The Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) recently released two reports, one covering investment transparency and the other considering incentives for food systems. We have collaborated with CCSI on past training programs and are always interested in their approach to economic development work and incentives. 

Transparency for whom? Grounding land investment transparency in the needs of local actors addresses governance and accountability to project-affected communities for agriculture, forestry and energy investments, but the lessons transcend those sectors. Transparency here does not mean basic information disclosure but incorporates open systems and processes in which community members can participate and influence decisions that will affect them

Our work on equitable engagement also finds that inclusive and outcome-driven economic development begins by prioritizing community engagement and linking community perspectives to actionable initiatives and measurable results. Two of the CCSI report’s recommendations resonate especially well with our own findings:

  • Conceive of transparency as extending beyond disclosure to include community access, comprehension, and use of information in open decision-making processes and governance systems
  • Ground transparency efforts in the needs of communities and other local actors

Several proposed strategies – driving agendas with community-led processes, increasing technical support for communities, implementing multi-stakeholder and participatory processes, factoring community-generated information into investment-related decisions, and extending community participation beyond individual projects to the policy level – are detailed in the CCSI report and are relevant to economic development practitioners. 

The Guide on incentives for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems promotes targeted, well-designed incentives for sustainable investment in agriculture and food systems and support for small-scale producers and small- and medium-scale enterprises. Sections address techniques for designing incentives to achieve goals, engaging community actors (especially women and youth) as well as investors, and managing programs through good implemention, monitoring and evaluation practices. We appreciate the attention to incentive management and reporting practices, a topic that often gets short shrift but is critical to achieving expected outcomes. 

The guide concludes that incentives can play a role in stimulating more responsible investment in agriculture and food systems, although they are not always the right tool for the job. Incentives also require deliberate consideration and design if they are to be an effective mechanism for encouraging more and better quality investment in agriculture and food systems.

For more information on both reports, please see:

Szoke-Burke, S., Mebratu-Tsegaye, T., and Sommer, W., Transparency for whom? Grounding land investment transparency in the needs of local actors, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (March, 2021).

Bulman, Anna, Kaitlin Y. Cordes, and Ladan Mehranvar, with Ella Merrill and Yannick Fiedler. 2021. Guide on incentives for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems. Rome. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI).

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