PPWNov13- Day 1 Keynote- J.Thompson- IDS
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Day 1 keynote address: John Thompson, Future Agricultures Consortium and Institute of Development Studies, UK: “Analyzing and Understanding Agricultural Policy Processes in Africa” ...

Day 1 keynote address: John Thompson, Future Agricultures Consortium and Institute of Development Studies, UK: “Analyzing and Understanding Agricultural Policy Processes in Africa”

Workshop on Approaches and Methods for Policy Process Research, co-sponsored by the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) and Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) at IFPRI-Washington DC, November 18-20, 2013.

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  • This model assumes that policy makers approach the issues rationally, going through each logical stage of the process, and carefully considering all relevant informationPolicymaking is bureaucratic/administrative. [or where politics is considered: a split between policy making and implementation – politics surrounds decision making (realm of value) but implementation is purely technical or administrative (realm of facts)]. Expertise is independent, objective, scientific. i.e. delivery of judgements based on ‘sound science’ or ‘evidence-based policy’ [a familiar refrain].
  • A study of policy processes should look at the complex and messy processes by which policy is understood, formulated and implemented, and the range of actors involvedContrary to traditional views of policy making as linear and rational, with decisions being taken by those with authority and responsibility for a particular policy area, the policy process is now more commonly recognised as being having these characteristics
  • Networks, coalitions and alliances of actors (individuals or institutions) with a shared vision (i.e. similar belief systems, codes of conduct and established patterns of behaviour) are important in spreading and maintaining narratives through chains of persuasion and influence, which can include journals, conferences, being taught by the same person or informal introductions. Through these networks, norms of good and bad practice are reinforced, research agendas are set, and orthodoxies or conventional wisdoms are reiterated and, very often, dissenting opinions or unconventional views are suppressed
  • PEAPA hypothesis: the degree of “political will” to support smallholder-led agricultural growth, through effective policy backed by adequate levels of investment, is explained in large part by the incentives faced by policy makers through the domestic political system. These in turn vary considerably from country to country.
  • May be complemented by transfers, but not transfers only


  • 1. Analysing and Understanding Agricultural Policy Processes in Africa John Thompson Future Agricultures Consortium, Regional Coordinator for Europe and Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, UK j.thompson@ids.ac.uk www.future-agricultures.org Workshop on Approaches and Methods for Policy Processes Research IFPRI, Washington DC 18-20 November 2013
  • 2. Focus • Future Agricultures Consortium – a focus on agricultural policy processes in Africa • Changing views on policy & policy processes • Overview 1: FAC Policy Processes approach • Study 1: Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems • Overview 2: FAC Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa (PEAPA) approach • Study 2: Democratisation and the Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa • Summary
  • 3. Future Agricultures Consortium Established in 2005… to encourage dialogue and the sharing of good practice by policy makers and opinion formers in Africa on the role of agriculture in broad based growth Why FAC?... the lack of attention to the political economy of policy processes is leading to inappropriate policy formulation and implementation failures in African agriculture
  • 4. Core Focus = Agricultural Policy Processes in Africa 1. 2. 3. 4. Policy processes Commercialisations Social protection Science, technology & innovation 5. Land 6. Climate change 7. Pastoralism 8. Young people & agri-food systems 9. Gender & social difference 10. Brazil & China in African agriculture
  • 5. Policy: Clearly central to development, but difficult to pin down... ‘Policy is rather like the elephant - you know it when you see it, but you cannot easily define it’ (G. Cunningham, 1963: 229; cited in M. Hill, 1997: 6)
  • 6. Policy: A Textbook Definition • Policy comes from the Middle English word ‘policie’, meaning ‘art of government’, ‘civil organisation’ • Standard definition of policy is: ‘a plan or course of action, as of a government, political party, or business, intended to influence and determine decisions, actions, and other matters’ – West’s Dictionary of American Law
  • 7. Conventional View of Policy • Series of well-defined steps:  Determining the policy issue or problem  Exploring possible options for resolving the problem  Weighing up the costs and benefits of each option  Making a rational choice about ‘best option’  Implementing the policy  Evaluating the outcome • Bureaucratic approach  separation of ‘value’ and ‘fact’ • The political nature of the policy is hidden by the use of technical language  ‘Evidence-based policy-making’
  • 8. An Alternative View of Policy • Policies = Political phenomena/processes • “...policies appear to be mere instruments for promoting efficiency and effectiveness. This masking of the political under the cloak of neutrality is a feature of modern power.” C. Shore and S. Wright, Anthropology of Policy: Critical Perspectives on Governance and Power. London: Routledge; 1997: 8.
  • 9. The Politics of Policy Processes: Incremental, Complex and Messy • Competing agendas and interests (poli sci) • ‘Disjointed incrementalism’, ‘muddling through’ (public admin) • Implementation involves discretion, negotiation, trade-offs by ‘street-level bureaucrats’ (public admin) • Decisions are not discrete or technical  facts and values are intertwined (socio-anthro) • Technical experts and policymakers ‘mutually construct’ policy (sci & tech studies)
  • 10. Value of a Policy Process Approach • What is a political economist? ‘Someone who comes and explains why your programme hasn’t worked’ – Alex Duncan, OPM But a PP approach doesn’t just help explain why a policy or programme hasn’t worked, it can also identify possible ways forward  i.e. what is both technically viable and politically feasible
  • 11. How Does Policy Change? Three Broad Perspectives 1. Negotiating knowledges, discourses, narratives • Policies as narratives, stories (Emory Roe, Raymond Apthorpe) • Discourse coalitions (Maarten Hajer) • Policy as political technology (Michel Foucault) 2. Interaction between actors, networks and practices • • • • • epistemic communities (Peter Haas) policy networks (Paul Sabatier) policy entrepreneurs (John Kingdon) actors and encounters at the interface (Norman Long) actor network theory (Bruno Latour, Michel Callon) 3. Competition and bargaining between different interests • pluralist, society-centred accounts (Robert Dahl) • state-centred accounts (Theda Skocpol) • bureaucratic politics (Graham Allison; Michael Lipsky)
  • 12. A Simplified Framework Discourses/ Narratives Politics/ Interests Understanding policy processes comes as a result of looking at the intersection of these 3 overlapping elements. Actors/ Networks/ Practices J. Keeley and I. Scoones, Understanding Environmental Policy Processes: Cases from Africa. London: Earthscan, 2003.
  • 13. Policy Narratives Discourses/ Narratives • Policy narratives ‘frame’ a problem; explain how it comes about; and show what needs to be done to put it right • These narratives – storylines – frequently simplify complex issues – Many are ‘crisis narratives’, demanding urgent policy action – Others are ‘success stories’, suggesting a clear way forward
  • 14. Policy Narratives Discourses/ Narratives • Some narratives are very ‘sticky’ – i.e. persistent  making it very difficult to challenge them (e.g. ‘tragedy of the commons’, desertification...) • Why? – they suit certain political interests – are easily communicated  ‘sound bites’ – become embedded in bureaucratic cultures  reducing space for alternatives – are perpetuated through everyday practice
  • 15. Actors, Networks, Practices Actors/ Networks/ Practices • Actors and networks define and perpetuate policy narratives • These are coalitions and alliances of people with shared beliefs, visions and patterns of behaviour • They often link state institutions with private sector, donors and civil society, spanning localglobal levels • Diverse stakeholders engage in negotiation that can reinforce – or sometimes challenge – the prevailing narratives
  • 16. Politics and Interests Politics/ Interests • Politics shape policy processes in several ways: – The political context is moulded by the interests of particular authorities who seek to remain in power – Competition also exists between groups in society, based on their differing interests (e.g. allocation of resources; economic vs. social priorities) – A range of interest groups attempt to exert power over every stage of the policy process
  • 17. Policy Spaces Politics/ Interests • ‘Policy spaces’ define the policy-maker's scope of action  ‘room to manoeuvre’ • Strong pressures to adopt a particular policy position can limit this space  ‘closing down’ • Reduction of such pressure may provide opportunities to develop consensus among stakeholders  involves negotiating trade-offs • But consensus needs to be negotiated genuinely; otherwise, the policy process may fall apart during implementation  ‘implementation failure’
  • 18. Policy Spaces Politics/ Interests • Invited spaces  consultations led by government • Popular spaces  protests, demonstrations • Practical spaces  pilot field-based projects • Bureaucratic spaces  formal spaces within government • Electoral/political spaces  formal participation in electoral system • Discursive spaces  where new ‘framings’ are introduced into the policy debate
  • 19. Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Africa • Focus: Particular configurations of powerful public and private actornetworks are shaping the way cereal seed systems operate in Africa, which is influencing the way the ‘new Green Revolution’ agenda is playing out in different countries • Framing: ‘market-led technology adoption’ J. Thompson and I. Scoones, ‘The Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Africa’s Green Revolution’, FAC Policy Brief 44, 2012.
  • 20. L. Sperling et al 2008. JDS
  • 21. Seeds and livelihoods: social-cultural dimensions Seed aid and relief Governance of seed/ innovation systems Planting breeding, PBR, priority setting Economics of seed production and distribution Seed systems Regulation and certification Politics of national and global agri-food systems Politics and policy processes
  • 22. Research Questions • How do seed policies get created, and by whom? • How do narratives about what makes a ‘good seed policy’ change over time? • How are seed problems and solutions ‘framed’ – and how does this affect policy processes? • Whose voices are taken into account in the seed policy process – and whose are excluded? • What spaces exist for new ideas, actors and networks? How can these be opened up?
  • 23. Country Studies 1. Ethiopia (Dawit Alemu)– liberalisation under state control: the politics of the emergent private sector seed industry 2. Ghana (Kojo Amanor) – Green Revolution narratives and local-level realities: how a technocratic approach overwhelms alternative perspectives on breeds and seeds 3. Kenya (Hannington Odame and Elijah Muange) – agrodealers and the market solution: politics, interests and who wins and loses from the new Green Revolution? 4. Malawi (Blessings Chinsinga) – the politics of maize and input subsidy programmes: how diverse interests converge around a particular technical-economic trajectory 5. Zimbabwe (Charity Mutonodzo and Douglas Magunda) – rebuilding the seed system post ‘collapse’: why top-down government/aid programmes may make things worse
  • 24. Mapping the Actor-Networks
  • 25. Key Lessons • Avoid generalised diagnoses to complex seed system problems • Question the dominant narratives that lead to technological ‘lock in’ • Highlight normative issues (narratives, values and interests) to open up policy debate • Identify ‘policy spaces’ in seed sector to increase room to manoeuvre  negotiate trade-offs, create synergies • Explore opportunities for ‘Integrated Seed Sector Development’  bridging ‘formal’ and ‘informal’
  • 26. Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa (PEAPA) • Focus: To understand the role for the state in stimulating agricultural development we need to assess the capacity and willingness of state actors to implement particular policies in particular contexts • Starting point: 1. It is a country’s political system that generates the incentives (strong or weak) for the state to take action to invest in agricultural development 2. This political system also influences the type of agricultural development promoted (e.g. smallholder vs. large farm based)
  • 27. PEAPA Model Political System Incentives for State Action Policy Outcomes Agricultural Performance C. Poulton, Democratisation and the Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa. FAC Working Paper 43, 2012.
  • 28. Pro-Poor Agricultural Policy • Investment in infrastructural and institutional public goods to support smallholder producers – Rural roads – Irrigation – Agricultural research – Extension services – Capacity for policy design and evaluation – Coordination capacity for market development • Medium-term impact
  • 29. Democratisation • Competitive elections ++ • Majority population is still rural, poor and dependent on agriculture – Vote for better agricultural policies? – Challenge previous ‘urban bias’ in national policy? • Basic answer = this is not happening yet – Rural votes are rarely exchanged for policies • Where better agricultural policy is observed, what are the key factors behind this?
  • 30. Country Studies 1. Burkina Faso (Augustin Loada) 2. Ethiopia (Kassahun Berhanu) 3. Ghana (Kojo Aidoo) 4. Kenya (Karuti Kanyinga) 5. Malawi (Blessings Chinsinga) 6. Mozambique (Domingos Rosario & Lidia Cabral) 7. Rwanda (David Booth & Fred Golooba-Mutebi) 8. Tanzania (Brian Cooksey)
  • 31. Scenarios in a Neo-Patrimonial World Technocratic Support No Yes No Political Backing Yes C. Poulton, Democratisation and the Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa. FAC Working Paper 43, 2012. N. van de Walle, African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, 1979-1999. New York, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • 32. Scenarios in a Neo-Patrimonial World Technocratic Support No No Political Backing Yes X 2. Anti-poor policy Yes 1. Inertia 3. Success stories 4. Distorted policy 1. Good technocratic policies with no ‘appeal’ in patronage politics terms simply don't make it 2. Policies driven by the exigencies of patronage politics, but which make no plausible contribution to stated public policy goals, are adopted 3. ‘Success stories’: some alignment between technocratic policies and the exigencies of patronage politics 4. Partial alignment: patronage politics distort well-intentioned technocratic policies, undermining pro-poor impact
  • 33. Examples from PEAPA Studies • Malawi Fertiliser Subsidy (4 – distorted) – Window of opportunity for broad-based policy – Transfer (immediate, tangible): at the expense of other public goods – Emphasis shifted towards political control • Kenya Ag Sector Revitalisation (1 – inertia) – Strategy for Revitalising Agriculture vs. regional commodity-based interventions (ethnic links) – Collective action issue?
  • 34. More Positive Agricultural Policy (3 – success stories, with caveats) • Rwanda (since 2007) – Terracing + marshland development – Cooperative development: coordination for market access? – One cow per family – Extension? – Outcome-based management + learning • Ethiopia – Sustained investment in agricultural extension (with evaluation and adaptation) – Growth + political control …
  • 35. PEAPA Lessons • ‘Pro-poor’ agricultural policy is not an automatic outcome of democratisation, even where the median voter is poor and rural • Need to align interests of (urban-based) elites and rural populations • Dependence on agriculture for economic growth key – Burkina, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda – c/w Mozambique, Tanzania • Threats to regime survival – have to deliver! – Ethiopia: fall of two previous regimes, minority government with multiple enemies – Rwanda: supporters of previous regime?
  • 36. FAC Policy Processes - Summary • Policy-making must be understood as a political process, as much as an analytical or technical one • Policy processes = complex interplay of narratives + actor-networks + political interests • Policy change requires understanding these interactions: – exploring spaces for opening up debate – identifying incentives for getting political commitment to delivering public goods • Future Agricultures’ PP and PEAPA approaches can help in analysing and understanding these complex processes
  • 37. Thank You John Thompson Future Agricultures Consortium www.future-agricultures.org http://www.future-agricultures.org/events/policy-processes-conference