A major rationale for conducting policy research is the contribution the results can make to policy improvement efforts. Over the years, funders of international policy research have placed increasing emphasis on making sure that the research they fund influences policymaking, challenging research organizations to document the impact of their research. To improve the integration of research into policy, stakeholders need to understand the policy process itself.
Against this background, IFPRI undertook this case study in order to identify the ways international research can influence policy decisions in the agricultural sector in Malawi. This case study uses the participatory Net-Map interview tool to examine the policy landscape related to the fertilizer component of the Farm Input Subsidy Program of the Government of Malawi. This paper provides a brief overview of the context of fertilizer policy in Malawi, reviews the general literature on the role of scientific knowledge in policy processes, and describes the methodology and results of analysis.
Results from both a literature review and analysis of the Net-Map results show that fertilizer policy formulation in Malawi has been largely influenced by embedded political belief systems, interests, and power relations that involve a number of key actors among donors and the government. Only marginal influence by other actors in the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, media, farmers, and academicians was observed. As described in the concluding section, the analysis has also provided insights on how best to design and structure initiatives aimed at enhancing the role that research can play in policy processes in Malawi’s agricultural sector.