Breaking Policy silos for Sustainable Development: A Report on Policy Coherence in India's Food, Land & Water Sectors

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    CGIAR Initiative on National Policies and Strategies
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Policies in the food, land, and water sectors are intricately connected, as they interact and mutually influence each other at the operational level, ultimately shaping their overall effectiveness. Policies within one sector can encounter obstacles from divergent policies in other sectors. Therefore, it is important to coordinate and ensure that related policies share common goals, while also identifying any potential contradictions between them. The need for policy coherence is particularly significant for a vast and diverse country like India. However, policies are often developed in silos, leading to unintended consequences, duplication, fragmentation, and reduced efficiency in resource use. Over time, there has been an increasing recognition of the importance of analyzing policies through the lens of policy coherence and conducting research on fostering synergies and drafting policies that are mutually reinforcing rather than divergent.

In that context, under the CGIAR Initiative on National Policies and Strategies, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) conducted a collaborative study to analyse best practices and key lessons learned on policy coherence in India’s food, land, and water sectors. The study developed a framework building upon previous work that analysed policy coherence through five critical dimensions: horizontal and vertical coherence, external consistency, convergence potential, flexibility and adaptability, and social inclusion. Using this framework, the study conducted an in-depth analysis of seven key national-level schemes – Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana – Per Drop More Crop (RKVK – PDMC), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY), Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana – Watershed Development Component (PMKSY – WDC 2.0), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), National Mission for Clean Ganga – Namami Gange Programme (NMCG – NGP), and Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY).

There is a dual purpose in using the policy coherence framework developed in the report for analyzing seven specific schemes in India: firstly, to demonstrate how this framework can be utilized for a holistic analysis of policy coherence, and secondly, to identify best practices for coherent policy design using examples from these schemes. The analysis draws from policy documents, guidelines, and interviews with both government and non-government stakeholders. It reflects on the challenges of on-ground implementation as reflected through the interviews, but it does not directly evaluate the efficacy of implementation, which can be complex. Rather, the focus is on identifying areas for improvement in the objectives, guidelines, and processes of policy design.

The findings of the analysis were compiled into a report titled Evaluating Policy Coherence in Food, Land & Water Systems: Evidence from India,” which was launched on January 23, 2024, in Delhi. The event was chaired by Shri Yugal Joshi (Advisor, Water & Land Resources, I&B, Communication and Drinking Water & Sanitation, NITI Aayog) and brought together experts from different Ministries including the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, NITI Aayog, PRADAN, NCAER, etc., to discuss some of the key findings from the study. Shri Yugal Joshi emphasized on the importance of this report in developing a framework for policy coherence that can be used elsewhere. He highlighted that the seven selected policies are core programs of the specific ministries and hence the study’s findings are of crucial importance. He expressed NITI Aayog and the government’s interest in conducting more such studies in the future.

Some key findings highlighted in the report indicate that horizontal and vertical institutional coherence through inter-departmental and inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms are relatively more embedded in the policy guidelines for the planning and implementation phases of the policy cycle. However, this collaboration is weaker during the monitoring, evaluation, and impact assessment phases of the policy cycle as structured in the design of these policies. Also, monitoring and evaluation within the policy cycle remains primarily output-based, and shifting towards outcome indicators in the evaluation stage is crucial for enhancing policy coherence and convergence. Aligning with the broader developmental goals is also important, and tracking progress toward those goals is critical. Here, tracking those goals using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework (i.e., mapping these policies to the SDGs and tracking their progress over time) can be an effective approach to ensuring external coherence. Data-driven adaptability is another critical area of engagement, where data-centric and technology-enabled monitoring and evaluation can support evidence-based decisions. However, it was mostly found to be in a nascent phase and largely limited to monitoring and evaluation. Thus, embracing flexibility and adaptability in the policy cycle also requires developing a comprehensive knowledge base on socio-economic concerns and environmental changes, which needs more work. Further, greater efforts are required at capacity building across various levels and cross-learning between institutions and states on best practices.

Planning for convergence is also vital for coherent policy design. It involves integrating convergence considerations into policy guidelines, revising guidelines regularly, and disseminating them to stakeholders to foster common understanding. Successful convergence relies on elements such as knowledge management portals and coordinating committees. Additionally, classifying synergies between themes and prioritizing integrated data management, monitoring, and impact assessment has the potential to facilitate effective convergence planning. Finally, ensuring social inclusion requires documenting mechanisms that enable social inclusion, identifying vulnerable groups in policy planning, and directly consulting with or involving experts representing these groups to address their concerns effectively. The report concludes by identifying best practices and key lessons learned from India in fostering policy synergies and convergence. These insights offer valuable guidance for addressing the challenges of sustainable development faced by the Global South.


Flagship report:  Evaluating Policy Coherence in Food, Land & Water Systems: Evidence from India


Garima Taneja, Research Officer, IWMI
Archisman Mitra, Regional Researcher, IWMI
Suparana Katyaini, Programme Lead, CEEW
Suchiradipta Bhattacharjee, Policy Engagement Specialist, IWMI

This work is part of the CGIAR Research Initiative on National Policies and Strategies (NPS). CGIAR launched NPS with national and international partners to build policy coherence, respond to policy demands and crises, and integrate policy tools at national and subnational levels in countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. CGIAR centers participating in NPS are The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (Alliance Bioversity-CIAT), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), International Potato Center (CIP), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and WorldFish. We would like to thank all funders who supported this research through their contributions to the CGIAR Trust Fund 

Photo credit: IWMI

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