Policy Matters: The Work Continues
Thank you for joining us during this month’s Agrilinks series on Why Policy Matters. Policy plays a fundamental role in virtually every aspect of our lives and its centrality in food systems is no exception. For food systems to function for the benefit of all, there must be policies that ensure food meets quality and safety standards, require employers to provide dignified working conditions, enable small and medium enterprise growth, incentivize investment, facilitate trade, provide poor individuals and families with adequate food assistance, and prevent hoarding and price gouging during times of crisis, just to name a few.
Good food and agricultural policy creates trust by ensuring that everyone plays by the same predictable and transparent rules. But good policies, as we learned this month, are neither created out of thin air nor in a vacuum. They are the product of their underlying policy systems. We can think of a policy system as the ecosystem of actors -- including government, the private sector, and civil society actors -- as well as the communication processes between these actors that shape policy formulations and implementation. Bad policies often result from unfair and opaque policy systems that exclude ordinary people, including historically marginalized groups like the poor, smallholder farmers, women, and ethnic minorities, from participating while catering to the interests of a relatively small and powerful group of stakeholders. Good policy, on the other hand, stems from inclusive and democratic policy processes that account for the needs of all relevant stakeholders (and when it comes to food, that’s basically everyone). Good policies result from policy systems that prioritize the interests of society at-large above those of a select few. This happens when civil society and the full spectrum of private sector actors -- from corporate firms to small-scale enterprises -- have meaningful participation in decision-making processes, when their voices are heard and taken seriously, and when actors are accountable for the commitments they make to one another.
This month’s series presented several examples of efforts taking place around the world that are strengthening policy systems and creating more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable pathways for development.
We learned how small investments in local non-state actors to develop data-driven approaches for agricultural planning can foster more inclusive forms of collaborative governance.
We looked to past viruses as well as China’s handling of COVID-19 to understand the impact of policy responses on food security.
We saw how seed policy reforms in Zambia have led to a highly competitive maize seed sector as well as massive increases in seed varieties, seed exports, and maize yields.
Meanwhile, some of our other blogs highlighted the importance of policy to provide equitable digital agricultural extension, more resilient and nutrition-sensitive agricultural markets, and strengthening local capacity to weather crises and shocks.
In addition to our blogs, we had a very successful webinar with more than 175 participants tuning in to a presentation on the results of the 2019 CAADP Biennial Review (BR) and engaging a diverse panel of regional, government, and non-state actors on the BR process, its value-add in improving performance, and the next steps forward. The African Union also developed an interactive toolkit that allows users to track the progress of African country progress towards achieving the 7 Malabo Commitments, including allocating 10 percent of public expenditures for agriculture, halving poverty, tripling intra-African trade, and ending hunger. In case you missed it, a recording of the webinar will be made available soon.
Finally, we’d like to send a huge thanks to all of our contributors, speakers, and the technical team that made this month’s Agrilinks series happen. Even amid the rapidly evolving and highly disruptive COVID-19 pandemic, we continued to demonstrate why policy matters for food security, agriculture-led development and resilience. We look forward to building upon this conversation through greater collaboration and knowledge sharing over the upcoming year.