Special Programme for SWC/AGF in the Central Plateau

Mid-term evaluation

The project area covers four of the Central Plateau's seven provinces: Yatenga, Passoré (northern CRPA), Bam and Sanmatenga (north-central CRPA) and more precisely 12 departments (over 39) wich are not beneficiaries of other projects. It is one of the most unfavorable area of the country because of the soils' poverty and because of the high population density. The overexploitation of soils and the deforestation have led to a global environmental degradation, to a decrease of the productive potential (agriculture, livestock and forest) and to an increase of out-migration.

Project objectives and design

Target group

The households (average 10 persons) cultivating about 4 ha, mainly millet and sorghum represents 91% of the total population of the Central Plateau. The target group is constituited by 13.400 of this type of household. Part of the credit component is specifically targeted to women.

Objectives and components

The purpose of the project is to rehabilitate the environment and make it more suitable for agricultural production with a view to: achieving food security and stemming the massive out-migration of the young working-age population; improving women's incomes and living standards and reducing their workload; promoting local organizations, especially savings and credit associations in order to ensure the continuity of the actions initiated under the Programme.

The Programme comprises the following six components:

i) Cropland Development (SWC): the establishment of four mobile support teams (EMA), including trucks, tractors, pickups and topographical equipment, and the provision of site tools and carts to the Farmers Associations (GV) for erosion control bunding, with EMA support. The objective was to develop 38 250 ha over six years: 28 000 ha in the saturated parts of the village croplands (champs de village) and 10 250 ha of outfield plots (champs de brousse);

ii) Agroforestry (AGF): The establishment of village nurseries, and vegetative coverage of erosion control bunds combined with tree planting on the plots. The objective was to rehabilitate 10% of the champs de village areas covered by SWC (i.e. 2 800 ha).

iii) Crop Intensification (IA): The establishment of compost pits (by the farmers) and a revolving fund for the provision, on credit, of NPK fertiliser, natural phosphate (BPh) and fungicides. The aim was to intensify 20% of the areas covered by SWC.

iv) Research and Development (RD): Support to national research institutes (INERA and IRBET) for parallel research on SWC, AGF and IA.

v) Village Development Fund (rural credit): The purpose of this Fund, managed by a Government-controlled financial agency in collaboration with the local savings and credit associations (COOPEC), is to finance the development of "agriculture related economic activities", especially for women, and to strengthen women's incorporation in the COOPECs.

vi) Institutional Strengthening (IS): The establishment of a Programme Management Unit (PMU), in charge of the programming and supervision of the Programme's technical support and monitoring and evaluation activities; the strengthening of the Agriculture Ministry's extension services (ex-ORD) in the programme area; and the provision of support to the NGO coordination Office.

Expected effects and assumptions

The expected impact of the programme was an 80% increase in food production per capita and a 35% increase of the net income of the average participating household by year 5. Total incremental production at full development was estimated at 13.000 tonnes/year. Women workload would be considerably reduce thanks to the purchase of carts and mills. Food self sufficiancy, access to credit and development of cash income generating activities in the dry season would reduce out migration. The ERR was estimated at 12%.

The assumption was made that the combined effects of SWC and AGF will allow a 85% increase on cereals yields.


Implementation context

In august 1988, the CRPA (centres régionaux de promotion agro-pastorale) were granted financially independent status, a situation which required more operational support than planned (especially transport facilities for the extension agents).

8. The agro-climatic conditions of the last 5 years were quite good. The only bad season was 1990-91 with rainfall as poor as 1987.

Project achievments

SWC Achievements. At the end of 1992, SWC works had been done in 60% of the villages in the programme area (187/315). The 9.314 ha developed under the programme correspond to about 13% of the sown land in the 187 villages (and about 8% of the total area sown in the 12 departments in the programme area).

Agro-forestry. At the present time, 105 villages are taking part in the AGF component (56%). In three years the programme has installed or rehabilitated 49 village nurseries producing a total of 173.000 plants (50% of the target) and sunk some twenty wells. Achievements as at 30/06/92 (two years): 95 km of grass coverage (700 ha maximum) and 118 km of tree and shrub coverage (between 700 and 1 000 ha covered). It is estimated that at 30.6.92 (two seasons) 95 kms of the bunds had been planted with herbaceous vegetation and 118 km with trees, and about 7 kms with hedges. The plant average survival rate at one year would vary between 40% and 60% depending on the province, but locally the results are far lower because of stray animals. 2.250 volunteer small-holders were trained in assisted natural regeneration (ANR).

Crop Intensification (IA). A total of 3.500 manure pits were built and 1.020 tonnes of Burkina-Phosphate (BPh) distributed free of charge to 2.500 farmers (400kg each, enough corrective dressing for 1 ha). The Programme has not succeeded in promoting the usefulness of maintenance dressings (NPK and/or BPh) because the credit component was blocked and BPh and NPK were unavailable or in short supply on local markets. Only a small percentage of the manure pits are effectively and correctly used.

Rural Credit. The Programme's rural credit component was not yet operational at the time of the mission.

Institutional Strengthening. The contractual partnership system introduced by the Programme appears very appropriate. It allows the maximum amount of available human and organizational resources to be mobilized and made accountable, without unduly increasing recurrent costs and management difficulties. It is also a way of developing coordination between services and generating synergetic effects in a region where the number of parties involved generate enormous coordination difficulties.

Monitoring and Evaluation. Four years after being launched, the SWC/AGF Programme is yet to have an impact monitoring and evaluation system. Available data on achievements are incomplete and not fully integrated.

Effects assessment and sustainability

Beneficiaries: the number of beneficiary farms in 1992 would be about 4 660, i.e. one quarter of the population of the participating villages.

All the farmers agree that the erosion control works are having a positive effect on grain yields, particularly when rainfall is scarce or poorly distributed. The average increases in millet and sorghum yields on rehabilitated sites is estimated at 30% in a year of poor rainfall, 20% in an average year, and 10% in a good year.[]

The crop intensification packages have been widely accepted thanks to the provision of BPh, free of charge, but also because the farmers are aware of the fertility problems. Most farmers have, however, had difficulties to produce compost or manure due to the lack of transport facilities (carts), the shortage of water (for watering the pits) in the dry season and the difficulties in obtaining the raw material to fill the pits. The impact of applying BPh combined with compost from the pits has not been monitored in the field, but it is thought to be relatively minor because the per hectare application of compost has been inadequate in terms of both quantity and quality. The effect on yields is +20% in a year of good or average rainfall, and +10% in a drought year.

The effect of the agro-forestry measures on crop production are for the time being negligible, as the plantations are young and the areas covered small. The nurseries established or rehabilitated and the training provided in Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR - 2 250 farmers volunteered) will certainly have a positive impact in the medium term if solutions to the problem of browsing by stray livestock are found.

The average combined effects of SWC and IA is about 1.500 additional tonnes of millet and sorghum annually on the 9.300 ha rehabilitated. On this area, the effect of the programme on production would be within the range of +30 to +75%, depending on different years. These encouraging results still represent only a minor impact on the total food crop production of the four provinces due to the limited scale of the intervention.

Effects on beneficiaries incomes: the investment of an average farm in the Yatenga and Passoré departments (10 persons; 3.2 ha under crops) generates an additional annual output of 300 to 400 kg of millet and sorghum --a production increase of 23 to 40% depending on the climatic conditions in a given year. The household has a grain shortfall in a year of average or poor rainfall, and a surplus in a good year. The farm's cash income (livestock, handicrafts, groundnuts) covers an average grain shortfall, and the farm's average results are therefore slightly positive in the long term (+3 000 CFAF), which is not the case without the Programme. Seasonal or permanent migration would no longer be necessary for survival. We can therefore say that beneficiaries have achieved some measure of food security, but their capacity to save and invest is low unless they have an off-farm income.

Specific effects on women: the credit component, targeted to women was not yet operational. Women constitute 54% of the workforce involved in bunding work and 42% of those involved in loading the trucks. Women are also in charge of bringing water and meals to the work sites in addition to doing their burdensome domestic work and looking after their children. The women's involvement on the erosion control sites therefore represents a much greater effort than that furnished by the men, who have relatively little to do during the dry season. In return, the women obtain no particular advantage from the Programme. In all the villages, the women stressed that their workload had increased (a completely contrary effect to that initially sought by the Programme) and requested assistance to reduce their domestic workload (mills, wells and carts).

Effects on the environment: thanks to the erosion control measures, it was possible to rehabilitate degraded land that had become unsuitable for cultivation. About 20-25% of the rehabilitation work in the departments of Yatenga and Passoré and 10% in the other areas was done on abandoned land. Cropping on these lands resumes after one to three years, depending on whether or not the "zaï" technique is used.

Sustainability: the effects on yields of erosion control work are immediate but not sustainable unless SWC is supplemented by appropriate fertilization measures. The vast majority of the saplings are given away free of charge to members of the VGs which means that the nurseries are not likely to survive after the end of the programme. The effect of BPh applied as a basal dressing (400 kg/ha) would last 4 or 5 years unless it were supplemented by maintenance applications. The average combined effects of SWC and IA on production are not sustainable on the medium term without a generalized improvement of fertilisation techniques (MO + BPh or MO + NPK according to different zones).

Main issues

Difficulties of implementation until 1991

The PMU was established at Yako in january 89. After a quick start up of field operations, the Programme soon encountered difficulties:

i) its IS component was not adapted to the new institutional context ;

ii) long delays in acquiring some material, in particular the site equipment needed for the field work already under way.

The Programme was unable to fulfil its management contracts with the Village Groups (VGs), particularly the clauses stating that site tools were to be provided early in the crop year. The situation worsened considerably in 1990/91 when the additional problem of transport facilities to move the rubble stone for the erosion control bunds arose. Previously, vehicles had been hired to transport the stone, but hiring was ruled out in 90/91 when the EMAs were provided with their own vehicles. As it turned out, however, there were not enough trucks to meet the year's objectives. A lengthy suspension of loan disbursements (due to the late payment by GBF of the service charge due to IFAD) also restricted funds when the works were at their height (12.90 to 02.91). Only 44 villages received EMA assistance in 90/91 -- 50% less than in the previous year -- and only 1 421 ha were covered by SWC. The Programme was unable to honour its contracts with the VGs for the second year running and its credibility seriously suffered, not only in the eyes of the villagers, but also in those of its partner institutions (CRPA, INERA and IRBET) and suppliers, who were paid late due to the Programme's cash problems (disbursements were again suspended 08.91).

The considerable imbalance between the SWC, AGF and IA components

It is known that the positive effects of SWC cannot last without IA and AGF. Yet the vast majority of the anti-erosion sites are not supported by these measures that were designed from the outset for only 20% and 10%, respectively, of the developed acreages. It is also known that agro-forestry is one of the conditions for increasing the organic matter inputs. There is no concerted strategy between the IA and AGF components. Aside from the fact that the relative amounts of resources assigned to the various Programme components were not equally balanced (due to the Programme's design), the mission noted the lack of integration of SWC, AGF and IA actions although their complementarity and interdependence had been recognized in the SAR.

The absence of some essential complementary measures in the areas of village water supply, farm equipment, livestock development and support for cash income-generating activities.

How can compost be made where there is no water available in the dry season to keep it moist? How can the stone bunds be built around the scattered outfield plots without carts to carry the stones? How can tonnes of green matter be carried to the compost pits and the compost to the fields without these carts? How can manure production be increased unless livestock management is changed? How can the agro-forestry success rate be satisfactory unless livestock is prevented from straying and/or fences are installed? These are just a few of the very concrete problems facing the villages, and for which the programme offers no answers. For that reason, the project is not able to help the poorest farms become involved in sustainable crop intensification. As regards crop intensification, it is obvious that the farms that manage to work their manure pit(s) properly are those (very few) with a cart and cattle.

Recommandations and lessons learned

It is indispensable for the programme to rebalance the scope of its various components and define its activity programmes in the villages based on Integrated Land Development Plans designed by the villagers themselves. Multisectoral and integrated efforts must be focused on the villages currently involved instead of spreading more widely to include new villages. The Programme should restore the balance to its operations and fit them into integrated village land development plans (plans intégrés d'aménagement de terroirs) specific to each village. The management plans should be drawn up by the villagers with the combined support of the different parties involved in each village (NGOs, agricultural and forestry extension agents, COOPEC or SEC officers, etc...). In many villages, the absence of boreholes and/or the drying up of wells during the dry season are a major constraint to the expansion of manure pit use, the practice of stabling livestock, as well as to erosion control works, and, in addition, significantly increase the women's workload. Funds under some components should be released without delay for the sinking of wells or boreholes in the villages where water supply is a serious problem and other projects or NGOs are not in a position to help.

It is a necessary (even if not sufficient) condition to equip the farms with carts for most of the present and future actions of the programme to be successful, but most of the farms, particularly the poorest ones, could not possibly afford this investments, even on credit.The partial, targeted and incentivating subsidisation of carts' selling price (about 50%, if possible at the level of the local producers), is the best compromise solution between the need to extend this essential tool as widely as possible, and the need to make the most of the limited resources available to the programme and the farms. This subsidy policy is not a substitute but a targeted (cart-specific) complement to the credit component.

On the basis of the Village Land Development Plans drafted by the village communities, the departmental and provincial concertation managers should gradually become the main authorities for programming and coordinating the actions to support local development. The Programme should continue to provide and broaden its support to the CDC/CPCs using the funds available for the IS component.

If a more integrated and participatory approach is taken through Village Land Development Plans, and in view of the need for tailored counselling to farms on fertility management themes and crop-livestock integration, it will be necessary to make a great effort to provide training for the SPA/SPET agents and the VG. These efforts should be given top priority.

The M&E functions should be handled by PMU. An ad hoc unit should be set up in Yako, with the function of regularly monitoring the effects of the programme and the ongoing process in the villages. IFAD could rapidly provide support for the design and startup of this Unit.

The second phase of the SWC/AGF Programme should be prepared, incorporating the approaches set out above in a global strategy for village land development and for gradually rendering the communities autonomous. SWC, AGF and IA actions should be integrated into one single component. It would also be advisable to extend the programme's intervention zone to other provinces in the central Plateau (particularly Bulkiembé and Sanguié in the south of Yako) in order to make the most of the considerable institutional investment at the PMU level. This second phase of the programme should not take off before the end of the current phase, scheduled for December 1995, in order to learn from the initiatives or components that are only in the take-off stage at the present time (credit component, 'GT test villages', individual schemes, M&E). It would be important to commit larger and more diversified ressources to the implementation of cash income-generating activities of the poorest households and women in the villages. The government and IFAD therefore have all the time they require to prepare phase two properly. But some of the changes recommended above must be made as a matter of urgency (especially the establishment of an effective M&E system).

Lessons learned

One of the most important lessons to be drawn by IFAD from this project is three-fold: the need for better quality appraisal reports, greater flexibility in implementing the loans and supervision geared to providing practical and quick solutions to project implementation problems. The Programme design as set out in the appraisal report comprised several shortcomings and inconsistencies that might have prevented the Programme from meeting its objectives. Most of these shortcomings and inconsistencies were identified fairly early, but the inflexible loan administration system slowed down the correction process. Future beneficiaries should be consulted more frequently and participate in the design phase. Early participation by beneficiaries could prevent many design errors and omissions.

During project implementation IFAD and the cooperating institution should be more attentive to the positive or negative effects of the works and achievements on women's living conditions and pay special attention to the components likely to have a positive impact.

Traditional soil fertility managment practices no longer suffive to maintain organic balance of rain-fed croplands in the densely populated sahelian regions. The steady worsening of this balance is as damaging to crop productivity as is erosion. The dissemination of farming techniques based on compost and manure applications is essential, but will not suffice to replace and increase organic matter. In order to facilitate soil fertility management in these areas, transport facilities are needed to: move material and water to the pits, fodder and water for the stabled animals, and take the manure and compost to the plots. Farms without cart cannot undertake all this work. Animal-drawn carts are therefore necessary for a new soil fertility management system. Without them sustainable agricultural development will not be possible. The IFAD target group in these poor, minimally monetized areas, cannot afford carts. In view of the agro-ecological and social importance of this item (most of the on-farm and domestic hand transport is done by women and is unpaid, and when carts are in short supply they become a source of income transfer for the more well-to-do), IFAD should take in consideration a subsidization policy specially targeted to draught animal transport in the sahel.

In the regions with a fragile environment, weak agricultural potential and strong population pressure, resource conservation and economic development can only be contemplated in terms of multisectoral integrated actions which consistently deal with the many constraints on production systems. Merely superimposing different components in a project, which are expected to respond to each one of these constraints is no guarantee that they will be implemented in the field in an integrated fashion, particularly when the components are being executed by different agencies. If the project is to be effective, it must be implemented in each village under the guidance of a consistent strategy that is created by that community, meeting its needs, constraints and specific potential. Self-diagnosis and participatory integrated programming at village level should be the constituent elements of the project's annual work programmes. This approach would also make it possible to solve 'from the grassroots' the difficult problems of coordinating external agents (projects, NGOs, public services) in each village. It would require great flexibility when implementing the project, which would no longer be dictated by some scheme worked out in advance by experts, but it would be geared to the needs, initiatives and degree of mobilisation of the people directly involved.

The SWC/AGF Programme, like others before it, illustrates the difficulties in setting up an M&E unit from the outset. During the first years of implementation, officials are wholly taken up by institutionalising the project, learning procedures, procuring materials and equipment, sensitising local people, etc.. Under these conditions they hardly give priority to setting up an M&E unit. Early and specific external support has proven to be necessary to design an M&E system, carry out a baseline survey and effectively establish the system for collecting, processing and disseminating information.



29 March 1993


Burkina Faso