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Donor support to the Comprehensive Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP)

As discussions begin in Rome on donor support to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), it is time to move beyond debate on sound principles and address the root causes of failed policy coordination in agriculture The Annual General Assembly of the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development (GPDRD) seems a good opportunity to start this shift in thinking.

The CAADP is an African effort to eliminate hunger, reduce poverty and promote economic growth through agriculture-led development. This continental initiative emerged in 2003 and is led by the African Union's New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD).

It has the support of the development community, with a multi-donor trust fund established to channel financial support to its processes (such as strategic reviews, planning, partnership development, M&E) at regional and country levels. Three donor agencies have already pledged support to this joint financial facility managed by the World Bank, and a similar fund is likely to be created to finance agricultural investments.

Although continental in scope, CAADP is operational at national levels. CAADP sets the policy framework (including four CAAPD pillars), priorities and targets and these are then translated into national compacts, developed through national roundtables. More than 10 African countries have signed CAADP compacts. Although country experiences vary, the national roundtables are expected to align the CAADP framework with existing national policies and priorities and generate pacts (i.e. a set of agreed principles) between individual national governments, their regional economic community, the private sector, civil society and donors, which will guide investment in agriculture.

The GPDRD, a network of donors advocating agriculture-led development, has issued recent guidelines for donor support to CAADP processes at country level, highlighting the principles of country ownership, alignment, harmonisation, coordination and sustainability, in line with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the Accra Agenda for Action and the L'Aquila Joint Statement on Global Food Security.

This is welcome, as the CAADP process could offer more effective country-embedded mechanisms to pursue development coordination and aid effectiveness in agriculture than previous donor-driven experiments.

The emphasis given in the donor guidelines to policy comprehensiveness, multi-stakeholder coordination and joint financing brings to mind Sector-Wide Approaches (SWAps), a development cooperation framework that builds on the same set of principles. Yet, the current record of SWAps in agriculture indicates that the success of attempts to pursue such principles has been, at best, mixed. In a new ODI Briefing Paper, I suggest this is because of political, institutional and operational challenges that have yet to be addressed. Ideological differences on policy priorities and state roles in agriculture make it hard to mobilise all sector players around a common and comprehensive policy framework. Ministries of Agriculture, the typical host of SWAps, have often proved unable to generate this mobilisation and have tended to adopt a state-centred approach to agriculture policy. And, in the effort to promote stakeholder coordination and develop joint financing mechanisms, there has been disproportionate emphasis on processes and systems development, with little effect on service delivery.

Donors need to reflect on such challenges if they are not to repeat the mistakes of the past. The principles of policy comprehensiveness, multi-stakeholder coordination and joint financing are sound, but there are difficulties to be addressed before such principles can be turned into practical action.

The Global Donor Platform Annual General Assembly should aim to answer the following questions:

  • What is a realistic degree of comprehensiveness in agriculture policy processes? Agriculture is a complex sector with many actors and interests at play, as shown by the difficulties in mobilising all relevant actors around a common policy framework. Comprehensiveness may be desirable at policy level, but may not be realistic at the implementation level where it may amplify coordination difficulties.
  • What is the suitable institutional set up for managing coordination of policies and investments in agriculture at country level? Evidence suggests that Ministries of Agriculture lack mobilisation capacity and the incentives needed to promote coordination. What is the alternative? One thing is for certain, it needs to be domestically owned and driven.
  • How to bring on board the new sources of development finance in agriculture? Non-DAC donors and private foundations are increasingly important sources of funding in agriculture in developing countries and cannot be left out of any meaningful policy framework for agricultural development. Some are supporting CAADP, but many are likely to resist engagement with aid effectiveness debates and processes.
  • How to create the relevant voice for good policies, public services and investments? Local producers, traders and labourers working across agricultural value chains are the core of the agriculture sector and the CAADP process should take them as the starting point – not only as its ultimate aim. They need to be transformed into active sources of demand for good quality policies and adequate services and investments, to avoid top-down solution to local problems.

I would be interested to hear from others working on these issues, and learn more about your CAADP experiences