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Capacity Development

Capacity Development (CD) is the “process whereby people, organizations and society as a whole unleash, strengthen, create, adapt and maintain capacity over time”

In international development, capacity is seen as “the ability of people, organizations and society as a whole to manage their affairs successfully”, leading to attainment of the sustainable Development Goals and FAO‟s three Global Goals in line with national development plans.

Capacity Development has traditionally been associated with knowledge transfer and training of individuals, yet it is a complex, non-linear and long-term change process in which no single factor (e.g. information, education and training, technical assistance, policy advice etc.) can by itself be an explanation for the development of capacity. It contributes to addressing specific needs of member countries and (sub) regions across the three interlinked individual, organizational, and enabling environment dimensions.

The general trend in the international development community is to replace the term “capacity building” with “capacity development”. The shift in terminology reflects an evolution from an original concept of an essentially externally-driven process in which there were no pre-existing capacities, to a new concept that places strong emphasis on national ownership and on endogenous change processes. In conformity with other UN agencies, FAO will adopt the new term “capacity development‟, although the previous term will continue to be valid as it is pervasive in existing FAO documentation.

Key improvements to capacity development, which include the adoption of:
  • integrated approaches that address the three dimensions of capacity, namely the enabling environment, organizations and individuals;
  • approaches that address “Functional” capacities, as well as “Technical” ones, that enable national actors to plan, lead, manage and sustain change initiatives in agriculture and rural development;
  • a focus in programme and project design to encourage country ownership in development processes;
  • sustained engagement in dialogue with capacity development partners and stakeholders in countries and regions; and
  • longer-term approaches to interventions in country and (sub) regional programmes/projects.

Technical capacities are required in the broad areas of food and agriculture to enable national and (sub) regional actors to carry out all technical tasks required to intensify production sustainably, manage natural resources, and eventually to improve food safety and security for all. FAO’s technical work is reflected in the five Strategic Objectives in the Strategic Framework.

In addition, four Functional capacities enable countries and (sub)regions to plan, lead, manage and sustain change initiatives in ARD to ensure that technical know-how is embodied in local systems and processes in a sustainable way:

a) Policy and Normative: capacities to formulate and implement policies and lead policy reform;

b) Knowledge: capacities to access, generate, manage and exchange information and knowledge;

c) Partnering: capacities to engage in networks, alliances and partnerships;

d) Implementation: management capacities to implement and deliver programmes and projects, from planning to monitoring and evaluation.

Technical and Functional capacities, which are themselves inter-related, exist across three dimensions of enabling environment, organizations and individuals:

a) The dimension of enabling environment relates to political commitment and vision; policy, legal and economic frameworks; national public sector budget allocations and processes; governance and power structures; incentives and social norms.

b) The organizational dimension relates to public and private organizations, civil society organizations, and networks of organizations in terms of: (1) strategic management functions, structures and relationships; (2) operational capacity (processes, systems, procedures, sanctions, incentives and values); (3) human and financial resources (policies, deployment and performance); (4) knowledge and information resources; and (5) infrastructure.

c) The individual dimension10 relates to the people involved in ARD in terms of: knowledge, skill levels (technical and managerial) and attitudes that can be addressed through facilitation, training and competency development.

In capacity development interventions, all three dimensions are interlinked; individuals, organizations and the enabling environment are parts of a broader whole. Capacity Development often involves the enhancement of knowledge of individuals, although the output of individuals greatly relies on the quality of the organizations in which they work. Furthermore, the effectiveness of organizations and networks of organizations is influenced by the enabling environment. Conversely, the environment is affected by organizations and the relationships between them.

Multi-stakeholder processes: key to effective capacity development

Multi-stakeholder processes: key to effective capacity development