West Beheira Settlement Project (1992)

Interim evaluation

Background

The project area consists of about 16 000 feddans and is located about 160 km North-West of Cairo. The topography is flat to gently undulating with soils that are mainly sandy loams (with some clays and medium sands) underlain at depths of 2-6m by medium textured sands of high permeability. Water holding capacity is low and the use of poor quality irrigation water in the past has led to a potential for alkalization. Winters (November to March) are cool, while summers are hot (May to September). Rainfall is negligible.

The main winter crops are wheat, berseem and broadbean with small areas of potato and tomato also grown. Maize dominates summer cropping while significant amounts of watermelon, tomato and squash are produced. At the time of appraisal, yields were quite poor due to problems with drainage, the poor quality of irrigation water and the low use of fertilizer.

Project design and objectives

Target group

The main beneficiaries of the project were to be the 1 620 farm families and 60 families of graduates who were to settle on the reclaimed land, each receiving a farm unit of five and fifteen feddans respectively. Smallholder settlers were to be selected from among applicants currently employed as agricultural labourers or cultivating (as either owners or tenants) small holdings up to a maximum of two feddans in size. In their current occupations, the incomes of these families were likely to fall within the range of Egyptian Pound (LE) 40 - 130 per capita. For comparison, the absolute poverty level of income in rural Egypt was estimated to be LE 60 - 70 per capita. Families were projected to rise to about LE 1 700 per family, or LE 250 - 300 per capita.

Other inhabitants of the project area (and its neighbourhood) would also be potential beneficiaries through improvements to infrastructure, social services and Government services.

Objectives and components

The project area, known as the Mechanised Farm, had originally been developed as a land reclamation venture between 1965 and 1968 through USSR assistance. It was being managed by the West Nubariya Agriculture Company (WNAC) and, in 1977, consisted of some 10 000 feddans. The enterprise, particularly its irrigation and drainage system, had fallen into disrepair and consequently the Mechanised Farm was running at a financial loss. The project was conceived as part of the Government of Egypt's (GOE's) policy to privatize non-profit making public sector activities.

The fundamental concept of the project was to rehabilitate the existing irrigation and drainage infrastructure, provide housing and install adequate infrastructure, such as roads, running water and sewage, to permit the settlement of former employees of the WNAC and other ‘fellaheen' from the surrounding area on the land as farmers. The State Farm was to be transferred to WBSP. Such an approach was consistent with wider economic and agricultural policies of the GOE, which sought to foster the private sector, to withdraw from loss-making public sector enterprises, and to increase food production.

In summary, the objectives of the project as formulated by the Staff Appraisal Report (SAR) were to increase agricultural production; improve income distribution and generate employment by settlement of smallholders; initiate a process of restructuring and strengthening agricultural institutions in the reclaimed lands; and to demonstrate a technical solution to problems of waterlogging and salinity in reclaimed land.

The rationale for attaining the project's objectives was based on the assumption that provided the problems of waterlogging and salinity were overcome through project financed drainage and water supply works, small farmers would utilize land much more effectively than a state owned venture.

The project was to consist of the following main complementary components:

  • construction of a new lined canal to convey irrigation water from the Nasr Canal to the project area;
  • rehabilitation of existing irrigation and drainage works and installation of a buried-pipe drainage system by which an area of 9 013 feddans (net) of reclaimed land would become capable of sustaining an intensive agriculture;
  • land levelling of all farm fields to obtain constant slopes for irrigation and drainage;
  • settlement of 1 620 smallholders and 60 graduate farmers in five villages (one new and the existing four expanded) with extension and rehabilitation of infrastructure (roads, domestic water supply, electrician and telecommunications) social services (schools, health and community development facilities) production and administration facilities (offices, workshops, veterinary clinic, milk collecting etc.) and housing for the smallholders and for the project staff;
  • provision of farm machinery, maintenance of equipment and vehicles; and
  • establishment of an agricultural extension service of the "training and visit" type.

Expected results and assumptions

Settler incomes were expected to rise from a range of LE 40 to LE 130 per capita to LE 250 to LE 300 per capita.

In terms of production the SAR predicted that final yields would approximate the national average despite the much poorer soils. This view was justified by the substantial crop research, training and extension inputs incorporated in the project. An increase in cropping intensity from 155% to 200% was anticipated.

Livestock production was to be dominated by cross-bred (Baladi X Friesian or Brown Swiss) dairy cattle production at full development, and it was assumed that about 80% of the producing cattle would be cross-bred. Production of milk and meat from buffalo or Baladi cattle was to supplement this production. Early and regular meat production was to be provided by rabbits. Rabbit keeping is common in new lands but improved breeds would be introduced to increase production. As with rabbits, new local poultry breeds were to be promoted. It was assumed the project would support about 2 100 cross-bred adult cattle plus their followers, 650 buffalo and 490 Baladi cattle and followers. Some 3 600 mature female rabbits and 40 000 hens were to be kept annually. More than 3 000 beehives were to be located in the project.

Evaluation

Bearing in mind the project's initial difficulties and the resultant reduction in scope, the mission's purpose, in summary, was to draw lessons emerging from the implementation of the WBSP, to assess the impact that the project's components have had on the quality of life of the projects beneficiaries and to brief an appraisal mission1 of the New Lands Agricultural Service Project (NLASP) in order that its findings of the interim evaluation could be taken into account during the appraisal stage of that project.

The Interim Evaluation Mission (IEM) visited the WBSP area for six days in October 1990. Upon returning to Cairo, the mission de-briefed the Appraisal Mission for the NLASP for two days.

Because of the relatively short time available both for field visits and report preparation, the mission was unable to obtain some of the relevant quantitative information. Some of this information was either unavailable, inadequately collated or needed approval from Cairo before it could be released. Accordingly, the findings of the draft Interim Evaluation Report released for comment within IFAD in January, 1991 were necessarily tentative.

This follow-up report has made use of information2 that has become available since the IEM (October 1990) and has taken note of comments on the draft report from within IFAD. The annexes, as presented in the draft Interim Evaluation Report, have not been significantly amended to include information obtained since the IEM's visit. Such information has, however, been incorporated into the Main Report. The report points out that missions which are somewhat hastily convened with restricted time for field work and background study in order to meet the deadlines of other missions (i.e., the IEM with reference to the NLASP appraisal) have, through their very nature, limitations imposed on them.

Project implementation context

Although the project became effective in August 1981 project implementation suffered delays of nearly five years due to bureaucratic wrangling over civil work design, awarding of contracts and supervision. By then, the cooperating institution judged that there would be cost overruns and recommended (and IFAD agreed) a reduction in project scope. Once civil work contracts under the reduced project scope were let in 1986, implementation appeared (according to Supervision Missions) to have progressed well.

Project Achievements

Despite very substantial delays to project implementation and design, the project has significant achievements to its credit. Settlement has been completed basically along the lines advocated in the SAR and farmers' incomes are substantial in comparison to their pre project earnings; the irrigation and drainage works were well designed; the layout of the canals is good and the construction work has generally been of satisfactory quality; the construction of the infrastructure has been well carried out; and environmental impact has been positive.

Drainage and Irrigation. A new Link Canal was successfully completed by the Ministry of Irrigation by 1985, while a total of 9 050 feddans had been reclaimed and rendered productive by May 1991. As well, an additional 1 000 feddans were developed to allow on existing areas to be retained by WNAC for fodder production. The new systems were working satisfactorily at the time of the mission and the water, supplied through the link canal, was of good quality.

Settlement. While the settlement schedule as desired at appraisal could not be adhered to partly because of construction delays and partly because of management's disinclination, at times, to facilitate settlement, some 1 710 farmer employees (1 620 smallholders and 90 graduates) had been allocated farms by 1992. The draft Completion Report (DCR) noted that "at the closing of the project, the settlers were doing well and were producing a variety of crops and livestock, thus it became a model area for agricultural production...".

Infrastructure. By 1992, the project had constructed 495 houses and, at least, 180 private employees under the project had been given "soft loans" to build their own houses. The general infrastructure contract (roads, potable water supply, sewerage and electricity) was completed within a revised contract period and within the budget; no particular difficulties had been experienced and the work was of adequate standard.

Production. The DCR noted that cropping intensity had risen to 200% and that yields were much higher than those estimated at appraisal. The SAR, for instance, predicted maize yields of 1.3 t/feddan whereas yields in 1991 were averaging 3.5 t/feddan.

Monitoring and Evaluation . There is no evidence that M&E was used to any degree as a management tool.

Project effects - immediate and lasting

Effects on Target Group. By 1992, 1 710 farmer WNAC employees had been allocated farmers. According to the DCR surveys net incomes of smallholders have risen to over LE 8 000 per annum which, even allowing for inflation, is above the SAR estimate of LE 1 500. Thus a substantial group of former government employees appear to have been blessed with an alternative (and relatively lucrative) livelihood.

Effects on Production. The DCR noted that the decision to use tile drainage instead of open field drains increased the irrigable area by 10% up to a total of 9 050 feddan. As well, rehabilitation of the overall irrigation network had raised cropping intensity to 200%. Actual yields of traditional field crops were higher than those estimated at appraisal. The DCR noted that production patterns in the area had shifted several times in response to changing commodity prices and new opportunities with 25% of the summer crop area planted to high value seed crops. More fodder crops and less barley had been grown. Independent extrapolations by the IEM concluded that the production increases projected at appraisal had been very substantially exceeded. The incremental meat and milk production is less than anticipated at appraisal probably as a result of delayed settlement. The DCR thought that the SAR production targets would, however, be eventually exceeded.

Effect on Environment. The environmental impact of the project has been clearly positive. The quality of both irrigation and drainage water has improved; thus the possibilities of soil salinity or soil sodicity have been largely eliminated. As well, the improved drainage installed has reduced the danger of high watertables causing waterlogging. The lining of canals appears to have been instrumental in reducing the incidence of bilharziosis, while reduced ponding and waterlogging as a consequence of improved water supply and drainage, is expected to decrease the incidence of mosquitoes and hence malaria.

Effect on Institution Strengthening. There was no evidence of any significant strengthening of institutions which was an objective of the project.

Recommendations

Undoubtedly, the project, despite major delays in construction, has been successful in achieving its main objectives which were to divest the GOE from a non profitable public sector farm by successfully re settling some of the farm's former employees on individual landholdings. To achieve this, the project rehabilitated some 9 050 feddans of land through the construction of an improved irrigation and drainage system. Although some aspects of project implementation were less than satisfactory, the technology used in the imposition of the necessary supply and drainage works indicates that methods of overcoming waterlogging and salinity are available. The project thus fulfilled its role, be it at a substantial cost, as a pilot scheme for future replication. As designed the per capita cost of the project would have been about USD 3 290.

Taking into account the high per capita cost and IFAD's mandate to concentrate its efforts on the poorest sectors of the rural communities, IFAD should continue to pursue its policy of shifting away from lending on capital-intensive large-scale projects which have high per capita investment costs and are, inevitably, subject to major implementation delays.

The project's basic rationale which assumed that, provided the problems of waterlogging and salinity were overcome through project financed drainage and water supply works, small farmers would utilize land much more effectively than a state owned venture, proved correct. In retrospect, given Egypt's history of long delays in tendering of contracts requiring international tendering procedures, the appraisal appears to also have been optimistic with regard to the timetable it set for actual works construction and settlement.

Managerial and institutional factors of inertia should be taken into account at the design stage. If major managerial changes (although desirable) may be impossible or very difficult to implement, planners should recognize this and not include such proposed changes in design.

The following recommendations, which are really basic principles for project design, arose from the WBSP's experiences:

  • administrative complexity should be avoided whenever possible. Where a state company is involved, its role should be clarified at the outset of project design and a well defined and strong project administrative unit should be insisted upon. Project objectives should be simplified whenever possible to avoid coordination problems;
  • monitoring and evaluation activities should be insisted upon starting at project inception. Baseline surveys should be conducted at the beginning of projects and time series data or key parameters should be kept throughout the life of the project;
  • training should be continuous, rather than a "once for all" experience. It must be focussed on the beneficiaries' perceived needs; and
  • with regard to smallholder irrigation, the formation of Water Users' Associations should be a pre requisite to project design together with assurances that realistic operation and management charges be imposed as soon as water is supplied to assure sustainability

Lessons learned

Agricultural service projects which are heavily dependent on the prior completion of extensive (and expensive) infrastructural construction activities should be avoided, particularly in countries which have a civil service culture similar to Egypt.

Coordination among different ministries both at National and Governorate level is fraught with difficulties. The more complex the project design, the greater is the need for coordination, and the greater the resulting problems. Projects should be kept as simple as possible.

From the outset of the project, monitoring and evaluation must receive more attention from management. With no or little feedback, management is put at a severe disadvantage. Baseline surveys and the collection of data on basic parameters (particularly) throughout the life of the project is essential if project impact is to be evaluated in a meaningful manner.

As average GOE wages are low, incentives are a reality of public service life if performance in line with project expectations is to be achieved. An assurance that project implementers are provided with incentives should be a key element in the design of a public sector project in Egypt.

IFAD faced a dilemma during the course of the project in that the GOE changed its mind after project start up as to the manner in which it was to privatize WNAC. Perhaps IFAD should develop a basic policy as to how to deal with such a situation.

Training activities are well received by settlers, particularly when the activities meet their specific needs. Such activities should be based on settlers' actual expressed desires, be timed to minimize interference with farm activities and be a "process", rather than a "once for all" training session.

If a project seeks to implement change, it must recognize that old habits are firmly ingrained. If change is desired, adequate support for managerial interventions and continuous practical training must be provided.

A final lesson, directed at IFAD's management, is that sufficient time should be allowed for evaluation missions to complete their work satisfactorily and that such undertakings should not be mounted in haste to meet the schedule of other IFAD missions to which its findings may be relevant.


1/ The Appraisal Mission was to reach Egypt while the Interim Evaluation Mission was being undertaken.

2/ Including a preliminary Draft Completion Report (World Bank, dated 13 July 1992).

Date

03 December 1992

Countries

Egypt

Languages

English