Minya Agricultural Development Project (1992)

Interim evaluation

The Minya governorate constitutes a project area of 223 500 ha of which about 188 120 ha are under cultivation. The cultivated area is generally flat, with fine to medium textured relatively fertile alluvial soils. The climate is characterized by a cool winter from November to March and a hot summer from May to September. The population in 1991 was estimated at 3.50 million, compared to 2.06 million in 1986.

The majority of land is cultivated by small farmers operating as owners, registered tenants, and sharecroppers or as a mixture of all three. In 1991, 44% of all farms were less than one feddan in size and 81% were under three feddans. The cropping pattern (at SAR) was based on a well established two to three-year rotation which had, until recently, been determined by government policy. The main crops are wheat, cotton, berseem, broad beans, maize and soybeans. Livestock are important, with 245 000, 305 000 and 604 000 cattle, buffalo and small ruminants respectively reported in 1991. This reflects a marked increase since the early 1980s in cattle and buffalo and a decrease in camels and donkeys, as a consequence of mechanization.

Project design and objectives

Target group

Smallholder/tenant farming families cultivating holdings of less than three feddans, with an average per capita income, from farming, of USD 75 or less were the target group. While the project was designed to allow extension services to make contact with virtually all farmers in the project area, only about a third (115 500 farming families) were expected to actually benefit from contact with project activities. As well, institutions and their employees are expected to benefit from training, better operating means 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 project was 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:

Agricultural development

  • Extension
  • Research
  • Rural stores credit
  • Farm development machinery credit
  • Machinery repairs shop credit
  • Seed processing
  • Seed testing and inspection

Livestock development

  • Rabbit production
  • Chick rearing units
  • Animal health service
  • Abbassieh vaccine centre
  • Artificial insemination
  • Feed mixing plant

Project Coordination Unit (PCU)

Technical Assistance

Expected effects and assumptions

In terms of production, the project was expected to increase the output of most crops grown for which a proven technological package of improvements already exists. By project maturity (Year 9), average increases for all crops were to be about 25% and would range from 44% in the case of maize to only 11% for cotton which has good potential for yield increase but whose production was constrained by government policies. Production benefits from ruminant stock were to result principally from improved fodder availability and improved reproduction performance. Meat production was expected to increase by 40% and milk by 21%, while poultry meat production was expected to increase by about 22%. It was expected that net income increases for farmers highly responsive to project activities would rise by 92% and, for those below average receptivity, by 33%.

The existing extension service was to be reorganized and the T&V system introduced under the guidance of an internationally recruited T&V extension specialist. Where possible, women extension agents were to be recruited to promote small livestock enterprises and better nutrition. Village Extension Workers (VEWs) were expected to reach women engaged in farming activities through their contact farmers. The replicability of the T&V system for other parts of Egypt was to be assessed on the basis of its performance under MADP.

Links between extension and two research centres were to be strengthened through the training and the development of on-farm research based on assessments of farmers' needs.

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 primarily 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 since the inception of the project ten years ago; thus what may have been considered to be appropriate at appraisal may not be appropriate today. For instance, agricultural input supplies were largely government provided and the large-scale commercial production of livestock was in government hands, two situations which are being changed. The mission has tried to keep policy changes in mind during its deliberations.

In order to assess the overall status of the project, the mission reviewed IDA's supervision reports, progress reports prepared by the project and reports prepared by consultants contracted by the project for specific activities. The assessment of the MADP was carried out together with a similar assessment of the Fayoum Agricultural Development Project (FADP) so that experiences from these projects, which have many similarities, could be taken into account by a forthcoming Livestock Production Intensification Project (LPIP) appraisal mission. The mission spent nine days in the project area during which it visited all the nine districts, the two relevant research stations, credit banks and conducted a workshop on T&V experiences which included senior staff at governorate and district levels.

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 August 1992, some 62.7% of the IFAD loan had been disbursed. Major delays in utilizing funds (particularly the "unallocated" category (not used at all), credit, vehicles and equipment) were caused by government bureaucratic procedures, inter-ministerial delays and difficulties with the letting of tenders under internationally competitive bidding. During the first half of the project life, implementation was constrained by interrupted flows of local funds for incentive salary payment to extension staff, lack of funds for the strengthening of research and extension linkages and for the establishment of the M&E unit (MEU). This situation seriously impeded the proper implementation of the project.

In order to overcome this financial constrain, a grant of USD 752 000 was provided in December 1986 by the Government of the Netherlands through IFAD. The grant was used to complement the local fund contribution of the GOE by financing part of the incentive payments to the extension service staff, all research and extension linkages incentive payments and other recurrent costs incurred by the research scientists and all expenses of establishing an MEU under the PCU.

Project achievements

The project has been instrumental in increasing farm output and strengthening, through the T&V system, the MOALR's advisory service. However, the base for the strengthened extension service as it stands, is fragile and dependent on regular incremental funding.

Infrastructure. The extension centres (and a training center in Minya) have been successfully completed; they provide suitable bases for district staff to operate from, as well as locations for routine VEW training. The MADP had enormous difficulties, however, in implementing activities which involved the production of detailed engineering designs and advertising tenders according to internationally accepted standards and procedures.

Staffing. The project successfully recruited VEWs from within existing complements of field staff. In July 1992, there were some 1 300 VEWs working with the MADP. 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 substantially improved the ability of the latter to teach VEWs existing and new agricultural technologies. Intensive training increased the confidence and ability of the VEWs, and this, combined with incentive payments, better working conditions and a set programme, motivated and enabled the extension service to communicate better with farmers.

Monitoring and Evaluation. The establishment and re-location (from Cairo) of the MEU has added a valuable dimension to the project. Regular surveys on adoption and re-adoption of recommendations as well as farmers' attitudes have been conducted since project inception. However, survey results need more critical evaluation so that full benefits can be made of the mass of data collected.

Effects assessment and sustainability

Effects on Production. Total production has increase very substantially. While much of this upsurge in production must be attributed to other factors, including better varieties and better crop prices, the fact that yields for wheat and maize exceed national averages and the fact that adoption and re-adoption rates for extension recommendations are high strongly points to substantial project impact. The fact that production has increased at a substantially higher rate than population implies that a positive effect on food availability has occurred. Average farm incomes have risen substantially in nominal terms. The deflated income increase for a typical form model corresponds approximately to the SAR's target. There are no data available on what proportion of the increased production was generated by the project's target group, i.e. farmers with less than three feddans of arable land.

Effect on Institutional Strengthening. The project directed substantial attention to supporting the extension activities, both in terms of training and the provision of better operational facilities. As well, the technical capacity of the project's VEWs has been raised, and they are now in a much more secure position when interacting with farmers. While still less than desirable, the linkage between extension and research has been improved, mainly with regard to training. The MADP showed that direct contractual links with research institutes were an effective way of developing specific crop packages and conducting on-farm trails. This example should be generalized for further improvements in future.

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 dependant on substantial 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 level to sustain the T&V system in its present form.

The MOALR within the governorates is grossly over-staffed (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.

Main issues and recommendations

The rationale between the LPIP and the MADP 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, a functional 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, 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 interest of a 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 smallholder 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 marginalized 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 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

The main credit line (machinery) was ill-conceived, with the result that the 1 000 or so beneficiaries (out of 228 000 farmers in the governorate) received average loans of about Egyptian Pound (LE) 5 600 and represented the largest 3-4% of landowners. Thus, on the basis of MADP experience the following is recommended:

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-heizah 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 smallholder 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 to 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' interests 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.

 

Date

08 December 1992

Countries

Egypt

Languages

English