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The Case for Inclusive Agricultural Development

RESEARCH Policy Brief by Benjamin Allen, Jacqueline Ashby, John Coonrod, and Wawira Njiru
Gorreti Ndagire (center) counts money during a Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) group meeting in Katoosi village, Ddwaniro subcounty, Rakai district, Uganda.
Catholic Relief Services/Will Baxter

Amid shifts towards inclusive agricultural development, the Center for Global Food and Agriculture offers policy recommendations for further US government action.

Reflecting both the development consensus and the challenges of transformational reform, USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced an ambitious new focus on inclusive development for the agency in 2021. Her announcement followed the publication of a draft policy on local capacity development, which provides a framework for shifting overall organizational approaches to development. The policy helps establish an agencywide understanding of what locally led development means and a unified system for building on local strengths to achieve local goals. Nevertheless, there are substantial and legitimate reasons why inclusive development assistance remains elusive. Recent research from the Brookings Institution provides an excellent summary of the legal and regulatory impediments, including budgetary rigidity, risk mitigation, and the limits of local organizational capacity.  

With this policy brief, we aspire to add to the growing conversation about inclusive development through the lens of agriculture and food security. Agricultural development assistance is, at its core, a long-term investment and, as such, is well suited to the coming shifts in policy and funding. USAID’s local capacity development draft policy advocates for beginning with the local system, a critical step that mirrors the food security community’s move toward systems approaches to agriculture.  

Recognizing that inclusive agricultural development is a nuanced and multifaceted issue, this brief features four expert perspectives on how to ensure US agriculture and food security assistance reflects not only the priorities of local communities, but also communities’ own metrics of success. The four chapters explore inclusive development through a case study of how to embed trust and flexibility into programs for greater local ownership, the need for women’s leadership, social enterprises’ potential for scalable and locally led systems change, and participatory agricultural research. The brief concludes with policy recommendations to further US government efforts, gleaned from the authors and consultations with more than 20 stakeholders in government, international NGOs, academia, and the advocacy community. 

About the Authors
Benjamin Allen
Technical Advisor III for Microfinance Research and Learning, Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
In his current role, Benjamin Allen has conducted operational research around CRS's savings-led microfinance model, Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC), across Africa and Latin America. Prior to joining CRS, Dr. Allen served in the Peace Corps as a Rural Health and Sanitation Volunteer in Paraguay and earned his doctorate in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Jacqueline Ashby
Development Sociologist
Jacqueline Ashby is a development sociologist, researcher, teacher, and senior manager. She specializes in international development experience in social change, technology development, and poverty reduction through food systems. Currently, she's employed at the International Potato Research Center (CIP) as a part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
John Coonrod
Executive Vice President, The Hunger Project
John Coonrod leads The Hunger Project’s Secretariat Team at the Movement for Community-led Development, serving as the Movement’s co-founder and global coordinator. Coonrod was The Hunger Project’s first volunteer in March of 1977, joined its staff in 1985, and has participated in the development and implementation of all of its programs.
Wawira Njiru
Founder and Executive Director, Food for Education
Wawira Njiru the Founder and Executive Director of Food for Education, a Kenyan social enterprise that serves nutritious and low-cost meals to public primary school students. She is the youngest recipient of the University of South Australia’s alumni award 2017, a 2018 Rainer Arnhold Fellow, a recipient of the Builders of Africa Award 2018, and one of 2018’s Top 40 under 40 women in Kenya.