Knowledge from research can enhance agricultural policy-making and strengthen national agriculture systems. But as this column explains, it can be a challenge to make the appropriate connections between researchers and policy-makers. In Nigeria, where much needs to be done to ensure that agricultural policies are informed by evidence, there would be significant benefits from targeted interactions in the form of policy dialogues.
Relevant research knowledge can enhance agricultural policy-making and strengthen national agriculture systems. But to date, there has only been limited research on the use of agriculture research for this purpose.
My investigation of knowledge translation for policy-making in Nigeria (an agrarian nation and the most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa) finds that from the perspective of policy-makers, much needs to be done to ensure that agricultural policies are informed by evidence.
My study explores whether and how policy-makers use knowledge generated by the National Agriculture Research Institutes by interviewing people who have been involved in agricultural policy formulation.
The policy-makers claim to be aware of the studies carried out by researchers in the research institutes, and also note that they interacted with them at committee meetings. Nevertheless, the policy-makers do not disclose substantial use of the research findings. They cite lack of relevance of some of the findings to policy-making and the complexity of the policy-making process as the main constraints on their uptake of research evidence.
The following are some recommendations to improve the use of research in agricultural policy-making.
Encourage agriculture researchers to conduct policy-relevant research studies
Agriculture researchers need to be encouraged to conduct policy-relevant research, based on policy needs, and to be more alert as to how their findings may influence existing policy decisions or introduce new policy directions for agriculture.
Encourage policy-makers to use research for agricultural policy-making
It is necessary to make policy-makers aware of evidence-informed agricultural policy-making. Future initiatives could focus on supporting knowledge transfer activities that appear to increase the prospects of policy-makers using research: for example, bringing policy-makers and researchers together at meetings and providing a discussion forum.
Increasing awareness could also take the form of more targeted interactions between policy-makers and researchers through workshops on evidence-informed policy-making, to improve policy-makers’ capacity to demand practically useful research for agriculture planning.
Provide training and capacity-building for policy-makers
There should be training events and other capacity-building activities for policy-makers to boost their appreciation of, and capacity to use, research. Training and capacity-building for policy-makers have been shown to facilitate their use of research knowledge in several contexts. Research shows that building the capacity of policy-makers to locate and appraise the quality of research increases the probability of their using research.
Encourage more targeted interactions such as policy dialogues between agriculture researchers and policy-makers
Since interactions between policy-makers and researchers can facilitate the transfer of agriculture research for policy-making, it is recommended that some of these interactions be targeted towards the use of research knowledge for agricultural policy-making. These opportunities would enhance communication and strengthen knowledge-sharing between researchers and policy-makers.
Other contexts show encouraging results. For example, policy dialogues have been implemented to improve evidence-based policy-making in healthcare in Nigeria. These were purposeful meetings in which researchers and policy-makers discussed policy-relevant issues and how research could be used to address them.
To date, there have been positive outcomes from these policy dialogues as a strategy to increase the use of research in health policy-making. This model could be adopted in agriculture to increase the use of research in policy decisions.