The Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) is a project funded by the Renewable NaturalResources and Agriculture (RNRA) Team of DFID’s Policy Division. It is a project that has the aim to improve the quality of public policy towards agriculture in low income Sub- Saharan Africa (SSA) countries. This objective arises from DFID’s Policy Paper onagriculture published in 2005 (DFID, 2005), in which the central importance of agricultural growth for poverty reduction in countries where the majority of the poor live in rural areas is affirmed. The project began in May 2005 and is scheduled to complete its current phase in March 2008. The project team has submitted a proposal to DFID for a second phase of the project to last from April 2008 to March 2011. The tasks of this mid-term review are asfollows (see Review TOR at Annex A):
(a) to assess the likelihood of FAC meeting its purpose to ‘encourage dialogue and sharing ofgood practice by policy makers and opinion formers in developing countries on the roleof agriculture in broad based growth’;
(b) to make recommendations on the FAC plan for the remaining 6 months of their currentfunding period (to March 2008); and
(c) to make recommendations on the FAC proposal for extension and expansion beyondMarch 2008.
Agriculture has certainly been moving up the strategic poverty reduction agenda in SSA.Agriculture often has a key position in individual country’s PRSPs (for example, the EthiopiaPASDEP is largely built around a strategy entitled Agricultural Development LedIndustrialization), and the sector has become a priority strategic focal point for NEPAD in theshape of its Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
Many international reports on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals have alsoaccorded agriculture special strategic priority; for example, the UN Millennium Project(2005), the Africa Commission (2005), and of course most recently the World DevelopmentReport 2008 (World Bank, 2007), the preparation of which involved significant contributionsfrom members of FAC.FAC operates at the intersection of knowledge and policy.
This is a difficult intersection atwhich to work. On the one hand, the knowledge side of this interaction may be incomplete,contested, and complex to the extent that straightforward messages are difficult to formulateand convey. On the other hand, policy often represents a considerable dead weight of pastpractice, entrenched organizations and interests, and unwillingness to reorder priorities.Moreover, the personal and political interests that make some policy options more attractivethan others to public decision makers can be exceedingly difficult to decipher or anticipate.
What FAC sets out to do is to try to open up this policy space so that information and optionscan circulate more freely, and good ideas may stand a better chance of being taken up. Thereis no doubt that this is a worthwhile activity. FAC’s relative success to date in achieving thisobjective, and the way it might go about doing this more effectively in the future, are thefocal points of this review.