Capacity Development, Food Security Policy and the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP)
“Food insecurity in Africa is a systemic problem and it is not acceptable that a single flood or drought should cause a crisis,” states the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) ’s Framework for African Food Security. The framework provides guidelines for governments for building people’s resilience so that they can better cope with crises and unexpected events which may compromise their food security.
Sheryl Hendriks, an Associate Professor of Food Security from the University of Pretoria, is a Lead Technical Advisor for CAADP. She was recently at FAO headquarters for a workshop on “Measuring the Impact of Food Security Related Programming.” In this interview with Denise Melvin, EC-FAO Programme Communications Officer, she offers an interesting perspective on communicating with policy makers.
DM: What are some important food security policy messages coming out of your work with CAADP?
First of all, governments in Africa should implement public policies and programmes that increase people’s resilience to food insecurity. These should primarily focus on building sustainable livelihoods. Resilience can also be increased through social protection, well managed food stocks, reducing the price of food for consumers, and helping people increase the diversity of their diets.
It is very important to work in a participatory way, involving a wide variety of stakeholders from the global to the community level, to come up with the right mix of policies. Working together is empowering and also releases much energy.
DM: How does capacity development contribute to the CAADP process?
While our technical capacity is quite good, there is often a huge gap in communicating our technical knowledge to policy makers - many of whom are not scientists or technical experts. We need to learn how to translate our findings into clear recommendations for action.
Facilitation skills also need to be developed. The framework’s success depends on being able to involve many stakeholders to generate knowledge, better understand problems and jointly come up with concrete solutions.
DM: What are some knowledge gaps?
While we know a lot about agricultural production, we need to understand more about how households’ changing conditions and how they hope with crises. This is best done though participatory approaches and indeed we have developed a livelihoods based tool for helping communities and governments.
More specifically, policy makers need to understand the global food system. Nowadays, even communities in remote areas are affected by global trends. For example, during the 2008 food price crisis, even remote communities in Africa were affected by the spike in rice prices, because many African countries are net importers of rice. African governments need to understand how local commodity prices and availability are closely connected to world markets and prepare for shocks such as stock shortages, fuel price increases, trade bans and natural disasters.
DM: Could you give some advice on improving communications with policy makers?
SH: Policy makers want to have clear messages with clear and positive recommendations for action. This is much more important than merely keeping track of numbers or messages that merely describe the exiting situation, without saying what can be done.
Furthermore, we need to improve our skills in listening to policy makers and really understanding what they need. It certainly is not enough to push huge amounts of information their way without first understanding what they require.