This case study explores the way in which farmers organisations in Mali have responded to sharp and rapid changes in their institutional environment. It shows how institutional reform (especially when urged or required by donors and other external agents) needs to be carefully sequenced, and based on a comprehensive understanding of existing economic, political and social arrangements and the interrelations between institutional levels. Otherwise, it runs the risk of disrupting economic activity, provoking political reaction and resistance, and compromising the purpose of reform. This case study of the institutional reforms of Mali's Office du Niger (ON) and the Compagnie Malienne pour le Developpement des Fibres Textiles (CMDT) dramatically illustrates these dangers. These reforms have been made without adequate consultation, clear communication of the intent and content of the reforms, or appropriate regard for the implications of high-level reform on local organisations and vice-versa. The response of farmers' organisations, already overburdened with responsibilities beyond their capacity, and threatened with further changes in their own legal character, has been negative and has not contributed to the design of new institutions. Understanding and anticipating the politics of organisational response to institutional change is at the heart of effective institutional reform.
Discussion Paper Series, Research Programme Consortium for Improving Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth, Manchester, UK, No. 38, 14 pp.