Enabling poor rural people
to overcome poverty



Interim evaluation1

The core learning partnership and the users of the evaluation

In 2005, the Office of Evaluation of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) conducted an Interim Evaluation of the Upper West Agricultural Development Project (UWADEP) in Upper West Region (UWR), Ghana. An approach paper was discussed with partners in Ghana in April 2005, and socio-economic surveys were fielded between April and June of the same year. A core learning partnership (CLP) was formed comprising representatives of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), the Department of Agriculture in UWR, the UWADEP Project Support Unit (PSU), the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the IFAD Regional Division for Western and Central Africa and the Office of Evaluation of IFAD. A draft evaluation report was distributed in September 2005. A final evaluation workshop was organised in Accra on 9 November, 2005, to take stock of the evaluation findings and prepare this Agreement at Completion Point (ACP). The workshop was attended by the members of the CLP and other stakeholders. The ACP reflects the stakeholders’ understanding of the evaluation, findings and recommendations, their proposals to implement them, and their commitment to act upon them.

Main evaluation findings

Implementation progress. a) Rural credit for income-generating activities. The project reached 5 805 beneficiaries in 379 groups for a total of circa ¢ 5.6 billion, equivalent to USD 640 000 (about 60% of target). Women constituted 56% of this number, but received only 47% of the total loan amount. b) Dams and irrigation. When the project finally closed, irrigation infrastructure was left incomplete on numerous sites. The Project Completion Report mentions 41.5 ha under dry season cropping with 154 ha available for irrigation against an Appraisal Report target of 220 ha. However, this figure includes hectarage already in use, exploiting seepage from existing dams. Through interviews with Water Users Associations (WUAs) officials, the evaluation team could find evidence for only 23 ha of additional irrigable area resulting from the project. Hand-dug wells and rural roads. About 35 hand dug wells were sunk, against 40 at appraisal, 12 in 2004, by an NGO (PRONET, Wa). The target for feeder road infrastructure was 140 km and this has generally been exceeded. Community and women participation in UWADEP interventions. Total WUA membership was 4 434, of which 3 166 were male and 1 268 female. Executive committee members were 294, of which 221 were male and 73 female. c) Agricultural extension and seed production. Prior to UWADEP, the Seed Growers Association in the region had only 12 growers producing seed, mostly maize, under contract to seed supply firms. The number of growers increased from 12 to 60 by 1999, but fell to 30 in 2004. On-farm demonstrations. The number of assisted groups was 210, including 2 508 farmers (70% of the target of 3 600 farmers in 300 groups) representing a planted area of 251 ha. Animal traction. No clear targets were set at appraisal, but only 130 carts, 65 ploughs and 65 ridgers were made available to 260 individuals. Training was conducted and refurbishment of one blacksmith’s workshop at Tarsaw was refurbished. A second workshop was halted before completion. Upgrading of local sheep and goats. During 1998 and 1999, 242 rams and 90 bucks were distributed to farmers in the five districts. High levels of mortality led to concerns over the approach and the programme was suspended for two years. It was restarted in 2002 and some 219 offspring of the 50% improved rams and 123 offspring of improved bucks have been recovered for redistribution. This is remote from the appraisal target of 7 500 households benefiting from improved sheep. Upgrading poultry and guinea-fowl. Facilities for brooding the commercial cockerels and guinea keets, together with residential accommodation for technical personnel, were provided as part of the rehabilitation of the Bussa Livestock centre. A total of 4 000 birds were supplied by the project up to 1999, but it was decided that this was interfering with the business of commercial suppliers of cockerels and was discontinued. The focus shifted to upgrading guinea-fowl stock and between 1998 and 2004 some 13 640 keets were imported from Belgium for distribution. 30 000 households were to benefit from the poultry component in the appraisal, although this consisted largely of vaccination rather than improved stock. Training and support to community livestock workers (CLW). The CLW scheme recruited, trained and provided with basic livestock kits 150 (as appraised) volunteers to help improve livestock health and nutrition within project groups and in time, within their whole community.

Major strengths - (i) relevance. UWR is the third poorest region of Ghana and evidence for improvements to overall living standards is scarce. The components of UWADEP were designed to add value to rural production enterprises. Despite its commitment to donor strategies on poverty reduction, the government of Ghana has made limited additional funding for the development of these regions, making IFAD’s approach to UWADEP all the more relevant. Given the rainfall characteristics of the UWR, it may be appropriate to explore intensive use of soil and water conservation facilities, in combination with dams, to achieve the most significant impact possible. In retrospect, one important lessons learned from UWADEP is the feasibility of social protection, devising better strategies to assist the socially excluded, such as the disabled and single mothers2.

Impact. Few irrigation infrastructure facilities were completed and functional by project closure, making it difficult to assess impact properly. Primary data collected by the evaluation suggests that some households served by the project had increased their assets, but non-beneficiaries have also seen improvements in the decade 1995-2005. Those households that have received financial services from participating banks have reported income increases through opportunities for investments in trading and farming. However, the overall impact of UWADEP has been quite modest, due to limited implementation achievements.

Design weaknesses and misplaced emphases. Due to the transposition of project design from UER, major areas of agricultural production were omitted: tuber cultivation, diversification into higher humidity crops, tree crops and riverside gardens. In addition ‘garden’ crops, such as Bambara and Kersting’s groundnuts, particularly grown by women, were not taken into consideration, despite their potential to contribute to women’s incomes. Training, particularly in animal traction, was emphasised at the expense of implement supply, despite farmers’ expressed wish to the contrary. Marketing not adequately addressed. The viability of the interventions depending heavily on the market for horticultural products in the area with a poor road infrastructure, and far away from the main markets is questionable. Monitoring prices and facilitating market access, along with promotion of crop diversification, should have been integral to project design. Supervision of engineering. The use of a single agency, GIDA, to supervise irrigation infrastructure design and construction has led to low-grade outcomes and did not allow for more modern designs to be adopted. The drainage network on many dam sites was neglected. Community mobilisation. Failure to appoint a gender officer led to a marked dominance of men in community organisations (in contrast to UER). Micro-finance. The promotion of subsidised credit has resulted in very limited commitment to term loans by the banks involved.

Implementation weaknesses. Timeliness and quality of work by local contractors was a major problem throughout UWADEP. Agricultural extension. The balance of expenditure was weighted excessively towards infrastructure, with only rather modest achievements in terms of extending new technology to farmers. Credit. Access to credit by farmers remains at low levels and may decline further with the closure of the project. Collaboration with NGOs has generally not occurred. Rather than jointly developing strategies, PSU typically employed NGOs as executing agents without adequate emphasis on their feedback. Health and environmental issues were not addressed by the project in spite of the evidence of increases in water-borne diseases and environmental degradation in the region.

Threats to sustainability. Sustainability has been constrained in the rural finance component by below-market interest rates to final borrowers and poor credit discipline. The sustainability of the Seed Growers’ Association is not assured because of the failure to link the group effectively with inventory credit and missing links in the chain between small farmers’ demand and supply. In the irrigation component, the main issues are the incomplete irrigation infrastructure and the poor quality of works. Few WUAs have been in operation long enough to judge their sustainability, but in many cases these social groupings are robust because they have existed in a different form prior to UWADEP, managing the hand-dug well irrigated land below the dams, sometimes for decades. The division between the roles and responsibilities of WUA and consulting/construction agencies has not been well understood by beneficiaries in some cases, leading towards future maintenance problems.

Main weaknesses in partners’ performance. IFAD too readily accepted a project design with features that were clearly inappropriate for UWR and responded inadequately to structural and implementation problems which surfaced during the course of UWADEP. UNOPS supervision seems to have been inconsistent and lightweight, in that many of the problems and claims of achievements of UWADEP were not verified. Government and its agencies. A characteristic feature of the PSU was its use of available MoFA staff, and a failure to seek out sectoral specialists. Thus the Project Support Unit had no specialised staff to supervise infrastructural work, or to monitor and encourage gender awareness, or to deal with the credit component. Changes in project management to introduce dynamic individuals took place late. The failure to engage with NGOs and the use of Agricultural Extension Agents (AEAs) to do the work of NGOs ‘after hours’ is a doubtful practice at best and hardly furthers the grassroots and innovative approaches expected by IFAD. Project documentation was also weak, and there were discrepancies in accounts due to inadequate reconciliation between the Bank of Ghana and the participating banks. The decision to use GIDA as a sole consultant for the irrigation infrastructure on the project caused many problems in the quality of project execution, as well as delays in implementation.

Recommendations

The project design and implementation modalities clearly need radical improvements. The following recommendations start from those tasks that should be undertaken before the closure of the project and proceed to those strategic and operational issues to be considered in the design and implementation of future interventions, should the corresponding activities be part of them.

Immediate tasks: completion of irrigation infrastructure and health issues

UWADEP has closed and much of the irrigation infrastructure remains unfinished or requires remedial work. The completion of existing works is a major priority, but will only be a useful exercise if closer supervision is introduced, preferably using alternative arrangements.

Summary Recommendation:

  • Regional Directorate, MoFA to complete civil works and ensure full functionality, seeking alternative consultants for supervision of works. Given that the IFAD loan has been closed, it is recommended that government funding be used.

Partners involved: Regional Directorate, MoFA.

11. Health issues need to be addressed urgently to avoid deterioration in health conditions of the users. There is evidence for high levels of soil-transmitted helminths throughout Northern Ghana associated with standing water. An absence of public health measures in relation to small dams may lead to increased incidence of related infections, with debilitation and greater susceptibility to a range of other pathologies, especially among children. Such issues were not adequately tackled during the life of the project, apparently due to the absence of key partners in Ministry of Health (MoH). To judge by available documents, in-country expertise exists to conduct such monitoring in institutions such as the Ghana Health Service and through the Parasitic Diseases Research Centre based in Tamale. NGOs such as the Catholic Relief Services and Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) have both shown previous interest in health monitoring and awareness and are likely partners with MoH in this area.

Summary recommendation:

  • Regional Directorate (MoFA) to establish effective sustainable monitoring system in conjunction with NGOs, MoH. Regional Directorate (MoFA) and MoH and environmental health units to initiate public health campaign based on results monitoring, using MoH funding and in conjunction with NGOs.

Partners involved: Regional Directorate (MoFA), in consultation with NGOs and MoH.

Suggested timing: Immediate. Progress to be reported prior to IFAD’s formulation of future interventions.

12. The failure to work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the environmental impact of small dams and to take appropriate measure for catchment protection must be remedied before any future intervention. Regional Directorate/MoFA should approach EPA to undertake the environmental impact assessment for each dam functioning or still under construction, and establish a smooth linkage in this regard for all future engineering work.

Summary recommendation:

• Regional Directorate (MoFA) to work with EPA to ensure environmental impact assessments are completed for all dams as required under Ghanaian law.

Partners involved: Regional Directorate (MoFA).

Suggested timing: Immediate. Progress to be reported prior to IFAD’s formulation of future interventions.

Future intervention concepts

Communicating and discussing project experience as a contribution to policy dialogue. UWADEP offers important lessons (not always positive) that are grounded in the reality of the field. These experiences should be documented and widely discussed not only at the regional but also at the national level (including sharing of knowledge with other IFAD projects), using donors’ coordination mechanisms. This report has highlighted areas of weak institutional impact, resulting, for example, in little evidence of interactive approaches where ideas and concepts from the village should feed into project design. A major lesson would seem to be the inadvisability of developing a project format based on one deemed to have worked elsewhere. UWADEP has not observed and adapted the lessons from NGOs and their successful ideas.

Integration and sequencing of components. If IFAD is to consider further investment in UWR, then the evaluation of UWADEP suggests the rethinking of some elements in project design. Projects with so many components but no clear integrative strategy are open to activities being carried out with no linkages, with the consequence that management costs are high. Project design should consider sequencing much more carefully.

Considerations of equity. UWADEP and comparable projects such as LACOSREP raise broader concerns. Basing a development strategy on the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure risks perpetuating inequality. Although hunger remains widespread and may be increasing throughout UWR, there are also ‘bypassed communities’, i.e., those in remote areas where there is no government infrastructure and no NGOs operate. Such communities need to be more clearly targeted. Similarly, targeting of special categories, such as the blind, physically impaired, and single mothers was not part of the UWADEP design, but experience with these groups at the Karni site shows that some components have the potential to assist the socially excluded and this should now be considered integral to design.

Improve M&E systems. Monitoring and evaluation was weak, particularly the assessment of impact. For future projects, in-country long-term consultancies to support M&E should be sought. Background data collection. Projects should collect relevant background data including climatic, market and socio-economic indicators.

Summary recommendations:

  • IFAD to take the opportunity of donors’ coordination mechanisms to present and discuss the main lessons learned from its experience in UWR and in UER. In view of its lack of field presence, IFAD should estimate the level of human and financial resources to be devoted to it.

  • Project formulation to draw on the lessons learned by stakeholders at all levels. In the design of a future intervention, IFAD (and indeed other multi-laterals) should take care not to waste the time of potential beneficiaries with ‘sensitisation workshops’, as, by and large, they have already fully articulated their requirements.

  • IFAD to articulate clearer sequencing and integration of components at design. Typically, the project components are listed and the links between them are somehow taken for granted. But in implementation, components are often executed independently. Project design must spend more time spelling out the links, both in terms of its argument and practical action by the PSU.

  • Target communities without irrigation infrastructure and categories of users in need of social protection following a successful example.

  • IFAD, in consultation with MoFA to discuss M&E support requirements including in-country support. Henceforth monitoring should be conducted in conjunction with communities and be subject to joint assent. Projects should collect relevant background data.

Suggested timing: At design of future interventions. Communication and discussion on lessons learned to be a continuous element of IFAD’s strategy.

Partners involved: IFAD, in consultation with MoFA, NGOs, and other donors.

Components of future projects

Agricultural sction research and extension

The project design omitted a number of areas significant for farmers in UWR, presumably due to the adoption of components from LACOSREP, situated in a significantly different agro-ecological zone in terms of rainfall, soil fertility and demography. In UWR, these included commercial maize production, tuber cultivation, diversification into higher humidity crops3, tree crops and riverside gardens. Despite considerable investment in infrastructure (buildings for research organisations), farmer-oriented research has been out of touch with the actual crops many farmers are growing. Research should grow out of current production systems (as listed above) and be able to respond more flexibly to requests emerging from the farm. This would require a radical revision of existing approaches and seeking out partnerships with alternative providers such as NGOs based in UWR or UER or other research centres that have adequate experience. Linkages with other programmes of IFAD emphasising roots and tubers should also be sought.

Summary Recommendations:

  • MoFA, IFAD and other relevant partners to conduct reviews of current crop and livestock production systems in UWR with a view to designing interventions based on actual farmers’ activities, placing additional emphasis on crops grown by women. IFAD should consider future intervention strategies based on a commodity chain approach.

  • In view of the constraints of the existing research institutions, IFAD to discuss alternative arrangements for action research with MoFA and NGOs.

Suggested timing: Specify these requirements at design. Implement them during future interventions.

Partners involved: MoFA, IFAD, International Water Management Institute, universities, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, NGOs and farmers’ organisations, SARI.

Livestock. The 100% improved stock introduced by the project do not survive for long under the traditional husbandry system, and are only of use to a minority of wealthier farmers. It is suggested to promote and expand the introduction of 50%-improved Sahelian stock to enable a greater number of farmers (particularly women) to take advantage of the intervention more quickly. Pilot the introduction of fertile guinea-fowl eggs for local hatcheries.

Summary recommendation:

  • Review policy on the composition of introduced stock and identify levels of cross-breeding with high survivability suitable for households unable to supply high levels of inputs.

Suggested timing: Specify these requirements at design. Implement them during future interventions.

Partners involved: MoFA, IFAD, farmers’ organisations.

Animal traction is clearly much in demand (particularly by women) and most farmers are able to learn to handle implements without the need for expensive training courses. Future project designs should consider how to disseminate implements as cheaply as possible, something which has been achieved in Mali and Burkina Faso. Farmers are requesting a wider variety of animal traction tools (for example ridge weeders and robust furrow weeders). Tools and carts for donkeys are also in demand and should be supplied alongside those for oxen. This would almost certainly preferentially benefit women. Implement repair is also important, but workshops must have electricity to be effective.

Summary recommendations:

  • MoFA and IFAD to assess likely demand for types and numbers of animal traction implements, and develop a solution for supply to rural areas at realistic prices.

  • Implement repair workshops should be revived on a commercial basis.

Suggested timing: Specify these requirements at design. Implement them during future interventions.

Partners involved: MoFA, IFAD, Tamale Implement Factory, Intermediate Technology Transfer Unit, farmers’organisations.

Irrigation Component

Irrigation infrastructure is one strategy in a basket of options for improving household incomes. Construction of small-scale dams is relatively cheap and improves life for poor people living under adverse conditions as well as incorporates an element of social protection. But their benefits should be weighed against other rainfed-based options for UWR already discussed, including supplementary irrigation.

Quality control and phased contracting of consultancy services. Procurement of services should be in line with the Ghana Public Procurement Act No. 663 (2003), thereby opening the bidding for consultancy assignments to a wide range of professional companies by seeking their proposals, and then holding a proper competition. This procedure should be followed also in the downstream phase, even where a consultant has performed satisfactorily. Services should be segregated into phases according to a project implementation schedule and contracts signed separately, subject to satisfactory performance. A validation forum should be organised after design completion and before construction start-up, involving: MoFA, district assemblies, consultants, contractors and WUAs. This should be followed with regular work progress review meetings. Payment schemes to the consultant should include performance incentives, not lump sums. In order to better understand bottlenecks, IFAD may consider conducting an audit of contract awarding during project implementation.

Irrigation infrastructure construction methods. Many of the dams constructed under UWADEP (and its sister-project LACOSREP) use open channel irrigation methods which waste considerable quantities of water. ‘Closed’ systems are now being introduced by many organisations, including international NGOs and even other projects under MoFA. These technologies should be carefully considered.

Virtually nothing has been done to comply with existing Ghanaian environmental regulations. This must be rectified as soon as possible, by MoFA in conjunction with the EPA.

Fisheries. Although some action was taken in the area of stocking dams with fish, it was inconsistent and entirely opaque to the WUAs. Since fish have considerable potential to increase output from projects and to improve nutritional standards, this area should be given much greater attention in any future project design.

Pumping water from the White Volta River for riverside horticulture, which was introduced under LACOSREP II in UER and gardens along rivers in UWR using hand irrigation and small pumps, is becoming common. It is recommended that adequate attention be given to these cost-effective technological packages.

It is important to recognise that irrigation infrastructure needs maintenance, some of which is beyond the capacity of WUAs. This situation should be addressed by realistic budgeting and assignment of responsibility in such cases to MoFA, the regional and district departments of agriculture and donors.

Summary recommendations:

  • Contracting and procurement of all phases of dams and other civil engineering projects must conform to recent government guidelines [Public Procurement Act No. 663 (2003)].

  • IFAD to consider requesting an audit of contract awarding under UWADEP.

  • New, more environmentally-sound methods of irrigation infrastructure construction, such as those introduced by NGOs and others, to be considered a high priority by both IFAD and other donors for future projects.

  • IFAD and MoFA to study the feasibility of fisheries in the dams, in consultation with WUA members.

  • MoFA, in consultation with NGOs, should identify most cost-effective technology options (for example those tested in Burkina Faso and Nigeria) and packages for riverside horticulture (e.g., pumping irrigation) and disseminate information about these. Surveys to be made to identify suitable areas (such as valley bottoms).

  • Realistic assignment of responsibility for different levels of maintenance. MoFA to clarify with WUAs what type of maintenance is their own responsibility, what problems can be assigned to defective work by contractors and should be brought to the notice of the regional/ district departments of agriculture. IFAD, in consultation with MoFA and other donors, to estimate the availability of maintenance funds within government agencies and provide for those operations that may exceed existing budgets and should be dealt with by extra-systemic assistance.

Suggested timing: Formulation and implementation of future interventions.

Partners involved: MoFA, Water Resources Commission, NGOs, IFAD, WUAs.

Processing and marketing issues

27. Producers remain at the mercy of buyers with high monopoly power, particularly because of the lack of an all-weather road linking UWR to the rest of the country. Crop diversification, dissemination of new techniques in marketing and a variety of crop processing strategies could rapidly increase incomes and reduce nutritional insecurity in UWR. A review of these issues and action by MoFA should be undertaken. Much knowledge already exists in neighbouring countries, notably Burkina Faso, so some type of farmer information exchange is recommended.

Summary Recommendations:

  • MoFA to conduct reviews and disseminate recommendations on:

  • Crop diversification to reduce the problem of bottlenecks in the market and crop processing to increase storage flexibility and allow farmers to ‘play’ the market.

  • Spreading of information on market prices (radio, farmers’ organisations) allowing producers to confront buyers more effectively.

Suggested timing: Specify these requirements at design. Implement them during future projects.

Partners involved: MoFA, NGOs.

Additional area for inclusion: functional literacy groups

Functional Literacy Groups (FLGs) have seen considerable success in the sister IFAD project, LACOSREP II in UER, both increasing numeracy and literacy and establishing solidarity among groups for other purposes such as collective work and microfinance.

Summary Recommendation:

Work with NGOs on strategies to develop FLGs (review experience of ActionAid) and ensure that writing systems are in line with standard Ghanaian orthographic conventions.

Suggested timing: FLG to be considered in coming operations, as appropriate.

Partners involved: IFAD, MoFA in consultation with NGOs.

Rural finance issues

While credit was appreciated by the beneficiaries, coverage was limited and the project did not significantly contribute to promoting sustainable rural finance institutions. There is a wide range of credit options, especially offered by NGOs and government programmes that include subsidized rates. Some may create problems for interventions based on market rates. It is important that: (i) rural banks be allowed to apply interest rates that cover all costs and allow for profits; (ii) partners work towards strategy harmonisation (in particular by avoiding interest rate subsidisation in public programmes); (iii) training be provided to participating banks’ staff using regional rural finance hubs; (iv) discussions be held with participating banks on available techniques and products that can help reduce transaction costs in rural areas; and (v) the rural finance component be fine-tuned and well sequenced with other components.

Summary recommendations:

  • Review with the participating banks, BoG, and with the help of specialists and regional rural finance hubs those options and products that can make rural finance both viable economically and practical for beneficiaries. Review and discuss the experiences in institutional strengthening and policy dialogue stemming from the Rural Financial Services Project.

Suggested timing: During future project formulation.

Partners involved: IFAD, the Bank of Ghana, rural banks, Micro Finance and Small Loan Centre, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Apex Bank, Ghamfin, RFSP.


1/ This agreement reflects an understanding among the key partners to adopt and implement recommendations stemming from the evaluation.  The agreement was formulated in consultation with the members of the CLP.  The CLP members that attended the workshop were: Hon. Ernest Debrah, Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA); Hon. Boniface Gambila, Regional Minister for the Upper East; Hon. Ambrose Dery, Regional Minister for the Upper West;  Mr Kwaku Owusu Baah, Chief Director, MoFA; Mr Roy Ayariga, Regional Director of Agriculture (Upper East) and Project Coordinator, LACOSREP II; Mr Emmanuel D. Eledi, Regional Director of Agriculture (Upper West) and Project Coordinator, UWADEP; Mr Joseph Y. Faalong, National Coordinator, AgSSIP-MoFA; and Mr Mohamed Manssouri, Country Programme Manager (IFAD/PA).  The workshop was also attended by Ms Caroline Heider, Deputy Director (IFAD/OE); Mr Fabrizio Felloni, Lead Evaluator (IFAD/OE); Mr Mark Keating, Evaluation Information Officer (IFAD/OE); Mr Roger Blench, consultant, Evaluation Mission Leader; Mr Gordana Kranjac-Berisavljevic, consultant, irrigation specialist; and Mr David Andah, consultant, rural finance specialist.  A list of workshop participants is provided in the appendices to the main report.

2/ In one dam site, Karni, social protection (assistance to the blind, disabled and single mothers) is a major element, showing that this can be made to work.

3/The evaluation encountered farmers experimenting with bananas and oil-palm production, which would be quite impractical in UER.