Each month, we shine a spotlight on partners who are using budget advocacy to bring transformational change to their communities. This month, we talked with John Oluwafemi Olla, communications officer at the Justice Development and Peace Commission in Nigeria, who recently participated in a learning session with IBP staff and partners to reflect on program learnings from 2021.
Q: What is the Justice Development and Peace Commission and what are your areas of focus?
A: The JDPC is the social branch of the Catholic Church. The Commission is responsible for promoting social justice, which includes addressing issues concerning human rights, democracy, good governance, agricultural assistance, food security, poverty reduction, sustainable development, humanitarian service, and disaster management.
Q: What are the main problems you and JDPC are working to address in your communities?
A: Many of the challenges that we encounter stem from issues of exclusion from governance and development, such as poor service delivery in the areas of education, health, water and sanitation, and infrastructure development.
Q: How has IBP supported your work? How has the collaboration improved your work and the ways you engage your target audiences?
A: IBP has been incredibly supportive in many areas including data gathering, research, and documentation. This has helped us with citizen engagement concerning primary health care services, effective budget tracking, and advocacy.
Q: How are you able to leverage social media to get the government to focus attention on primary health care needs?
A: Social media is a critical device in our toolbox because it allows us to develop effective communication across many sectors of society in a simplified form while corresponding with citizens and government organizations. For example, we are able to connect citizens to the government and share government responses to questions asked. We have also managed to secure the government’s commitment by engaging online through our social media pages. For example, when we share photos of public health facilities on Twitter and Facebook, it gives us an opportunity to engage with duty bearers on the ongoing upgrades of facilities. We evidence-based information and data to back up our posts. We also use Zoom to interact and share feedback with officials.
Q: How do you mobilize different community development groups to form a united force to advocate the government on your needs?
A: We have found that mapping stakeholders along with sensitization and political education workshops are an effective tool for mobilizing communities to join together and press the government on their core needs.
Q: What specific impact have you achieved in the last two years?
A: Citizens are now included and their voices are heard in new ways during budget deliberations. For example, 15 policies and laws at the legislative arm of government received input from grassroots organizations. We’ve seen the gap reduced in communication between duty bearers and citizens through various town hall meetings at the state and local level. This increase in citizen participation is encouraging.
International climate finance is the main means of reconciling equity (developing countries have contributed little to climate change but are extremely vulnerable to its effects) with effectiveness and efficiency (a large share of the required mitigation is required in developing countries if global emissions targets are to be met).
Climate finance also presents a huge opportunity for developing countries to gain from win-win investments in adaptation and mitigation.
Transparency and accountability for climate finance is key to unlocking these gains. The International Budget Partnership recognizes that funds to respond to climate change are likely to be the single largest source of development finance for the foreseeable future and has initiated a program of activities to promote climate finance transparency and accountability.
Recognizing this, ‘climate budgeting’ by governments has developed over the last decade, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, with the support of development partners such as the UNDP and the World Bank. An important motivation has been to package public investment projects for external financing.
This requires new systems to track government climate-related expenditures because they cut across existing expenditure classification systems – in the same way that gender-related or poverty-reducing expenditures require specially designed tagging systems if a country wishes to identify and report all related spending.
Following the world’s first Climate Budget in Nepal in 2013, climate budget tagging (CBT) systems have been introduced in about 20 countries. Many have published climate budgets parallel to the government’s annual budget using a variety of specially designed CBT methodologies.
While CBT is not costless, the benefits in many countries are likely to far outweigh the costs given the scale of climate finance and the long-term nature of climate change.
However, two things are noteworthy.
First, no country that has published a climate budget to date has disclosed environmentally harmful expenditures. Climate budget reports only cover those expenditures that are intended to be favorable for the environment.
Yet governments around the world continue to spend vast sums on direct subsidies and tax concessions for brown activities while paying lip service to their green credentials.
Second, the nearly 40 countries that have issued sovereign green bonds are contractually committed to transparent project evaluation and selection criteria and to the regular publication of detailed reports on how the funds have been spent, and on their impacts e.g., reductions in greenhouse gases. They provide no such assurances regarding all their other environment-related spending.
This means that countries issuing green bonds are now committed to providing far more transparency on their environmental spending to private investors than they are to their own legislatures, taxpayers, and citizens.
How can this greenwashing be offset?
One approach recently advocated is for in-country civil society organizations to publish their own ‘Green Guide to the Budget’ using publicly available information in existing documents and reports.
In this way, a picture could be built of the volume and allocation of public resources directed both to environmentally favorable and harmful activities, set in the context of the government’s environmental commitments and framed by cross-national benchmark indicators.
A Green Guide to the Budget could also incorporate civil society recommendations on green tax and expenditure policies to improve environmental outcomes and environmental justice, and a push for more transparency. It could be a vehicle to give more voice to women, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups that are often the most adversely affected by climate change and would help to offset the inside influence of fossil fuel and other environmentally destructive lobbies.
There are obvious capacity challenges, but a civil society initiative of this type may have the potential to shift the needle in some countries on accountability for environmental stewardship.
By Claire Schouten, Senior Program Officer, International Budget Partnership and Joe Powell, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Open Government Partnership
Restoring the notion of government of, for and by the people will be essential as we seek to renew societies and build resilience in the post-pandemic global recovery. This crisis exacerbated and exposed inequality and injustice around the world, hitting the most vulnerable hardest. Now is the time for governments to make more robust investments in rebuilding societies.
These investments are too important to be made opaquely and without public input, especially when inequality and perceived corruption have already undermined public trust in many governments. In recent years, governments globally have made commitments to be open about what they’re doing with the public’s money.
Fiscal openness is a mainstay of the open government movement. In the last decade of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), over 90 percent of OGP members have made a total of 671 fiscal openness commitments – more than nearly any other policy area. Fiscal openness is not just a consistently popular policy area in OGP, it’s also one of the four core eligibility criteria for membership, based on data from the Open Budget Survey. Redoubling those commitments, and most essentially, making sure they translate into accountability – so that communities have a say in public spending and can ensure governments use scarce resources for the public good– has never been more important to our democratic future.
The good news is that these efforts are paying off. As per the Open Budget Survey, we’re at the highest level of transparency since the International Budget Partnership started assessing open budget practices more than fifteen years ago. In the 77 countries assessed in every round between 2008 and 2019, the average global score on budget transparency increased by 20 percent. The latest OGP Vital Signs research also shows that OGP countries that have made open budgeting commitments – especially if they are ambitious and over multiple action plans – have improved their scores more than other countries.
However, progress has also been inconsistent with fluctuating performance in too many countries. Among OGP members, there are now some countries that even risk falling below the core eligibility criteria because they have slipped on their fiscal transparency scores. COVID exacerbated this volatility as many governments have not been as transparent with relief spending as they could be. Despite all of this, there is room for quicker, more sustained progress. If countries around the world simply published budget documents that they already produce for internal use, there would be transparency gains globally of 20 percent. Governments can also focus on proactively providing information that citizens want, such as information on service delivery.
Going beyond transparency
There is also growing recognition that transparency alone is insufficient, that opportunities for public participation and strong oversight are also central to accountable government. Spaces are needed for informed public debate and for those most likely to be adversely affected by inequitable budgets to be involved. Strong oversight by both legislatures, national audit offices and other oversight actors is needed to hold the executive to account throughout the budget process and ensure budgets are fully implemented in line with stated objectives.
As governments launched massive spending measures to address the impacts of the pandemic, some countries have shown that a more transparent, inclusive and accountable way of managing the public purse, even during an emergency, is indeed possible.
In the Philippines, a commitment to hold a series of public consultations called Dagyaw 2020—promoted under the aegis of the Open Government Partnership—was repurposed to ensure continuing public dialogues during the COVID crisis on government response policies.
In South Africa, the civil society-led Asivikelane campaign has highlighted severe public service shortages in South Africa’s informal settlements. Using a simple but effective survey that is implemented via text messages and targeted advocacy, the campaign has already improved access to water, sanitation, and waste removal services from municipal governments affecting more than one million people.
These good practices demonstrate that speedy policy responses do not have to undermine accountability. They provide a useful roadmap for governments to include citizens and critical oversight institutions in deeply consequential spending decisions in emergency times and beyond. By planning and implementing spending in a more open and collaborative way, and keeping citizens informed, governments can ensure public spending is more effective and equitable. Perhaps most importantly, they can strengthen social capital and expand civic space so that all people feel heard and trust that public funds are spent in the public interest. Governments should take heed of these approaches in their ongoing relief efforts. For instance, the EU’s landmark Recovery and Resilience Facility – an essential mechanism to combat the challenges faced by EU member states as they rebuild economies and livelihoods in the wake of the pandemic – should model these good practices. Given the unprecedented size and scale of the funds, it will be crucial to embed enhanced transparency, accountability and civic participation mechanisms to ensure these funds have their intended impact.
We have an opportunity to forge new alliances and strategies that shift politics. It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach to countering authoritarianism and promoting local accountability solutions. It consists of:
Refined political strategy. For public resources to contribute to a more just and equitable society, we need a deeper understanding and response to the political economy of public resource decision-making and implementation. Powerful interests that have built social, political, and economic structures that concentrate wealth and privilege and exclude marginalized groups are at the root causes of deprivation. Further opening up budget processes in meaningful ways requires developing alliances and partnerships that build countervailing power, so that public resources are spent to tackle poverty and inequity. Progress on open spending practices will also generate important information for combating corruption in public contracts and company ownership.
New spaces for impact. New spaces are emerging as opportunities for impact on big political issues of our time. They include meaningful civil society participation in revenue debates and spending monitoring; bridging budget and environmental actors to ensure that recovery funds contribute to a sustainable and green transition and that climate change funds serve vulnerable communities; and strong connections and real gains at the subnational level of government, with a focus on service delivery. Civil society has been a vanguard in carving out new spaces to inform government decisions in a meaningful way– now it is time for national and local governments to scale up and formalize channels for greater public participation on these mission critical issues.
New opportunities for powerful alliances. We can build a robust accountability ecosystem that fosters trust and strengthens democracy. Let’s bring together citizens, social movements, state accountability institutions such as national audit offices and executive ministries to foster a governance system that works for all.
As the Open Budget Survey and good practices above illustrate, it is notable that countries across income levels and geographies have been able to chart new directions to manage public funds in a more accountable and inclusive way. Where there is a will, there is a way. A more inclusive approach is not only possible, but desirable if we are to advance more resilient and democratic societies in which public funds advance the public interest. The Open Government Partnership can help by enlisting new allies, building broad coalitions across government and civic actors with legitimacy and power to rise to the challenges we face and are likely to face going forward.
This article also appears on the Open Government Partnership’s website. Read it here.
By Eka Iakobishvili, Program Officer, Open Society Foundations
In August this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to issue the equivalent of $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to boost global financial liquidity in what IMF president Kristalina Georgieva called “a shot in the arm for the global economy at a time of unprecedented crisis.”
The SDRs are a reserve asset issued by the IMF to each of its 190 member countries, which can be exchanged for hard currency as required, or used as reserves, or swapped or on-lent. For countries suffering fiscal pressures because of the economic impact of the COVID pandemic on exports, or tourism, or increased healthcare costs, new SDRs can help balance the books.
The use of SDRs can be an attractive option for a country, if hard currency is needed. Although a small interest rate applies, it is by far the lowest available to Lower and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) and this is why SDRs are often referred to as free money or a reserve asset that is without conditions.
There is a lack of transparency about how SDRs are used and regrettably, very few governments globally have sought dialogue with the public on SDRs spending. In most countries, particularly in Africa, use of the SDRs resources and consequent accountability have been left solely to the discretion of the central bank and a few technocrats within the finance ministry with limited to no involvement or dialogue with the general population. This raises concerns over the decisions made: central banks might opt to prioritize debt repayment to international creditors, as opposed to using the funds to support recovery efforts.
For poor and middle-income countries, SDRs are going to be vital in the post-pandemic recovery. In this process, civil society has a vital role to play. Civic activists and established civil society organizations (CSOs) have the power and capacity to advocate and push for people-centered economic models that were not possible before, building the capacity for resilience but also playing the oversight role.
Some groups are already taking a lead:
In Africa, some suggestions by Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) already have been made for SDRs use in a multi-year framework that can finance social services and/or infrastructure projects within the country.
CSOs can assist central banks and governments to ensure broader public participation in dialogue with technocrats and high-level policy makers. In Uganda, Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) has been pushing for such policy engagement with the government by providing policy recommendations and calling for wider public participation and oversight on debt debates in the country.
CSOs can also support efforts by legislators to strengthen debt management procedures and engage in advocacy around oversight procedures where they exist.
Finally, the CSOs should work in coalition with cross country and cross regional groups to apply pressure on institutions (IMF, or regional banks) and high income countries involved in on-lending, to include transparency and accountability safeguards in SDR-related concessional loans – all in the spirit of democratic ownership, strengthening independent scrutiny, and creating space for participation and accountability to citizens.
It is important that calls for putting such mechanisms in place come from both national groups and international CSOs to ensure governments are held accountable and follow through on these commitments. For CSOs to be effective in holding government to account, they need access to information on the use of SDRs. International organizations, including the IMF, can and should facilitate disclosure of such information and enable public dialogue at the national level.
The international community and national governments can benefit greatly from opening the space for civil society voices and expertise to inform decision making around and oversight of SDRs. Smart partnerships between international organizations, governments and CSOs can ensure these critical funds help fuel more efficient, resilient and inclusive post-COVID recoveries.
For more on this topic, watch the recording of a recent event co-hosted by the International Budget Partnership on Promoting Equity and Accountability in IMF Special Drawing Rights in English and Spanish.
For many years disability has, in theory, been a policy priority of the Senegalese government. Officially, people with disabilities (PWDs) represent 5.9% of the Senegalese population.1 This data, however, is contested and many argue that it is closer to 15.5% of the total population. In 2010, the Social Orientation Act (SOA)2 was adopted to protect the rights of PWDs and remove barriers to their empowerment and inclusion. The Equal Opportunity Card (EOC) program was introduced to provide PWDs free health care, transportation, employment and other assistance. However, officials were failing to provide the cards to eligible people, and even those who did receive a card were having trouble accessing benefits. Out of 50,000 people who had registered for a card, only 19 230 were enrolled in the Universal Health Coverage plan and even those who were enrolled experienced gaps in services as the state regularly failed to pay the insurer.
In just over a year, the Senegalese Federation of Associations of People with Disabilities (FSAPH), with our support, facilitated access to basic services and benefits for more than 100,000 of its members. FSAPH helped 15,000 people get access to EOC cards and helped increase the number of PWDs enrolled in the Universal Health Coverage program from 38.5% in 2019 to 42% in 2020. They also ensured that 100,000 of its members received COVID relief. Importantly, they influenced key Senegalese government ministries to commit to improving three programs focused on facilitating employment, vocational training, and social protection opportunities for PWDs. The process of fighting for and achieving these changes have transformed how government sees and listens to people with disabilities and have lasting impact on how PWDs see themselves and their place in Senegal.
FSAPH was founded in 1997 to guide national and state governments in creating opportunities for PWDs. It is a nationwide, independent umbrella organization—with a secretariat and 29 branches and regional representations— that brings together PWD associations of all disability types.
Thanks to FSAPH’s advocacy over more than two decades, the government first introduced the Equal Opportunity Card (EOC) program in 2017 and included card holders in social safety net programs, such as the Family Allowance Program3 and Universal Health Coverage plan. However, they were struggling to get the program properly implemented so that it could lead to tangible improvements in the lives of its members. It faces two key challenges. Firstly, there is an insufficient production of cards – with no cards at all being produced in 2018. Secondly, even with a card, accessing the benefits is difficult. Both challenges were related to budget execution (the budget had been cut by two-thirds for instance in 2018) and FSAPH lacked knowledge of the budget system or how to influence it. After discussions with FSAPH’s leadership, we stepped in to build their ability to add effective budget advocacy as an additional tool to bring about the change they sought.
FSAPH’s path to results
Joining of technical and political power
We and our technical partners— OSIDEA4 and ONG 3D5 — helped FSAPH build budget analysis skills and navigate political institutions to identify and address the resource challenges that were keeping the EOC program from being properly implemented and to open the door for PWDs to have a say in policies that impact them.
FSAPH pursued a two-pronged strategy to navigate the ecosystem of actors, roles, institutions and contexts that influence budget decisions affecting their community. First, they worked hard to reinforce and improve already strong ties with members of parliament and local elected officials. Second, they leveraged those relationships to monitor how the relevant programs were being implemented and to gain insights on shortcomings. The nationwide membership structure of FSAPH has provided a distinct organizing advantage. They have a deep and wide enough base to mobilize members, engage officials and influence decisions that are being made at all levels of government. IBP, ONG 3D and OSIDEA have also lent our political know-how to help FSAPH navigate these channels and sometimes contradictory positions from officials at different levels.
Strengthening FSAPH’s “collectiveness”
It quickly became apparent that a crucial first step to effective campaigning was improving FSAPH’s internal governance. FSAPH was struggling with inclusion and representation of women and different disability types in its governing structures. Regional branches felt isolated due to lack of communication from the leadership.
IBP facilitated a series of workshops with FSAPH’s members to help improve their governance, communication and cohesion. They agreed to a more robust downward and upward accountability chain for the program management committee; weekly email chains to regional structures to keep them informed of plans and progress; and a commitment to have at least one woman and different disability types represented in their regional COVID-monitoring and evaluation committees.
FSAPH also identified strong regional groups that could drive some of the work forward. The Pikine and Ziguinchor groups quickly stood out as active and competent. FSAPH leadership turned to these two groups for strategic planning of advocacy actions, which reinforced their sense of inclusion, ownership and purpose.
Building budget and political advocacy skills
While FSAPH had been at the forefront of disability inclusion advocacy for a number of years, they lacked the budget knowledge to address why services were not flowing to their members and were therefore not yet seen as a credible partner by government. To get there, we and our technical partners supported FSAPH through workshops and activities that built their budget understanding and empowered them to know what they were looking for, whom to address, what to expect and what to ask for. We trained 110 of their members from various regional groups to analyze budgets and advocate for better allocation of resources in the budget.
The budget training allowed us to better understand budget processes. Since then, we have improved relations between local officials and our regional FSAPH structure.”
– Pikine training participant
Generating and leveraging data to make demands
In 2019, FSAPH collected information from the EOC implementing agency to understand why so many people with disabilities had not been issued a card and why those who had were struggling to access benefits. The data showed that only about a third of EOC recipients were enrolled in the Universal Health Coverage plan. Those enrolled were struggling to get consistent care because the government was not paying the insurer. FSAPH brought this evidence— which government did not have and could not gather— to meetings IBP and technical partners set up with key institutions and agencies.6 When they brought this issue to the attention of officials, they helped uncover the fact that the failure to deliver on the promise of the EOC program was not due to reluctance on the part of decisionmakers. Rather it was due to several impediments: 1) the government was not allocating sufficient funds for the EOC program; 2) the government was behind in paying the Universal Health Coverage plan premiums; 3) officials implementing the Universal Health Coverage plan were not adequately targeting PWDs; and 4) other key ministries were not incorporating and prioritizing PWDs in their budgets.
COVID-19 was particularly challenging for people with disabilities and threatened FSAPH’s ability to organize and mobilize. Nevertheless, they took the data analysis skills and relationships we helped them forge to pivot quickly to get their members relief. In March 2020, FSAPH set up a COVID-19 monitoring and evaluation initiative and used its regional structures to collect data from 820 PWDs. The data revealed that most respondents had not received COVID-19 assistance because PWDs were not included in the national registry of poor households that was used to target recipients. FSAPH wrote a letter to the Director of Community Development and Social Equity. As a result, the Ministry of Community Development and Social Equity decided to include FSAPH members in formal national and local COVID technical committees. They also provided COVID-related food and utility assistance to 100,000 PWDs.
My participation in this [norms and discourse on disability] study has been life-changing… Seeing my contribution is valued has helped me regain my confidence. I am now more determined to advocate for our rights.
– Study peer-researcher from the regional research team of Ziguinchor
Shifting narratives on disability
We helped FSAPH partner with the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar who provided them technical support to undertake a participatory study on norms and discourse on disabilities. FSAPH leaders invited 65 of its trained regional members to participate as peer-researchers in the study.
1,025 PWDs responded to the study’s quantitative survey, which documented for the first time the stigmatizing practices PWDs face at the family, community and institutional levels.7 It also generated rich qualitative insights from life stories and testimonies respondents shared about the various ways they have felt marginalized.
FSAPH used the study’s insights, and the data on budget challenges that were keeping programs for PWDs underfunded (for instance arrears in government payments to the Universal Health Coverage plan and poor targeting of PWDs in that plan), to shift the narrative and raise public awareness about the need to better support PWDs. FSAPH spearheaded traditional and digital media campaigns to shed light on the lived experience of PWDs and urge the public and government to be more responsive to their needs. For the first time, PWDs occupied media spaces and broadcast their data on prime-time television, urging viewers to hold government accountable and officials to reach out to them for collaboration. The most popular television channel in Senegal, RTS, broadcast public service announcements highlighting the exclusion of PWDs in 7 official languages. FSAPH held a press conference that was well attended by news channels and high-profile journalists. Three of the most popular national radio stations (RFM, RSI and SUD FM) hosted shows with FSAPH members, which were retransmitted by local radio channels.
PWDs around the country are facing barriers to unemployment and employability. Government must put in place a global strategy for their recruitment in the public sector.
– Recommendation from the study
Formal and informal engagement and participation
We helped FSAPH leverage informal and formal opportunities to engage government officials. FSAPH established regular contact with: the Director of Social Action in the Ministry of Health and Social Action; the Director of Social Equity in the Ministry of Community Development; the Director of Community Development in the Ministry of Community Development; the Director of Employment; and the Minister of Urban Planning, Housing and Public Hygiene.
Incrementally, they leveraged these contacts to get more formal commitments. The Ministry of Community Development, Social and Territorial Equity invited them to help draft the Program for Economic and Social Inclusion (PAIES), which seeks to ensure the effective inclusion of PWDs.8 The Director of Employment9 invited FSAPH to discuss PWD access to employment and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with them for long-term collaboration. The Director of Development and Social Equity committed to collaborate with FSAPH to better integrate PWDs in its programs. The Minister of Community Development recognized that PWDs are a priority group and made assurances that they would be included in social programs implemented by the ministry.
Working with oversight institutions
FSAPH has strengthened its watchdog role by leveraging the power of the National Assembly’s “checks and balances” to bring government to account. Towards the end of 2019, we supported FSAPH in the organization of an advocacy dinner with members of the National Assembly Health and Social Affairs Commission. On that occasion, FSAPH gave a memorandum to parliamentarians to inform their interventions during the budget preparation debates. Several parliamentarians, mostly female, including the president of the Health Commission, went on to question the Ministry of Health on why his ministry had not issued EOCs and called for an evaluation of the Social Orientation Law. FSAPH continued to engage with parliamentarians in 2020, who remained important allies to make sure government delivered on its various commitments, for instance putting pressure on the Ministry of Health to continue the production of EOCs and improve the enrollment of PWDs in the Universal Health Coverage Program.
FSAPH’s main successes to date
Thanks to FSAPH’s efforts, 100,000 PWD households who were initially excluded from the national resilience program have now received COVID relief kits. State institutions such as the Ministry of Health and Social Action, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Culture have distributed relief kits to FSAPH or dedicated a quota of their sectoral resilience funds to PWDs.
Our collective advocacy helped 15,000 people access EOC cards in 2019 and 2020 and increased the number of PWDs enrolled in the Universal Health Coverage program from 38.5% in 2019 to 42% in 2020.
FSAPH also secured important commitments from government institutions to expand opportunities for PWDs. The Director of Employment signed an agreement with FSAPH to ensure a 5% quota for PWDs to receive internship placement through the State-Employers’ Agreement (CNEE). FSAPH also secured an allocation for the Vocational and Technical Training Fund (3FPT) to include training for prosthetic specialists. Many national and regional orthopedic centers lacked trained specialists who could provide quality prosthetic care to PWDs, so this fund will help fill this gap. The Ministry of Community Development has reaffirmed its commitment to PWD inclusion as it finalizes the Support Program for the Social and Economic Inclusion of PWDs (PAIES) with contributions from FSAPH.
With our help, FSAPH has improved its governance and forged valuable relationships with government decisionmakers. By building their budget literacy and gathering data they are now able to support their demands with facts. They have also been empowered as individuals and as a force to be reckoned with in Senegal. They have built their credibility as a valuable source of information and partner for government and the media and have shifted public narratives and perceptions about PWDs and their needs.
Moving forward, FSAPH will focus on ensuring the commitments they obtained in 2020 are delivered. In particular, they will seek increases in budget allocations to the EOC program and access by PWDs, especially women with disabilities, to effective health services under the Universal Health Coverage plan. They will also continue to strengthen ties with government reformers that can influence budget outcomes to advance disability-sensitive policies and budgets.
In Nigeria, agriculture is responsible for roughly a quarter of the gross domestic product, the second-highest contributor in the country. Although the Nigerian government has reaffirmed its commitment to allocate 10% of its annual budget to agriculture as a signatory to the Maputo Declaration, it has not allocated more than 2.2% over the past 7 years. Women smallholder farmers especially are overlooked by officials overseeing agricultural policy and decision-making, which is surprising when they make up 70% of the workforce and produce 60% of the food Nigerians consume.
In just two and a half years the Smallholder Women Farmers Organization in Nigeria (SWOFON), with the support of IBP, secured three critical budgetary changes to bolster their livelihoods and contributions to the country’s agricultural sector. As a result of data-driven advocacy, the national government increased its spending on agriculture by 18.5% and made new federal budget allocations towards the sector in the five focus states targeted by the program. Crucially, 111,000 smallholder women farmers gained access to new or improved seeds and fertilizer to grow crops, and lighter and more modern equipment to increase production.
Small-scale farmers are the poorest part of Nigeria’s agricultural sector due to longstanding underinvestment. Women farmers are especially hard hit. Women are not only five times less likely to own land than men, but they also do not have the financial resources to invest in farming supplies and services. This means that they cannot increase their yields or earn as much as their male counterparts.
To redress this injustice, SWOFON formed in 2012 with 500,000 women farmers across the 36 Nigerian states and Federal Capital Territory. SWOFON organizes and empowers women farmers’ associations and groups to demand their rights, spur rural village economic development and increase food production. Before their partnership with IBP, SWOFON already had a track record of mobilizing their massive member base and engaging and lobbying officials, but their demands were not being met. We believe this was due, at least in part, to the demands being very broad and lacking evidence about the impact that inadequate allocation decisions had on the sector. In 2018, IBP joined forces with SWOFON under the SPARK program. This program leverages the budget analysis expertise of IBP, and the organizing capacity and local legitimacy of grassroots movements, to advocate for budget decisions that reflect the needs and improve the lives of underserved communities.
No farmer, no food on the table. No food on the table, no nation. We advocate for more increase in the agriculture sector [and] that a percentage of that increase go to smallholder women farmers so that they can be able to produce the food we can feed this nation with.
Mrs. Mary Afan National President, SWOFON During a press briefing after their submission of a mass application for assistance to the federal Ministry of Agriculture in February 2020.
Together, IBP, SWOFON and other support organizations1 pursue three main goals in five focus states:2 address the budgetary causes that are leading to underinvestment in agriculture; support equitable access to fertilizer, seeds, and lighter and more modern equipment; and encourage rural economic development and an increase in food production.
SWOFON’s path to results
IBP helped SWOFON advance their budget agenda through different tactics to reach those who could impact decision-making on the agricultural budget. These included mobilizing their members en masse during general elections; leveraging their nationwide presence to participate in formal and informal channels to influence budget decisions at the national, state, and local level; and working with the legislature and the media to raise attention to their issues (and the political costs of ignoring them).
Joining of technical and political power
It was important from the start of the program, as well as the subsequent annual planning phases, to focus on building IBP and partners’ understanding of the ecosystem of actors, roles, institutions and contexts that influence budget decisions in the agricultural sector. By understanding the political economy, SWOFON was able to design a purposeful and focused series of campaigns.
For instance, like all federal states, Nigeria’s agriculture budgeting and spending decisions and powers are spread across the federal, state and local level. This can be problematic as decision-making is often decentralized, which results in uneven reform. However, SWOFON’s nationwide membership structure provides a distinct organizing advantage, as well as the necessary political weight required to tackle this challenge: they have a deep and wide enough membership base to mobilize members, engage officials and influence decisions that are being made at all three levels.
IBP and SWOFON also benefitted from strong connections with key government agencies and institutions when the program started. This political power, combined with IBP’s fiscal governance expertise, is the foundation of SWOFON’s success, since it has allowed them to navigate the political aspects of this program with great skill.
Building budget and political advocacy skills
Budget processes in Nigeria, as in most countries, are hidden, opaque and dominated by men. IBP and technical partners assisted SWOFON in improving their budget and political advocacy skills so that they knew what they were looking for, whom to address, what to expect and what to ask for. Armed with these new skills to examine and navigate the budget and the actors who influence it, SWOFON’s state and national networks led mass actions, including marches across 3 focus states. They also organized mass applications from over 379,000 women for access to fertilizer, seed and equipment. This strategy exerted electoral pressure on state actors during general elections, since SWOFON represents more than 500,000 women farmers with the power to influence election outcomes through their votes.
I had always thought that Jigawa State had little or no women farmers – the reason being that most of the agricultural projects implemented by the State Government [are] male-dominated, but with the engagements, meetings and advocacy visits from SWOFON, I am happy to recognize SWOFON as an organized structure of small-scale women farmers. Therefore, I want to support and ensure that SWOFON farmers are officially part of the Agriculture Initiative currently being implemented in the state.
– Barrister Ibrahim Hadejia, Former Deputy Governor Jigawa State, while granting audience to SWOFON during the campaign march in the state.
Generating and leveraging data to make demands
Nigeria’s government generally lacks robust data about how its policies impact underserved communities. IBP seized on this opportunity to help SWOFON fundamentally shift its advocacy strategy to be more data driven. This shift proved critical to landing key wins and gaining buy-in from officials who began to recognize SWOFON as a credible, knowledgeable partner. Since 2018, IBP has helped SWOFON draft community charters of demands and organize its members to submit mass applications for seed, fertilizer and equipment that were informed by women’s priorities and accurate estimates of the volume of supplies they needed. IBP also helped them conduct ongoing research on the agriculture sector budget and related spending and allocations to supplies and equipment. In 2020, SWOFON participated in the Budget Office of the Federation’s public budget forum and found out that the agriculture budget would likely be cut. IBP and technical partners quickly drafted an assessment on the probable effects of the proposed cuts on women farmers in particular and national food security more broadly. SWOFON successfully leveraged this research to advocate against the cuts.
In the words of a SWOFON member:
We now understand that to have a voice, we need to be part of the process that puts together the budget. We need to know and engage about how much is being allocated to the agricultural sector – and how much of that goes to women farmers.
– SWOFON Member
Formal and informal engagement and participation
IBP and other technical partners supported SWOFON to identify and seize informal and formal opportunities to engage government and participate in the budget planning processes at all levels. Offices and institutions that they engaged with included local government chairpersons, state governors’ offices, state Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development permanent secretaries, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development at state and national level, the Budget Office of the Federation, and National Assembly legislators from the focus states. For instance, SWOFON members submitted the community charters of demands to local officials to inform local government budget planning processes. They also submitted position papers to national agriculture and women affairs’ ministries and legislators.
After one such engagement, the Commissioner for Agriculture, Oyo State said:
Women are the driving force of food production and agriculture in our State. My doors are open to hear their voices and demands. We will do our best to increase investment and allocation to the Agriculture budget as a state during my tenure in office.
– Commissioner for Agriculture, Oyo State
Working with oversight institutions
A particularly powerful moment came in 2020 after SWOFON gave a technical presentation to the National Assembly during the national 2020 budget revision process, which highlighted the effects of proposed COVID-induced cuts for agriculture on smallholder farmers and on national food security. By building relationships with parliamentarians from the focus states and providing the often data-poor National Assembly with robust evidence at the right time during budget appropriation sessions, SWOFON was able to ensure parliamentarians made evidence-informed decisions as part of their oversight role in the budget process. This strategy paid off.
Amplifying SWOFON’s voice
To exert public pressure on government, SWOFON and IBP also allied themselves with broader public and civil society agricultural campaigns in respective states and used them to put forward their women members and their issues. This was vital in helping identify and build relationships with influential decision-makers and legislators.
To build public support for these behind-the-scenes government engagements, the campaign also involved the media. Radio, national and state television, and social media increasingly broadcast compelling stories about the situation faced by individual women smallholders or about the sector as a whole. Newspapers and magazines published similar information
in articles and interviews. This brought the everyday plight of women small-scale farmers to the fore. The public became more aware of their needs, the impact of COVID, and the consequences of proposed budget cuts on food security – as previously these issues had been hidden or ignored.
SWOFON’s main successes to date
The strategic shifts SWOFON were able to make with support from IBP and other technical partners have helped Nigeria’s smallholder women farmers reclaim their voice and power. Now they can be heard and are able to contribute constructively to consequential government decisions over resources that impact their livelihoods and the nation’s food security.
Not only did SWOFON get much needed fertilizer, seed, equipment and COVID relief into the hands of more than 111,000 women farmers in the five focus states, but they also played a part in the federal government’s decision to increase spending for the agricultural sector by 18.5% over the amount earlier proposed by the Executive Arm of Government in its revised 2020 budget, bringing Nigeria closer to meeting its commitments under the 2011 Maputo Declaration. SWOFON members receive fertilizer.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development also followed through with the 35% affirmative action provision for women farmers stipulated in the Gender in Agriculture Policy. It made new budgetary allocations worth just over 800 million naira (approximately $2 million USD) for seeds, fertilizer and light and modern equipment across the program’s five focus states in the 2020 revised federal budget.
Laying the foundation for longer term influence and sustainable change, SWOFON has also gained legitimacy as a valuable partner for government officials by demonstrating their knowledge of budgets and using that knowledge to help officials make more informed decisions.
This legitimacy has led to them becoming a key player when it comes to national decision-making. As a result, SWOFON can positively influence service delivery for its members and other women. Examples of these inroads include the fact that the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning invited SWOFON to become a member of the Technical Working Group on Agriculture and Related Sectors. In addition, the SWOFON State- level Coordinators in both Jigawa and Kaduna states have been included on the state committee responsible for fertilizer distribution.
For Nigerian women farmers to come out to the federal capital and make known to government what their demands are is a very commendable thing. I have to assure you that your comments have been noted and I assure you on behalf of the Ministry [of Agriculture] that we are going to take actions going forward. Now we are going to work with women on a larger scale.
The Ministry has also taken note of your demands, especially in the area of agricultural inputs as regards seeds and equipment. The narrative now has changed in the Ministry, that whatever interventions we are doing, whatever support we are going to give to farmers it should be demand-driven. We are going to procure what the farmers say they want, and we are going to start from the smallholder women farmers.
Mrs. Karima Babandiga. Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, during a press briefing with SWOFON in February 2020.
Change is a gradual process. It is not easy to alter entrenched norms that influence who has a seat at the decision-making table. Through continuous engagement with government, communities and traditional leaders, women are shifting their role in agriculture at all levels. SWOFON have been energized by this process and have increased their membership across the country. They are finding their voices and are being heard.