Enabling poor rural people
to overcome poverty



Focused evaluation

The Kingdom of Lesotho, which is surrounded entirely by the Republic of South Africa (RSA), has an area of about 30 600 km2. About 18%, 18%, 51% and 13% of Lesotho is classified as lowlands, foothills, mountains and river valley in terms of terrain and altitude and, therefore, potential land use. The country’s population in 1996 was estimated at 2.0 million with an annual growth rate of 2.6%. The summers are warm to hot while the winters are cold in the lowlands and foothills and very cold in mountainous areas. Rainfall, the bulk of which falls between October and April, varies from about 700 mm to 1 000 mm depending on location and is quite variable both between years and locations. Droughts are common. The SWaCAP programme area, covers the lowlands and foothills (altitudes from about 1 300 m to 2 000 m above sea level) of Maseru, Leribe, Berea and Butha Buthe districts, and includes more than half Lesotho’s potentially arable land. Most of the programme area’s soils are derived from sandstone or shale. Erosion is a major problem, and has led to significant losses in arable land. Maize dominates cropping. Yields are low and there is evidence of a declining trend over the years. Some sorghum is grown and beans are usually intercropped with maize. Small amounts of potatoes and wheat are cultivated as cash crops. Lesothos’s economy is strongly dependant on the RSA.

Project design and objectives

Target group

The programme’s target group includes households with land but lacking labour for cultivation; households with smaller than average holdings; de jure and de facto female-headed households; and landless households. Women were to be the programme's most important target group since both the de jure and de facto female headed households include households with smaller than average sized landholdings, those with land but lacking labour for cultivation and the landless. The four sub groups defined above together accounted for about 110 000 of the 130 000 rural households in the area where the programme's soil and water conservation activities would be implemented. However, all 278 000 rural households in the country were to benefit from a properly trained and functioning extension service, agro-forestry development and better conservation strategy and policy coordination.

Objectives and components

Objectives. The objectives of SWaCAP were to assist the Government of Lesotho (GOL) to: (i) promote soil and water conservation measures as part of the farmer's normal agricultural activities in a way that increases farm productivity, food production and family income; (ii) establish an agro-forestry research capability to contribute to the development of ecologically sound agricultural production systems; (iii) create an effective agricultural extension service based on the client demand approach; and (iv) monitor and coordinate its soil and water conservation policies, programmes and projects. SWaCAP was funded under IFAD's Special Programme for Africa (SPA). The ultimate goal of SWaCAP is to increase the income and living conditions of its target group while, at the same time, assisting with controlling erosion.

Components. (i) Conservation based agricultural production with two sub-components; namely the development and refinement of agricultural innovations and the introduction of conservation-based farming systems (26% of costs); (ii) re-organisation of the extension system (39% of costs); (iii) agro-forestry research and development (22% of costs); and (iv) conservation strategy and policy coordination (13% of costs). The programme was to be implemented by MOA through the Departtments of Field Services (DFS) and Economics and Marketing (DEM). SWaCAP’s Programme Coordinator (PC) was to be located in the Planning Division of DEM, reporting to the Director of Marketing and Economic Affairs. Three Technical Assistance Advisers (Agronomy, Extension and Agro-Forestry) were to be recruited internationally.

Development and Refinement of Agricultural Innovations. This sub-component would develop and refine the production recommendations used by FISC (The SIDA financed Farm Improvement with Soil Conservation Project). A programme for developing and demonstrating these technical innovations would be undertaken in fields representative of the agro-climatic zones in the four programme districts. The results of the trials would be used to formulate improved cropping recommendations for delivery to farmers by the extension service. Introduction of Conservation Farming Systems. Assistance would be provided to farmers to construct and/or repair the in-field erosion control structures (e.g. terraces, waterways, etc.). The terraces would be planted with grass species (e.g. bana grass) and fruit trees to assist in their stabilisation. Stall feeding for cattle and fodder crops would be encouraged. For construction work, farmers would receive payment on a task basis in the form of agricultural inputs, while the landless who undertake conservation work on communal land would be paid in cash. Biological methods of soil conservation would also be promoted.

Reorganisation of Extension Services through the adoption of a client demand approach which would create a demand for advice by farmers, by promoting innovations and providing extension staff able to meet that demand. Small Resource Centres would be established in each district in places frequently visited by farmers and would include housing for all EAs and Area Supervisors (ASs). Training would be provided to EAs.

An Agro-Forestry Research and Development programme would be introduced into MOA’s Research Division to develop ecologically sound production systems by establishing a series of research trials and develop an agro-forestry research capability. Trials would assess the performance of potentially useful species of plants, shrubs and trees, and promising results would be demonstrated and tested on farmers’ fields.

Conservation Strategy and Policy Coordination. This component would assist MOA in coordinating and monitoring its policies, programmes and projects in the soil and water conservation sub-sector. SWaCAP PC would be responsible for its implementation and a Conservation Task Force (CTF) would be set up.

Expected effects and assumptions

Programme’s design implied a number of assumptions including: (i) conservation incentives and crop production recommendations followed by FISC are viable and should form the basis of SWaCAP approach; (ii) incentives in the form of free inputs for conservation practices are sufficient to guarantee sustainable adoption of the practice; (iii) extension contact will be initiated by the farmers and staff role is to ensure that farmers know what MOA has to offer; (iv) gullies (donga) reclamation is an adequate activity in support of the landless; (v) reorganization of extension service around the concept of client demand is feasible; (vi) cooperation and coordination between various departments of MOA and between donors are feasible and forthcoming; (vii) the PC can assist MOA in formulating, coordinating and monitoring conservation policies and programmes. The Appraisal Report (AR) estimated a minimum Internal Economic Rate of Return of 15%, even if any longer term benefits from the introduction of agro-forestry development and national institution-building aspects were excluded. The 15% return was based on increased crop yields (maize and sorghum) from 13 900 ha of land. Yields increase was expected from the combination of soil and water conservation and improved production practices.

Evaluation

An inter-disciplinary Focussed Evaluation Mission (FEM) visited the field for a period of five weeks to assess the achievements and constraints of the programme's soil and water conservation and agro-forestry activities and their effect (and impact so far) on the target groups. Discussions were held with officials from the implementing agencies in the capital and the districts and extensive field visits were made to the four programme districts where interviews were held with farmers, and MOA staff from District Headquarters and Resource Centres (RCs). Interviews for RC staff and farmers were devised and pre-tested before final field use. The FEM visited all RCs and MOA's research sub-stations (where agro-forestry activities are undertaken). In addition to individual and group interviews of farmers in the project area the mission conducted a focussed survey of some Machobane farmers who have been following the system for some years.

Without exception SWaCAP was characterised by very poor collation of field data. Severe deficiencies were encountered with regard to information on input packages promoted by the programme to encourage farmers to participate in conservation-based productive practices; records of the numbers of on-farm trials and demonstration from both cropping and agro-forestry activities; results from crop and AF trials; and the monitoring of irrigation and bee-keeping activities. This, together with the fact that monitoring and internal evaluation of programme promoted activities have been very weak, greatly hampered quantitative assessment of performance.

Implementation context

The implementation of SWaCAP has been adversely affected by some unforeseen factors some of which were beyond the programme’s control. Droughts in the late 1980’s and mid nineties affected implementation. The Structural Adjustment of the early 1990’s implied a significant shift in policy from strong economic control by GOL towards de-regulation, re-orientation of the role of government and reduced public service funding and staffing. The steady decline in morale of the public service and the inability of certain divisions to retain qualified staff led to a deterioration in government’s capacity to implement and support the large number of donor projects. Budgetary rationalisation and dwindling migrant remittances from RSA affected counterpart funding and some aspects of programme implementation. Financial mismanagement within SWaCAP led to a suspension of disbursements from IFAD Loan for a period of 18 months. Many key programme staff left and the programme implementation was seriously affected. The reluctance of some departments within MOA to give its full cooperation to the programme has in many instances hampered implementation.

The GOL, IFAD and the Cooperating Institution (UN/OPS) showed very considerable flexibility in their approach to programme implementation. First a drought relief component was incorporated at the request of GOL, second the promotion of the Machobane farming system was agreed to by IFAD and OPS; and third Technical Assistance inputs were increased when it became clear that MOA could not provide technical staff as required.

Project achievements

Overall Objectives. Aside from providing some temporary drought relief there is no evidence that SWaCAP has achieved its ultimate objective of increasing the income and living conditions of its target group and assisting with erosion control. The programme has, however, successfully promoted Machobane farming, an indigenous concept which incorporates cash cropping and elements of more sustainable farming systems, and has provided some basis for a potentially viable Agro-Forestry research capacity, and agronomic research for conservation.

Development and Refinement of Agricultural Innovations. The SWaCAP research sub-component as developed in the AR stated that SWaCAP would develop and refine the crop production recommendations of the FISC project. This was discarded in the early stages of implementaiton as FISC recommendations were found not sustainable and were only acceptable to farmers because they were issued with free inputs. What was being advocated was a relatively high input package with little relevance to farmers in the target group. The main effort of innovation was re-directed to the conservation of water in conjunction with low cost/low input packages (a mix of fertilizers and manure) for resource poor farmers. Through this approach, the programme developed technologies based on the rip-line system of tillage. The period of research, contrary to AR stipulations extended for five years. The MOA/ARD did not allow SWaCAP to set new priorities different from established directions. The divergence of views was not sorted out and ARD’s cooperation with SWaCAP remained minimal.

A large number of trial/demonstration work was conducted by SWaCAP the most significant is that of tillage technology. Unfortunately, the reporting of the trials does not do justice to the field work that was conducted and gaps remain with respect to physical details of the trials and farmers' comments and attitudes.

Tillage Technology. Because of the traditional use of the mouldboard plough which inverts the soil sod to the same depth with each cultivation a plough-pan or hardpan had developed at a comparatively shallow depth. The hardpan inhibits moisture penetration and limits the depth to which plant roots are able to penetrate. The hardpan situation was addressed by shallow ripping, incorporation of animal manure into the rip-line to prolong the effect of ripping and encouraging farmers to follow the same rip-lines with each tillage operation. Between 1990 and 1994 trials with the rip-line were implemented in farmers’ fields. The results demonstrated that from an agronomic view the rip-line technique and its offshoots represent a superior technology to what the bulk of the farmers were using.

Nevertheless, the FEM found little evidence of substantial use of the rip-line technique amongst farmers despite availability of rippers at the Resource Centres. The FEM’s assessment is that while the benefits of the rip-line technology are indisputable given the results of the SWaCAP trials, the use of this tillage practice has been limited due to variations in soil type, unavailability of adequate animal draught power and insufficient extension efforts.

SWaCAP conducted basic fertilizer trials with and without usig the rip-line system. The use of relatively moderate amounts of fertilizer in rip-lines, particularly LAN or dolomite resulted in substantial yield increase and can be potentially, a major break-through. Its limitation is the dependence of low fertilizer inputs on the use of rip-line tillage. If the rip-line technology can be accessed by a significant number of farmers at a reasonable cost SWaCAP research efforts will have a large impact.

Some trials on Vetiver Grass as a biological tool for soil and water conservation were also undertaken but results were not encouraging. No trial work for bana grass as a fodder or as a fodder related to conservation practices were undertaken. The assumption appears to have been made that bana grass is useful and then considerable efforts were made to multiply and distribute it among farmers. As a result, bana grass is now widely distributed throughout the programme area. Its performance has been mixed. Because of its clumpy growth habit, as a soil conservation agent its potential is quite limited, but it has the potential to serve as a useful fodder species in some farming systems. As a result of its widespread distribution by SWaCAP there is now a vast experience with this grass.

Overall, SWaCAP’s on-farm research activities did not achieve the programme’s objectives of refining and generating conservation-based technologies which could be immediately adopted by its target group. However, some potentially effective technologies based on rip-line tillage were produced. These technologies are limited by a lack of adequate animal draught power and/or heavy soils with a significant plough-pan or hardpan or both. If these problems can be overcome the technologies developed under SWaCAP have the potential to increase yields significantly.

Introduction of Conservation Farming System. Building on the FISC experience, a village by village approach to better conservation practice, was to be adopted stressing the building or repair of conservation structures. Incentives were to take the form of payments of farm inputs or cash, calculated according to stated work norms. During implementation design features were adjusted to fit the concerns of the MOA with more emphasis on vegetation than on structural control. Seven Conservation Incentive Schemes (CIS) packages were developed: (i) countor bund improvement; (ii) donga reclamation; (iii) grazing management; (iv) kraal construction; (v) village nurseries; (vi) water catchments; and (vii) bana grass multiplication. The packages are composed of inputs specifically required for each activity. Only some of these packages were widely distributed through RCs.

It was also soon realized that cash payments in relation to work norms were no longer acceptable to MOA because of unsustainability, and that incentives should comprise only the inputs required for the task. A keystone of the AR’s proposal, that is the rewarding of participants in agricultural inputs equivalent in value to conservation work performed was, therefore, disbanded early in the life of the programme. SWaCAP no longer envisaged the intensive, area by area conservation focused programmes which were planned in the AR due to poor response from district and village officials in the Berea district. The extension service had been ill-equipped to undertake such efforts and its reorganisation was taking longer than expected.

Contour Bank Improvement. A large number of contour bank improvement packages were issued. As contour banks were not particularly prevalent in Berea, Leribe or Butha Buthe it is likely that many of the packages were used for purposes other than reclamation/stabilisation of banks. The FEM confirmed that at no RC was the distribution of the packages linked to any conservation activity. Village nurseries were understood to be small private agri-businesses that SWaCAP was capitalising and guaranteeing a market. This lead to confusion about the ownership of the durable equipment (shade cloth, treated poles, watering cans) and the responsibilities for market development. The distinction between the role of government (MOA staff) and that of the private sector (the farmer) was not clear enough. When market support stopped the nurseries collapsed. In addition, SWaCAP’s provision of free trees for planting in dongas (or elsewhere) affected a potential market for nurseries dependent upon tree sales. Large amounts of bana grass were distributed mainly for terrace improvement.

Gully (Donga) Reclamation. Dongas are geomorphological features created by the hydrology of the landscape. Unless the hydrology is changed, the processes that created the donga will still function. Therefore, the notion of donga reclamation by building structures (silt traps) or planting trees and grass is rather simplistic. Structures can be washed out in heavy rains and, like other conservation structures, need continual maintenance. Tree planting, without addressing the fundamental causes of donga formation does little to change structural processes. Donga reclamation is almost always beyong the resources and control of individuals as their causes involve the activities of whole communities. Incremental benefits, if at all achievable, have a long gestation. They do not therefore present opportunities for the poor and landless as stipulated at appraisal. If projects are to address donga reclamation or prevention, their intervention must be community-based.

The FEM’s investigations indicate that although donga reclamation is a popular concept in the expatriate community, it is not among the Basotho. While the Basotho would like dongas to be stopped or filled in, they are unsure of a successful and feasible technology. FEM found no evidence that packages released for Donga reclamation have had an effect on helping reclaim or prevent donga formation; or have for that matter been indeed used for this purpose. Donga reclamation is hard, recurrent work with no immediate returns and with high possibility of failure. Landless, even after surmounting the tenure obstacle, did not find the venture remunerative. Certainly there are cases of individual reclaiming dongas, but these are farmers with other resources that provide them with a livelihood.

Overall, no evidence was found that CIS increased farm productivity and household income or led to establish conservation as part of the farming system. Inadequate coordination and cooperation between the programme and the extension services, inadequacy of these services, lack of follow-up by EAs on the distributed packages and the suspension of disbursement have had some negative effects on the promotion of conservation-based activities. Nevertheless, programme design has underestimated the complexities and difficulties of identifying suitable interventions which would fit into the farmers’situations. The packages devised under the programme’s Conservation Incentive Scheme (CIS) were generally not compatible with farmers’ needs and priorities. Gully (donga) reclamation is beyond the resources of the poor while conservation structures were found of limited importance in three of the four programme districts. The nurseries are viable only in rare situations where viable marketing outlets exist within farmers’ reach.

Agro-Forestry (AF) Reseach and Development. The output of the AF component is not up to the AR's somewhat ambitious expectations. Delays in rendering the MOA field stations operational for AF research purposes, staff shortages including the failure to appoint assistants for the Afro-Forestry Researcher (AFR) at headquarters level; lack of cooperation, at times, from MOA and a divergence of attention of AFR to the revival of Machobane farming, contributed to the component's inability to reach its stated objectives. However, a good basis for AF research has been established. Its sustainability hinges on AF research establishing a niche within the Agriculture Research Division (ARD). The sustainability of AF research relates to the whole issue of an appropriate organisation and approach within the currently demoralised ARD.

While below appraisal stipulation, good effort has gone into testing and promoting AF technologies on farmers’ fields and later on-station. Trials encompassed screening of Multi Purpose Trees, inter-crop orchard, forage/fodder alleys and variety trials. However, the failure of the AF component to clearly colate and report the findings of its on-station and on-farm trials and demonstrations, be it in an interim or final form, is a major shortcoming. It is critical that a thorough assessment of all AF experience, based on this data, is undertaken before the programme is terminated. To date, agro-forestry results have not been integrated within the extension system.

The AF component's main attention was focussed on the promotion of Machobane farming from 1991 onwards with the explicit consent of OPS and IFAD and, over the years, with tacit agreement from MOA. An AF Network was established with support from SWaCAP, which is a good achievement in cooperation to share (and, to a degree, generate) knowledge between GOL, donors and NGOs.

Re-Organisation of Extension. Almost all infrastructure stipulated (RCs) has been completed. Currently many RCs suffer from theft of equipment and not all EAs reside there. The complexity of formulating and implementing a full re-organization of the extension system was grossly under-estimated. The concept of a service based on client demand using a radically re-structured extension system proved a major undertaking. The processes needed to implement such changes are time consuming and require a major shift in attitude on the part of both extension workers and the MOA hierarchy. Support from MOA was modest partly because it was being subjected to pressure by other donors advocating and implementing other extension methodologies. The refusal by GOL to appoint Area Supervisors (ASs), a key element in the SWaCAP promoted system, is one indication of the MOA’s less than whole hearted support. The multi-purpose extension approach advocated at appraisal has not been effectively installed at RC level. Many EAs, despite their training as generalist, still function within their original discipline and the absence of ASs confuses programme set up and reporting system.

"Client Demand" seems to have been interpreted as an approach which makes farmers more aware of what is available through the EAs who wait at the RCs for the farmers to approach them. This has not worked to farmers’ advantage particularly the poor. Closer and more frequent interaction between farmers and MOA staff, outside the RCs, is needed to determine what the farmers real needs are before programmes are developed and advice is offered. On balance the RC concept, with local adjustments as necessary, is an improvement over the previous system of spreading EAs in villages. The potential for better communication and coordination between EAs is much higher and training by Subject Matter Specialists in RCs is more cost efficient than EAs going to district centres. As a training facility for local farmers RCs is a positive contribution and probably the main benefit of SWaCAP's intervention with regard to RC extension so far.

Drought Relief. IFAD'S financing of drought relief operations represented a one-off intervention which was justified given the dire situation in Lesotho at that time. SWaCAP's active involvement was effective in implementing the input package activities and facilitating the provision of borewells for potable water. In addition, it activated the bee-keeping activity and started the pilot irrigation schemes. The last two activities have been shown to have potential for expansion.

The Machobane Farming System (MFS). The MFS activity was not included in SWaCAP’s project design but arose through the interest and efforts of the programmes’ AFR. Dr. J.J. Machobane (a Masotho) developed his farming system during the 1950’s on his own farm. The technical parameters upon which the system is based are: (i) intensive inter-cropping by growing several crops simultaneously or in relay in the same field; (ii) adequate soil fertility and moisture retention capacity is achieved through localised placement of ash (household waste) and manure, combined with adequate weeding; (iii) ash and manure produced by a typical family is sufficient for one acre of land using localised techniques; (iv) one acre of land is sufficient to grow enough, for home consumption and sale; and (v) intensive cropping on the above basis offers a further, synergistic means of enhancing soil and moisture conservation and reducing income fluctuations.

The Machobane approach embodies an ideological framework for the development of endogenous capabilities, in which natural resource development and people’s attitudes are inter -dependent. It emphasises self-reliance, hard work, dedication and a willingness by participants to train other farmers in adopting the system (farmers to farmers extension). In essence Machobane’s approach requires participants to act as voluntary extension agents.

SWaCAP’s AFR persuaded Dr Machobane to become involved in reinstating MFS. A small amount of SWaCAP funds was used to test and promote the MFS. Detailed recordings of input/output data for one year (91/92) were taken and gross margin analyses conducted on the resultant data. The outputs of the MFS were reportedly superior to mono-cropped fields. Between 1991/92 and 1996/97 the number of farmers using the Machobane system increased from 22 to 1 998 a ninety fold increase. By 1996 growers did not receive subsidies of any kind aside from free training.

The Focussed Survey undertaken by FEM on established Machobane farms suggests a population that is not typical of rural Lesotho. The farmers engaged in the system were older people with grown children and access to means of production which reflect the first generation of Machobane followers. Most of the farmers interviewed lived in areas with relatively good roads and a landscape where scotch carts could be used. Strict Machobane farming uses no mechanical implements at all - hand labour and hand tools are advocated for every operation. However, all of the farmers used either an ox-drawn plough or a tractor to till their fields. Half of the Machobane farmers only weeded by hand, the other half used an ox-drawn cultivator for between row weeding. Almost all farmers had access to free kraal manure. Labour requirements in Machobane fields were higher mainly because potatoes, a more labour intensive crop, were grown; manure and ashes (which are bulky) had to be transported to the field; and mechanical cultivation and weeding was difficult because of less space between rows of crops. Combined returns of the Machobane field is by far higher than returns of any mono cropping activity. Constraints are mainly labour availability and marketing of crops. Other less endowed farms, of more recent followers, practiced simple versions of Machobane but higher returns were always reported.

Conservation Strategy and Policy Coordination. Very little progress has been achieved under this component and the situation remains virtually unchanged since the MTR of 1993 and its assessment remains valid. Liaison between the programme and the Conservation Section of the MOA Planning Division has been limited, and there is little evidence of national monitoring or reporting on the conservation sector. Many of the shortcomings in implementation of this component stem from the difficult experience of the CTF, the limited time devoted by the PC, and lack of cooperation between MOA Departments. The fact that the programme has been put under the DEM has, to some extent, alianated other departments within MOA, whose cooperation is crucial in the success of this component and indeed of all others.

Effects assessment and sustainability

The Farming Communities. FEM could not establish significant or sustainable effects of conservation activities by its users. The records that were kept were not consistent from RC to RC. To the extent that these sources are reliable, most CIS activities appeared to have affected only a few people at each RC. Fodder grass seed distribution was the exception. This result was confirmed during FEM interviews with farmers (individually and in groups) as well as with MOA’s staff. The CIS packages did not function as envisaged. Both the AR and the designer of the CIS considered the incentives (commodities and initially cash) to be payment for tasks performed. For the most part those implementing the project delinked the incentives from the task to be performed and transformed the incentives into promotion packages (mostly fodder) run under client demand concepts. Seeds or planting materials were announced at meetings, pitsos and on the radio, and were issued equally to all clients who showed interest. The activities for which the packages were supposed to be used were not systematically verified and followed up by extension staff. SWaCAP became identified with the provision of "free" inputs rather than the intended conservation message.

As a result, the project affected people’s outlook, with regard to externally funded intervetion. It has confirmed the impression that projects and foreigners hand out things for free wihtout any obligation on the part of the recipient. More than one government official characterized SWaCAP as an entity that "spoiled the farmers" by "giving away too much for free". This attitude was also reflected in the group interviews conducted by the FEM, when expectations for continued free inputs was invariably expressed. FEM found no evidence that soil and water conservation measures promoted by SWaCAP, effected farmers income or household food security, The packages devised under the CIS were generally not compatible with farmers’ needs or priorities. Nowhere in SWaCAP promotion/extension strategy was the conservation message clearly related to increments in production.

Among on-farm research efforts by SWaCAP the rip-line technologies and better dessimination have the best potential to impact a large number of farmers provided the problem of insufficient draught power are solved. So far, however, its actual effects and impact on farmers has been slight. Direct impact on Agro-Forestry trials have so far been insignificant.

The FEM concluded that it is the "progressive farmers" who have mostly taken advantage of the innovations associated with "free" inputs. The participation of progressive farmers has been reinforced by the extension staff as they focused the innovations on their known clients. Recipients of SWaCAP services were predominantly middle-aged, male-headed households with above average material resources, income and familiarity with the extension system. By and large, the target group, the rural poor, has received little benefit. Many participants have abandoned SWaCAP supported activities following receipt of free inputs. Significantly, the FEM could not find any evidence of the spread of activities due to farmer-to-farmer interaction in obvious contrast with the Machobane practice.

The introduction of Machobane farming system has had so far the highest impact on rural household with 2 000 practising farm families. The "selling point" of the Machobane philosophy is self-help, complemented by the need for very few, if any, cash inputs which allows participants to produce food for consumption and an output (potato, bean) for sale. The MFS, in the various forms, has the potential to allow access to a multitude of farmers that were previously shut out of the cash economy. It is probable that the re-establishment of Machobane farming will be SWaCAP’s main legacy.

Drought Relief. Undoubtedly the 4 000 maize seed and fertilizer packages made available to farmers have had some positive affects on production compared to drought affected yields. Promotion of bee-keeping and small scale irrigation is at a relatively early stage so impact on production, to date, is limited but quite promising.

Targeting. The objective of targeting the poor has been frustrated throughout the project’s duration by a failure to define the poor. A series of studies and workshops were unable to clarify the very general definition of the Appraisal Report. The responsibility for defining the poor was relegated to extension staff at each RC. Shortage of staff and other logistical problems made this task an unwelcome additional burden. Some staff of RCs and community leaders believe that most Basotho are poor, therefore most residents of the project area are within the target group. Others with a more critical view found great difficulty in discriminating at the point of delivery. They observed that tension can easily be created or enhanced by giving opportunities selectively. A common social concern is that to be labelled "poor" is a stigma; it is therefore distasteful for MOA staff to seek out the rural poor.

No provision was made in the design for activities which would reach women or female-headed households exclusively on the assumption that they represent the majority of poor rural households. This assumption may become increasingly invalid with the return of mineworkers from South Africa and decreasing possibilities of new entrants in RSA labour market. Two project components clearly restricted to the poor were not implemented; cash payment for work on conservation structures and donga reclamation for landless people. Drought relief was administered to the needy, but determination of the needy in time of drought may be even more problematic.

Field investigation by the FEM led it to conclude that SWaCAP activities have reached only a very small section of the intended target group. A survey undertaken by SWaCAP in 1995 gives further support to this finding despite some obvious statistical bias. In a sample of 189 households in the project area only 46% were found to have benefitted to any degree from SWaCAP intervention (of which 23% refer to Machobane farmers). If statistical bias are eliminated, this ratio decreases to about 14%, which indicate overall a very modest achievement in reaching the poor.

Participation was to have been achieved through the development of a structure based upon representatives of farmers being selected as Village Technicians (VTs), participation in on-farm agricultural trials ad demonstrations, and the promotion of share cropping arrangements between landless and households short of labour. Some VTs were selected and trained, but a coherent system of VTs was never developed. Agricultural trials and demonstrations were implemented on farmers’ fields but these have not been consulted on the choice of these trials. Instead of the development of a two-way dialogue, emphasis seems to have been placed on stimulating client demand for packages and technologies developed by SWaCAP. Pitsos were held to inform people of project components and activities. Information about agricultural technologies and CIS packages also appeared on farm radio programs and in farmer publications. The Agricultural Show in Maseru promoted the use of the ripper. Beneficiary participation became synonymous with enhancing demand for SWaCAP inputs and services rather than providing what is demanded by farmers.

Institution Building: Agro-forestry Research Capacity. Despite earlier reluctance by MOA the AF concept has now been accepted by the ARD. The concept of AF is now entrenched within AF field station staff but to a much lower extent within the extension service. An AF capacity, although not up to AR expectations, has been developed within the ARD. The infrastructure improvements to the existing ARD research sub-stations represent a physical strengthening to ARD's capacity. For the AF activities initiated under the AF component to be sustained and increased further support, be it from normal GOL sources or donors, will be necessary.

On-farm Research. Due to the inability of SWaCAP and ARD to effectively cooperate, the impact of SWaCAP’s research sub-component on MOA as an institution has been disappointing. The formation of the FSRU involved some input from SWaCAP. Recently a growing concensus has been emerging within MOA that agricultural research - including forestry, AF and conservation - needs to be better coordinated and focused on real farming needs. SWaCAP's AFR has been instrumental in advocating a coordinated research approach.

Extension. The construction of RCs has given the extension system in four districts a better base to work from, particularly with regard to farmer training. The "generalist" skills of some 90 field staff have been improved, to some degree, through training. However the system currently used is not working effectively on the principle of using multi-purpose extension agents. The FEM's conclusion is that, given more direction and support, the system proposed by SWaCAP can be acceptable to the bulk of the MOA's field staff. For the system to work and be sustainable, commitment by MOA at headquarters and district level is essential. Lack of such commitment has been a major factor preventing implementation of the "Client Demand" extension to be sustained. Adequately trained and remunerated ASs, with sufficient authority, will need to be appointed and staffing levels will need to be raised. Above all, support for the system at district level will need to be assured.

Main issues and recommendations

More weight should be given to detailed analyses of farmers resources, needs, priorities and perceptions of soil and water conservation in project design. Detailed interaction with implementing agencies at all levels is an obvious requirement. Participation by the target group and the on-the-ground implementers during design and implementation would allow tentative ideas conceived elsewhere to be radically changed by local discussion. Pre-conceived notions may be rejected completely, and widely held beliefs challenged. It is less costly to change plans and readjust design than to change or try to salvage a project with major problems.

The issue of effective cooperation betweeen the parent agency and donor projects or programmes arose with all SWaCAP components. Donor-supported activities should complement or supplement, under an atmosphere of mutual agreement, existing agency activities. The donors role, aside from providing funds, is to provide assistance with implementation (if necessary) while at the same time assuring that its specific interests (agreed to by both parties prior to implementation) are protected. The donor should not be felt as the dominant partner.

IFAD should take steps, drastic if necessary, to ensure that reporting by the project and the implementing agencies is adequate to take advantage of on-going implementation experience as well as extract maximum information from research/demonstration activities. If there is an identified need of external assistance with reporting the donor should ensure that this is provided. During the final phase of SWaCAP, specific studies (detailed in the main report page 73-76) to analyse programmes experiences should be undertaken. The evaluation feels that it is critical that the studies be conducted while SWaCAP staff are still available for consultation and while the programme’s interventions are still remembered by farmers.

The MOA is in the process of formulting an appropriate extension approach for Lesotho. On the assumption that a multi-purpose extension force will form the basis of future extension methodology the evaluation recommends that future intervention considers: (a) appropriate measures (with regard to supervision, staff levels, staff training and operating means) to support an effective multi-purpose extension system based on genuine "client demand"; (b) the concept of RCs should be revisited prior to further duplication and criteria of choice of location be adjusted with provisions for on-farm follow-up by EA; and (c) the concept of client demand should equally be revised to include a two way approach to taping this demand from the inception of project.

At the RC levels the following steps should be taken: (i) experienced and adequately remunerated ASs with sufficient administrative authority would need to be appointed; (ii) a core of staff would need to be stationed at each RC; (iii) a concerted, intensive effort of training based on real needs would have to be conducted to allow EAs to function confidently as genuine multi-purpose agents; (iv) effective lines of communication would have to be reinforced between the Extension Assistants ASs and SMSs Districts ; and (v) adequate means for the EA to function, including access to transport would need to be provided.

IFAD should extend further suppport to adaptive research pending on MOA completely re-orientating and re-organizing its research structure. Realistically salary levels in ARD would have to be raised if they are to become competitive with alternative sources of employment. The time is currently ripe for agricultural research in Lesotho to be rationalised and more emphasis given on to a Farm Systems Approach. It is recommended that IFAD should assist, through SWaCAP funds if available, in this process. Two workshops would be needed. The first, involving farmers, government, donors, NGOs and other interested agencies, should assess, define and prioritise farmers’ needs. On the basis of this effort, a second workshop involving the same participants should devise the outline for future agricultural research directions, priorities and methodologies.

Data from AF components’ on-station and on-farm trials/demonstrations should be compiled and assessed prior to the closure of the project. If necessary, assistance should be given to SWaCAP to carry out this task. It is recommended that the assessment of results be considered a priority. Steps should be taken to consolidate the position of AF within Lesotho’s research establishment. For the incorporation of AF in ARD to have any real relevance the ARD’s research priorities and approaches will need to be thoroughly re-assessed along the lines suggested in para. 57.

With regard to on-going SWaCAP research activities the following recommendations are made: (i) SWaCAP should complete and strengthen its provision of infrastructure for ARD’s research sub-stations regardless of how these facilities are used; (ii) an effort should be made during the final stages of SWaCAP to intensively train its TOs in AF research techniques without jeopardising on-going activities; (iii) a consultancy on the rural communities’ perception of AF is recommended; and (iv) The IFAD-supported Sustainable Mountain Area Agriculture Development Programme (under design) should incorporate AF research and, provided the GOL undertakes comprehensive review of its agricultural research agenda, IFAD should continue to support AF research initiated by SWaCAP within and outside the mountain environment.

A detailed field study, using a practically-oriented agronomist and a sociologist familiar with Lesotho conditions, should be undertaken to investigate thoroughly over a number of years the yield response of rip-line technologies developed under SWaCAP over various soil charactristics and socio-economic conditions. The purpose is to precisely determine the causes for the current non-adoption by farmers and device solutions.

Small enterprise development (e.g. private nurseries) must observe appropriate forward and backward linkages and business principles. Equipment or start-up materials must be understood to be a loan and not a gift, with a clear understandings of expected repayment/return. Those who agree to enter a business must be assisted initially with training, identification of markets, connecting with it, effecting sales and keeping track of costs. They should be capable to sustain such activities without further intervention. Continuous dependence on a project entity or government is self-defeating.

There is a urgent need for objective soil erosion research. Donga prevention and control would benefit from an understanding of the role of the geomorphological and hydrological processes in their formation. A serious effort should be made to collect quantitative data which can support or refute many of the standard beliefs about gully origin, growth and control. This can only be a long-term project, since erosion processes occur over time.

As with all SWaCAP-supported activities, the programmes’ experiences with both bee-keeping and small-scale irrigation should be carefully documented and detailed financial analyses provided for both enterprises. Small-scale irrigation, particularly, is an area that future projects should consider. Careful investigation and planning is necessary to assure that the water supply is adequate, the potential participants are suitable and that sufficient technical advice is available.

The MFS concept needs support. Given the current situation with regard to MOA perception of the concept and its research capacity, support to the Machobane Foundation would be the most effective way of investigating and supporting the MFS. Regardless of whether IFAD and/or other donors chose to support the foundation the following is required: (i) detailed cost/benefit studies of the MFS over a number of years including input, price, marketing implication of soil erosion and pest control; (ii) MOA should officially recognise the MFS concept as an alternative to current inorganic fertiliser-based systems and integrate into its extension system; and (iii) the MFS is a concept based on the re-cycling of organic materials and synergy between intercrops/relay crops, which in terms of crops grown and methods already has many variations. Formal studies into the multitude of practices that could be used within the MFS concept (for example shallow ripping, deep ripping) should be undertaken.

Lessons learned

The SWaCAP design was largely based on the seemingly successful experience of another donor in conservation activities. During implementation a change in course had to be effected. Replication of Donors’ successful interventions, particularly in complex fields like soil and water conservation should be encouraged. To be viable, however, such replication should be done only following a thorough evaluation of these experiences which assesses farmers’ acceptability and the specific conditions under which such experience appeared to be valid.

Extension Strategies based on Client Demand can easily run the risk of becoming Supply Driven. It is inadequate to assume that the resource poor farmers will take the initiatives of visiting frequently Resource Centres to pick and choose from available technological options. This behaviour can be typically expected from progressive farmers. A two ways interaction is indispensable when dealing with poor farmers. Extensionists should contact farmers in location and motivate them to visit and use the Centres’ facilities. Centre visits, per se, are no guarantee for adoption. Researchers have to learn to develop their trials programmes with the farmers so that ultimate extension advice and options offered are pertinent. Stimulating client demand for packages and technologies developed in isolation of users socio-economic context is a supply based strategy. Genuine "Client Demand" necessitates a clear understanding by implementing agencies of their customers real needs; before options are developed and offered.

In the context of conservation activities incentives should be distinguished from subsidies. Incentives are measures to motivate or stimulate an individual to act in a certain way/adopt a certain practice. A subsidy is a payment (in cash or kind) provided to reduce the cost/raise the returns of an activity. Subsidies are often used, as in the case of SWaCAP, to reduce the cost of a number of conservation activities for the farmers. When subsidies were discontinued practices too were discontinued. Incentives on the other hand relate to the direct benefit resulting from practicing a specific activity (increment in production in the case of conservation). If this benefit is sustainable so will be the practice. Subsidies can be construed as incentives if production increases from conservation are delayed for some time, due to the nature of the activity, and farmers have no means to bear the loss incurred over this period. In such a case, the subsidy should be categorically related to losses incurred and phased out over time in proportion to production increase/decrease in losses.

The fast adoption of the Machobane farming system by a large number of farmers flies in the face of donors’ attempts to integrate conservation methods into farmers’ regular practices. While several interpretations can be advanced, the single most important factor is that the system offers farmers, within one season of adoption, what seems to be a sustainable increase in net income from a cash/food crop. Simultaneously, increments in food supply and net income for the rural household are realized. These incentives are sufficiently attractive that farmers are willing to invest their time, despite scarcity of labour to train other farmers willing to adopt the system. The level of financial input of this technology, the dedication of its promoters and the fact that its success is demonstrated by other farmers in the communities are also important. Promoters of conservation techniques have to remember that as long as the practice itself does not result in a quick felt benefit to the poor farmer, adoption will not take place. This basic and simple economic fact is most often overlooked by donors and governments alike.

Experiences

SWaCAP clearly illustrates the need for adequate consultation between beneficiaries, implementing agencies and donors. Because the interventions promoting conservation-based agricultural production were not seen as attractive by farmers they had little impact. Regardless of pressure from donors and/or government to proceed quickly to implementation, focused studies,which identify the needs and priorities of the beneficiaries and assess the capabilities of the implementing agencies, should be formalised as a routine procedure between inception and formulation phases in project design. During implementation interactions with beneficiaries for feedback on project interventions should be done on a continuous basis.

The complexities of formulating and implementing major changes to bureaucratic government organisations (the MOA’s extension system in the case of SWaCAP), whose key players are likely to have their own agendas often driven by donors’ conflicting approaches, should not be under-estimated. If, after all avenues are explored, agreement cannot be reached with governments or is only grudgingly given, donors may be better off abandoning the intervention.

IFAD, regardless of pressure to disburse funds, should be prepared to take action if critical Loan Agreement conditions are not met, in the interests of the programmes or projects. Had more pressure been exerted by IFAD on MOA to appoint ASs the re-organisation of the extension service is likely to have been considerably more advanced. Similarly if the AF and on-farm research components had been forced to report their work properly comprehensive trial results might now be available. IFAD’s failure, despite repeated demands by OPS for better reporting, to take action be it sanctions or direct assistance with reporting, has been unfortunate.

Supervision missions are likely to benefit from periodical changes (or addition) to the composition of their team members to include disciplines pertinent to the problem at hand. Neither the OPS missions or the MTR recognised the weaknesses inherent in the CIS proposals.

Gullies result for actions and practices undertaken by the rural community as a whole. The reclamation of dongas or the prevention of their formation must therefore be addressed by communities with appropriate government guidance. Effective attention to dongas is beyond the resources and control of a single individual.

There is a need for a financial analysis to validate any technical options for farmers’ point of view.. None of the on-farm research recommendations or the activities relating to the CIS packages were financially analysed. Had the viability of village nurseries and reclamation of dongas been analysed, these activities would not have been undertaken in the forms in which they were implemented.

Enough time should be allowed for on-farm research. SWaCAP’s initial intention of "refining" FISC findings over one season was unrealistic. The bulk of the programme’s research activities spaned over four years - this represents a minimum time-frame. The programme would have benefited from a further period of focused investigations to fine-tune findings.

Targeting should be accomplished through project activities and in close consultation with the community rather than through assessment of an individual’s socio-economic status. Targets should involve identifying a group or communities worthy of assistance, working with them to assess needs, and then designing a project to fill those needs. The nature of the project would limit potential beneficiaries outside the target group (self-targeting activities).