Put your money where your mouth is
Government strategies and plans on food and nutrition security are sometimes more or less vocal. Therefore, the true litmus test of government commitment is reflected in the budget. Are sufficient resources allocated to priorities of civil society? Are activities that strengthen food and nutrition security adequately funded? Any person who is interested in the development of its own place and may even have been involved in planning at district or sub-district level, needs to know how, when, for what and by whom public money is spent.
However, the problem is that budget documents are not very user-friendly: not only are they full of numbers, codes and often written in a technical language, they are usually also inaccessible to the ordinary man. The Right to Food Team, in its support to district development planning, has helped districts and sub-districts to reproduce the budget in a simplified format. The one-page posters inform in a nutshell about the food and nutrition priorities in the development plan, targets to be achieved, when an activity should take place, how much money has been earmarked and the source of funds. Here’s an example of Abanga sub-county in Nebbi district, Uganda.
Civil society has a chance to check whether their priorities are reflected in the budget and are adequately funded. This is a good basis for entering into a dialogue with government officials. It also empowers civil society to play a crucial role during implementation.
For instance, right holders in the Moyamba district, Sierra Leone, monitor the implementation of the 2012 district development plan. In three communities (Mokorehwo, Mokagbanda and Kawaya) drying floors for agriculture produce should have been built. Civil society closely monitored the private firm that won the tender and saw that the drying floor were of poor quality. The matter was reported to council officials and the contractors were ordered to reconstruct the drying floor or forfeit their contract.
This shows how government and an empowered civil society can work hand in hand. Government often does not have the means or the time to closely monitor all activities and contracts in their area. Individuals however that live close by and intend to use the goods provided (in our example, the drying floors) have a strong interest and low opportunity costs to monitor the proper construction.
The Right to Food Team uses its budget analysis guide to train civil society on budget analysis and expenditure tracking and works with partner organizations. In the case of the example above, the partner was the Action Aid affiliate Moyamba Community Agricultural and Development Association (MOCADA) that also uses Economic Literacy and Budget Accountability for Governance (ELBAG), a tool consistent with FAO’s guide.