding to the sector.  Public investment in the sector fell from 6.4% in 1980 to 4.5% in 2002 (IFPRI). Donor interest in the sector also fell remarkably from 26% of annual development assistance to 4% presently.  There is a further speculation of donor disengagement.

The cuts in funding to agriculture have adversely affected the level of innovation in the sector in spite of the very high returns on investment in agricultural innovation. An evaluation of 700 agricultural research and development projects in developing countries across the world shows that investment in these projects generated an internal rate of return of 43%. Furthermore, an IFPRI study (Fan, 2008) shows that agricultural research, extension and rural infrastructure are the three most effective public spending items in promoting agricultural growth and poverty reduction. Of these three, agricultural research has the greatest overall impact on poverty in developing countries. What is more, it has been estimated that a 1% increase in crop yield reduces the number of poor people by 0.72 percent in Africa (approximately 2 million people). Thirtle et al. (2003) show that increases in crop yield have greatest impact in Africa.

The decision making process regarding investment in agricultural research and development, and innovation has not been informed by evidence. This is perhaps a consequence of weaknesses in the architecture of institutions responsible for the sector’s advocacy at various levels—national, sub regional and continental.  The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is responsible for continental level advocacy in support of agricultural innovation, dissemination and adoption in particular CAADP Pillar IV:

(a) increased and better harmonized investment,

(b) human and institutional capacity strengthening,

(c) policies and markets(for example, trade, Biosafety and biotechnology),

(d) tested innovation practices, access to knowledge, information and technologies; and

(e) partnerships to promote innovation.   FARA’s experiences in advocating and facilitating agricultural research on the continent in order to meet the agricultural output targets set by African leaders is critical. CAADP pillar IV together with the other pillars is the response to an increase in productivity, reducing hunger and raising income of Africa’s poor.

Shellemiah O. Keya
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

During this last contribution we bear in mind the important recommendations emanating from the conference. Let us also be cognizant of the fact that to realize the green revolution actions on the recommendations can only take place at the national level. This means that effective partnerships must have the national players at the center. In this regard I would like to offer you the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) partnership model that has served the center well.

This partnership brings together the Directors Generals of NARS and they operate under an umbrella called National Experts Committee (NEC). They meet on alternate years to review the research agenda, comment on priorities and the impact being achieved. In turn NEC makes recommendations for better implementation of jointly proposed programs including, monitoring and delivery of products and services appropriate at the geopolitical level.

The NEC plays a major in advising the Council of Ministers (COM) constituted by the 22 member countries. In this way the recommendations made by NEC receives direct attention of the ministers of each country. This linkage brings together a Center, NARS DG and the Ministers of agriculture. It cultivates confidence and trust with national governments. It also ensures the proposed policies are articulated at the appropriate and highest level. Through task force and network mechanisms a wider partnership with universities, foster processes that equip those in the uptake chain with the necessary skills to bring about development impacts, reward capacity-strengthening activities by its scientists, and incorporate capacity strengthening activities that are within approved programs and projects. The goal of WARDA’s partnership is to improve livelihoods in rural and urban populations through strengthened partnerships and capacity, for dissemination of improved technologies. 

In WARDA’s view ppartnerships and coherence can be attained only when all actors in the R&D process are fully engaged in the research planning, priority setting and a transparent joint implementation of programs where the partners enjoy equal mutual respect. Methods of coordination and accountability should be discussed and periodically adjusted to suit local situations. CAADP and FAAP are beginning to provide suitable platforms for coordinating the actors at the national, regional and continental level. However, due to Africa’s heterogeneity,  actions among the key processes and initiatives going on to promote a Green Revolution requires innovative and flexible approaches. To ensure that these processes are transparent and coherent there is a need to involve law makers especially parliamentarians, nationally and across the region. Similarly new alliances are being formed and it is crucial to ensure that these too are rooted in the community where collective actions are taken.

Michael Mortimore
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

What is meant by ‘coherence’?  I take it to mean achieving a greater convergence between the following: policies affecting agriculture (including livestock production); crop and livestock producers’ livelihood goals; and supporting research and development efforts. Within this trinity, there is a widespread agreement that producers (and especially small-scale, poor producers) have too often been relegated to third place. The Salzburg report lays a proper emphasis on their full participation, notably in  

  • the Institutions and Innovations Working Group’s first recommendation to set up a farmer-owned, farmer-driven fund to direct research, innovation and development towards farmers’ needs;
  • the Markets, Trade and Investments Working Group’s third recommendation that smallholders and pastoralists should participate more in policy formation on value chains;
  • the Governance and Policy Processes Working Group’s first recommendation for non-state actors to become involved in the policy process;
  • the Equity, Rights and Empowerment Working Group’s first recommendation for collaborative partnerships between producers’ organisations, governments, NGOs, banks microfinance and international organisations.

Often repeated is the familiar expression ‘capacity building’

Achieving coherence must go beyond rhetoric. At the project level, communities and research/development agents can and do achieve coherent partnerships but bridging the gap to policy is more difficult. Policy is formulated at a different scale and the policy process (though not necessarily particular policies) has greater continuity than projects. Bridging research/ development and policy calls for continuity, financial resources, a common language, local ownership of the process, enlightened national leadership and stakeholder-based frameworks for negotiation and advocacy. In particular, scale differentiation between local interests (which may or may not achieve consensus) and national policy processes (which have to take account of interests outside agriculture or the rural sector) is a major challenge in trying to bring rural people into policy formation. The new democratic institutions associated with decentralization policies are addressing natural resource management issues (e.g., community forest management). They need to extend their remit into such areas as market regulation, price policies, and input supply. These and other policies determine the incentive structures for producers to invest in increasing output. 

Agricultural development literature has been understandably sectoral in scope, but it should not be assumed that new technologies or management systems can find their way into use without paying proportionate attention to economic or political considerations. In development practice, outside interventionists cannot directly influence policy. This must be attempted by newly-empowered communities within the existing political framework. But the local community will be listened to less, the ‘higher’ up the ladder they aim. However, the research/ development community is no longer necessarily external in personnel (though in funding, it often is). This creates a new opportunity for co-ownership of development initiatives by national or local research or advocacy institutions. 

Depending on specific conditions, mechanisms, frameworks or protocols are needed to link research, development and policy with communities in ways that avoid condescension or patronage towards local communities while at the same time recognising national versus local interests and longer versus shorter time perspectives. It seems less than ideal for this to be undertaken as a specialism rather than fully integrated with the research and development – but such integration calls for an interdisciplinary approach.

In seeking to create mechanisms for policy dialogue, two strategies suggest themselves:

  • Forums for dialogue can be convened at district or province level  – this being the ‘highest’ level  where contact between the administration and communities is still immediate, based on touring officers’ itineraries, election campaigns, government programmes and service provision, and cultural affinity between the rulers and the ruled.  Advocacy by community organizations may stand a chance of success at this level, and can be supported by indigenous research/ development organizations. Appropriate signals must, however, be passed to the national policy process. What fine-tuning of governmental procedures is necessary for such an exchange to be effective?.
  • Community organizations can combine or aggregate in a hierarchical structure whose top functionaries can press the case for policy priorities directly with the national government. This replicates lobbying by other vested interests, must be resourced and calls for political commitment. To some extent this potential depends on the size and diversity of the country in question. Senegal (for example) is small and well-integrated; Nigeria (for example) is vast and diverse.

Discussions on green revolution seem reluctant to embark on such issues, but both research and developmental experimentation is needed, country by country, to evaluate options for planting structural and institutional frameworks whose continuity can be guaranteed after externally funded projects and researchers withdraw.  The ‘capacity building’ so much favoured in the Salzburg report needs to accomplish a revolution in attitudes among indigenous disciplinary specialists (often trained abroad) who need to assume facilitative or advocacy roles alongside the communities they research or ‘develop’ in the long term.

The case for such institutional frameworks centred on agriculture rests basically in the lack of an alternative, because new democratic processes have not yet proved competence in agricultural issues – more pressing, perhaps, are political negotiations between opposed interests that have hijacked party systems. Rural people still say they feel marginalised; young adults prefer to abandon the village in favour of an insecure but perhaps better rewarded urban life. Agriculture sits uncomfortably on shifting sands of social change. The future performance of the sector, I suggest, is inevitably bound up with political realities and cannot be wholly encapsulated in a world of soil fertility, crop genetics, agronomic technologies, etc. – important though these are;

Much valuable action research has been conducted on new or adapted institutional structures in a context of natural resource management (a significant part of it supported by the Natural Resources Systems Programme of the UK Department for International Development, 1995-2006). A worthwhile objective would be to carry out a synthesis and evaluation of such work, in terms of its applicability to an African Green Revolution.

Kwesi Atta-Krah
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

I agree with all the points that Monica has raised. Additionally however, I would wish to make some generic points which in my opinion have great relevance for the process of partnerships and coherence building.

Before we can adequately address the issue of partnership mechanisms and processes, we need to be absolutely clear about the “nature of the beast” that we are eager to tame or to raise. Unless we do that, it will be a case of everything goes, and all forms of partnerships could be generated. The core essence of what constitutes the Green Revolution for Africa (GRA) needs to be adequately postulated and owned by the stakeholders. It needs to be clear what is unique about what an African Green revolution is about. Once that is known, it will be possible to clearly define the elements of what constitutes an activity in this revolution. Different kinds of activities that support the development of this revolution can then be identified and connected as part of the family of GRA initiatives.

I will argue that one of the key elements of the GRA is that it will have multiple dimensions, and will require multiple approaches and the involvement of multiple and diverse partners. It will also have elements of increased productivity and production within a framework of sustainability, resilience, and community involvement and partnerships. The GRA must not be seen as a PROJECT (in other words, it must not be seen as the AGRA project or program) – it is much bigger than a project. The GRA must be seen as a ‘revolution’ driven by a ‘movement’. As a revolution, it needs to have broad appeal and broad involvement of a range of stakeholders. It is in this context that the partnerships and coherence building needs to be seen.

Every revolution also needs a base for the purpose of coordination and consolidation. This is the role that I would see jointly played by AGRA, working in partnership with FARA. The FARA connection would help to link this revolution with the objectives and targets of CAADP and NEPAD. Partnerships within GRA must be seen both at the horizontal level (i.e. partnership among a set kind of stakeholders; for example community groups and farmers; agricultural input suppliers and dealers; researchers; etc), and at the vertical level. Vertical partnerships will involve multi-stakeholder parties, such as along a value chain for a particular commodity, or stakeholders within a targeted production system. Whatever partnerships are designed, they should not be seen as ends in themselves; there needs to be clear goal and expected outputs for any kind of partnership. The emphasis should not be on establishing ‘networks’ but rather on utilizing networking as a concept for achieving set goals. Some organ needs to drive these, and as already suggested, I would mention AGRA and FARA as best placed, along with a vibrant Farmers’ Organization.

In terms of process, I would suggest that we need to begin by having a data base of existing initiatives addressing the Green Revolution goals for each of the sub-regions of the continent. Each of these initiatives could be analysed in relation to their partnerships and functioning. Value-adding dimensions and further partnership links could be explored for each of them in order to strengthen their ability to deliver impact, according to the terms of the GRA. In this context targeted efforts must be made to get support and visibility for locally driven initiatives involving farmers and communities working with researchers and other parties in addressing the productivity and sustainability dimensions of the green revolution.

Best practices in partnerships and impact generation should also be identified and rewarded, and efforts made at up-scaling and out-scaling such success stories. I do hope these few preliminary thoughts are helpful.

Monica Kapiriri
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

Multi-stakeholder group composed of knowledgeable as well as open minded individuals, able to objectively assess, give advice, as well as represent the views of stakeholder groups they represent.  These representatives should be selected by their constituencies, and must be facilitated to ensure that they are linked and regularly informed of initiatives, challenges, issues etc, and link these to the evolution process of the GRA.

The best method to incorporate locally driven initiatives into larger alliances:

1) First there is need for a clear understanding of the local innovators and the alliance what the value addition of the initiative is to the overall alliance.

2) Issues of Intellectual property rights and compensation or award system for the local initiatives if it involves sharing their knowledge with other who may turn it into commercial enterprises…  All these need to be threshed out.

3) Linking will be easy, maintaining the rigour and sustaining the good values or products is often the challenge.  Very many seemingly successful local initiatives have been used to tap international resources by those above, promises to the local people that are not followed through, frustration and disintegration of initiatives. Therefore it is important to build the capacity of local initiators to represent themselves in the alliances, avoid middle-agents and ensure equitable distribution of benefits.

4) So if the other multi-stakeholder overseer group is formed, their role will be to foster and ensure equitable access to resources, as well as distribution to beneficiaries.  The group will also ensure that the local initiative do not lose direction as a result of being integrated in a larger alliance. As such the conditions of the alliances must be the kind that allow initiatives to retain their uniqueness, while at the same time learn and improve.