What rates of change are needed?
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Cooke, R.D. 2000. What rates of change are needed?. Spore 86. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/46782
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore86.pdf
Before leaving CTA in late March 2000 to take up his new post as Head of the Technical Advisory Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Rome, Italy, Dr Cooke shared some insights into institutions and change with Spore.You...
Before leaving CTA in late March 2000 to take up his new post as Head of the Technical Advisory Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Rome, Italy, Dr Cooke shared some insights into institutions and change with Spore. You are devoting much of your life to agriculture and development, but the words are strikingly absent from the agendas of today s international community. Not exactly. The preferred terms today are not agriculture and food security, but poverty reduction and rural development. In international negotiations many developed countries assume that ACP agriculture equates with developed country agriculture, with a very small slice of the GDP and a small share of employment. When I met with the development group of the European Parliament, they were genuinely surprised to hear the figures that we know well: agriculture means 30-60% of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa and 70% of jobs, of which 70% are held by women. So the challenge is to ensure that the roles of agriculture are duly recognised in poverty reduction. Then the topic is on the agenda, but through that and other terms like poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods, impact on equity, or the role of women, and not through agriculture and productivity and the classic banners of 20 years ago. These new terms are often applied in the context of domestic development, rather than that of a major player in the world agricultural economy. One of CTA s priority themes has been conquering regional and the global markets but also domestic. This is a fundamental difficulty. It s very difficult to get into global markets without having organised a national market: what are you going to trade? There is a supposition that some of the poorer countries can rapidly follow Asian models, forgetting that in almost all cases they went through an agro-industrial development process, generating the wealth to support education and to develop human capital. You can t leapfrog from essentially subsistence agriculture to a semi-industrialised economy unless you discover oil or diamonds, or you re fortunate with tourism. It s a process, and here the challenge for CTA is ensuring that institutional change takes place. All our ACP partners are in a very tough position, coping with economic and political change, decentralisation, technical change, and we re adding on to that 'PS: communicate better with your farmers, your decision takers, and your users'. It s easy to underestimate the barriers to that. If you ve been working in a research centre on oil palm in plantations, it requires considerable change to worry about women subsistence farmers in semi-arid zones. It requires changes in incentive, leadership, and organisation, moving from being supply-driven to responsive, and there are political, social and cultural constraints. What sort of timeframe are you talking about, and how do you recognise that change has taken place? Well, CTA has a 5-year plan by virtue of being part of the Lomé Convention. For ACP partners the timescale must be longer. This is reflected in the switch away from project or even programme approaches to sectoral approaches. Very long-term processes must be confronted: democratisation and decentralisation, the promotion of sustainable organisations servicing the poor, the development of human capital. And the hardest of all: encompassing sustainable natural resource management with its trade-offs between short- and long-term gains. So we re talking about a long timeframe, but also about getting institutional imperatives correct, sooner rather than later. The results will take years. Our constituency has changed too. Ten years ago if you looked at a CTA annual report, it was all ministries of agriculture and the public sector. Now, we talk about our constituency being public and private. Regrettably there has been a lot of hesitation from some ACP governments. It s very difficult to get them to send a delegation to a meeting that isn t entirely public sector. To be fair, sometimes we suggest including women or NGO or private sector representatives but even when we have had the green light to invite a woman or have shortlisted a woman for a staff post she will often decline at the last minute for personal reasons. Change is happening faster in another field: information and communication technologies. One in nine Spore readers now has an email address This is a regular debate at our Advisory Committee, to what extent should we move our funds away from more traditional areas like video and rural radio to electronic on- and off-line techniques. We have tried to meet the clear needs of many partners who claim that they do not get neutral advice on these topics. We ve been going too slowly for some countries, and too fast for others. Everyone wants the maximum benefit from ICTs but they don t want us to stop doing any of the rest either. How can you encourage change? The whole process of change is a tricky one. Even within the small world of CTA, we have undergone considerable change. Some people feel that we changed too much, more than necessary to satisfy our stakeholders. That is correct if our stakeholders are interpreted as diplomats representing the EU or ACP in Europe; it s not correct if, as I hold, our stakeholders are the subsistence farmers in the poorer sectors of the poorer countries. ACP needs and priorities continue to change, further consultations and seminars are in train to respond to that, and I wish Carl Greenidge all the best in continuing to confront the high rate of change required to do the best for the farmers in the developing world.