The potential and the challenges of evaluations to positively influence reforms: working with producers in the Benin agricultural sector

Summary

In 2006, a new President of Benin was elected with a particular interest in good governance. He considered public policy evaluation as key to good governance and established an Office for Evaluation of Public Policies and a national evaluation system (NES). This chapter focuses on an evaluation of the agricultural sector development policy in Benin that was carried out in 2009 at an early stage of the NES, and how the evidence was used to inform later policies. The research for this case study used qualitative and participatory methods, including a document review, 20 interviews and three mini-workshops.The 2009 evaluation was not used instrumentally, but it made a significant conceptual contribution in terms of understanding the needs of the sector. In 2008 to 2009, the role of civil society and agricultural producer organisations in policy development was transformed, and they began to play a key role in management of the sector. This case illustrates the potential for evaluations to inform policy making and implementation in Benin, and the challenges of doing so. The role of producer organisations was key to the uptake of evidence into policy, based on a more inclusive and effective process of evidence generation and use.

Background

In 2006 a new President of Benin was elected. President BoniYayi considered public policy evaluation as key to good governance and established an Office for Evaluation of Public Policies (Bureau d'Evaluation des Politiques Publiques (BEPP, later BEPPAAG)) and a national evaluation system (NES). Benin is now one of three African countries with a formal national system for the evaluation of public policies and programmes, along with Uganda and South Africa.

This chapter focuses on an evaluation of the agricultural sector development policy which was carried out in 2009. The research for the chapter involved qualitative and participatory methods that included document review, 20 interviews and three mini-workshops. Participants in the workshops and

Evaluations to positively influence reforms 153 interviews included the minister, senior officials and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) managers of the Ministry of Agriculture and other ministries, development partners (DPs), representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) and members of producer unions and agricultural professional organisations. The co-authors include the deputy minister and senior officials from the ministry.

The use of evidence in agricultural policy in Benin

Background to the case

The main stakeholders in the agricultural sector include the presidency, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries (MAEP) and ministries involved in related activities (finance, development, environment, decentralisation, water and sanitation, health, education, etc.). Decentralisation to communes (local governments) means local governments have a role in projects in their area (MDGLAAT, 2010, p. 25).

In terms of non-government actors, the Platform of Civil Society Organisations in Benin (PASCiB) is a national organisation which is influential in decision making in the agricultural sector. The National Platform of Agricultural Farmer and Producer Organisations (PNOPPA) also plays a strong role. Producer unions are federated to PNOPPA, which organises services to members such as procurement, market research, marketing support and facilitation of access to finance.

DPs have been catalysts and facilitators in the development and even implementation of agricultural policies in Benin. DPs support evaluations and research and most evaluations are funded by DPs. In several cases DPs have supported professional or civil society organisations, which has strengthened their influence in decision making. At present DPs are very influential in shaping public-sector policy.

The journey o f the agricultural sector development policy

From 1990 to 2019 Benin’s agricultural sector underwent various policy changes. In this section we follow this evolution and highlight the mechanisms that influenced their development.1 Figure 9.1 provides an overview.

In July 1990 the Marxist military government was replaced by a democratically elected government. The Letter of Declaration of Rural Development Policy (LDPDR) of May 1991 was the first policy document of the so-called democratic renewal era in Benin and it initiated the states withdrawal from the activities of production, marketing and processing, and the transfer of those roles to other stakeholders including producer organisations and the private sector (MDR, 2000, p. 4).

The second policy document, the Declaration of Rural Development Policy (DPDR),came into force in July 2000.

In March 2006, a new government was elected under President Boni Yayi, who expressed concern about the lack of capacity in the agricultural sector and the desire to rapidly strengthen the sector. The Ministry of Agriculture developed a strategic plan for the revival of the agricultural sector, the Plan Stratégique

The journey of the agricultural sector policy

Figure 9.1 The journey of the agricultural sector policy

Source: Author generated.

pour la Relance du Secteur Agricole (PSRSA) 2006—2015.The ministry developed the plan internally and in only one month.

The PSRSA was a great improvement compared to former policy documents. However, it was rejected by producer unions and DPs, because of their exclusion from its formulation. After intense and lengthy discussions, a more inclusive revision process was initiated. The second version of the PSRSA was the subject of a government seminar on 12 June 2008. The recommendations of this seminar were followed up by a group of technical staff from the Ministry of Planning and from the Ministry of Agriculture. The validation of the ‘new’ PSRSA took place on 30 July 2008 after a stakeholder validation workshop. DPs expressed reservations about the content (Mongbo and Aguemon, 2015, p. 8), which were endorsed by PNOPPA, which criticised the ministry staff for‘treating other actors in the agricultural sector as their subjects’ (Ibid., p. 8).

For some public servants, revising the PSRSA questioned the skills of the technical group that drafted it. However, the dependence of the agricultural sector on DPs for funding and the DPs’ financial support to the revision process (Ibid.) led to the relaunch of the PSRSA review process in April 2009. Several workshops were held which were inclusive and participatory and led to a critical reduction of the influence of the ministry. PNOPPA's role in the workshops was significant, through the quality of its proposals and the contribution of its representatives within the extended workgroup and the technical subcommittees (Ibid., p. 13).

Despite this move to wider inclusion, a ministerial decree in February 2010 established a steering committee to work on the finalisation of the policy without any prior consultation and with only a single representative of nonstate actors on one subcommittee (Mongbo and Aguemon, 2015, p. 10). After consulting with representatives of civil society, PNOPPA made a counterproposal recognising the increasing importance given to producer organisations in the agricultural policy of ECOWAS. As a result, non-government players took on more prominent roles and the technical subcommittee was chaired by a senior technical official from the Ministry of Agriculture rather than a politician (Mongbo and Aguemon, 2015)

 
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