There are many unanswered questions about agriculture in today’s world. Societies are challenged with environmental issues like climate change.
One Trinidad and Tobago academic is adding to the body of knowledge of how to address agricultural policy.
Andrew Jacque is a policy, strategic planning and programming expert for the European Union (EU)-funded Support to Sustainable Rural Livelihoods programme, Fiji. He has a diploma from the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry, a BSc from the University of the West Indies (UWI) in agricultural science, an MSc from Michigan State University, US, in Agricultural Marketing and a PhD from Purdue University, US, in economic development and policy analysis. He also worked at TT’s Ministry of Agriculture.
Fellow TT academic Emalene Marcus-Burnett also wrote a chapter in the book.
Jacque is also now the co-editor of Agricultural Policy Analysis: Concepts and Tools for Emerging Economies. Jeevika Weerahewa is its other editor. Copies of the book were given to the UWI’s Faculty of Food and Agriculture, the National Library and Information System Authority (Nalis) and to the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries.
While Jacque wrote a chapter in a book, he never had any thoughts of editing one. The opportunity came while he worked as an agricultural policy expert for the EU in Sri Lanka. Capacity building at its agriculture ministry was one of his mandates. While doing so he realised there was a need for agricultural policy training.
It began as a manual for Sri Lanka’s senior public officers and then grew into a 478-page book with various contributors. The hard cover was published on April 10. It is also available digitally, in soft cover as well as people can purchase individual chapters.
In a phone interview Jacque said the book is a reference text that allows agricultural policymakers, experts and students to analyse the type of policy responses one would wish to take with respect to issues like food availability.
Work on the manual began in 2019.
“By the time we decided to switch it to a book, it was mid-2020. Then we started adding chapters, doing the serious work of editing to move it to a book to be published. That process would have been completed in December 2020.”
It was then passed on to German multinational publishing company, Springer. However, there were a lot of delays before it was published. The delays came as there was no consensus on placement of the EU logo and other things, he said.
“The initial work of writing the book as I was a consultant in EU and all the chapter authors were paid from EU funds. So, therefore, the EU needed to be acknowledged in terms of its emblem and a statement.
“Springer wanted to use the EU emblem for advertising purposes, which is not allowed. So we had some back and forth deciding exactly where the EU emblem will be placed. It was finally resolved in 2022 and then the book was published.”
This type of material is important because of the structure of agriculture which is a lot of private people doing their thing, Jacque said.
“There are very few countries in which it is state commandeered. In almost every space it is private individuals who do the production, destroy the environment and these sorts of things. Therefore the issues of government policy, strategy and regulations become important.”
These things will create and shape the environment in which the private operators work, he added.
“Policy is important if we are going to address issues of food security, climate change, the environment. Policy is important along with strategy.”
Jacque’s chapter is about microeconomics in agricultural policy analysis.
“I find it very important because as a policy analyst, you must be able to think conceptually before you get down to running the numbers to see what is going to be the impact of a policy.”
He said thinking conceptually allows for one to assess what would be the impact of a particular policy such as what will happen if tariffs were raised or a quota introduced.
All of these questions can be answered using microeconomics, he said.
The book covers a wide range of issues such as agricultural development, competitiveness, cost-benefit analysis and irrigation.
“There is a range of topics covered which is what we try to do in terms of what people working in an agricultural planning department or studying agricultural economics.
“It would require them to be effective at the job of analysing policy and helping to formulate policy so the people in the agricultural value chain can be best supported,” he said.
While he had no plans to edit a book and the opportunity was unexpected, it was one for which he was prepared. Doing this also taught Jacque an important lesson about the art of editing. For him, the editing process was traumatic, at times.
“Sometimes you’d open a chapter and after the first page you did not feel like going on. Sometimes it involved heavy rewriting of people’s chapters.”
He focused heavily on clarity in his editing. In some chapters he knew the material, and in others, it was only familiar to him in a very general sense.
“I knew that even if a chapter is familiar to me in a general way, in terms of the knowledge it puts forward, I must be able to read it, edit and follow it. If I can’t follow it, I know other people would have trouble. I was editing to ensuring that the information presented was flowing and logical. With that in mind, I had a lot of frustration. There were chapters I sent back and said, ‘This person needs to rewrite this chapter with these things in mind.’ Some chapters I heavily edited and sent back.”
He was never intimidated by his co-authors' title or professorship. He knew he had a job to do and he did it. But that was not the end of Jacque’s editing lesson.
“I thought I had done such a great job. With all the frustration and so on, sometimes I’d leave it and go and sleep. Some days, I’d say, ‘No, I need a break.’ I thought I had done such a good job, until the work went to the copy editor. Then I knew I couldn’t write.”
Jacque said there were a lot of changes when the copy editor was finished, even with what he wrote. But she made it better, he said.
Lecturer of English at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Nicola Perera was the book’s copy editor.
“She brought together two very good qualities: she was very good at English, which you would expect of a copy editor, but she also had some background in economics and she was able to read every single line and tell people, ‘You can say this clearer.’”
He learnt, through the editing process, that every academic knows their stuff but not every academic can communicate it: in speaking or writing.
“Knowing your stuff is one thing, communicating it is another thing,” he said.