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1.3 Definition of policy

The word "policy" is not a tightly defined concept but a highly flexible one, used in different ways on different occasions. Webster's dictionary has a number of closely related definitions. They are:

· A definite course or method of action selected (by government, institution, group or individual) from among alternatives and in the light of given conditions to guide and, usually, to determine present and future decisions.

· A specific decision or set of decisions designed to carry out such a course of action.

· Such a specific decision or set of decisions together with the related actions designed to implement them.

· A projected programme consisting of desired objectives and the means to achieve them.

In English usage, policies are "made" and "implemented" in the same way that decisions are made and implemented. Yet it is possible to have policies that are not or cannot be implemented, so that, conceptually, actions that implement policies need not necessarily be part of policy itself.

Although a policy is like a decision, it is not just a "vie-off", independent decision. A policy is a set of coherent decisions with a common long-term purpose(s). When decisions are one-off, incoherent or opportunistic, complaints are made that a government or minister "does not have a policy". Government policies are often supported by special legislation.

The terms "policy", "plan", "programme" and "project" are progressively more specific in time and place. Policies are usually national policies (not district or provincial) and are not normally limited in time: one does not usually speak in terms of "2-year policies" as one does of "2-year programmes" or "5-year plans".

For the purposes of this manual, livestock policy will be defined as:

A coherent set of decisions with a common long-term objective (or objectives) affecting or relevant to the livestock subsector.

In the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, livestock policy may mean either a complete package of decisions covering all aspects of the livestock subsector or a particular set of decisions dealing with a single aspect. Examples of the former are the Livestock Policy of Tanzania (1983) and the National Livestock Development Policy of Kenya (1980). Examples of the latter are:

· Livestock-related land-tenure policies, such as the Tribal Grazing Land Policy of Botswana, or the policies and related laws covering grazing reserves in Nigeria or group ranches in Kenya.

· Pricing policies, such as those embodied in the purchase prices established by the Cold Storage Commission in Zimbabwe or the Meat Commission in Kenya.

· Disease-control policies, as for foot-and-mouth disease in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Kenya.

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