Stories from the field
Social accountability enables local farmers to influence government policies in Rwanda
Collaborative social accountability focuses on solving governance and service delivery challenges by convening, capacitating, and enabling purpose-led collaboration among those stakeholders that can evoke change in a particular policy area. In the case of Imihigo performance contracts in Rwanda, the involvement of farming communities was the missing piece in the problem-solving puzzle.
Bringing in critical stakeholders to sit around the decision-making table
Who are the critical voices that need to be heard on any given policy issue? Who are the stakeholders that can unlock bottlenecks and evoke real change? These are questions the GPSA reflects on a lot in every grant it makes. Creating collaborative spaces in which problems are jointly identified and solutions are co-created not only requires the right stakeholders but, oftentimes, that they are convened at different governance levels: from the national level right down to the community level.
Such was the case in the GPSA’s grant toward Transparency International Rwanda. In Rwanda, the national government uses “Imihigo” – performance contracts – in the agricultural sector to set performance targets at the district level, measure progress more effectively and localize policy response. Imihigo introduces a results orientation between the national and subnational government entities, in form of annual performance contracts between the President of the Republic and the district mayors. However, the policy significantly lacked the involvement of farmers, and being a crucial stakeholder in agricultural matters, it resulted in poor local government planning, financial management, and budget execution, and ultimately failed to yield its intended results.
Building capacities within local communities
Transparency International Rwanda, through the GPSA grant, focused attention on policy planning, monitoring, and evaluation of local and national agricultural development plans in two districts, using social accountability tools in the form of citizen report cards (CRCs), monitoring, and capacity building of civil society and public servants. Across the targeted area, the project trained 7,476 farmers, 51% of whom are women, to participate in the district’s agricultural planning cycle.
Through this training, local farmers were empowered to shape the district’s planning and thus inform a national policy ultimately to their increased benefit. To measure progress on this, Transparency International Rwanda used CRCs that farmers could use to indicate their satisfaction with Imihigo. Between 2019 and 2020, satisfaction with participation in Imihigo already increased from 53% to 62.81% while farmers’ satisfaction with their participation in the evaluation of Imihigo increased from 49.2% to 62.2%.
Nonetheless, the project recognized that it is not enough to just engage the communities. To deepen the ties between the stakeholders, CSOs and Government officials also held training sessions for 51 social economic development officers in one of the targeted districts on the new methodology of identifying agricultural priorities in conversation with farmers. Moreover, by demonstrating the value of participatory tools for making the policy function at the grassroots as intended, the project encouraged additional efforts toward greater inclusion of youth and women.
In the end, the Imihigo project demonstrates that involving the right stakeholder, in this case farming communities, and creating collaborative spaces at different governance levels were key to evoking positive change through the Imihigo process.
Capitalizing on the ability of civil society organizations to collect information from users of public services about the state of public service delivery, and effectively channeling this information to decision-makers in government and parliament can contribute to evidence-based policymaking, and, ultimately, to improved public services.
Collaborative social accountability focuses on solving governance and service delivery challenges by convening, capacitating, and enabling purpose-led collaboration among those stakeholders that can evoke change in a particular policy area.
What does it take to make meaningful and lasting civil society-government collaboration happen?
Social accountability tools can be adopted in the most unlikely places, including those characterized as being hierarchical and where there are no existing accountability processes.