Restructuring Rural Institutions

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Contributor: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Contact: Jean Bonnal

Restructuring Rural Institutions

Interventions in developing countries have increasingly sought to aid public institutions of the rural sector in their effort to adapt to the new economic context, and in the establishment of new relations with farmers and other actors of civil society. Thus partners in development have been able to define and perfect methodologies and analytical instruments, and models of organization (after they have been tested in real situations) that respond to current objectives of food security and sustainable economic and social development. Since the beginning of the 1990s, an increasing number of countries have made requests to institutions engaged in development support. These requests have been for support in the restructuring of public institutions, and for the building of professional agricultural organizations.

1. Prerequisite: Redefining the Role of the State

Policies seeking to establish market economies lead to a review of the role of the state. It is required in the new context to concentrate on public service, carrying its functions in a cost efficient manner. This public service mission fits into the following major functions: Guidance Function: gathering of information useful to the agricultural sector, macroeconomic analysis, and forecast of the sector's development, proposing agricultural policy, monitoring and coordination of development actions. Regulatory and Control Function: preparing and adapting laws and regulations seeking to encourage development, and preserving the general interest in different areas (institutional, phytosanitary, veterinary, quality of agricultural products, and factors of production, etc.), and ensuring their implementation by all actors involved. Natural Resource Conservation Function: taking stock of resources, classifying them, determining and implementing, with citizen participation, plans for their rational development and conservation. Beyond these three functions within its exclusive sphere, the state has an important role, along with other actors, in contributing to technical support for production, technical assistance to farmers, especially through agronomic research, extension, and agricultural training.

Basic Principles

Restructuring is based on the new role of the state and it involves a complete structural transformation : dissolving, revamping, and creating new types of institutions. It takes into consideration problem solving, especially personnel problems, which its implementation causes.

Underlying Principles of Restructuring

The restructuring of rural development institutions is envisaged along three interdependent lines:
  1. the first pertains to the transformation of public institutions and changes in mentality;
  2. the second is the privatization of commercial or production activities of the state; it involves the preparation of personnel to face the market, and demonstrate dynamism;
  3. The third is collaboration between the public sector and civil society, with strong participation of farmers; collaboration leads to the creation of new types of institutions and enables participation by farmers on the one hand, and on the other, to the establishment of a framework for dialogue between public and private partners and the agricultural profession.
Important precautions must be taken during restructuring.

3. Methodology for Restructuring Public Institutions

The process of restructuring takes place in three main stages: Without being considered a stage as such of the process, an evaluation of the impact of restructuring on development must be undertaken two or three years after implementation, in order to make adjustments or to integrate additional inputs.

A. Institutional Analysis and the Design of the Master Plan for Restructuring

The first stage is the basic analysis, which helps to bring out the necessary elements for the design of restructuring proposals to be submitted for discussion and decision by all actors involved. The analysis basically involves: The performance of institutions depends largely on the capacity of their personnel and on its distribution and tasks assigned to it. Particular importance is given to knowledge of personnel, to its continuos evaluation and management,, in order to improve its capacity so that it can continue to be useful. Data banks on human resources enable automatic comparisons revealing the quantitative and qualitative disparities between current personnel and the needs of restructured services. Thus they allow the measure of disparities and to correct them by appropriate measures (reassignment, training, dismissal, redeployment, and in some cases, hiring). Restructuring proposals are designed to respond especially to farming units considered on a microeconomic scale, which take into account their diversity and that of their closest agro-ecological and socio-economic environment. They are then put in a macroeconomic context, integrating them on a regional and international scale. After design, these proposals are presented to, and discussed at all levels before being submitted to the authorities, who after consultations with their partners in development, make a definite determination as to what to retain. Informing all interested actors: farmers, civil servants, partners in development... and their participation in consultations is essential, to the extent that it prevents the risk of misunderstanding on the objectives of restructuring, and gains their support, which is necessary for implementation. The overall organization of services at different levels and a preliminary general estimate of its impact are presented as a master plan for restructuring. It is intended for national authorities to allow them to make their choice after consultation with their partners.

Preparation of a Detailed Plan for Restructuring

The detailed plan for restructuring is prepared on the basis of the choices made by national authorities after extensive consultations with the relevant actors, and their partners in development on the master plan presented. It comprises:
  1. A reminder of the role of the state and the presentation of the total institutional set-up, indicating the position of different actors in agricultural development.
  2. The details of the organization of structures at different levels, the legal status and the financing mechanisms of the institutions resulting from restructuring.
  3. The principles of work organization and the type of internal and external relations, in a spirit of the decentralization of responsibilities, and participation of farmers to the decision-making process.
  4. The assignment for departments, and the detailed description of profiles at all levels, in the form of standardized filing systems, describing the major activities of each position and indicating the qualification and experience required to carry out assigned functions.
  5. quantitative evaluation, qualitative composition, and geographic distribution by department, of required workers.
  6. An outline of the training plan for the personnel of the restructured institution and the technical assistance needed for mastering the new methodologies.
  7. Evaluation of the need for extra equipment and the budgets required for the effective working of the departments and for ideal working conditions for personnel. This evaluation is done in a deconcentrated fashion, for each responsibility center.
  8. The major channels of technical and managerial information systems (including the process of decision-making, and the set-up of programming, monitoring, and control of implementation of activities).
  9. The basic rules for stream-lined management of human resources : its continuous adaptation to the requirements of the jobs to be done, continuing education and improvement of working conditions and job performance.
  10. Human and financial implication of restructuring.
    The implications for human resources defined by comparing the results of analyses and evaluation of current personnel, carried out at the first stage, with the personnel needs determined at the second stage. With regard to budgets and equipment, impact is also evaluated by comparing the current means with future needs of the restructed departments. Also, an evaluation of the cost of restructuring is done and consists of:
    • the cost of redeployment of personnel no longer needed after restructuring
    • the cost of putting the new structures in place, as well as that of building them
  11. The plan for implementation, established at the last stage, makes all the aspects of restructuring coherent; indicates the preliminary conditions and measures before implementation, and presents the indicative schedule of the major phases of the implementation of restructuring.

C. Implementation of Restructuring

Institutions to be restructured cannot, obviously, be put in charge of implementing their own restructuring. Other public institutions that need to be restructured are not recommended either to properly conduct such an operation. Therefore, it is necessary to put in place ad hoc structures that could implement the restructuring, avoiding bureaucracy and unjustified influence. The structure set up for this purpose would be composed of a political authorities and a technical body. The role of the political authorities is to determine the direction of the different phases of the implementation process, and to make the important decisions, especially concerning the future of personnel and what will become of privatized activities. This authority can be a national committee for restructuring, composed of ministries in the restructuring, representatives of institutions to be restructured, and representatives of the agricultural profession. This committee meets periodically to examine the reports and proposals prepared by technical services for implementation. The technical services for implementation have the role of informing the political authorities about the process, to prepare elements of decision-making for their attention, and to supervise their implementation by the relevant actors. These bodies are composed of national and regional implementing cells, capable of decentralizing the restructuring process, and resolving the problems that restructuring entails, especially for personnel. Each cell is organized into two sections: