Strengthening Myanmar’s agricultural policy system through communications and advocacy

Adapted from Caitlin Shaw's post on IFPRI's Capacity Strengthening blog with contributions from Suresh Babu.

Strengthening all actors of a country's policy system is critical for a well-functioning policy process. This is particularly true for the agricultural sector in developing countries, where the participants involved in the policy process range from farmers to parliamentarians. In Myanmar, a country currently in transition from central planning towards a participatory and inclusive policy process, effective participation by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) remains weak.

While the CSOs have the motivation to engage in policy process, they often lack capacity skills and knowledge needed for connecting with policy makers. In order to help members of such organizations in Myanmar deepen their understanding of this process, the USAID funded Food Security Program (FSP) – a joint activity of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Michigan State University, and the University of Pretoria – hosted a workshop on Strengthening Policy Systems through Communications and Advocacy from July 27-29 for members of Myanmar’s Food Security Working Group (FSWG).

Myanmar Workshop Participants

Workshop Participants

The training used the kaleidoscope model ( Resnick et al, 2015), developed by FSP researchers, as a framework for focusing on five key elements of the policy cycle necessary for change to occur: agenda setting; design; adoption; implementation; and evaluation and reform. Close to four-dozen participants attended from FSWG member organizations. This included representatives of local and international non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations and farmers’ organizations, as well as members of the media and the Myanmar Development Research Institute (MDRI).

Participants reflected on past FSWG policy engagement and advocacy actions. They then analyzed the next steps in the policy environment by discussing how to identify policy priorities such as responsible agribusiness development and investment climates and policies on food and nutrition security, agricultural input supply, smallholder farmer rights protection, strengthening farm advisory services, land, and environmental conservation.

Strengthening all actors of a country's policy system is critical for a well-functioning policy process. While civil society organizations have the motivation to engage in policy process, they often lack capacity skills and knowledge needed for connecting with policy makers.

They mapped the decision-making processes of targeted individuals, organizations, ministries/departments and committees; selected effective strategies for food security related policy influencing with beneficiaries and stakeholders; developed inputs for the revision of FSWG advocacy strategy and action plan for 2015-2017, taking into account the upcoming November 8, 2015 general election; and encouraged partner and member organizations to embed advocacy actions in their strategies and work plans for collective actions and synergistic results. In this process, participants also identified priority areas for further strengthening their capacity.

Fields of Bagan

Fields of Bagan. Photo by Sven & Fida

The workshop was funded by a collection of donors under the Livelihood and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT), including the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), which has been active in strengthening the capacity of its members to actively participate in the policy process. For more information on this activity and other workshops testing the kaleidoscope model, please contact Suresh Babu (s.babu@cgiar.org).

Top photo of goat herder in Bagan, Myanmar by Jennifer Stahl.