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Searching for a new approach: pro-poor livestock policy and institutional change

Livestock are an important source of income to the poor (WRENmedia)
Livestock are an important source of income to the poor
WRENmedia

Attempts by outsiders to change national policies have a bad reputation in the aftermath of structural adjustment in the 1980s and 90s, states Professor William Easterly, author of The White Man's Burden, and critic of the impact of the US$ 2.3 trillion of foreign aid allocated to reducing poverty over the past half century.

Easterly, a former World Bank economist, attributes the poor development record to those, referred to as "planners", who see poverty as a technical engineering problem, apply blueprints and determine what to supply. In contrast, he says, "searchers" are those who adapt to local conditions, accept responsibility for their actions, are rewarded when they succeed and held accountable if they fail.

As guest speaker at a recent meeting convened by the Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Initiative (PPLPI) of FAO, Easterly's views provided the background against which the success of the initiative was reviewed and discussed. By the end of the meeting, Easterly acknowledged, "PPLPI may have found a more constructive way to facilitate change desired by insiders."

Quoting a livestock producer featured in a case study from West Africa who said, "Talk with him you help, or else you will not know his problem", Easterly added that it was refreshing to see that project staff did not assume they knew the answers in advance and yet, through its work, "PPLPI seems to have stimulated policy and institutional changes affecting the livestock sector as a whole."

A step in the right direction?

Launched in 2001, with funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the rationale for PPLPI's focus on pro-poor policies and institutional change derived from the experience that technology-oriented livestock projects had failed to deliver significant improvements in the livelihoods of the poor.

PPLPI helped to bring together a wide range of stakeholders in order to achieve policy change (WRENmedia)
PPLPI helped to bring together a wide range of stakeholders in order to achieve policy change
WRENmedia

"At the time, DFID was looking to have a more sustainable widespread impact on poverty and ways in which it could be achieved," explains Peter Bazeley, previously with DFID's Livestock Advisory Group. "Through a series of studies and analyses, this led to a more policy-related and institutional focus: in other words, looking at what ultimately determines people's ability to derive their livelihoods from livestock."

But, as David Leonard, member and occasional chair of the PPLPI steering committee emphasises, "Policy change is a lengthy and difficult process that involves a great deal of participation, persuasion and diplomacy. Results are not necessarily achieved in the short-term, but are worth it in the end."

Achieving a widespread impact on poverty

Working towards policy and institutional change has taken PPLPI across three continents. In southern India, PPLPI was part of a collaborative donor effort to reform animal health services. The result of the bottom-up consultation process has been the ratification of the 2007 Minor Veterinary Services Act of Andhra Pradesh, which could benefit six million households dependent on livestock.

In the Andean region, PPLPI assisted in building consensus in the camelid sector in order to improve the livelihoods of poor alpaca keepers, who were suffering from declining fibre quality. As a result, a national strategy for camelids was endorsed in 2007. Implementation of the strategy has increased income opportunities for over 150,000 alpaqueros, and the government is now more pro-poor in its approach to other sectors.

No blueprint for policy processes

PPLPI's work in the Andes has helped over 150,000 alpaca keepers and their families (WRENmedia)
PPLPI's work in the Andes has helped over 150,000 alpaca keepers and their families
WRENmedia

In its work, PPLPI has avoided making direct recommendations but rather has acted as a neutral facilitator, helping to bring together a wide range of stakeholders, fill knowledge gaps, manage conflicting interests, learning from experiences of other stakeholders within and outside the country, and ensuring that the interests of poorer segments of society have been taken into account. "The PPLPI process is an approach, not a recipe," emphasises Judith Kuan, country co-ordinator for the initiative in Peru.

Perhaps the biggest challenge has been in West Africa, where a regional policy process involved the harmonisation of animal health and food safety regulations across eight countries, building on a number of independent and authoritative studies. The 2007 UEMOA Regulation on food safety and animal health will help an estimated 20 million poor livestock keepers access growing urban markets in the region.

Continuing the search...

In the recent independent external evaluation of FAO, PPLPI's work on policies with respect to the poor and the environment was acknowledged to have "influenced global thinking in these areas." By the end of 2008, funding for the initiative will come to an end.

Where next for this type of work within FAO remains to be seen. However, Easterly recommended a rigorous and independent evaluation to confirm the success of PPLPI and, if validated, that FAO should do more initiatives of this type. "If something works, do more of it," he concluded. "If it doesn't, then stop doing it."

Date published: May 2008

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