Fayoum Agricultural Devleopment Project (1992)

Interim evaluation report

Background

The Fayoum governorate is located in a depression of about 179 500 ha south of Cairo and 25 km west of the Nile River. It is a clearly defined basin, with sloping and rolling topography, with heavy and medium-textured soils derived from Nile alluvium. The soils are inherently excellent for agriculture although there is some soil salinity and sodicity in limited areas. Winters (November to March) are cool, while summers are hot (May to September). Rainfall is negligible. The population in 1978 was 1.22 million.

The majority of land is cultivated by small farmers operating as owners, tenants, and sharecroppers, or as a mixture of all three. The SAR indicated an average farm size of about 2.9 feddan, with 86% of farmers owning less than 5 feddans. The average cropping intensity over the 302 500 feddans (127 200 ha) was 196% but this varied markedly between areas. As in other parts of the Nile Valley, the cropping pattern is based on a well-established three year rotation system which had, until recently, been determined by government policy1 . The main crops were wheat, berseem (winter) and cotton, maize and sorghum (summer). Broadbeans, tomatoes, melons and rice are significant as well. In 1981 there were an estimated 120 500 cattle, 77 000 buffalo, 95 500 sheep, 63 300 goats and 80 000 donkeys in the governorate and commercial poultry production was rising rapidly. The LPIP2 formulation report noted that 85% of the cattle and buffalo were on holdings of less than five feddan with one or two animals owned by each farmer.

Project design and objectives

Target group

Smallholders/tenant farming families cultivating holdings of less than five feddans, with an average per capita income, from farming, of USD 120 or less, were the target group. This group was thought to account for 86% of farmers and 42% of the land farmed in the governorate. Although the project was designed to allow extension services to reach all farmers, only about a quarter (31 000 farming families) were expected to benefit from contact with project activities. As well, institutions and their employees were expected to benefit from training, better operating capacity and incentive payments additional to their salaries.

Objectives and components

The SAR stated that the project "supports the major objectives of the Government's agricultural policy which is to attain as much self sufficiency in food as possible and to generate foreign exchange". Furthermore, the project was to provide the agricultural sector with the means to increase farm incomes and the standards of living of the people. Crop production increases were to be achieved primarily through improved farm practices rather than increased inputs. The contention was that currently available technology for crop production was adequate but that many farmers needed access to it. To provide access, the project was to re organize the extension (and to a lesser degree, research) service using the Training and Visit (T&V) System of Extension. To ensure that the recommended crop packages could be implemented, the projects were to strengthen some aspects of crop inputs supply and credit facilities. By taking these actions, the project would assist the Government of Egypt (GOE) in implementing its policy of merging research and extension at the governorate, district and field levels.

The project was to achieve its objectives through investment in institutional strengthening; provision for a better supply of a range of agricultural inputs; and through credit. Project activities were to be phased over a six-year period to ensure that sufficient time was allowed for the installation of the T&V system and the procurement and physical construction of all the necessary infrastructure. The following components and sub-components were to be included:

  • Extension and Research
  • Irrigation and Water Management
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Farm Mechanization
  • Agricultural Credit and Marketing
  • Project Coordination Unit (PCU)
  • Technical Assistance and Training
  • Monitoring and Evaluation

Expected results and assumptions

In terms of output, the project was expected to increase the production of most crops grown in the governorate for which a proven technological package was already known. By project maturity (Year 9), average production increases over the without project position would vary from 13% for onions to 78% for Nili maize. As well for 15% of livestock in the governorate, milk production was expected to increase by 12% from buffaloes and 6% from cows, while increases in meat production were expected to range from 33% for buffalo calves and baladi bulls to 8% for buffalo heifers and 22% for baladi heifers.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation's (MOALR) capacity to provide extension services to farmers was to be drastically upgraded through intensive staff training, better office facilities, transport and operating means and the use of T&V extension methodology. The suitability of the T&V system for other parts of Egypt was to be assessed.

The appraisal expected net incomes of farmers with 1.2 and 3.0 feddans to increase from Egyptian Pound (LE) 522 to LE 758 and LE 381 to LE 2084 respectively.

Evaluation

In accordance with the terms of reference, the mission focused on agricultural development essentially as affected by the project's innovative extension system, the appropriateness of crop recommendations developed by research, the extension/research link and the projects' credit component. Agricultural development was taken as crop development; though not part of the focus of the evaluation, some consideration was given to livestock and project management as well. Major policy changes have taken place in Egypt, particularly in agricultural policies, since the inception of the project eight years ago; thus what may have been appropriate at appraisal may not be so now. For instance, agricultural inputs were largely government-provided and the large-scale commercial production of livestock was in government hands, two situations which the government is reversing. The mission has tried to keep this in mind during its deliberations. The assessment of FADP was conducted together with a similar evaluation of the Minya Agricultural Development Project (MADP) so that the experiences from the projects could be taken into account for a forthcoming LPIP appraisal.

To assess the overall status of the project, the mission reviewed IDA's six monthly supervision reports and progress reports prepared by the FADP itself, together with activity-specific reports prepared by consultants contracted by the project. The mission spent eight days in the project area during which it visited the five districts, held discussions with the credit bank, senior staff at governorate district level and visited contact and non-contact farmers.

Project implementation context

In the context of the general economy the project was conceived at the end of a period of economic boom but implemented during a period of relative austerity. This situation almost certainly contributed to problems with local funding.

By the end of March 1992 (over six years after project effectiveness and 15 months after the original closing date), only 51.7% of the IFAD loan had been distributed. Inordinate delays in decision-making by the National Coordinating Committee (NCC) coupled with delays in effective delegating financial authority to governorate level severely hinder implementation. Problems with inadequate local financing (which the mission suspects could have been lessened by appropriate action at central government level) and delays with decisions relating to procurement and contractual matters were major problems.

Project achievements

As with its sister project, the MADP, the project helped increase farm output and strengthened, through the introduction of the T&V extension system, the MOALR's advisory service. However, the base for the strengthened extension service, as it stands, is fragile and dependent on regular injections of incremental funding.

Infrastructure. Although delayed, the extension centres have been successfully completed; they provide suitable bases for district staff to operate from, as well as locations for routine Village Extension Worker (VEW) training.

Staffing. The projects successfully recruited VEWs3 from within existing complements of field staff. In July 1992 there were some 600 VEWs working with the FADP project. As well, the necessary numbers of Village Extension Supervisors (VESs to supervise VEWs) and Subject Matter Specialists (SMSs to train the VESs and VEWs) were successfully recruited. Training of SMSs by researchers has substantially improved the ability of the latter to teach VEWs existing and new agricultural technologies. Intensive training has increased the confidence and ability of the VEWs, and this, combined with incentive payments, better working conditions and a set programme, has motivated and enabled the extension service to communicate better with farmers.

Contact with Farmers. The numbers of contact farmers increased from 1 929 in 1985/86 to nearly 12 000 by June 1990, while the numbers of farmers under the auspices of the project were 24 110 and nearly 120 000 for the corresponding times. No conclusive dates are available on the quality of the VEW/farmer interactions.

Credit. To May 1992, the project had processed over 19 000 loans, for agricultural purposes, amounting to over USD 11 million. Some 17 500 loans (95.6% and 97.8% in number and value respectively) were for buffalo or cattle. While an estimated 51% of these livestock loans were fraudulent, in that they were used for purposes (generally agricultural) other than specified, they were all given to farmers with less than five feddans of land who, therefore, were members of the target group. Repayment has been satisfactory and the loans, reportedly, did represent an injection of capital into productive ventures.

Monitoring and Evaluation. The SAR's expectations that the MOALR's MEU in Cairo should be responsible for M&E did not come to fruition. Several studies concerning the project's extension and credit components were commissioned by FADP. While these provided some useful information, M&E was not used as a managerial tool during project life.

Project effects - immediate and lasting

Effect on Production. Total crop production showed substantial increases from pre-project levels. Of the three main crops, the average period for the three years 1989 to 1991, wheat and maize output increased by 124% and 18% over the 1984/85 levels respectively, while cotton remained unchanged. Statistics for livestock production are not on hand, but, even allowing for the fraudence of some livestock loans, an estimated 16 800 buffalo and cattle would have been purchased through the project's credit facility. While some of the livestock purchases would merely represent transfers of ownership within the governorates' existing inventory of livestock, substantial number were, reportedly, bought into the governorate. Thus a substantial increase in milk production would have occurred.

While much of the upsurge in production must be attributed to non-project factors, the improved extension service, even if only through the extensive promotion of demonstrations using cooperating farmers, would have made a substantial contribution. Demonstrations covered 17.3% and 14.5% of total winter sowing (1990/91) and summer area (1990) respectively and involved 18 954 and 11 645 farmers in the respective seasons. As the demonstrations out yielded non-demonstration sowing substantially, incremental project promoted output from this activity alone was considerable.

Effect on Farmers' Income. The mission estimated that the income (excluding livestock) of a progressive farm farmer with 1.2 feddan was about LE 2 000, while the average farmer would earn at least LE 1 700. Taking into account the progression of the consumer price over the period, the figure of LE 1 200 appears to be approximately equal to the SAR average target of LE 600 (1984 prices) for farmers owning 1.2 feddan. The fact that production has increased at a substantially higher rate than population implies that a positive effect on food availability has occurred; this, coupled with a substantial increase in farm incomes, would suggest that the living standard of the target group has increased.

Effect on Institutions. The MOALR benefitted both in terms of infrastructure and staff development. The six Extension Centres built by the project provided a much needed based from which extension staff could operate and interact with their field staff.

A particular achievement of the project has been the intensive training provided to SMSs and subsequently by SMSs to VEWs. On many occasions, VEWs during meetings with members of the mission reflected that prior to the project they were poorly equipped in terms of knowledge but now they were adequately trained. A number of more senior staff have benefitted from longer term training both within institutions in Egypt and overseas.

Sustainability. One of the objectives of the projects was to develop a sustainable T&V system which could be replicated in other governorates. While there is no doubt that the T&V system is a substantial improvement on the pre project situations, it has been dependent on incentives and to a lesser degree, expensive inputs of transport. The mission accepts that with the very low wages, incentives are essential (and, indeed, can be usefully manipulated to improve performance) but doubts whether the GOE is prepared to fund and maintain them at a sufficiently high levels to sustain the T&V system in its present form.

The MOALR within the governorates is grossly overstaffed (there are numerous employees outside the T&V system). A much smaller cadre of T&V workers who are better trained, better paid and adequately equipped is likely to be more cost effective in transferring technology. However, it is unlikely that the authorities would accept substantial sudden staff reductions to allow the establishment of such a T&V force. This is a critical issue as to whether an effective extension system can be developed and sustained. Without project funding the T&V system in its current form is not sustainable.

Recommendations

The rationale between the LPIP and the FADP is, in essence, the same. The following recommendations apply to the LPIP and similar rural development projects.

Organization and management

The operation of the project was hampered by MOALR's hesitancy in delegating the authority for implementation to the governorate. The two major lessons learnt are, firstly, that the authority and full responsibility for decision making and financial expenditure should be with the governorate, and secondly, that projects should have effective representation at national level. An effective National Coordinating Committee (NCC) could have dealt with the issue of GOE local funding. Thus, projects should ensure that project control (both the financial and implementation authority) is at governorate level. However, to ensure that the projects programs can be implemented, co operation (particularly regarding financial cash flows) needs to be secured at national level. For this purpose, an NCC should be set up. It should be possible to improve the implementation efficiency in future projects by streamlining project organizational arrangements. In particular, the position of Project Coordinator, which is redundant should be suppressed. The PCUs should continue to act as service units run by Managers while Governorate PCCs should assume the full and ultimate authority for the coordination of project implementation. The line agencies would bear full responsibility for the implementation of their programs. To facilitate relationships between the NCC and the project, a Project Services Office (PSO) should be located with the MOALR's Foreign Agricultural Relations Offices; it should not have financial control for the project. Its responsibility would be to provide services for the governorate PCUs.

The project would have benefitted had its senior officials been better briefed about organization and management; a short term "project (turn key) start up" contract, to translate the SAR into a working document and to organize workshops for senior field staff would have been useful. Thus, the appointment of a short term "turn key" rural development consultant at the commencement of new IFAD projects is recommended.

As the procurement of vehicles has been a major bone of contention in the FADP, the purchase details for vehicles have to be accurately defined at SAR; conversely there must be some flexibility in the ability of a project and IFAD to agree on the purchase of alternative vehicles locally in the interests of the project.

Technology transfer

While the project adopted and modified the T&V system, a considerable number of problems and weaknesses occurred which led to delays in, and modification to, the programs of work. However, the high level of activity attained by the VEWs and increased production by smallholders provides a clear indication of the merits of the system for Egypt.

The immediate weaknesses to be resolved in the extension system are the increased involvement of farmers in localized adaptive research constraints analysis and on farm trials; the broader development of the contact farmers and their individual sub societal farmers' groups away from the co operatives to be more representative of the marginalised communities; the establishment of a lasting and effective working research and extension at governorate level; the establishment of a permanently staffed agricultural extension training center for staff and leading farmer training; the establishment of a productive Development Support Communication Section; the development of a well researched women's extension programme of activities; the provision of transport and an operational budget including, in the prevailing economic situation, incentives; an overall improvement to the system and effectiveness of organization and management, and the frequent, objective, monitoring and self evaluation by management of field programme activities.

Whilst many of the above mentioned weaknesses can be rectified, the major improvements can never be achieved until such time as GOE is able to undertake a complete revision of the civil service bureaucracy, reducing the number of extension field staff by at least 75% and increasing the salaries and allowances within the service to levels appropriate to the economy, in association with the provision for locally planned annual work programs with adequate operational funds and transport.

In line with the GOE's policy of reducing the number of public servants and in recognition of the fact that a small but well motivated and better trained extension force could effectively man a modified T&V extension system it is recommended that the ratio of VEW to farmer be increased to at least 1:500.

To allow such a modified system (or indeed any T&V system) to function on a sustainable basis, the following key subsidiary recommendations are made:

  • funds for realistic levels of incentives must be secured. At negotiation this must be a "critical issue";
  • payment of incentives for all personnel involved in the project must be linked to performance be it in training or field performance; or both;
  • all SMSs and VEWs must be trained to a higher level in areas specifically related to the project;
  • the responsibility for agricultural regulatory functions must be transferred away from T&V VEWs;
  • a fully illustrated T&V extension manual should be developed for the LPIP project illustrating the system of operations; and
  • technical material should be developed (and/or simplified) and distributed as well as illustrated technical packages to farmers and village schools. Much more use must be made of communication through radio, television and the audio visual media.

As a prerequisite to implementing productive women's activities, the following steps should be taken:

  • a well qualified and experienced woman should be appointed as the women's development advisor to each of the governorate's PCCs; whilst at the same time advising the Directors of Extension and the Heads of Women's extension programming;
  • the involvement of women should be developed and managed through the formation of a Women's Working Group at governorate level, combining the available resources of extension with those of all the Non Government Organizations (NGOs) in the governorate working on women's activities at village level;
  • a detailed socio economic survey of the rural women's situation should be undertaken. The results of this survey together with a "pooling" of locally available experience and the identification of reasons for the failure of women's activities would establish a more solid basis for project activities; and
  • the proposal, in the LPIP, to establish women's centres (ten in each district of the three governorates) should be placed in abeyance until the actions recommended have been undertaken and conclusions drawn.

Regular monthly workshops should be held at district level involving senior extension staff, district SMSs and all other agencies, including the Bank for Development and Agricultural Credit (BDAC), involved in development to formulate detailed monthly work programs which would then be implemented in a cohesive manner.

The LPIP assumed that there was adequate livestock technology available and that it merely needs to be applied. The appraisal team should check this assumption thoroughly.

Credit

Although an estimated half of the funds for the main activity (purchase of buffaloes/cows) was frudulently used for other purposes, all loans were issued to farmers with five feddans of land or less and repayment rates have been, overall, satisfactory. This would indicate that the bank's mechanism for lending to specific groups was effective and, provided that activities suited to borrowers could be identified, small farmers could successfully service loans. Given the basis of overall FADP experience the following recommendations are made:

  • funds should be directed at specified smallholder activities geared to match the resources of the farmers and a ceiling should be placed on the size of loans to help in spreading potential benefits;
  • while there are proven activities accepted by BDAC, others need to be presented as commercially viable packages while some need further commercial testing. To strengthen BDAC's capacity to update activities and to strengthen new ones, funds should be made available to the recruitment of a practically-oriented person from the private sector specifically for this task; and
  • a mechanism allowing non-heizah4 cardholders to access BDAC funds for viable activities should be developed.

With specific regard to credit in the LPIP, the following recommendations were made:

  • the appraisal mission should firstly confirm that lack of credit is, in fact, constraining smallholders livestock activities. PBDAC has numerous credit lines through its own sources as well as foreign assistance monies available particularly for traditional types of credit such as poultry, goats and sheep. These livestock make up 60% of the proposed loan portfolio in the LPIP;
  • some of the assumptions made in formulating the lending proposals should be re examined at appraisal. For instance, the numbers of goats and sheep to be purchased through the project amount to about one third of the governorates' current numbers; as well, the project is to lend for about 17 times the total number of chickens present;
  • both financial soundness and logistical supports requirements for smallholder poultry enterprises need to be carefully examined at appraisal. In the light of experience are poultry, given the now high cost of feed, a viable enterprise for small farmers; and
  • the LPIP Formulation Report concluded that buffalo enterprises are not financially sound; the mission calculated, on the assumption that the animal is fed by farm produced fodder and crop residues (which it did not cost), that the enterprise could accumulate a substantial net benefit. As well, the fact remains that the buffalo is popular with rural dwellers; it is recommended that the appraisal should look more closely at the economic/social importance of the buffalo in the smallholder farming system.

Lessons learned

Given that a T&V system along classical lines (ie low VEW for farmer ratio) cannot be locally funded an alternative system, based on a much wider VEW to farmer ratio, serviced by a better trained, better paid and adequately equipped extension force is likely to be more cost effective. IFAD, in conjunction with other donors, should encourage the GOE to move along these lines. Any future IFAD interventions in extension should gear the size of its operations for the amount of recurrent operating costs that the borrower is able to fund.

Project design should ensure that project control (both the financial and implementation authority) is at governate level. To ensure financial cash flows, especially, projects need effective representation at national level. To facilitate relationships between a functional National Coordinating Committee and the project, a Project Services Office should be located with the MOALR's Foreign Agricultural Relations Offices; it should not have financial control. Its role, solely, would be to look after the projects' interest at national level.

The project would have benefited had its senior officials been better briefed about organizational management. Thus a short-term "project (turn-key) start up" contract, which translates the SAR into a working document and organizes workshops for senior field staff, should be a first step in project implementation.

In the context of the very poorly paid Egyptian public service, realistic levels of incentives must be assured. These incentives must, however, not be seen as "rights" but must be related to performance. Incentives should be a key issue at negotiation.

Producing detailed engineering designs, advertising tenders according to internationally accepted standards and procedures and the procurement of vehicles are major bones of contention. The necessary mechanisms and standards should be clearly defined at negotiation. Realistically, in the matter of vehicles there should be some flexibility in the interest of a project, should inordinate delays occur in the tendering process, for purchasing vehicles locally.

While projects should endeavour to develop farmer/extension/research linkages as a mechanism for conducting on-farm trials, the mechanism of using contracts between the project and a research institute (without excluding the farmer/extension/research linkage) to conduct targeted research, should be used where appropriate.

In the area of credit it is evident that small farmers can service loans for proven activities. As well BDAC is quite capable of targeting a particular segment of the farming community if given the appropriate incentive. Given this positive situation IFAD should promote the identification and development of more financially profitable activities and, secondly, help BDAC develop mechanisms for increasing its clientele by including farmers, who are not landowners or official tenants, as potential borrowers.


1/ With de-regulation of crop prices and the availability of private sector supply inputs, rotations are changing.

2/ Livestock Production Improvement Project (LPIP).

3/ Giving a VEW to farmer ratio of 1:200.

4/This card, which is only issued to landowners or official tenants, entitles holders to agricultural inputs from BDAC.

 

Date

13 September 1992

Countries

Egypt

Languages

English