After 10 years, does CAADP understand political economy?

The event’s overriding goal was to contribute to efforts to sustain CAADP’s momentum in the next decade or so through mutual learning and experience-sharing among countries. The idea was to strengthen and deepen country engagements and ownership in a bid to advance the agriculture and food security agenda. In fact, Heads of State and Government have declared 2014 the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa. This was seized by the 10th CAADP PP as a springboard to work towards sustaining CAADP implementation momentum.

Ambitious goals

According to the 10th CAADP PP concept note (pdf), the event was systematically structured into nine work streams in order to provide strategic guidance to the deliberations, reviews and reflections. Prior to the 10th CAADP PP, the work streams undertook extensive consultations which guided the deliberations in parallel sessions at the event. Plenary sessions were held to share the main objective of the 10th CAADP and to build consensus on the goals agreed in the parallel sessions.

The work streams included the following: 1) agriculture science, education and skills development agenda; 2) agriculture inputs; 3) land and land policy; 4) rural infrastructure, market access, regional trade and integration; 5) food and nutrition security; 6) public-private sector engagement and investment financing; 7) agriculture and climate change in relation to economic growth, resilience and agricultural risk management; 8) data, M&E and mutual accountability; and 9) policies and institutions. Each of the work streams identified an overarching goal(s) which were endorsed in the plenary session in the order specified above as follows:

  • Double the current level of agricultural total factor productivity by 2025 through the application of science for agriculture.
  • Increase production and productivity by improving profitability and accessibility of agricultural inputs.
  • Increase investments by 20 percent in agricultural land which contributes to sustainable social and economic development.
  • Double trade in agriculture products within Africa by 2025.
  • All households and individuals in Africa must be food and nutrition secure by 2025.
  • Accelerate and deepen inclusive value chains and public-private partnership.
  • Ensure that resilience mechanisms are in place and function at national, regional and continental level.
  • Establish open and accessible data systems at country level.
  • Recommit to enacting and enforcing consistent and predictable macro-economic policies and micro-economic regulations that affirm regional obligations, enhance the effectiveness of public investments in agriculture and catalyze increased private sector, especially in value chains.

These goals are expected to feed into the development of a robust result framework with indicators that will help to systematically track CAADP’s progress over the next decade, buoyed by Africa’s apparent bright economic prospects. Five result areas have been identified, against which CAADP’s progress will be systematically tracked. Three of the five result areas are: 1) improved and inclusive policy design and implementation capacity for agriculture; 2) more effective and accountable institutions to drive planning and implementation of public and investment policies; and 3) more inclusive and evidence based policy making in agriculture.

Does CAADP understand what is stopping progress?

The critical question is whether the deliberations, reviews and reflections at the 10th CAADP PP, following the designation of the year 2014 as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, offer any hope for the continent’s agriculture and food security agenda? While the 10th CAADP PP’s agenda was predominantly prospective, it was nonetheless quite striking how very little time was devoted to understanding the impediments to CAADP’s implementation. For instance, only seven countries have consistently surpassed the CAADP 10 percent target. The number rises to 11 for all countries that have either met or surpassed the 10 percent target since the endorsement of the CAADP declaration in 2003.

Furthermore, there was literally no reflection about the quality of the investments for those countries that have met and even surpassed the 10 percent budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector. The Malawi case immediately comes to mind. It has surpassed the 10 percent target since the 2005/06 growing season but as much as 75 percent of the budget to the agricultural sector is devoted to the provision of subsidies, at the expense of research and extension – which have equally significant transformative potential for the agricultural sector.

The debates in the plenary session on the goals agreed upon in the nine work streams were illustrative of the challenges that lie ahead for the CAADP agenda. Overall, the main concern was that the agenda set for sustaining the CAADP implementation momentum was not comprehensive enough to ensure that it really drives the continent’s transformation agenda with agriculture as a leading sector. Four issues came up quite strongly in the course of the debates on the work stream goals in the concluding plenary session.

First, the delegates felt that the question of youth as future farmers was not adequately addressed. This was a concern in the context of the apparent ageing farming population on the continent and the apparent youth’s lack of interest in farming.

Second, the delegates observed that the goals were not ‘engendered. It was argued that the failure to engender the goals would undermine the achievement of the agriculture and food security agenda especially since women play a critical role in Africa’s agriculture particularly in the production of food crops.

The third observation related to mechanization of agriculture on the continent as a strategy to attract the youth to the sector and ease the burden on women, but it was not mentioned in any of the nine work stream goals. Delegates making this observation argued that the transformation of the continent’s agricultural sector cannot be achieved without widespread mechanization on the continent.

Finally, some delegates queried the absence of a goal specifically addressing the question of knowledge management for sustainable transformation. They argued that without a knowledge base distilling lessons and challenges that have slowed down progress hitherto efforts to renew commitment to CAADP implementation would encounter similar impediments and obstacles.

Missing political economy?

The final concern clearly pointed to weaknesses of the 10th CAADP PP in bringing out and reflecting on the political economy challenges that have impeded CAADP’s implementation in its first decade. This is further reflected in the goals from each work stream. Even the work stream goal on policies and institutions is couched almost entirely in technocratic and economistic terms. The goals as outlined above clearly show that there is a preoccupation with delivering results, which is not matched by a thorough understanding of what it would take to achieve those results on a sustainable basis.

The voices of the parliamentarians who participated in the 10th CAADP PP were loud and clear. They clearly heightened the deficiencies of the CAADP implementation framework from a political economy perspective. All the MPs who spoke pointed out that CAADP is not known by the general population across the continent apart from technocrats, and primarily those who reside in the Ministries of Agriculture.

They attributed the apparent lack of awareness of CAADP among the general population to the failure of the appropriate officials and agencies to engage across the continent. Even parliamentarians who belong to the Pan African Parliament were not fully aware of CAADP. It is therefore not surprising that very few countries have achieved the 10 percent target. The parliamentarians argued that this would have been easier if parliamentarians, who deal with national budgets, were fully aware of the CAADP agenda.

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