|Linking Universities and Government in Uganda: The DRUSSA Fellowship Programme|
|Monday, 18 January 2016 14:58|
During 2015 DRUSSA implemented a Fellowship Programme in Uganda and Ghana. As part of the programme Prof. Dr. Eng. Noble Banadda, from Makerere University was placed in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries in Uganda. He tells DRUSSA about the complexities of Evidence Informed Policy Making in Uganda.
Like most countries the policy environment in Uganda is one which is both complex and where research evidence is just one consideration amongst many competing priorities and factors in the policy making process. Policy makers in Uganda and, more widely, in Africa are faced with a number of challenges that have the pressure and ferocity that those in developed parts of the world can only imagine. Policy makers face challenges ranging from managing expectations of the urban poor including the demand for provision of services at lower rates, to striking a balance between development and environment conservation, feeding growing populations, provision of decent health services and access to energy, retaining the best brains against the backdrop of renewable tenure and a limited-resource envelope. The need to ensure sustainable development involves the simultaneous pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental quality and social equity. The challenge is that agricultural development policy has to take many factors into account; attracting investments, job creation, farming for export, mechanization of agricultural operations etc.
Using Research to inform Policy
There are various examples of where research has informed policy. For example research has informed policy to protect the fish stocks and water quality of Lake Victoria. The policy makers have seen to it that water-quality standards are regulated and that specific fish-net sizes are used. Policing and enforcement of the by-laws and regulations is still a challenge, but policy makers have acted in unison to avert water quality problems and dwindling fish stock. Another example relates to the use of pesticides. Research has proven that pesticide and herbicide use needs to be controlled and monitored due to their effect on water quality. Again the policy itself is not the challenge but rather that there are few resources available to enforce the laid out policies within the specific environment.
There are a number of challenges for research institutions wishing to ensure that their research findings are taken into consideration in the policy processes. Key amongst these are the lack of an institutional framework that allows for close interactions between researchers and civil servants at various administrative levels. The consequence of this is that there is virtually no continuity in government programmes as key personnel retire or leave for any other reason. Futhermore, for policies to work, either authors or co-proponents have to be able to interact in person with government officials. The opportunity present in strengthening these relationships is to institutionalize policy for purposes of continuity.
Much as institutions understand the importance of evidence-based research to inform policy, there is no formal, sustainable fora, or coordinated, predictable approach system that allow institutions that generate research findings to plan their meetings and interactions with policy makers. Futhermore, producing research evidence to inform policy is too frequently not a priority for many researchers as there is no incentive for doing so.
Value of the DRUSSA Fellowship
As a key expert in the field of agriculture and the environment, the DRUSSA Fellowship was an opportunity for Prof Banadda to discuss research priorities with policy makers. In his role as a DRUSSA Fellow the research needs were co-identified with the Commissioner of Agribusiness in the ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries in Uganda. Prof Bannada explains: “We agreed on a wish list that the Ministry wanted, but the source of funding was not clear. The mentality in the Ministry is quite different to what I am used to in academia. In academia, we do things for the sake of posterity. The ministry operates on budgets and time lines. To reconcile those two divergent attitudes is no easy task. The expectation was that DRUSSA would provide the funds to conduct research to fill in gaps in knowledge about specific issues. It was later understood that I would use my knowledge, and research experience to share what I know with colleagues at the ministry. We therefore agreed to focus on the beans and milk value chains. The ministry has committed to support me by their presence while in turn we need to understand that the ministry, as a government department, operates under a budget cycle. Ministries do not have budgets to conduct research. I plan to engage the top managers in ministry in a series of seminars and workshops where I shall share my research findings. It’s my anticipation that they’ll participate by asking the hard questions and the whys, and in this way I hope to influence their consideration of agricultural development policies.
You can read Prof Banadda’s blog about his research here.
Prof. Dr. Eng. Noble Banadda of Uganda’s Makerere Univeristy is a DRUSSA fellow placed in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries in Uganda