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Using Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme Biennial Review Data for Evidence-Based Policymaking: Challenges and Opportunities

By Tsitsi Makombe


After four cycles, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Biennial Review (BR) process has generated not only four continental BR reports, but also a large cross-country time series dataset (2014-2022). Yet, despite the growing knowledge products, uptake of the BR data and results by CAADP stakeholders for evidence-based policy and decision-making remains rather low.

Why the low uptake of BR data? The challenges

The low uptake of CAADP BR data can be attributed to a host of challenges ranging from limited data availability, access, awareness and capacities to low data quality and, thus, reduced reliability of the data. For example, a recent independent assessment of the CAADP BR process noted inadequate dissemination of BR results following the release of the continental report, limited accessibility as the data is not publicly available, and insufficient communication of the data and results in accessible formats that facilitate their use by different stakeholders, as well as limited awareness of the BR, especially at the country level.

Professor Joao Mutondo with Eduardo Mondlane University and a technical advisor to Mozambique’s Ministry of Agriculture on the CAADP BR, attests to this: according to him, “key challenges hindering greater use of BR data in Mozambique are the insufficient dissemination of the BR data and results and the lack of an integrated M&E [monitoring and evaluation] system that makes the data accessible to all stakeholders.”

CAADP stakeholders have noted limited engagement, especially of senior government officials, in the process at the country level and inadequate funding for the BR process, including for data collection and convening BR data validation workshops to evaluate the data. Additionally, reviews of the BR data by the Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System (ReSAKSS) and the BR Technical Working Groups have noted several challenges related to data quality, substantial data gaps, weak data systems and inadequate capacities at the country and regional levels to compile, analyze and validate data. The quality of BR data affects its reliability and of any derived analysis and policy implications — which in turn can reduce the likelihood to use the data.

Opportunities for promoting greater BR data use

All key CAADP stakeholders have a role to play in promoting greater use of BR data and results, and this should start with squarely addressing the low uptake of the data. For current efforts to promote the use of BR data, see this Agrilinks post. Next are some opportunities that can be harnessed to further promote the use of BR data for it to be a critical input into evidence-based policymaking and decision-making:

1. Raise awareness of BR results and data at country and subnational levels

Raising awareness of the BR data and results will require effective communication, advocacy and BR dissemination guidelines and tools for engaging BR stakeholders and senior government officials. These can include the African Union Commission (AUC) developing BR communication and dissemination guidelines that be used by different stakeholders and technical partners to translate the BR results and analysis into targeted, accessible and easy-to-digest formats that are widely distribute among policymakers, parliamentarians, civil society, farmers’ groups and others. Raising awareness of the BR at the country level will also help to generate buy-in from senior officials and the necessary public investment for the process.

According to Ms. Josephine Ongosi, a principal agriculture officer in Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, Kenya can promote the use of BR data by “…devolving the BR dialogue to the subnational level and increasing government funding for agriculture and the CAADP processes to enable government institutions to implement BR recommendations.”

2. Embed the BR in country agriculture joint sector review processes

In most countries, agriculture joint sector reviews (JSR) meet once or twice a year and bring together a broad group of agriculture sector stakeholders to guide sector planning and performance review in support of the national agriculture investment plan (NAIP). It is crucial to embed the country BR process in the JSR to ensure that BR data priorities and recommendations are taken up by JSR stakeholders and inform the NAIP, which is main vehicle for implementing the CAADP agenda.

“Incorporating the BR into the annual workplans and budgets of the Ministry and integrating the BR into the JSR will ensure that relevant institutions implement the recommendations,” noted Ms. Ongosi.

3. Make BR data more accessible

BR data must be made accessible to all stakeholders and the general public. Everyone interested in BR data should have the ability to retrieve and utilize data from a central database. Presently, only those directly involved in the BR process have access to the data. The AUC is currently developing a data policy which is expected to promote open data use by making the BR database more accessible to the public and inform policymaking and in-depth analyses.

4. Address remaining BR data quality issues and look beyond scores

Concerted effort to address remaining BR data quality issues can go a long way in improving the reliability and use of the data. This can include AUC reporting not just the scores in the BR report, but also the values of indicators as this would expose the remaining data quality issues and data gaps and help drive action to address them. Furthermore, data quality improvements can come through refining the BR scorecard methodology, training BR country teams on the data issues, allowing adequate time for data checks and revisions by countries, and AUC developing guidelines for the critical analysis of BR data to ensure that it is uniform across different Malabo themes (see Benin et al).

5. Make the BR forward-looking for policy planning and decision-making

One way to promote greater use of BR data is by using it not just as a backward-looking tool to assess performance, but also as a forward-looking tool for policy planning and decision-making. AKADEMIYA2063 and the International Food Policy Research Institute are currently developing an innovative, web-based BR Decision-Support Tool that will use BR data to examine relationships between CAADP policies and outcomes. Once developed, policymakers will be able to use the tool to evaluate policy options for optimizing the achievement of CAADP Malabo Declaration outcomes at the country level.

First published on Agrilinks.