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From Grassroots to Government: FARM-Africa's experiences influencing policy in sub-Saharan Africa
April 2007
Alastair Bradstock, Ingie Hovland, Helen Altshul, Sally Crafter, Ben Irwin, Boniface Kaberia, George Odhiambo, Zelalem Temesgen and Jaribu Sultan
FARM-Africa


Executive summary

In the dynamic world of international development aid, NGOs are becoming increasingly active in policy debates. The drivers for this change come from donors and supporters alike, and a key question emerging from this new focus is whether NGOs can effectively influence the policy agenda.

This publication presents four FARM-Africa projects from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa and describes how they approached influencing national policy in the natural resources sector. The case studies explain the diverse political contexts in which the projects operated and describe how this influenced the relationships that FARM-Africa staff managed to develop with decision makers.

The importance of evidence in the policy influencing process is emphasised. The four projects used a variety of data. For example, while the South African project generated statistically rigorous data, other projects relied on data sets generated by other organisations as well as drawing on their own field observations over many years of experience. The Overseas Development Institute’s ‘Research and Policy in Development’ (RAPID) framework was used to analyse the experiences of the four case studies. The RAPID programme aims to improve the use of research and evidence in development policy and practice through providing research, advice and generating debate. In its study of researchpolicy links, the RAPID programme looks at a fundamental issue: Why are some ideas that have been generated by research taken up and used by policy makers, while others are ignored and disappear? The case studies in this publication make some valuable contributions to this debate and demonstrate that NGO projects can influence national policy agendas in Africa.

The South African case study describes how FARM-Africa tried to influence the shape of the government’s Land Reform programme. The case study demonstrates how important it is for agencies to be aware of how their proposals will affect the achievement of national policy targets as well as being able to gauge accurately their political importance.

Structural adjustment policies in the 1980s and 1990s had had a significant impact on the context in which the Tanzanian project was operating. In many rural parts of Tanzania this meant that veterinary services were only sporadic. This case study describes how a locally-devised solution – Community-based Animal Health Workers – could not be adopted due to outdated colonial legislation and explains how FARM-Africa and other stakeholders successfully argued for and achieved change that accommodated this innovation.

In Ethiopia, the case study focuses on the forestry sector. This is an interesting experience as policy making in Ethiopia has traditionally been developed with little input from civil society. This case study provides some valuable insights into how, against all the odds, policy change can be achieved.

Finally, the example from Kenya demonstrates the need for organisations to understand other stakeholders’ agendas. This case study demonstrates that without this type of knowledge significant advances can be reversed in a relatively short period of time.

The RAPID framework is used to analyse the case studies in order to gain a deeper understanding of how these projects engaged with the policy process. This provides considerable reflection on those areas where FARM-Africa did well and the areas that were more challenging, allowing lessons for future work to be drawn.

The rich experience of FARM-Africa in this area provides some crucial lessons for other organisations who wish to maximise their impact in the policy environment. The publication also demonstrates that NGO projects can make considerable contributions to policy debates which, if scaled-up, have the potential to generate significant improvements to poor people’s lives.

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