Cultivating change in chains
Public policy stakeholders from across Latin America took a large first step towards designing effective strategies for agriculture supply chains during a 3-day workshop held last week in Bogotá. As part of an ongoing project led by CIAT experts on Linking Farmers to Markets, international representatives from government ministries, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Ford Foundation, NGOs, and the private sector assembled to share experiences on what works and does not work in agriculture supply chain policy.
The event was made possible by support from the Ford Foundation and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
After 3 days of discussions, it was clear that designing public policies that balance productivity, social inclusion, and sustainability is not a simple matter. The conflicting priorities of various sectors, and even of various ministries in the same government, further muddle an already complex process.
Rafael Isidro Parra-Peña, a public policy analyst at CIAT, said participants agreed that “gathering for stimulating discussions on an important topic – which we rarely have an opportunity to do – was extremely useful.”
Public policies play a fundamental role in determining the productive capacity of national economies. It is typically assumed that making agriculture more competitive leads to rural poverty alleviation. However, strategies aiming to increase competitiveness often fail to include the most marginalized people, and do not consider environmental sustainability or long-term impact.
“There’s a great deal of growth in Latin America, but it is focused in the urban centers, with rural areas lagging behind,” said Jean Paul Lacoste , senior program officer at the Ford Foundation, in his opening speech. “If we want to truly diminish rural poverty, we need to consider marginalized populations – including women – while improving or creating new public policies which promote inclusive value chains.” Rural smallholders face a number of disadvantages including access to markets, financial services, transportation, land acquisition, and agricultural extension.
Lacoste stressed the importance of the event: “Thus far, there has been very little knowledge sharing between sectors, despite a plethora of useful lessons learned in countries throughout the region.”
Participants exchanged best practices, discussed knowledge gaps, and identified opportunities for improved agriculture supply chain policy.
“There is a lack of a common framework to compare country experiences,” said Javier Chaud Moltedo from the Ministry of Agriculture in Chile. He added, though, that he gained “useful knowledge from other nations to share in Chile.”
Matthias Jaeger, marketing expert at Bioversity International, highlighted a key challenge to designing effective public policies: “Modern value chains today need to deliver on income generation, food and nutrition security, and climate resilience. We don’t have the tools to measure the effectiveness of value chains.” A number of participants echoed this, emphasizing the need for methods to quantify impact at different levels. “How can we make policy recommendations and prioritize nutritious and market-valuable crops without adequate data? This is a niche CGIAR centers can fill by developing and disseminating improved measurement and evaluation methods,” added Jaeger.
“Nobody has a complete solution of how to achieve a balance between productivity, social inclusion, and sustainability, but collectively we have taken a big first step towards defining an agenda to make more effective public policies. We need to continue the momentum forged here,” concluded Mark Lundy, who leads CIAT research on Linking Farmers to Markets.
Written by Melissa Reichwage.
Slideshare: With presentations from the workshop
Photos: Melissa Reichwage (CIAT)