What is advocacy and why is it so important for creating resilient food systems?

A new framework from FAO and ICRAF with the SHARED Decision Hub outlines tools, resources and case studies for advocating for food systems transformation in RFS country projects. Find out more about what advocacy is and why it is so important to the programme and rural development.

If you never ask for change, the folks in charge might not know that there needs to be one. Or what to do about it.

That’s where advocates of resilient food systems come into play, reaching out to national policy and implementation actors to create an enabling environment for scaling climate change mitigation, land restoration and food security efforts.

Advocacy is a major part of the Resilient Food Systems (RFS) programme, and we’ve been working alongside multi-stakeholders to reach a number of advocacy milestones that are locally relevant to our 12 country projects.

In Nigeria, Farmer Field School extension agents were provided with motorcycles to help them reach remote communities, bringing new skills and tools to their doorsteps. The RFS Nigeria project has facilitated multi-stakeholder platforms to ensure that outreach to beneficiary communities is gender-responsive and drives food security forward.

In Kenya, we’ve seen the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund (UTNWF) advocate for sustainable systems by making a business case for improving water quality in the Tana River to encourage private-sector funding. This support has contributed immensely to their own extension service approach and helped them boost food security and the environment.

Approaching decision-makers, leaders and stakeholders (unwitting ones and not!) facilitates dialogue, and change, bringing evidence and experience into the mix. Collectives are key as we are stronger in numbers. In Senegal, this looks like working with Mangrove User’s Associations and local NGOs, and in Eswatini, engaging traditional authorities in the importance of environmental sustainability and women’s participation in development.

During the 2021 RFS Virtual Workshop Series, RFS held an event exploring what advocating for resilient food systems looks like in practice. One year later, we’ve launched a new framework for those wishing to try advocacy for themselves.

The framework, which includes tools, resources and case studies from RFS, was created in collaboration between two Regional Hub partners, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Agroforestry (ICRAF), by adopting the Stakeholder Approach to Risk Informed and Evidence-based Decision-making (SHARED) methodology. It identifies 10 steps in the process:

  1. Identify the underlying issues, risks, policy dynamics
  2. Define the advocacy goals
  3. Understand who can make a change and entry point
  4. Mapping existing advocacy efforts
  5. Gather key evidence
  6. Consult and build strategic relationships
  7. Build capacities and secure resources
  8. Identify outcomes and activities
  9. Ensure evidence is accessible for audience uptake
  10. Roll out advocacy tactics

Case studies from Burundi, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Kenya describe the steps taken and lessons learned from advocating for resilient food systems in their unique contexts.

Advocacy is a great way for anyone from the private sector, civil society, the public sector or non-profit organisations and more to get involved in the transformation agenda.

Read the full framework

Watch the Advocacy session from the 2021 RFS Virtual Workshop Series:

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