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Evidence for Change: The Case of Subsidios al Campo in Mexico

By: Guillermo M. Cejudo

Subsidios al Campo (“farm subsidies”) is a collaborative project by a public interest group, a peasant organization, and a group of academics and technical experts that uses Mexico‘s Freedom of information laws to obtain official data on the recipients of agricultural subsidies, which is analyzed and disseminated widely through a user-friendly website (www.subsidiosalcampo.org.mx). The goals of the project are to generate easily accessible information and inform the public debate on Mexico‘s farm subsidies programs. In addition to making data available in its online database, the project analyzes the subsidy information and uses it to advocate for more equitable subsidy allocations and, more broadly, changes in rural policy in Mexico.

By creating and maintaining its online public database, Subsidios al Campo improved the transparency of government farm subsidies, and its analyses of this data identified a disproportionate, and inequitable, concentration of subsidy recipients in the wealthiest 10 percent of farmers. The analyses helped explain how this happened, and the advocacy supported by this evidence contributed to reforms in the subsidy programs.

The case study presented here is based on a review of campaign documents, government information, media articles, and on interviews with key actors. The study traces the development of Subsidios al Campo, analyzes the factors contributing to the impact achieved, and offers an explanation for the campaign‘s effectiveness

The case study demonstrates the power of evidence-based advocacy but examining how it contributed to the campaign‘s success. The study also highlights the importance to advocacy campaigns of directly engaging academics, journalists, and beneficiaries in efforts to disseminate research findings and recommendations. At the same time, the case study shows the limits of evidence-based advocacy in contexts in which there are powerful interest groups resisting change, government institutions reluctant to modify the status quo, and ineffective accountability mechanisms.