Building policy coherence related to food systems, soil, and water for coordinated work between governments

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In recent years, countries have suffered various crises – climate or economic. These trends suggest the need for countries to be more resilient. Policy formulation would be central to this. A CGIAR initiative aims to strengthen policymaking in several countries by fostering coherence of national policies and strategies (NPS).  In this interview, Dr. Augusto Castro, who leads the research area on Low Emission Food Systems at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and the work package “Building Policy Coherence,” explains what policy coherence means, as well as the work that his team has been doing and the next steps of the initiative, answering the following seven questions:

1. What is the purpose of NPS?

The CGIAR’s NPS initiative seeks to identify ways to develop more robust, more coherent policies and strategies to help countries address current crises and future development needs.

2. Where is it focused?

Nigeria, India, Laos, Kenya, and Colombia.

3.  What stage is the initiative in?

Currently, it is already being executed. In Colombia, it was launched in October 2022; however, being an initiative in several countries around the world, a meeting was held in Nairobi, Kenya, on December 8, 2022, with the working group focused on the analysis of policy coherence of all countries to promote quality control among colleagues and, while ensuring a homogeneous approach in-country reporting and analysis. Three Colombian team members presented his advances in the methodology and analysis we have been doing.

4.  What does the term coherence in public policies refer to?

Definitions may vary from the perspective of each sector or according to the actor. Therefore, one of the main points of the meeting was to try to unify the concept. We begin by reviewing academic literature, followed by descriptive analysis. During the launch in Colombia, experts and stakeholders in the field met to discuss what was meant by coherence in public policies. The exercise continued in Kenya, where we compared the most used concepts in the literature this time.

With the result of both exercises, the frequency was analyzed, which words appeared more defining the concept, and the connection between them, that is, the combination of two more repeated words.  Based on the frequency results, it was concluded that the most significant number of words used by the academy are development, objectives, and space. While from the perspective of the participants are objectives, needs, and population. Although coherence is associated with objectives from both perspectives, this concept is linked to the development of literature, and for the actors, it is associated with needs and population.

This exercise highlights the difficulty faced by academics and decision-makers in defining the concept and, therefore, concluding whether a set of policies is coherent or not.

5.  Why is consistency important?

Given the variety of actors, institutional frameworks, and cultural environments in the country, it is necessary to establish general and homogeneous criteria so that the results and policy recommendations have external validity, that is, that the methodologies applied and result in Colombia can be replicated in other countries and contexts.

6.  What approach are you and your NPS team taking to generate a better understanding of policy coherence?

During the meeting in Nairobi, general guidelines were given on the types of coherence to be analyzed. To begin with, policy coherence refers to the complementarity between areas in sustainable development goals such as nutrition, poverty, environment, gender, and climate change. On the other hand, horizontal coherence: refers to synergies between public policies (if they complement or contradict each other). Vertical coherence: it is framed to the alignment between the different geographical levels of the country (national vs. regional). Finally, internal coherence refers to the financial and administrative aspects that facilitate the implementation of public policies.

7.  What’s next for NPS’s policy consistency analysis team?

The following steps of the team in Colombia, jointly with the Universidad de los Andes, will consist of prioritizing policies and laws for food, land, and water to adjust the criteria for the definition of each type of coherence that will be analyzed.

The investigation has three phases. The first consisted of creating a database with 94 relevant public policies and laws, 45 regarding food systems, 28 on land, and 21 on water. To then prioritize 2 to 3 policies per topic. The final step is implementing an internal and external coherence analysis of the selected policies.

In conclusion, the NPS initiative in Colombia seeks, first, to identify the most relevant policies, laws, or programs for the agri-food sector in terms of land, water, and food, as well as their positive and negative aspects of design and implementation.  Second, with the information and analysis carried out in all work packages, the initiative aims to influence the performance of public policy providers by using communities of practice, hackathons, and participation in national policy discussion spaces.


Alexander Buritica Casanova, Senior Research Associate, Alliance of Bioversity & CIAT, Colombia.
Karoll Valentina Yomayuza, Research Associate, Alliance of Bioversity & CIAT, Colombia.
Deborah Pierce, Visiting Researcher, Alliance of Bioversity & CIAT, Colombia.

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Photo credit: ©2023 Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT/Daniela Salas

This work is part of theCGIAR Research Initiatives 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.

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