Challenges of Horizontal Interplay within a Sector (A1 and A2)
Institutional structural gaps within sectors (A1)
At the policy and implementation levels, food security stakeholders had multiple overlapping and intersecting mandates, with limited horizontal coordination between them. These actors focused on similar issues, but the overlapping of mandates led to competition among actors, thereby negatively influencing food security governance. This was especially evident since the 2010 institutional reforms of the food security sector. For example, since 2010, the Bureau of agriculture and natural resources—acting at the regional administration level and below—split into five separate institutions, many of which focus on the same aspects of agricultural production within a common jurisdiction. Few respondents associated overlapping of mandates as an indication of policy emphasis—namely improving food production; whereas most respondents’ criticisms indicated that it had resulted in a neglect of non-production aspects of food security such as economic access, utilization, and stability. Also, institutions compete over scarce resources rather than coordinating tasks towards a common goal. In this regard, for example, a respondent from the disaster prevention and preparedness office stated: “With a strong emphasis on agricultural production, disaster risk management sectors got less attention and couldn’t cope in a timely way with the regular as well as emerging threats from shocks.” The partial focus on some aspects of food security caused by the overlapping and intersecting mandates of institutions were the main institutional structural gaps identified at all levels of administration.
In the biodiversity sector, our findings revealed that the absence of institutions (“institutional gap”) that match with the multiple dimensions of biodiversity conservation was the main interplay challenge. Whereas at the implementation level, forest biodiversity was the major concern of institutions (e.g., Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise, Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resources), biodiversity in other land use types (e.g., farmland) remained unattended by the existing institutions. The words of a respondent at the zonal level capture this particular result: “No proper institutional support was duly provided to biodiversity conservation in general and farmland biodiversity in particular. This gap is wide at the implementation level.” The lack of proper attention to those aspects of biodiversity that do not generate immediate financial benefit is likely to exacerbate the loss of this biodiversity, including its unsustainable use in the case of forest biodiversity especially.
Common to both food security and biodiversity sectors, conflicting interests between institutions on resource use appeared as a critical interplay challenge. For example, despite serving the same purpose of ensuring food security, the Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Coffee Development and Marketing compete over the limited farmland to expand cropland or commercial coffee production, respectively. Such competition was mainly triggered by how stakeholders’ performance at each level was evaluated. They are ranked against one another and rewarded based on what each provides, with no attention to the adverse effect each might cause on another, or possible synergies that could arise from coordinated action. This situation thus created a disincentive to fostering horizontal coordination and communication between institutions. In describing the severity of this challenge, one interviewee stated: “We understand the importance of coordination and are aware of contradictions between different institutions. But we pursue our task since we will be evaluated in terms of our specific task, and there is no point in wasting resources to foster coordination.” Lack of coordination and increased resource competition among stakeholders of the same and different sectors was caused by the existing evaluation and monitoring mechanism put in place by the overall administration.
Policy incoherence within sectors (A2)
Horizontal policy incoherence within each sector was a reflection of the incompatibility between policy implementation strategies and practices aimed to achieve the desired policy goal. Although the goals of food security policy and biodiversity conservation policy were each consistently reflected in the respective documents (for instance, the rural development policy and strategy), incoherence emerged at the level of strategy and means of implementation of the strategies. For instance, some agencies pursued diversified agricultural production, while others prioritized specialized intensive farming, both on the same kebele, targeting the same group of farmers. Similarly, stakeholders that pursued relatively labor-intensive farming techniques coexist in the same area as others that introduced capital intensive, mechanized farming techniques. Although some respondents acknowledged the plurality of techniques, most respondents indicated that pursuing these strategies in the same area with the same clients (farmers) not only contradicted local conditions (e.g., farmers’ capacity) but also left implementation level stakeholders with contradictory options and incentives.
Challenges of Vertical Interplay within a Sector (B1 and B2)
Institutional structural gap within sectors (B1)
In the food security sector, the incompatibility between the functions of institutions and local operational conditions appeared as the main vertical interplay challenge. This was practically reflected in two ways. First, the quality of interventions in the food security sector was characterized by fragmentation, provisional, and even contradictory to the needs and capacities of local people. Here, the main reported criticism deemed that many interventions were either untimely, discontinued or replaced with other forms of intervention without a thorough evaluation of the preceding interventions. Although prominent in the different dimensions of food security, intervention problems appeared particularly frequently in the supply of food production technologies and financial services. In this regard, many of the discussants indicated that intervention in agricultural technologies, such as improved seed varieties or the use of artificial fertilizers, were among the main issues where intervention was fragmented, provisional, and contradictory to local peoples priorities and capacities. A statement from an interviewee from the community summarizes this challenge: “Interventions for food security are crooked. Regularly, we are forced to adopt different technologies without seeing the feasibility of previous technology. Sometimes, we adopt different incompatible technologies over the same period by multiple institutions, which leaves us vulnerable.” Second, we found that interventions in the food security sector were deemed as both supply-push and follow a one size fit for all philosophy that often clashes with local preferences. For example, this incompatibility could be summarized by the statement from a focus group discussant: “Financial institutions such as the Credit and Saving Microfinance Institute provide us agricultural loans without collateral. However, even if it works in other parts of the region, we seldom use it because interest payments contradict with our Sharia law [an Islamic religious law recognized by the formal authority of the country] which prohibits us from paying or receiving financial interest.” Also, the hierarchical vertical accountability channel left farmers with little decision-making powers about their resources and produce, which consequently led to a misfit of institutional interventions with local preferences. For example, this challenge can be captured by the words of a local farmer that explained this with the analogy of “What comes from above [referring to God as well as the central government], no one dares to refuse or disobey” In addition to the local people, many implementation level respondents indicated that the incompatibilities of a nationally developed policy, strategies, and plans with the local level resources, interests and priorities are the main challenges related to institutional structure.
In the biodiversity conservation sector, many key stakeholders were found at the policy level, but with limited coverage at the implementation level, which left numerous aspects of biodiversity conservation unattended (see above section on interplay type A1). This was evident from the Institute of Biodiversity—the main biodiversity conservation institution in the country—which was restricted to the policy level, while no specific institution dealt with biodiversity at the implementation level, especially the woreda and kebele administration levels. Other vertical interplay challenges related to the misfit between the federal political systems of administration with the nature of biodiversity. Here, on the one hand, one challenge was related to the absence of clear responsibility demarcation between actors at the different general-purpose political administration levels. For example, within the policy level, the national-based Ethiopian wildlife conservation authority, and the region-based Oromia Forest and Wildlife Enterprise pursued different and conflicting interests in the governance of wildlife. This caused two main problems in the governance of wildlife. First, driven by income-generating purposes, these stakeholders pursued conflicting interests in the governance of wildlife in the area (see section A1). Second, it created challenges to enforcing nationally endorsed rules and regulations because regional states maintain autonomy, which at times was not aligned with the national biodiversity conservation directions. For instance, a respondent from a policy level stakeholder (National administration level) stressed that: “Illegal wildlife hunting is widespread in the country, partly because the national institutions face challenges to enforcing rules within their concessional at the implementation level. … the regional states developed their own interests and rarely cooperate with us.” The vertical interplay challenges caused by the federal political system of administration were also indicated as problematic. On the other hand, many of the respondents revealed that the existing decentralized system only decentralized operational tasks to implementation level institutions, while decision-making powers including resource management and fiscal decisions remained with institutions at the policy levels. This, according to respondents, not only delayed decisions related to biodiversity conservation but also created a gap in enforcing the rules including the punishment of illegal actions at the implementation level, especially at the kebele administration level.
Policy incoherence within sectors (B2)
In terms of policy incoherence, many of the strategies set by the policy level biodiversity conservation policy face challenges during implementation, mainly due to practices that deviate from the actual policy content. These conflicting strategies manifested at the implementation level especially at the woreda and kebele levels as incoherent sets of measures and incentives, officially giving communities the right to manage the forest and wildlife in coordination with the government agency through participatory forest management (see Ethiopian Forest Policy of 2007 (FDRE 2007)) while leaving them excluded from resource management decisions, benefit sharing and activities in practice. In addition to this inconsistency in practice, other incoherencies were also found vertically on the irregularities between the different policy contents and actual practices. For instance, at the policy level, the national and regional forest policies and their proclamations (Ethiopian Forest Policy of 2007 and Proclamation 542/2007, (FDRE 2007)) endorsed the establishment of participatory forest management, but no participatory forest management had been established within our study area.
Similarly, Ethiopian national forest policy (Proclamation Number 542/2007, sub-article 3 (FDRE 2007)) also endorsed the protection of endangered tree species (e.g., Podocarpus falcatus and Cordia africana), while several organizations indicated that these tree species were widely harvested and utilized. Incoherencies also extended to gaps in proclamations and directives. For instance, a regional land use proclamation (ORLP 151/2012, sub.21/5) restricted the plantation of Eucalyptus trees in the landscape, with details to be determined by further directives. No such directives, however, were produced to specify the conditionality of such plantations at the implementation level. Due to these conflicting provisions and strategies, implementation-level stakeholders faced considerable institutional uncertainty and socio-economic insecurities. Similar incoherencies of proclamations were observed in the biodiversity sector. For instance, the expansion of private forestry was supported by the policy level national as well as the regional forest policy (Ethiopian National Forest Policy of 2007, (FDRE 2007)), while regional proclamations (ORLP 130/1999 and 151/2001) restricted plantations on private farmland.
Challenges of the Interplay between Sectors (C1 and C2)
Institutional structural gap between sectors (C1)
Institutional interplay challenges identified within each of the sectors were strongly influenced by the integrated governance of the two sectors. However, some of the key institutional interplay challenges were predominant in the integrated governance of food security and biodiversity conservation. These challenges were related to the absence of institutional coordination across the sectors. Two of the key horizontal institutional interplay challenges were institutional instability and weak connecting institutions. Institutional instability and the frequent restructuring of mandates, and associated high turnover of personnel made it difficult to form and maintain lasting coordination between institutions in the two sectors. The magnitude of the challenge of institutional instability was captured by a statement from one respondent who stated: “Owing to the complexity and interdependence of sectors, cooperation of institutions across these sectors and boundaries is essential. However, because of frequent institutional restructuring and instability, forming and maintaining integration is challenging, and as a result, none of the previous integration attempts succeeded.” Although the challenge of institutional instability was widely raised by the respondents at the implementation level, the challenge was also among the pertinent problems indicated by the majority of stakeholders at the policy level.
In a related way, weak and missing cross-sectoral linking institutions appeared as the stumbling block to the horizontal integration of food security and biodiversity conservation. Despite the presence of linking institutions (e.g., administration office, cabinets, and councils at all administration levels), and cross-sectoral forums (e.g., agricultural development partnership and linkages advisory council, ADPLAC), none of this fostered coordination between the food security and biodiversity sectors. Limited expertise and lack of willingness in these linking institutions were reported as the reason for the failure to foster cross-sectoral links. In this regard, and as a majority of respondents concurred, a respondent at the implementation level described: “As a political organization, administrative cabinets and councils (at the woreda and kebele levels) have limited expertise that acknowledges and facilitates coordination between institutions. Moreover, these structures rarely understand synergies, nor are they willing to foster coordination.” The weakness and missing of stakeholders that play the connecting role across the sectors of food security and biodiversity conservation thus hampered the integrated governance of food security and biodiversity conservation.
Policy incoherence between sectors (C2)
At the intersection of food security and biodiversity, policy incoherence was largely related to incoherence in policy goals and discourses. Prioritizing individual goals, as opposed to the integration of the two goals, dominated the policy discourse. To this end, two important but opposing discourses were reported by the majority of respondents. These were: the “biodiversity and sustainable development” vs. “growth and local livelihoods” discourses. The former discourse, rooted in ideas of environmental conservation and supported by a national policy document (FDRE 2011; MOFED 2003), argued that “the basis for sustainable development and ensuring food security relies on the quality of the environment and natural resources we have. Therefore, taking care of biodiversity is a primary goal” (interview with a senior policymaker at the national level, and concurred by the majority of respondents in the biodiversity sector). In contrast, the latter discourse, which strongly focused on economic growth and was endorsed by another national policy strategy (FDRE 1995), was characterized, for example, by the statement of a Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resource representative: “The primary policy objectives of the nation should be to feed the population using all possible means. Biodiversity conservation needs to support food security.” This incoherence in discourses was reproduced at the implementation level, leading to the two sectors pursuing conflicting goals, and resulting in conflicts in the integrated governance of biodiversity conservation and food security. National wildlife policy (Ethiopian Wildlife Policy and Strategy, Proclamations 471/2005 and 541/2007, (FDRE 2005)) thus restricted wildlife hunting and population management, which had resulted in an increase of wild animal populations in the forest. Expansions in particular of baboon (Papio anubis) and warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) populations, in turn, then led to increases in crop-raiding and reduced food security among rural communities. The magnitude of this challenge was captured by the statement of a focus group discussant: “I harvest less than a quarter of what I plant, the rest is damaged by wildlife.” The problem of human-wildlife conflict, mainly in the form of crop-raiding, was a challenge in all the study kebeles.
We also discovered that other sectors (e.g., land use and tenure) impacted the interplay between the food and biodiversity sectors. For instance, respondents identified that, at the policy level, the Oromia regional proclamation (Oromia Rural Land Proclamation, ORLP 130/2007) granted rural people assurance against eviction or expropriation, while the same proclamation was endorsing forced expropriation. Similarly, based on provisions under two regional proclamations (ORLP 130/2007 and 151/2012), rural people’s tenure over their land was secured, while the same texts endorsed coercive land transfer for “unused” land.