Building a Future for Food Policies in Burkina Faso
How can a successful research-for-development project bridge the gap between research and practice?
To investigate this question, our team held a Policy Roundtable in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on January 30, 2020. It was jointly organized by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems and INERA (Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles), and it convened government representatives, researchers, local leaders, non-governmental organizations, and community members.
Prompted by the success in Burkina Faso of the project One Egg (Un oeuf) — which led to a reduction in malnutrition in children below the age of two through the gifting of chickens and culturally-appropriate messaging about the benefits of feeding young children one egg per day — representatives from these communities expressed a keen interest in communicating the results of the project. They also wondered whether it was possible to identify ways in which the beneficial activities promoted by the project in the province of Sanmatenga could be extended to other parts of the country. The participation of representatives from the Ministry of Animal and Fisheries Resources, Ministry of Health, non-governmental organizations, and development partners became essential to discuss ways in which this project could be mainstreamed into existing activities.
Seats at the table
The Policy Roundtable highly succeeded in many of its key goals. It disseminated knowledge and appreciation about the One Egg project and identified the main elements that determined its success: the element of chicken-gifting to the child; adaptation of the messaging to the cultural context; involvement of women, their husbands and the community leaders in a shared process of behavioral change, and other factors. Two of the women who benefitted from the project came with their highly active and evidently healthy toddlers to share their experiences and give their own personal testimony as to why the project was positive for their families.
When it came to the identification of modalities for the replication of the projects, the identified next steps were less specific and the progress less clear. At the same time, the resulting lessons were no less important for the Innovation Lab and its partners, as the Roundtable provided insights into the scope and limits of scaling up. First, participants dwelled extensively on the cultural specificity and diversity of rural communities – the strength of food taboos inhibiting children from eating eggs, women’s familiarity with chicken production, and the extent of egg selling – thus underscoring the importance of adaptation over scaling up.
Secondly, buy-in by individual agencies and organizations appeared to be difficult to obtain, given their limited effectiveness. The latter is not just due to capacity and resource constraints – which are undoubtedly substantial – but also by the lack of a coordinated framework that can activate and energize multiple actors. While the government, in this case, the Ministry of Animal and Fisheries Resources, could be expected to provide such coordinating roles, the exchanges during the Roundtable quite clearly indicated that the representatives of the Ministry do not have the power and leverage for this to happen. Apparently, some of this work will need to be undertaken at higher policy levels. According to the participants, the active involvement of non-governmental organizations and development partners may be required to provide more clout and weight to any new proposals.
Some lessons learned
The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems is already incorporating these lessons into their work. The policy team is working on Responsible Scaling Up – with the aim to investigate the extent to which soft varieties, such as replication and adaptation, are a better fit for local contexts and how to promote those. The nutrition team is also starting conversations with staff from USAID development projects – such as Regis-AG – to see whether their existing projects could incorporate the gifting of chickens to children by community leaders, and innovative messaging on the importance of feeding eggs to children. The involvement of development partners with already active community leaders and producer organizations could provide the needed framework for the project to extend its reach.
For more information, here are contacts at the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems: