Global Donor Platform for Rural Development
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The Platform Annual General Assembly under the theme “Rethinking Rural Development__ Opportunities for new partnerships and territorial approaches in a changing rural environment”, was held on 22-23 January 2014 in Paris and was hosted by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France and the French Agency for Development (AFD).
Why are territorial approaches important? How do they compare to other approaches in rural development? What does systems thinking concept offer and what define as key priorities for donors? Those are just some of the questions the participants of the first Paris AGA conference-style day were discussing and searching answers to. The day concluded with the launch of the interactive Land Governance Programme Map and following informal marketplace, where 11 Platforms members and partners presented their latest publications and programmes, while all the participants could network, communicate and exchange plans and ideas.Read the summary of the day.
Brazil is a good example of how spatially uneven development can be. What is the way to manage such a complexity, -- this is the question the first AGA’s day keynote session opened with.
According to Julio Berdegué, principal researcher at Latin American Centre for Rural Development (RIMISP) , there are several reasons, why territorial approaches could be a good answer to this question:
Urbanisation of rural regions, when the “deep rural” is decreasing, the large cities remain stable and small and medium, “rurban”, cities are significantly growing, is accompanied by emergence of new sets of relations. Complexity however can lead to paralysis. The new “rurality” simply cannot be understood, nor transformed, using sectoral lenses or policies, and that is when territorial approaches comes into play.
Functioning social coalitions play especially important role in the territorial development.
The practice in LAC has shown that there is no optimum solution for all the territories. Success levels of interventions vary even within the same country and program in different territories, so each of them has to find its own way. Furthermore, the bottom-up approach should be the one to apply. It takes a lot of time, confirmed Julio, and noticed that if the donors are not prepared to go the long haul, they “better stay out”. It is extremely difficult to fit into boundaries of a single project, and the only thing projects can really do is to create enabling conditions for the real development to further take off.
Keynote by Julio Berdegué__ Territorial approaches in a Latin American context
Africa is the continent with a kaleidoscopic growth situation. What is the role of rural development now, when the region is facing massive structural challenges? Bruno Losch, Director of Research at CIRAD, says it is still critical and calles for territorial approaches (video in French).
With the exception of the northern and southern parts of the continent, African countries are confronted with an incipient economic transition, comprising residual importance of agriculture and extractive industries, urbanisation without industrialisation, and an incomplete demographic transition. These means both opportunities and problems such as huge competition and growing resource- and climate change related constraints.
At the moment rural population remains poor. Diversification of activities is in place, but the income coming from it provides low returns, for example, in Sub-Saharan Africa it is less than dollar a day. The main lessons learned, therefore, are:
We should continue to develop agriculture and rural diversification, said Bruno Losch, but there is also an important need to support the “missing middle” by adequate provision of public goods (infrastructures and services) in small and regional towns. Territorial development requires fulfilment of two vital conditions. Firstly, policy must be based on “territorialisation” of public action coming with a reengagement in development strategies at the national land local levels. Secondly, political commitment and adequate funding (of both infrastructure and “superstructure”) are necessary.
Keynote by Bruno Losch__ Territorial approaches and managing complexity in an African context
Head of Programme Implementation and Coordination Directorate at NEPAD talked about the program driving people-centered development while insuring that economic growth is inclusive and based on equity, and rural transformation is accompanied by appropriate governance, policies and practices.
After 10 years of CAADP it was concluded that more had to be done on the actual implementation of the investment plans. The Rural Futures Program has been started as the result of that reflection. It focuses on four areas of intervention:
The key program’s element is the concept of Development Zones. Mapping exercise allows seeing what kind of activity is important for certain area, for instance, rather agriculture or mining, and getting a better sense of the rural development patterns. Agro-economic mapping has a potential to support development of appropriate policies. Rural Futures Development Zone approach includes “Integrated Rural Development,” which effectively combines multiple sectors and techniques from health care service, agricultural expansion, and education, improvement of infrastructure to technical transfer, choosing specific regions and treating the local governments as counterparts.
Estherine Fotabong called for the energetic promotion of territorial approaches. Current situation, with sectorial approach dominating, is the one everyone in development agencies and organisations is used to and therefore comfortable with, she said, but this must be changed. Fotabong reconfirmed concern about the risk of holistic paralysis, previously expressed in the session, but stressed out, that one has to try to work with complexity - there is no way around it.
Keynote by Estherine Fotabong. Rural Futures Program: Growth and Development
Marie-Madeleine Nga talked about lessons learned from territorial approaches application in Cameroon (video in French).
Recently coastal areas have suffered severe damage through human and environmental factors. Mark Prein explained how GIZ and KFW are helping to stabilise coastal areas in South-East Asia by investing in mangrove rehabilitation and engaging in creative public-private partnerships.
The landscape approach takes into account geographical and socioeconomic elements to manage the natural capital to meet the goal of sustainable development. The proper interaction of these elements helps to maximize productivity, improve livelihoods, and reduce negative environmental impacts. However to understand and manage these interactions a high level of expertise is required. Giuseppe Fantozzi shared the lessons learnt in the Loess plateau watershed rehabilitation project where the World Bank had used a landscape approach successfully.
The strong interlinkages between different sectors of rural development have been known for decades. However there is still a lack of systemic approach due to the high level of linkage complexity and sectoral blindness. For two years Austrian Development Cooperation has used the nexus approach in an attempt to promote a more holistic development. Waltrud Rabitsch presented the challenges experienced by the implementation of this comprehensive approach in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.
During the food price crisis in 2009 FAO started research to find the cause for the limited success of the current food security and nutrition policies. The studies found that the policy approaches used until then were not well equipped to address multilevel, multisectoral and multiactor notions. Thus Vito Cistulli, Senior Officer at FAO, explains how a territorial approach can be an appropriate option to improve food security and nutrition policies. Yet he identifies some challenges.
The author of “Aid on the Edge of Chaos: rethinking international cooperation in a complex world” emphasised the urge to get out of the box, find new ways to look at and understand longstanding problems and to take risks in development programming.
Development and humanitarian aid efforts are dominated by certain mental models to describe and explain what is done in the development agencies, said an independent researcher in his keynote. The future, for example, is assumed to be knowable given enough data. Development and disaster recovery activities are broken down to simple cause-and-effect relationships. We think about human as rational, about change as linear, about relationships as atomised. The most useful those principles are for describing foreseeable machine work in stable environments. That is, however, not at all the case for development reality. Moreover, these assumptions are fundamentally mismatched to the realities of rural development.
In both agricultural and social sciences, complexity and diversity are under-perceived, and therefore undervalued (Robert Chambers). There is a history of engaging with these principles in rural development and despite successful cases add-ons have been relatively limited and bolted on to old-style technology transfer approaches. These have been improved as a consequence – with both better science and better uptake resulting, but the more transformative hope have often not been fully realised (Future Agricultures Consortium).
We live in a world of complex adaptive systems with many interacting agents and organisations of agents, designs and strategies evolving over time and macro patterns emerging from micro behaviors. Ecological systems are complex, and the damaging consequences of mistakenly treating them like simple machines are all around us. Climate is clearly complex. The economy is complex, especially the global economy. Food systems, information systems, societies – all of them can be seen as complex systems. Meanwhile, frustration with the current models is growing. What we actually do in rural development is just trying to “do the wrong righter”.
The problems of global development are often irreducibly complex. This means, one needs to treat them as complex integrated systems and approach in a consistent way. In development we have a lot of policy research, but what about looking at operational issues? More of action research is necessary.
Complexity research helps understand systems, networks, behaviors and dynamics. It sees systems as emergent, networks as diverse, behaviors as adaptive and dynamics as non-linear. Complexity lens allows one to deal with all the prejudices at the same time.
There are growing numbers of applications of these ideas across the system and in parallel systems. Network analysis, for instance, shows that formal structures hide more than demonstrate: there is a striking difference in the role of the same actors in formal and informal structures. Policy and practice go through processes of adaptation and learning.
Whereas some problems indeed need simple methods, territorial approaches definitely require different thinking. Nothing is more important than finding new ways to look at and understand longstanding problems. “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” – mentioned Ben Ramalingam the words of Albert Einstein.
Complexity systems research does not tell us “what to do”, rather it presents ideas of “how to think” offering new interpretive frameworks, useful ideas and insights. These ideas point to the personal, professional, institutional, political mindsets, attitudes and conditions which need to be in place to work effectively in and with complex systems. The complexity research agenda helps to go beyond the narrow lamplight of existing assumptions, and explore new spaces and possibilities.
Even at World Economic Forum CEOs discussed navigating through complexity. It is not possible any more to staff the complexity genie back in the bottle. People are constantly trying to make the wicked problems more controllable and are fixed inside of the box. What those methods do, is allowing thinking outside of the box. “We need to be able to experiment, to take risks”, - concluded Ben Ramalingam and cited Winston Churchill who said that “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
Keynote by Ben Ramalingam__ Complex systems and rural development
Reflections from the AGA participants__ Buzz groups session outcomes
The launch of the Global Donor Working Group on Land’s project co-developed with USAID became a highlight of the second part of the day.
The second day was reserved for members only and meant for their close interaction. Members focused on networking, sharing of achievements and work planning for the next year. A good exchange of impressions and ideas on the Platform’s added value as well as ways to enhance it took place.
The second day concluded with saying goodbye to Monique Calon of Dutch MFA, who left her role as Platform chair role after two years of productive work. (The next day the Platform board elected Marjaana Pekkola of MoFA Finland/Nairobi office, as a new co-chair.)
Download the agenda day 2.
The member day started with a reflection on the AGA day one. Marie-Cécile Thirion, Project Officer of ARD and Biodiversity at AFD, shared the conclusions on the theme ‘rethinking rural development’ from a donor perspective and proposed follow-up actions for the Platform. In her presentation she stressed: “We should not neither come back to what we used to do 20 years ago, nor give up sectoral or value chain approaches totally, but use them complimentarily.”
Marie Cécile Thirion__ What did we conclude on "Rethinking rural development"?
Brian Baldwin, Senior Operations Management Adviser at IFAD and Platform co-chair Nikita Eriksen-Hamel of DFATD Canada highlighted Platform achievements over the last decade and in 2013 specifically. They emphasised the crucial importance of internal advocacy in the time of tight budgets. Continuous development of ability to recognise and follow change were named to be the Platform’s main accomplishments. The involvement with CAADP and the Global Donor Working Group on Land were discussed as great examples of collaborative action. The fundamental Platform publication ‘On common ground__ Donor perspectives on agriculture, rural development, food security and nutrition’ underpinned all the developments within the Platform. Nikita recommended for members to make the best use of virtual briefings and interviews on the Platform’s website as they were beneficial to opinion exchange, an excellent learning tool and a valuable source of ARD information.
Nikita Eriksen-Hamel __ Highlighting the Platform’s work in 2013
Highlights of the 2013 Platform themes land and nutrition were presented by their respective leads Iris Krebber, Food Security and Land Advisor at DFID, and Lynn Brown, World Bank consultant. The area of scaling up was elaborated on by Cheikh Sourang, Senior Programme Manager at IFAD. Giuseppe Fantozzi, Senior Operations Specialist ARD at the World Bank presented the organisation's draft of analytical toolkit to support contract farming, which had been developed in close cooperation with the Platform's private sector group.
Robin Bourgeois, Senior Foresight and Development Policies Expert at GFAR presented findings of the Platform-commissioned “Prospects for agriculture and rural development aid in the post-2015 framework “ study -- which is not a new foresight exercise persé, but builds on existing work with a look at the next coming 20 years. Responding to the questions of the Platform members the researcher accentuated that one should not go too fast and not necessarily through all the stages towards collective action, shown in the study. No one could build coalitions from a scratch. We were looking at a process that demanded from those working in ARD to fight for things to happen.
Robin also spoke about the need for coming up with more comprehensive goals. “The problem with the MDGs is that they belong to a different world than the one we are living in,” he said. Currently, in practice each MDG was considered in separation, combined with institutional differentiation in terms of responsibility for each of them. Robin suggested, that in the future it could therefore be more fruitful to apply a complex systems approach to see how the goals were interconnected, which of them were the entry points and which were the more long-term ones.
Discussion on the post-2015 development agenda and presentation of the Platform work plan 2014 triggered a lively debate among members. They were looking for agreement on the ways to influence post-2015 process, work out negotiating strategies and sharing information on technical indicators and targets. Members commented on what possibly could be added to the 2014 Platform work plan, which had been designed and compiled with the input of 17 members and then handed over for the board endorsement the following day.
Felix Fellmann, Agriculture and Food Security Network Focal Point at SDC presented the latest version of “On common ground” and described next steps of this living document's revision.
David Hegwood and Nikita Eriksen-Hamel__ The Platform - a Knowing, Flowing and Growing Network
Reflections from members__ Buzz groups session outcomes