Multi-stakeholder processes: context, reality and key learnings from an exchange visit to Rwanda

Group photo of event

This is a guest blog by the Ghanaian Team to the V4CP Rwandan Knowledge and Learning Event: Ibrahim Akalbila - Coordinator of the Ghana trade and Livelihood Coalition (GTLC); Enoch Njiribi – Project Officer with Grameen Ghana (GG); and Eric Banye – Country Programme Coordinator, SNV Voice for Change Partnership. Ghana.

Rwanda welcomed four continents, seven countries, 18 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), 34 individuals from different nationalities to the land of 1000 hills, the “Singapore of Africa”, the epitome of a clean city. From 29 April to 3 May 2019, partners converged to share key learnings under the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme. Rwanda offered the best location to jointly analyse how Multi-stakeholder Processes (MSP) are used in improving collaborative evidence-based advocacy.

It was a memorable visit. For 5 and half hours from Accra to Kigali, we flew the dream of Africa (RwandAir) into the beautiful small Eastern Africa country. As typical of Ghanaians with a “love” for plastics, our neatly wrapped luggage with plastic rubber was unwrapped by the very welcoming customs officer at the airport. A great sign that Rwanda means business in sanitation.

From Kigali, the capital, to the banks of Lake Kivu, at Rubavu on the border with D.R. Congo, we saw the cleanliness that the people of Rwanda have worked for. This is a powerful lesson for most developing countries like Ghana. Thanks to the people of Rwanda for this wonderful experience, a big lesson for Ghana. Now, back to the reason for being in Rwanda from the perspective of the Ghanaian team.

The exchange visit had three objectives;

  • to increase knowledge and understanding of how to make effective use of multi-stakeholder processes for advocacy purposes based on practical tools and experiences from CSOs;

  • to get exposed to the V4CP program in Rwanda on Food and Nutrition Security at National and District Level and reflect on main lessons learned / take-aways.

  • to facilitate exchange and learning among CSOs and SNV advisors focusing on budget tracking, making use of evidence for advocacy, scaling and systems change and engagement with the private sector.

These well-knitted objectives interlaced with the serenity of the Lake Kivu, the diversity of ideas and experiences, the local practices, the field trips, all worked out beautifully for a successful visit.

Multi-stakeholder processes; practical tools and experiences

Irrespective of the issue, multi-stakeholder processes can be important vehicles for learning and participation. For a multi-stakeholder approach to be applied effectively, we learnt that the ability and willingness amongst the different stakeholders to engage, to communicate and to collaborate effectively is essential for MSPs. We also learnt of the need for a conducive policy and legislative framework, the capacities and knowledge of all major stakeholder groups and that we need resources and commitment to follow-up on ensuing actions. According to Wageningen University and Research on how to design and facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships, four main iterative phases are proposed to ensure partners don’t overlook essential aspects. These include: initiating, adaptive planning, reflective monitoring and collaborative action. To ensure CSOs make their MSPs effective, we further learnt seven principles, which include: systemic change, transforming institutions, working with power, dealing with conflict, communicating effectively, promoting collaborative leadership and finally, fostering participatory learning.

From building consensus to form the Poyenteng Nutrition Committee in the Wa West District in Ghana, to galvanising Farmer Cooperatives to influence increased government expenditure in Family Farms in Burkina Faso, several CSOs are applying bits and pieces of MSPs in their countries. In Kenya, MSPs are used to galvanise support with respect of private sector involvement the dairy industry.

V4CP promotion and implementation of MSPs is a catalyst for multi-sectoral development processes. To ensure up-scaling of effective MSPs, V4CP will continue to support the use of a multi-stakeholder approach in policy formulation and implementation, capacity strengthening of key stakeholders to engage effectively and generate evidence to support inclusiveness and participation of stakeholders.

The V4CP learning event offered an opportunity for CSOs to learn about MSPs.

The V4CP learning event offered an opportunity for CSOs to learn about MSPs.

Towards a deeper understanding of the V4CP Rwanda programme

As courtesy demands, the learning visit started with a welcome from the SNV Country Director and brief introductory updates from the Ministry of Agriculture on the Agriculture Sector Working Group, followed with Food Security and Nutrition Working Group. Both highlighted a common element: government commitment and openness. We also had a message from Netherlands Embassy in Rwanda highlighting the priority areas of the Dutch Government. Beyond these technical updates, the 3.5 hour trip through the meandering hills while gazing into the deep gullies sends fear and fright with the rare thought of the vehicle skipping off. The scenes of Lake Kivu, coupled with the night scene of the volcano replaced our fear with excitement.

While en route to Rubavu, the team stopped over at Regerero in the Nyabihu Districts. The cooperative multiplies orange flesh sweet potato (OFSP) vines and supplies them to households, which then produce OFSP for home consumption. This initiative has over the past years improved the consumption of not only the potatoes but also the green leaves. It has become a traditional pride to produce and consume orange flesh sweet potatoes. With greater awareness coupled with local knowledge, malnutrition can be addressed.

Major happenings across V4CP countries

Countries took turns to share key experiences in the areas of scaling and systems change, budget allocation and expenditure tracking, evidence and advocacy, and deepening private sector participation in advocacy. It’s amazing hearing the wealth of experiences across countries. Like a CSO representative jovially remarked, “it looks like V4CP will soon solve all the global problems”.

Scaling and Systems change: The experiences from Indonesia, Honduras and Ghana on scaling and systems change were illuminating. From improving nutrition coordination in Wa West District in Ghana to advocacy works of Ayo Indonesia to inclusive FNS National Policy development in Honduras, all highlighted one thing; the need for scaling up; by affecting change at an institutional, legislative or regulatory level; scaling out: by replicating initiatives so that a greater number of communities/districts can benefit; and scaling deep; by transforming relationships and culture, so that people see themselves reflected in the change and make it part of their day-to-day lives. We are beginning to see gains in the works of the CSOs globally.

Budget Allocation and Expenditure Tracking: From Rwanda, Indonesia to Kenya, we learned how effective budgets are tracked over a time period and used for advocacy to ensure efficient allocation and expenditure. Development of CSOs capacities to track budgets enhanced ownership and advocacy activities. We learnt that commitment by government institutions and the clarity of the budget disaggregation is a key factor in budget tracking. In Kenya, the food safety budgetary tracking tool is a useful advocacy tool for public sector investment and requires a multi-sectoral process and good evidence on agreed targets. But in most African countries, getting official government expenditure figures is a challenge because of time lags of between three to five years before the actual expenditures are released. This certainly will influence future advocacy strategies, a big mission for CSOs and SNV working in countries where reliable data in budget expenditure is almost always impossible to get.

Evidence and Advocacy: Evidence plays a central part of the V4CP programme. It forms the basis for the advocacy agenda and galvanises stakeholder support. In Burkina Faso, Honduras and Rwanda, we learned that well-developed and presented evidence can "move mountains” and affect a change, as this enhances decision makers’ confidence. Local leaders such as women leaders, religious leaders, academia, and trade associations, all play significant roles in raising awareness on stunting prevention and reduction using evidence gathered. It was, however, noted that these advocacy messages should be specific to a targeted audience.

Deepening Private Sector participation in advocacy: Practical experiences were shared from Ghana, Kenya and Burkina Faso highlighting the need to generate sufficient evidence, ensure the issue is owned by the stakeholders, and develop a strong business case to attract private sector. For this, sufficient time should be allocated and increased media interest is a key catalyst. All the experiences pointed out the importance of aligning the priorities of the private sector with those of the public sector and the vice versa. In Burkina, the government guarantee on family farms led the banks to reduce loans rates and increased lending for family farms. A clear demonstration of increasing private sector investment in FNS.

Murabeho, good bye as we cruise back to Accra, Ghana, is all we can say but we will surely go back again and again. The serenity, the calmness and the collective desire to move forward are worth emulating.