I am very pleased to make a contribution to this theme based on the experience of Future Agricultures work in Ethiopia over the last 2 years. It is well established that policy making in most African countries including Ethiopia has been and continue to be top down. The elite group (the researchers, the politicians) think they know what the farmers want and design policies and programmes with little or no consultation with farmers.
Future Agricultures in Ethiopia has developed an all inclusive policy dialogue process that brings farmers voices to policy makers and make them heard. This process involves four steps:
Step I: Community consultations: engage a cross-section of community members in a dialogue on the future of agriculture. These include the elderly, adult farmers and pastoralists, youth and children (future farmers and pastoralists) and private investors. In all categories women are represented equally.
Step II: Regional validation workshops: findings from Step 1 are validated/enriched at regional workshops with researchers, academics, regional agricultural officers, NGOs and donors, farmer representatives and private investors. Farmers’ voices are being heard at this stage.
Step III: National policy dialogue forum: a farmers’ voices are brought to the national level and presented at a series of national forum in the presence of senior government officers, donors, NGOs and CSOs and parliamentarians.
Step IV: Policy engagement: armed with farmers’ voice, policy engagement and influencing has began. Although this is principally a bottom up process, policymakers are consulted/informed at all levels.
This process has now led to the creation of a Forum on Future Agricultures in which farmers’ voices will be brought to the attention of regional and national policy makers on a continual basis.