Meeting Platform for Better Climate Policy Creation Kicked into Gear in Uganda
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This blog was originally posted on the CCAFS blog. Written by John Francis Okiror, Communication Intern, International Institute of Tropical Agricultura (IITA), Uganda.

Climate change and agriculture research findings often have a hard time finding their way to policy makers in need of latest climate projections or farm technologies. The reasons for this 'science-policy' gap are many, but recurrent problems are that policy makers usually do not know where to find relevant research, or might not understand how to include climate data in relevant plans and policies.

Scientists do not tend to involve government staff in research design either, further lowering the relevance of that new project for policy creation. Failing to include and learn from each other not only hampers policy progress but can also create the risk of repeating the same mistakes over and over again.            

To help unite the two communities, the Policy Action for Climate Change Adaptation (PACCA) project has decided to link policy makers with relevant national research institutions using multi-stakeholder platforms in Uganda and Tanzania. The aim is to jointly develop climate-resilient food system policies and plans for the two countries.

The PACCA project started in 2014 and have so far focused on collecting information on climate impacts, analysing the policy frameworks and processes in the two countries including a special focus on gender, conducting research with farming communities and building a network of key partners in the two countries.

The team has also introduced the idea of national-level multi-stakeholder Learning Alliances, launched earlier this year, for better, more relevant policy creation and research in the region.

A number of stakeholders have already joined the platforms. The members range from  policy makers and advisors, researchers, members from the private sector, non-governmental organizations, farmer representatives, commodity associations, the media and development partners all engaged in climate-issues and agriculture and food production.

After months of outlining how and what the platforms will address and work on, both the Ugandan and Tanzanian platforms are now ready to seriously get to business supported by freshly fleshed out action plans!  

The action plan for Uganda was officially presented this August during a meeting convened by the Climate Change Department (CCD) in partnership with Environmental Management for Livelihood Improvement (EMLI) Uganda, and International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), who leads the PACCA project.

Besides finally outlining the official work plan for Uganda, the meeting helped participants refine the plans for the four thematic groups on policy awareness and engagement, as well as address climate change policy issues in the country and highlight preliminary research findings from the project.

The Tanzanian platform is on the same path as Uganda. The thematic groups have meetings lined up in where they will hash out a comparable action plan. It is envisioned that the action plan for Tanzania will be launched through a similar meeting in September.

Generating climate knowledge sharing and support

The platform members will meet regularly, especially when there is an open policy window for input and feedback. The Learning Alliances’ thematic groups will work on subject matters related to policy development, climate change, and food security and meet on a monthly basis.

The platforms promote synergy, as it allows for collaboration and development of solutions to problems that may be difficult to solve for one individual actor. Participants also share lessons learned from own successes or failures, while learning from the myriad of members represented in the platforms - organisations and departments they potentially would not have met with otherwise.

The vision is that better collaboration and closer engagement will make research conducted in the region more relevant for policy creation, and help increase members’ knowledge about for example climate-smart farm practices.

“The learning alliance is a very good initiative,” Ronal Kaggwa, the acting director policy planning and information at the national environment management authority NEMA-Uganda said, “We don’t have such space to talk about good innovation in this country – this is the first of its kind!”

The Learning Alliances are expected to be responsible for their own activities while being supervised and guided by the PACCA research team. The team will also keep the platforms up-to-date with the latest research findings and results from working with smallholder farmers in the two countries.

PACCA project's top five lessons learned from establishing multi-stakeholder platforms:

1) Trust-building is key. Stakeholders will not engage with the project unless they trust and have confidence in the coordinating staff and believe in the process

2) It takes time to identify key partners for the platform project. This process cannot be rushed as it is crucial that you involve the right people .

3) Policy makers are ever moving and extremely busy! Getting them engaged can take time and a lot of convincing.“You are selling a product, and you are not sure if people are going to buy it, but you have to continue,” said Project Coordinator Edidah Ampaire while discussing some of the challenges with the PACCA platforms.

4) Stakeholders’ interest must guide the platform's work. If the members' needs and fields of interest are not included in the project portfolio, they are most likely not going to stay within the project. There's a need to find a common objective that goes in line with what both the project and members are trying to achieve.

5) The project has to make sure that stakeholders take ownership over the activities. This can prove to be a challenge and the project might have to carry some of the burden initially while pushing the platform activities along, but in the end participants have to be in the lead and steer their own projects.

Photo credit:Flickr: E. van de Grift