Sao Tome et Principe: Pilot food crop development project

Interim evaluation

Sao Tome et principe is constituted of two islands at 300 km of Gabon. The various agro-ecological conditions (930 mm of rainfallsin the north and more than 7 000 mm in the south) ensure a high agricultural potential. After independence in 1975, plantations became state enterprises. In 1985, agricultural policies began to promote farm household and food crop production. Since 1987, the governement implements Structural Adjustement Programmes wich aim at the transformation of the formally centrally planned economy to a liberal market system. The main cultures are: cocoa, coco, palm trees, cafe. Only 10% of the cultivated area is covered by staple food crops. The small scale food crop production is done by plantations workers or independent subsistence farmers. A land reform is planned to allocate land to former workers of state enterprises, young people trained by the agricultural training center, former civil servants, unemployed workers.

Project objectives and design

Target group

Project beneficiaries would include plantation workers and independent subsistence farmers, whose number would increase because of expected lay-offs in the plantations and the public sector. Vegetable farmers already benefitting from the Mesquito Centre services would be excluded. The number of expected beneficiaries is about 3 100 people i.e. 35% to 50% of food crop farmers.

Objectives and components

The project aims at the development of staple food crops as a means to improve incomes and the nutritional status of poor rural households.

Project components included in the project are:

  1. A socio-economic study to be undertaken by a socio-economist and an agronomist. Project components could be revised on the basis of the study results.
  2. Input supply including seeds, chemicals and simple tools would be provided, while storage capacity at the Mesquita Centre would be improved and mobile sales provided for.
  3. Extension support through the recruitment of six additional agents (five existing), staff training and provision of motorcycles.
  4. Variety trials and seed selection would improve the quality and the range of available crops, with particular attention to staple food crops. The Poto Research Station would be strengthened to carry out soil and fertility tests on demand by the project.
  5. Seed multiplication to be undertaken to reduce the dependence from outside sources. Technical assistance would be provided.
  6. Training would include staff training for extension workers, with the help of short term consultants, covering fields such as soil conservation, storage, simple accounting, etc. Farmer training would take place through field days and demonstration plots.
  7. Groups, Credit. Existing experience in group support would be strengthened through the setting up of extension groups. Technical assistance would be provided to define the modalities and assist in the implementation. Input credit in kind would be tried out on a pilot basis.
  8. Technical Assistance. An assistant would be recruited for the trials and multiplication activities, and he would function as the deputy project director, the Mesquita director being the project coordinator. Short-term consultancies for training and for group formation has been included

The project design included an comprehensive approach to the development of staple food crops and was intended to be integrated in the already on-going programme of the Mesquita Centre. However, from the beginning in 1989, representatives of the Centre, the FAC, the Cooperating Institution and IFAD, because of the multitude of sources of financing in support of the Centre, agreed on a division of labor. Decentralized extension infrastructure, studies, institutional strengthening, seed selection, multiplication and storage and if needed, input supply were to be financed by IFAD. The FAC would continue to support extension, input supply, marketing, technical assistance, training, and farmer group formation. UNCDF would support irrigation development.

Expected effects and assumptions

The project would have a significant impact on the income and well being of the beneficiaries and would demonstrate to government and donors that smallholder food production, if properly supported, can contribute to income growth and to increasing the domestic supply of food stuffs, without significantly reducing labor availability in the plantations. Yields would increase of 50%, farmers' income of 180 to 197%. About 3100 households, including 750 plantation workers, 250 independent farmers and 2100 producers already supported by Mesquita, would produce an additional 350 tons of maize, 1000 tons of root crops, and 800 tons of vegetables. This would allow a gradual reduction in food aid.

The asumption was made that a broad based food sector support project would constitute a basis for a dialogue with the government on food policies.


Implementation context

Since 1989, the vegetable market has been saturated. The maize market has been disturbed by the WFP importations. There were a general falling of the real purchasing power of households and a rise in the price of inputs, due to the continuous devaluation of the local currency.

Project achievements

(a) Socio-economic study was carried out in 1989/90 and it analyzed several aspects of the smallholder household. It made several specific recommendations, most of which have not been implemented.

(b) Input Supply. IFAD funds have been used on an ad hoc basis when other sources were not available. Sales receipts in domestic currency were intended to be used for the construction of storage with farmer groups. Due to the lack of operating funds at the Centre, these funds had to be used for this purpose and no support to groups for storage materialized.

(c) Extension. This activity has been financed by the FAC and IFAD support was only marginal. In 1991, on-farm trials were initiated and at present, some 60 of such trials are ongoing.

(d) Variety trials and seed selection was the main activity of the project. A total of 7 food crop species (maize, cassava, rice, soya, igname, potatoes), 12 fruit species and 36 vegetable species, including 309 different varieties were put on trial and by 1992, a total of 400 varieties would have been tested. The required material was obtained in different countries in the region and through direct imports from Europe.

(e) Seed multiplication has remained at a level to allow further variety trials and demonstration but has not yet reached significant levels for distribution to producers, with the exception of maize and sweet potatoes.

(f) Training. A total of 62 man-months were available for overseas training, of these, three short training courses have been used: two on data processing, in relation to the socio-economic survey, in Portugal, and one on seed selection and multiplication, in France. Extension training has been realized by the AFVP technical assistance, funds for short term consultancies for group formation and credit have not been utilized, mainly because other donor's grant financing was available and because CLUSA implemented a programme for that purpose.

(g) Support to Poto Research Station was provided as planned. However, the capacity of the Poto station to provide pedological and phytopathological analyses on demand by the project is still very limited. Some of the project trials have been carried out on the station.

(h) Technical assistance in variety trials and multiplication has been in place since 1990 and has limited its scope strictly to this activity, the coordination with other activities of the Centre being difficult because of the lack of consensus on the objectives and methods. It has not taken up its role of deputy director of the Centre as foreseen.

Effects assessment and sustainability

Beneficiaries: beneficiaries of the extension and input supply activities of the Centre have been about 1200 farmers, mainly engaged in commercial vegetable p_oduction. Several farmer groups growing maize in the Centre and the North of the country have also been reached.

After only two years of effective project implementation, the project impact is limited.

Effects on beneficiaries incomes: it is obviously too early for the elaboration of an estimate of the expected project impact on national food production and on farmer incomes, the more so as the functioning of the different farming systems in place is not sufficiently known.

Effects on the environment: the trial programme has significantly increased the genetic capital in the country by the introduction of numerous species and varieties.

The institutional impact of the project includes the establishment of an applied research and multiplication service, which is a precondition for the improvement of the domestic food production. Its impact has however been limited by the lack of coordination with other services, due to weak management capacities at the Centre, but also to personality issues. The project has contributed to the institutional strengthening of the Centre by the provision of the required equipment and infrastructure.

Main issues

Unforeseen factors

A number of unforeseen factors have affected the project, including: a higher than expected level of productivity in existing farming systems, growing basic foods like banana, breadfruit and manioc; an early saturation of the vegetable market and a falling real purchasing power in other markets; a rise in the price of inputs, due to continuous devaluation of the local currency; and delays in the implementation of the land reform programme.

Lack of understanding of the rural sector

Because the lack of understanding of the rural situation, a socio-economic study was planned. The results would have allowed to define what were the activities and services needed by the target group and thus to orientate projects components. This study had been done and presented several usefull recommendations about extension, commercialization, credit, farmers' organizations, monitoring and evaluation unit. But, the results were not taken into account. The FAC, cooperating institution and IFAD agreed on a division of labour before results of the socio-economic study were available.

Project concept

With the division of labour between representatives of the center, the FAC and IFAD, the IFAD project shift from an integrated rural development project to a seed selection and multiplication project.

Implementation of this approach has been constrained by: i) the lack of a single, well defined strategy and priority setting mechanism at the Centre, which would have allowed to orient the different donor support and apply similar implementation approaches; ii) the lack of a coordination mechanism; iii) the delay in the implementation of the land reform programme, reducing the number of potential smallholder beneficiaries.

Recommandations and lessons learned

The recommandations for the short term are:

  • Trials and selection needs to give priority to crops for which farmer demand exists: tomatoes, beans, potatoes, bananas, maize and igname. Participatory research, based on farmer identified constraints, needs to be initiated. Multiplication of available material needs to be expanded.
  • Support to input supply needs to be increased, focussing on regular supplies of essential inputs.
  • The Centre needs to privatize the last 50 ha on which it presently undertakes crop production. The remaining 15 ha are required for trials and multiplication.
  • A six month training consultancy should be undertaken to train the accounting staff and to assist them in implementing the recommendations of the most recent audit. An overall training programme for Centre staff and farmers needs to be drawn up and implemented.
  • Urgent maintenance work on the existing infrastructure needs to be undertaken.
  • A Monitoring and Evaluation system needs to be set up based on the informations kept on each farmer supported by the Centre and on a sample of farms designed according to the recent National Agricultural Census. Consultant support may be provided for this.
  • Studies on the market potential of domestic food crops and of smallholder export crops need to be undertaken urgently. This is a top priority if a new IFAD project has to be prepared.
  • Together with CLUSA, specific support to farmer groups in input supply should be defined, e.g. local storage construction, in order to prepare for increased participation of groups in input supply.
  • In discussion with the government, FAC and IFAD, some measures to strengthen the extension service need to be undertaken, such as the decentralization and the provision of transport.
  • A participatory research programme on farming systems (Research-Development) needs to be initiated on crop profitability, soil conservation, and fertility, integration of livestock and agriculture, storage, marketing, etc.

The elaboration of a future programme would need to be coordinated with design exercises of other donors, notably the French FAC and CCE. For this new programme, the target group will be newly settled farm households on distributed land and existing smallholders producing for subsistence. Particular attention will be given to resource poor households such as landless and female headed households. About 6000 households could be supported in a seven year period, including 4500 newly settled households. The objectives will be to promote not only productive activities in food crops but also diversified export crops and non-farm activities; to promote autonomous farmer groups, able to manage their own development, to develop complete and sustainable "filières" for input supply and agricultural products, processing and marketing, and to improve the standard of living of the poor rural households.

The proposed approach aims at integrating newly settled and existing smallholder households in economically viable activities and to improve the basic services and the social environment through self-managed structures. In priority setting and implementation, a participatory approach would be adopted.

Lessons learned:

i) The coordination with donors engaged in the same sector is very important. This coordination should be effective in project design in order to elaborate commun strategie and during project implementation to ensure a good working of the project.

ii) To ensure an operational use of initial socio-economic studies, a mechanism has to be designed to operationalize the findings, such as through a restitution mission, a workshop on the results, a programming meeting and integration in the M&E system.

iii) pilot projects need to be linked to a sufficiently developed M&E system which will improve the understanding of the sector and the socio-economic conditions.

iv) In the case of unknown situation such as Sao Tome small holder agriculture,it is essential to propose a more active beneficiary participation in the design and the monitoring of the project and even a participatory research.

v) In general, in countries undertaking structural adjustment programmes, the mobilization of the government contribution to the project is often difficult. Mechanisms may be designed, which avoid projects to stall because of delays in the mobilization of these local funds.



27 April 1992