Institutions to support intensification, integrated decision making and inclusiveness in agriculture in the EGP

There’s a widespread consensus that there is no lack of policy in the countries that make up the EGP.  Rather, what is missing is the apparatus to competently deliver on policy and this is where institutions really matter.

The term ‘institutions’ in economics means ‘the rules of the game’. Some of those rules are formal and embodied in organisations and others are informal, but nonetheless influential, like social norms and mores.  Overall, the literature on institutions suggest that when institutions are functioning well individuals and firms will be able to interact more effectively and this often manifests in superior economic, agronomic, environmental and/or social outcomes.

One way to envisage the critical role of institutions is to imagine two well-built roads. One road operates with clear rules with which individuals willingly comply and the other operates with no rules and zero compliance if any constraints were to be imposed.  It might not be that surprising to expect that the former road would function more effectively than the latter – the point being that sound institutions can bolster performance and weak or non-existing institutions can undermine it.

In LWR/2018/104, researchers from the University of South Australia, IFPRI, Bangladesh Agricultural University, IIDS, the University of Western Australia and FAO have committed to examine an array of institutions that impact agriculture in the EGP.  By measuring the performance of institutions the project will generate empirical data that can help shape future guidelines to improve local and state-created institutions.  The project will also go beyond recommending change and trial a small number of institutional adjustments at specific field sites. Collectively, these activities will generate a basis for discussing how policies are deployed in the region and hopefully drive better outcomes.

An inception meeting was held in Kathmandu, Nepal for this project on 24-25 October. The meeting was hosted by the University of South Australia and attended by key research partners including representatives from IFPRI, Bangladesh Agricultural University, the Institute for Integrated Development Studies and FAO. Other research teams presently working in the field (e.g. IWMI, CYMMIT) also attended to help shape the direction of the institutional analysis and to target some of the innovations to be trialled later in the project.

Time was also given at the meeting to detailing the governance arrangements that attend the project, since this potentially spills over to additional work sponsored by ACIAR in the region.

A preliminary list of potential experts to be engaged as part of the Delphi analysis that makes up the initial phase of the research was developed. Subsequent to deploying Delphi to create an institutional map of the region and to set priorities, the project will empirically measure the performance of different institutions and use these data to inform the dialogue in the EGP region.

For more information, please contact Professor Lin Crase (Lin.Crase@unisa.edu.au).

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