African governments and their leaders have made a myriad of commitments and pledges and signed countless declarations committing themselves to attaining international and continental development targets. Policies, strategies and plans abound in countries in an effort to deliver on these multiple promises. Sometimes these support national policy foci, and at other times, the existing policies contradict or undermine the commitments.
The Sustainable Development Goals call for a comprehensive and integrated approach to development. This requires policy coherence across sectors to create an enabling policy environment. Policy coherence is essential to this enabling environment. But how do governments ensure policy congruence?
Food security and nutrition (FNS) policy analysis offers a case for understanding policy coherence and how to achieve this. The concept of food security is in itself complex. It is inherently multi-sectoral, requiring tight coordination between sectors as well as overall coordination to ensure implementation synergy, avoid duplication and reduce inefficiencies in government spending.
University of Pretoria researchers under the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy embarked on an exercise to test the policy coherence of key FSN-related policies in Malawi. The team collected and collated key international, continental (African), regional (SADC) and Malawi FSN-related policies. The subsequent analysis of these key policy documents has been used to strengthen the analysis of the Malawi FSN policy framework, raise awareness of the need for policy coherence in Malawi and influence policy sequencing and framing in Malawi.
These insights provided focused inputs into the finalization of the 30th September 2017 second draft of the Malawi National Agriculture Investment Plan—the Prioritized and Coordinated Agricultural Transformation Plan for Malawi: 2017/18—2022/23 (NAIP2) with regard to (i) the conceptual framework, (ii) content and programmatic areas, (iii) governance and implementation modalities and (iv) monitoring and evaluation elements.
The assessment of the draft Malawi NAIP2 found a lack of alignment of the draft NAIP2 with international, African (Malabo in particular) and regional instruments as well as with the Malawi constitutional and legal framework. It was found that:
- The Malawi NAIP2’s conceptual framework, content, governance and implementation modalities, as well as its monitoring and evaluation sections, needed significant improvement;
- Benchmarks, pathways to change and appropriate indicators for monitoring and achieving progress on the Malabo commitments are missing;
- Elements relating to food security, nutrition and gender were inadequate to achieve the stated performance targets of the NAIP2; and
- The FSN sector-coordination structure needed to be broadened and located in the National Planning Commission (NPC).
Moreover, a policy sequencing issue was identified in that the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III (MGDSIII) was still under development at the time. The content of the MGDSIII should have formed the framework for the draft Malawi NAIP2 (and for that matter, for all Malawi domestic policies and strategies).
The policy database was also used to support the finalization of the 2016 Malawi National Agriculture Plan (MNAP) and the Malawi National Nutrition Strategy through engagement in national drafting and review processes. Various interactions with Malawi government officials have raised awareness of key FSN-relevant issues, how to identify such issues when circumstances change and how to work towards policy sequencing, coherence and coordination. Professor Nic Olivier, the leader of this team, says that these helpful exchanges have led to mutual learning between researchers and government officials, with researchers sharing policies across sectors to strengthen policy coherence and learning from officials that have enriched the analytical framework.
The fully searchable electronic database of international, African and SADC FSN-related documents (creating either legally binding obligations or imposing commitments) and Malawi domestic FSN-related legislation and policies is in the process of being loaded onto the ReSAKSS website to provide an invaluable public good for use by national governments, the private sector and civil society in mapping the regulatory and policy FSN landscape for coherence and coordination, and to support FSN-related regulatory and policy research.