Agenda for Policy Action in the New RUFORUM Strategy

Leonard Oruko
Dr. Leonard Oruko

The positive economic growth trends observed in most African countries in the 2000’s were in part, attributable to the broad macroeconomic policy reforms of the 1990’s and before. In response to more favorable policies, agricultural sector performance improved appreciably in some African countries (Badiane et al., 2017: unpublished presentation in Gaborone).  During the same period, a number of global and Africa-wide initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and more recently, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) catalyzed the shift in focus from formulation to implementation of sound policies. Despite the foregoing, however, widespread appreciation of the need for consistency in formulation and implementation of good policies remains a challenge in Africa; there is indeed ample evidence of an ever increasing tendency to revert back to the bad policies of the 1980’s and before (Badiane et al., 2017: unpublished presentation in Gaborone).

Undeniably, the science and technology policy discourse is presently at the forefront of the Africa Union agenda. Likewise, the CAADP framework has gained laudable traction in shaping and advocating for implementation of appropriate policies for the agricultural sector- such as   increased public sector spending on agriculture. The need for consolidation of these gains and a coherent policy response to the emerging challenges and opportunities are recognized and well-articulated in the Malabo Declaration of 2014.

RUFORUM is well positioned to influence policies that impact on the wider agricultural, and the higher agricultural education sectors in particular. Deriving from its specific niche and flagship intervention areas envisioned in the new strategy, policies on higher agricultural education and training, and agricultural research and innovation have a direct impact on the network. Accordingly, RUFORUM’s unique advantage as a convening entity provides a perfect platform for shaping and influencing both the policy discourse and choices within the network, and its broader stakeholder constituency.

Role in evidence generation and advocacy

In the area of higher agricultural education as a primary vehicle for human capital development, RUFORUM has played a significant role in identifying the challenges facing the sector, based on evidence generated by the network members and other entities such as IFPRI-ASTI and Re-SAKSS. More importantly, drawing on both anecdotal and documented evidence, RUFORUM has identified some of the remedial measures, including increasing investment in, and reforms to the higher agricultural education sector.

Going forward, RUFORUM could therefore play a more important role, both in evidence generation and policy advocacy. The implementation framework for the four flagship initiatives cited in the new strategy should include appropriate systems for generating data and information for influencing both policy and practice.

  • The proposed flagship on mass recruitment and training of under-graduates, including harmonization with the vocational and technical training institutions will require a policy shift within the individual universities and the wider higher agricultural education sector.
  • By the same token, crafting and embedding the graduate/post-graduate training programmes in member universities within the wider innovation systems may require a shift in policy and practice at the individual universities and country level.
  • Finally, having in place an effective coordination mechanism for a continent-wide initiative to deliver on the two flagships above in order to derive maximum benefits from transboundary collective action calls for a more concerted advocacy effort.

The RUFORUM network could play significant role in providing compelling evidence and securing buy-in on the need for change and how to effect the necessary changes. In order to do this, the RUFORUM Network will draw on both the in-house talent and the work of selected specialized think-tanks and policy research organizations through mutually beneficial partnership arrangements.

It is important to emphasize that the primary objective of the policy agenda in the new RUFORUM Strategy is that of catalyzing and driving policy action as opposed to the traditional policy analysis.  In this scheme, the Secretariat working within the institutional and organizational reforms flagship will focus on effective packaging and communication of the key policy messages to the target audience. Towards this end, RUFORUM will convene specific forums on policy dialogue and debate, in addition to targeted publications.

Best practice guidelines for generating, packaging and interrogating evidence in order to elicit the desired response are widely available. The CAADP framework has developed viable systems and processes that the RUFORUM Network could borrow from and tweak as necessary. Closer home, other networks such as the Association of African Universities and the Inter University Council of East Africa have accumulated valuable lessons on processes for harmonization and rationalization of policies and programmes. In terms of publications, RUFORUM could borrow a leaf from; 1) IFPRI (the Global Food Security Report) and 2) AGRA (The African Agriculture Status Report). Click here to download the digest.

About the Author

Dr. Leonard Oruko holds a PhD in Agricultural and Food Economics from the University of Reading UK. Working as an Independent Consultant, he is leading an initiative on tracking adoption of improved crop varieties using data generated through DNA fingerprinting and farmer recall.  Over the last 15 years, Leonard has designed and managed results measurement systems for a range of initiatives. Working for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) from 2012 to 2015, he served as the founding director for Measurement Learning and Evaluation at the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA). In this role, he leveraged IFPRI’s rigorous analytical capacity to inform the design and implantation of the ATA programmes. From 2006-2011, he worked for both Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) as the head of monitoring and evaluation. Working with IFPRI’s Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) coordination units at the Africa Union and the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency, he championed the use of rigorous research evidence in results measurement and learning, in addition to leading a team of international experts to develop the CAADP Mutual Accountability Framework.   Leonard has also served as an Advisor to DFID  in Uganda and as a research economist at  the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and CAB International, Africa region. He started his career as a Research Officer at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and was one of the first crop of agricultural economists who set up the Socio-economics Research Programme.

This is our twelfth issue in a series of articles we are releasing as part of our RUFORUM AGM Digests. You can get more details about the meeting at and more information about RUFORUM at You many also join us online using Social Media for real time updates. Our Official hashtag is #Visioning2030


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