Public institutions Institutions

Posted October 1999

Information note

Technical consultation on the evolving role of Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources in sub-Saharan Africa

Dakar, Senegal
December 1999
Also available in French. For further information contact:

I. Introduction

In its Commitment Three, the World Food Summit (WFS) Plan of Action stresses the importance of the role of institutions to ensure food security, combat poverty and promote the development of human and natural resources. It recommends to governments to include in their policies, in collaboration with all civil society actors, the promotion of political, economic and administrative decentralization. It is necessary to strengthen local government institutions in the rural areas and to provided them with adequate resources and the necessary decision-making authority. In the same spirit, the WFS Plan of Action also recommends that rural producers' and other people's organizations be recognized and their institutional structures strengthened in order to promote dialogue with the government and other partners for their participation in the elaboration and implementation of rural development policies and programmes.

The Rural Development Division of FAO (SDA), in close collaboration with other technical divisions, in particular the Policy Assistance Division (TCA) and the Investment Centre (TCI), is carrying out several normative and operational activities to assist FAO member nations, particularly in Africa, in the restructuring of their rural institutions and in promoting the role of civil society. The purpose of these activities is to render public institutions compatible with their evolving role in a market-oriented economy, promote decentralization, provide the necessary powers and resources to local institutions, foster farmers' and rural people's organizations and strengthen their capacity to participate, at local, regional and national level, in the definition and implementation of rural development policies and programmes, as well as in the sustainable management of natural resources. These activities are being carried out in close collaboration with governments, farmers' organizations and international partners, in particular the World Bank, in many African countries, such as Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Togo, Burkina Faso, Senegal, etc. This FAO-WB-IFAD-GTZ-UNCDF collaboration led to the joint organization of the Technical Consultation on Decentralization (TCD) which was held in Rome from 16 to 18 December 1997. In its conclusions, the consultation stressed the need for developing countries to embark on a decentralization process and promote the role of civil society actors in rural development. It recommended as a follow-up activity the organization of a Technical Consultation on the Evolving Role of Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Africa. Discussions are underway to ascertain the interest of FAO technical divisions, the World Bank and other partners to contribute to and/or co-sponsor such a consultation.

The purpose of the technical consultation will be to (i) analyze the experiences of these countries in institutional restructuring, including those implemented with FAO's support and in the framework of structural adjustment programmes in agriculture, and (ii) draw lessons from these experiences in order to adapt the role and improve the efficiency of Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources and related institutions in promoting rural development in collaboration with local governments and rural people's organizations.

In the Africa region, as in most developing countries, there is an urgent need for institutional restructuring. This type of restructuring, already well advanced in several African countries, is being technically supported by FAO and other organizations, in particular the World Bank.

It is now time to extend the exercise to several other countries with the support of their international partners and to take advantage of the experiences carried out so far.

In order to achieve the objectives of the WFS Plan of Action of food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development, the restructuring should be based on the recommendations of the TCD and include major structural and legal changes. It should, in particular:

II. Purpose, themes and expected results

In order to achieve the objectives of food security, sustainable development and better living conditions, the countries in the region have adopted, over the last few years, new policy orientations which include a transition to a market economy, encouragement of private initiatives, decentralization of responsibilities and peoples' participation.

In order to adapt Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources and other public institutions involved in rural development to the new demands and to make them able to efficiently provide public services, they need to be restructured and their roles redefined. Civil society actors, especially farmers' organizations, also need to be strengthened in order to efficiently participate in achieving the goals of food security and sustainable development.

The Rural Development Division (SDA) and other divisions of FAO have on several occasions provided technical assistance in the restructuring of rural institutions, particularly in Africa, as have other international development agencies.

These activities have induced each agency to reflect on the role of the State, especially Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources, in guaranteeing sustainable development, food security and poverty alleviation.

The time has come to collect and analyze the results of these reflections and experiences in order to draw from them useful lessons and recommendations to assist members nations in defining the evolving role of their public rural institutions, in particular Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as well as in their most appropriate restructuring. At the same time, it would be useful to establish a regional framework of concertation that would facilitate exchange of experiences and cooperation among rural institutions in the region, the harmonization of the approach and coordination of the support provided by the different partners in the field of rural institution building.


The organization of a technical consultation on the role and restructuring of Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources was recommended by the TCD.

Its objective is to provide interested governments in the region and their partners the opportunity to analyze the present role of their Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources, their incompatibilities with the new economic orientations and the consequences for rural development. Consequently, it is expected that the technical consultation will come up with useful orientations and recommendations for the definition of the evolving role of these institutions and their restructuring. The purpose is to make them compatible with the market economy, decentralization and people's participation and capable of contributing efficiently to the achievement of the objectives of food security and sustainable development, in partnership with civil society actors.

It is also important to define a framework that would facilitate the exchange of experiences and promote rural institutional cooperation at regional level.


The themes of the consultation are:
  1. Analysis of the role of Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources over the past decades and its consequences:

  2. An attempt to define the evolving role of Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the new context of market economy, decentralization, capacity building and civil society participation. This includes a reflection on:

  3. The restructuring of Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources according to their evolving role and its implications:

  4. Transition to the new situation:

  5. Main partners and their relationships with the restructured Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Expected outputs

The expected outputs of the consultation are to:

III. Tentative agenda

The activities of the consultation are based on the case studies and reports prepared by the participants.

Day 1: Plenary Session : Analysis of the present role of Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources and its consequences

Day 2: The evolving role of Ministries of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Day 3: Plenary Session:

IV. Scope

The consultation covers Sub-Saharan African countries. A few examples from other regions could be integrated for the purpose of comparison.

Africa: Approximately ten case studies and country reports and a regional report funded by SDA and prepared under its technical supervision, as well other technical inputs by other FAO divisions and partners will be presented or distributed during the meeting.

Other regions: A few case studies will be presented as comparative examples, if possible.

V. Participants

The participants will consist of high-level technical and policy officers from African countries, representatives of international development agencies and a few independent academics or researchers. The number of participants will depend on the amount of budgetary resources made available by FAO and its partners, such as the World Bank.
  1. Countries: Number to be determined.
  2. International agencies and other participants, indicatively:

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