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Overseas Development Institute (ODI) Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Strengthening institutional capacity for supporting food, agriculture and natural resources policy formulation and implementation in the SADC region

National consultative Meeting - Lilongwe, Malawi

Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN)
Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

22 July 2005

This is a report of the Look, Listen and Learn Project - a joint project between SARPN, ODI and FANRPAN
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Executive Summary

The setting of the Malawi meeting was different from the Zambia one - in that - it was not hosted at an existing policy advocacy organization. The meeting was organized by Bunda College that currently hosts the FANRPAN node - and hosted at Kalikuti Hotel, in Lilongwe city. Bunda College is slightly outside the city - so it would have been rather difficult for participants to access - for a one-day meeting. The dual-capital aspect of Malawi was also a unique factor for this meeting. Several participants had to travel over 300km from Blantyre city in order to participate in the dialogue. A total of 25 participants cutting across government, private sector, civil society, farmer organizations, universities and research institutions attended the consultation.

Dr A. T. Daudi, the Principal Secretary in the Malawi Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) officially opened the consultation. As was the case in Zambia, this high level presence of government was indicative of the window of opportunity for policy influence available within the FANRPAN platform. Governments and universities have recognized FANRPAN as a source of comprehensive policy research. Strengthening and widening this platform will bring many stakeholders in the sector within the circle of influence for policy development. Dr Daudi observed that governments needed to focus more on the concept of food security as opposed to food self-sufficiency. He sighted Mauritius and Botswana who he said were food secure despite the fact they do not produce enough food. He also pointed out that government was willing to work closely with CSOs - but observed that CSOs tend to give conflicting and confusing signals. They criticize policies without presenting viable options. He pointed out that, for example, when the Malawi government was implementing the Targeted Input Programme (TIP), CSOs complained that this distorts markets. Then when the government switched to the Universal Fertilizer Subsidy (UFS) - the CSOs still complained that this kills the private sector. He likened this situation to "football (soccer) being played by spectators" and argued that "giving is better than receiving" - hence CSOs should aspire to give options alongside their criticisms.

Dr L. Sibanda, the FANRPAN CEO, presented the objectives of the consultation and the FANRPAN operational framework and programmes. She pointed out that the consultation was aimed at bringing together all the leading national stakeholders in the food security sector to map out on-going policy processes at national level, which have a regional scope and impact. She also pointed that the consultation would explore constraints to participation, involvement and engagement of key players - especially civil society - in food security policy development at regional level. She gave the main objectives of the consultation as 3-fold: firstly assessing the relevance and contribution of the proposed CSOs' project to key national players in Malawi; secondly strengthening the national FANRPAN platform for dialogue between agro-based CSO networks, private sector and government in the food security sector as a way of building a constituency for engagement at regional level; and thirdly identifying active agro-based CSO networks that will participate in piloting the evidence-based policy advocacy project. She pointed out this consultation was the second in a series of four being carried out in Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Three leading policy advocacy CSOs - the Civil Society Network for Agriculture (CISANET), the Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN), and the National Association of Smallholder Farmers (NASFAM) - presented their policy advocacy programmes. CISANET presented the study findings of a community participatory consultation process that they carried out in an effort to ensure the inclusion of people's voices and priorities in the national Food and Nutrition security policy. CISANET adopted the Malawi community "Bwalo" to suit the citizen jury multi-stakeholder consultation concept - and used it as the tool for community consultation across communities in 16 districts on Malawi. CISANET undertook this work as part of Food and Nutrition Policy Drafting Task Force. CISANET reported that they had plans to carry out a similar consultation for the national biotechnology policy.

NASFAM presented its advocacy work against unequal taxation of smallholder farmers and pointed out that it had succeeded in convincing government to withdraw withholding tax on tobacco proceeds for smallholder farmers - for at least 3 years. NASFAM was pushing for a similar tax relief on other crops. NASFAM represents small farmers on different national level committees - but pointed out that engagement at regional level was still a challenge due to limited financial and human capacity.

MEJN presented a comprehensive economic advocacy programme based on the analysis of government development framework documents including Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) and the national budgets. MEJN is also implementing the Budget Participation Initiative (BPI) as a project. MEJN is involved in monitoring the implementation of poverty reduction and public expenditure. It is involved in social mobilization through dissemination of economic governance policies. It is also involved in economic policy analytical studies as well as engaging parliament and donors. From the presentations it was clear that these CSOs would be excellent partners in the project for promoting the use of CSO evidence in food security policy formulation.

Fred Kalibwani presented the Look, Listen and Learn project concept for promoting the use of CSO evidence-based research in developing food security policy at regional level. He outlined the food crisis in Southern Africa, the different roles of the CSOs in influencing policy, the project objectives and activities, as well as, the implementing partners: SARPN, ODI and FANRPAN. He pointed out that key on-going policy processes and key actors would be presented at the next dialogue to enable CSOs identify entry points for engaging at regional level.

Through a group exercise the participants identified priority thematic issues in food security and organizations that could engage in policy advocacy on these issues in Malawi. Another group identified priority issues in food security as well as those organizations in Malawi that could carry out evidence-based research on these themes. The table below represents the priority food security issues identified as well as the key partners for collaboration both at research and advocacy levels.

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