INTERVIEW SESSION WITH PROF. ADEGBENGA EMMANUEL ADEKOYA
Adetola: Can we meet you, sir?
Prof. Adekoya: I am Adegbenga Emmanuel Adekoya, a lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, a professor and someone who is passionate about policy community development and agricultural extension.
Adetola: Okay. Thank you, Professor Adekoya. You have been working on policies and advocacy in recent times, what is the reason for this and what do you hope to achieve with it?
Prof. Adekoya: Yeah, it’s quite unfortunate that even up to this time where we are focused on freedom, participatory development, bottom-up approach; the policy space is not yet organized in a way that stakeholders would be listened to. Policies essentially are still top-down, and I find it difficult to believe that someone in government, either as our president, our state governor or as our minister or commissioner should be able to know it all in terms of what the people want. You can have an idea of what the people want, but it is best to listen to the people and ask them exactly what they want and how they want it. So, I’ve always argued that policies will do better when participation is encouraged, commitment is ensured and the opportunity is created for everyone to be able to have a say in what happens to them and their businesses.
Adetola: Ok, so the reason you are involved in policies is because of the people; so that people can get involved in policies.
Prof. Adekoya: Exactly, yes.
Adetola: Kindly share the key factors that make policies fail, particularly agricultural policies.
Prof. Adekoya: What makes policy fail is simply because there is a disconnect between the policy documents and the environment in which the people operate. You can imagine a situation whereby you say people should cultivate cassava in a bid to boost agriculture so that many people may go into it and you do not know the conditions under which the people operate. You should know that cassava itself has its own peculiarities likewise the place where the people are. Can the places where the people are all over be adapted to cassava? This is a challenging question, so which means that in Oyo state, it might require fertilizer to plant cassava whereas in Lagos state, fertilizer might not be needed. In another place, it might be tractor that will be needed. So, you see, policy should not be seen as a straitjacket that will entirely fill every space. There has to be certain versions of the policy tuned to respond to peculiar situations of the different locations where the policies will operate. This can only be done when the stakeholders are listened to. This is just with respect to the farmers. What of the other stakeholders involved in enhancing cassava cultivation? Is it just about cultivation? What about value addition? What about marketing? What about storage? What about consumption? So it’s important to have a roundtable discussion where everybody that has something both directly and indirectly to do with cassava will be present and their needs will be known, consequently making the policy to address the needs of everybody.
There have been situations where stakeholders are not aware of the policies made to affect them. In order to avert this, associations of the stakeholders have to be identified. Everybody has to be on the same page. Stakeholders need to be well informed about the policy. For instance, we have gone round to poultry farmers and we asked them about Zika Brown layer breed but many of them are not aware of it. In fact, many of them are not aware of the so many policies that are in place to aid poultry. So where is the policy coming from? Where is the policy going to? How can the policy eventually influence our economy positively when the stakeholders themselves are not aware of the policies? Participation in policy is not just about listening to people; it’s also about sensitising the people about the policy.
Adetola: All right, thank you very much, sir. At least you’ve been able to establish the fact that the gap between policy documents and the environments in which the policies are to take place is responsible for the failure of policy.
Prof. Adekoya: Exactly. That’s just one aspect. Another aspect is the implementation of the policies. You must not assume that everybody has the skill to interact with stakeholders. In most cases, the roles of extension practitioners are glaringly missing. And it is well known that there is nobody that can be closer to the stakeholders than people in extension. Then another aspect to consider is the funding of the policies. Every policy requires funding and this would be at different level. And it thus requires accountability, monitoring and evaluation. It is important to evaluate periodically the policy. A policy may not just be cast in stone. There may be need to update the policy or adjust the policy to current realities. The other thing is the interaction between a particular policy and other less visible sectors of the same field. For instance, you have a policy for poultry; is your policy going to affect only poultry as an agricultural entity alone? Will it affect fertilizer? Will it affect cassava? Will it affect maize? Will it affect soybean? Will it affect the soil? Because it is observed that the ban on poultry products importation caused a lot of problems for maize consequently affecting cattle, pig even fish. That is to tell you the extent to which some of these things are interconnected and why we keep saying that before the development of any policy document, both far and near stakeholders should be identified. And the potential effects this policy will have on the various stakeholders have to be analyzed and well addressed before the policy will be initiated.
Adetola: What ways can we mitigate against policy failure?
Prof. Adekoya: I think it’s straightforward; it’s just part of what I’ve said. One, let the policy emanate from the grassroots. It should not just be somebody in the government deciding for the people. Policies are supposed to be solutions to problems identified from the people’s perspective. The way scientists will look at something may be different from the way farmers will look at it. So, there has to be a convergence between the various ideas. But like I said before, all stakeholders have to be involved. The other aspect is to see policy as a program and make it go through the rudiments of program planning; set your goals, set timelines and equally check to ensure that your targets are not missed. And if it is being missed, then you have to start thinking of what can you do to adjust.
Adetola: Thank you sir. Please can you mention some stakeholders that are important for any policy to be successful?
Prof. Adekoya: What you are asking for here is an application of the innovation platform to policy development. Innovation platform is the convergence of different stakeholders that are associated with a particular innovation. The platform allows for thorough examination of the innovation vis-à-vis its strengths and setbacks. It is pertinent that you consider all the stakeholders that are directly and indirectly connected to the value chain of the particular commodity or produce for which policy is required. For example, bankers, insurance companies, extension agents, pest managers, farmers etc. Research is definitely required for holistic identification of stakeholders.
Adetola: I am aware that you currently oversee activities of PiLAF. I would like you to shed more light on PiLAF and what it stands for?
Prof. Adekoya: PiLAF is innovation lab for policy leadership in agriculture and food security. We know that in the world now, the goal is food security and that makes agriculture very crucial. In order to make agriculture relevant, policies will have to be enacted every now and then to address certain weak areas and strengthen them and make sure that the deliveries from those areas are going to encourage sustainability and food security. In PiLAF, we are trying to awaken the need for dialogue in policy development. We are trying to awaken the need for stakeholder inclusion in policy development. So our goal, first and foremost, is to take our agricultural policies and identify the stakeholders that are connected to the policy and then undertake research on the awareness, perception and the disposition of these stakeholders to the policies so that at the end of the day, we want to know which particular group of stakeholders is really flowing with the policy. After identifying the weak links between the stakeholders and the policies, we will now go back to the power brokers. Our goal is high. We want to start with a state; talk to the commissioners, let them realize that people should be involved when they are trying to develop policies and not just calling a few people, all the stakeholders will have to be represented. Once we achieve that with a state we are hoping to be able to go to the National Assembly and go to the various committees that are responsible for policy assessment or development. And let them understand that they are certain things we have been doing that are not right and that it is better we start doing it right if we really want our policies to deliver as composed.
Adetola: Ok, thank you. Sir, what are some of the activities PiLAF has undertaken?
Prof. Adekoya: When PiLAF took off, we decided to take on agricultural policies, and then we listed so many policies. As at that time, one of the most recent policies is the ban on importation of poultry products. So we decided to consider that based on the importance of poultry in food security. We discovered that the stakeholders for poultry cannot be complete without including those that are handling the feed. We equally realized that the feed sector is nothing without maize. So we started working on the two together; looking at policies on maize as well as that of poultry. And one interesting thing that eventually evolved is that we identified a particular set of stakeholders that in fact, nobody ever thinks about and those are the equipment fabricators; those who fabricate the drinkers, feeding trough, cages etc. So right now, what we are trying to do is to identify those who actually belong to this particular group. We are using the snowball technique to amass their population. In Oyo state alone, we have already identify about 100 and data collection is still ongoing and it is important that they are registered as viable stakeholders in the agriculture space.
Adetola: Thank you so much for your time.
Prof. Adekoya: You are welcome