Pequeños Productores Agrícolas de la Región Sur Oeste (1996)
Proyecto para Pequeños Productores de la Zona Norte (1996)
Zona de intervención
La zona de intervención del PPZN abarcó en su inicio los cantones de Upala y Guatuso, situados en la provincia de Alajuela, Región Huetar Norte. En el año 1994 se amplió al cantón de Los Chiles, también de la provincia de Alajuela. Su superficie total actual es de 3 699 km cuadrados (7% del territorio nacional) y una población de 63 000 habitantes. La temperatura anual media oscila de 25 ºC en el sector norte a 20 ºC en el sector sur. La pluviosidad anual varía con la altitud desde 2 400 mm hasta 5 000 - 6 000 mm en las zonas montañosas. La altitud del territorio abarca desde el nivel del mar hasta los 1 900 m en las montañas de la cordillera de Guanacaste, en el sur.
La mayor parte de la población tiene ingresos insuficientes, incluso para la subsistencia. El ingreso anual por persona se estima en USD 162. La tierra se encuentra subutilizada, sobre todo por la baja densidad de la población, una infraestructura insuficiente, escasez de crédito agrícola y la falta de servicios de extensión (Informe y Recomendación del Presidente a la Junta Directiva, pág. 7 y 8).
La tecnología utilizada por los pequeños agricultores es de tipo tradicional, con recursos de producción muy limitados, un aprovechamiento insuficiente de la tierra y de la fuerza de trabajo familiar, y bajos rendimientos atribuibles a labores de labranza deficientes, a la carencia de semillas mejoradas y a densidades irregulares de siembra. Las malezas, las enfermedades y las plagas se propagan, empleándose de un modo inapropiado los productos agroquímicos. Por otro lado, existe un secado y almacenado del grano deficientes. La ganadería se caracteriza por sistemas de explotación extensiva, pastos naturales pobres y un descuido generalizado de las prácticas sanitarias.
En 1994, en vista de que la demanda de crédito en Upala y Guatuso era insuficiente para hacer un uso más intensivo de fondos de crédito, el Gobierno solicitó y obtuvo del FIDA y del BCIE la anuencia para ampliar el área de ejecución al cantón de Los Chiles.
Objectivos del proyecto y diseño
El grupo objetivo del proyecto son unas 2 520 familias de pequeños agricultores que trabajan en explotaciones de menos de 30 hectáreas. Parte de ellos han adquirido tierras de asentamientos del Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario (IDA) financiados por proyectos de la Agencia para el Desarrollo Internacional (AID), y otros no poseen título de propiedad de la tierra o carecen de este recurso. 1 900 de estas familias están ubicadas en asentamientos del IDA y 620 son familias de productores independientes. En 1991 se preveía un crecimiento de familias en los asentamientos del IDA, aumentando los potenciales beneficiarios directos a 3 120 familias.
En el área del Proyecto, además, se ubica la Reserva Indígena de los Maleku (cantón de Guatuso), con una extensión original de 2 743 hectáreas y 84 familias con una población de 800 indígenas, distribuidos en tres palenques (casas comunales). De la superficie total de la Reserva los indígenas sólo conservan aproximadamente 400 hectáreas, más 214 adquiridas por el gobierno y puestas a disposición de la Asociación de Desarrollo de la Comunidad Maleku. El resto de la tierra de la Reserva se encuentra en manos de productores independientes, quienes las compraron a los indígenas. Su grado de incorporación al proceso productivo y cultural de la zona es elevado, lo que facilita el trabajo con dicha comunidad. Como su propiedad no está inscrita de forma individual, no han tenido acceso al crédito con anterioridad al PPZN.
El Proyecto en su versión actualizada tiene como meta otorgar crédito a 1 700 productores, incluyendo un mínimo de 400 mujeres (200 cabeza de familia con tierra y 200 asociadas sin tierra, con el propósito de incrementar la producción y productividad de sus actividades). En el diseño original se preveían más de 2 500 beneficiarios del crédito. El crédito debía complementarse con asistencia técnica, capacitación y otros servicios de apoyo a los productores relacionados con la comercialización de sus productos. Los beneficiarios que recibieran asistencia técnica, capacitación y apoyo a las actividades de comercialización pero que no fueran receptores de crédito se considerarían "beneficiarios indirectos". En el Informe Actualizado (IA) la meta es atender a 2 020 beneficiarios indirectos (aunque en el Informe y recomendación del Presidente eran aproximadamente 3 800).
Los principales objetivos del Proyecto son: (a) mejorar el nivel nutricional y los ingresos de los pequeños productores, aumentando su producción y productividad; (b) mejorar las oportunidades de ingresos y condiciones de trabajo de la mujer, en grupos asociados o trabajando en parcelas familiares; (c) reducir el subempleo agrícola estimulando la utilización racional de la fuerza de trabajo familiar y creando nuevas oportunidades de empleo; y (d) ayudar a mejorar la balanza de pagos del país contribuyendo a la sustitución de importaciones de granos básicos y al aumento de las exportaciones de otros productos agrícolas.
Según el diseño del Proyecto, estos objetivos se conseguirían a través de: (a) Apoyo crediticio y asistencia técnica al productor. (b) Apoyo a las mujeres productoras, mediante el otorgamiento del crédito, asistencia técnica y capacitación. (c) Capacitación de técnicos. (d) Capacitación de productores en las áreas de organización, administración y técnicas productivas. (e) Establecimiento de servicios e infraestructura de comercialización y asesoramiento al pequeño productor para garantizar la comercialización de la producción generada con financiamiento del Proyecto, e incrementar la capacidad de negociación de las organizaciones de los productores. (f) Verificación con la población del cumplimiento de objetivos y metas y medición del avance físico y financiero, resultados e impacto del Proyecto, mediante actividades de seguimiento y evaluación (SyE) de forma coordinada con las instituciones ejecutoras.
Para el cumplimiento de los objetivos los componentes incluidos en el diseño fueron: (a) crédito agrícola supervisado; (b) extensión agrícola; (c) comercialización para granos básicos; (d) capacitación; (e) participación de la mujer; (f) seguimiento y evaluación; y (g) Unidad Ejecutora. Posteriormente se incluyeron actividades de apoyo al desarrollo de agroindustrias y otras pequeñas empresas de comercialización.
El Ministerio de Planificación Nacional y Política Económica (MIDEPLAN) fue el organismo ejecutor del Proyecto hasta julio de 1994, en que la Unidad Coordinadora del Proyecto (UCP) se trasladó al Ministerio de Desarrollo Rural (MDR). En diciembre de 1995 la UCP pasó al MAG. Al organismo ejecutor le corresponde la coordinación general del Proyecto a través de la UCP. La responsabilidad de la ejecución de cada componente corresponde a las respectivas organizaciones participantes: (a) Banco Nacional de Costa Rica (BNCR) para el crédito supervisado; (b) MAG para la extensión agrícola; (c) Consejo Nacional de la Producción (CNP) para la comercialización; (d) MAG, CNP y MIDEPLAN para la capacitación; (e) IDA para participación de la mujer; y (f) MIDEPLAN para la coordinación, seguimiento y evaluación.
Supuestos y efectos esperados
El diseño del Proyecto suponía que no existirían problemas de comercialización, ya que la demanda local absorbería la producción de granos, y en los casos en que la producción superara el consumo local el CNP utilizaría los canales de exportación. Además, se esperaba que el CNP y el sector privado aumentarían la capacidad de almacenamiento para permitir el manejo de toda la producción incremental generada.
Se esperaba que los ingresos de los 1 700 beneficiarios registraran un aumento considerable. Los niveles previstos del ingreso familiar neto en la etapa de pleno desarrollo del Proyecto fluctuaría de USD 1 900 para las fincas de 4 hectáreas a USD 4 500 para las de 15 hectáreas, lo que sería suficiente para cubrir las necesidades básicas, a diferencia de lo que ocurría sin Proyecto.
Además, el Proyecto tendría un impacto considerable en la utilización del potencial de mano de obra de los grupos familiares de la zona. Se estimaba que en el momento de pleno desarrollo del PPZN el empleo de la mano de obra familiar sería de unos 900 000 días-hombre, en comparación con aproximadamente 380 000 días-hombre sin el Proyecto. Esto representaba un aumento del 136% en las oportunidades de empleo.
Contexto de la implementación y su evolución
A partir de 1980 cambiaron las condiciones que ofrecía el Estado costarricense de crédito fácil y barato para los pequeños productores. El monto del crédito para el sector agropecuario en 1993 fue de un tercio del de 1983. Por otra parte, durante la aplicación del programa de ajuste económico, la redefinición de los sistemas de crédito ha implicado varias consecuencias: eliminación del subsidio al crédito agropecuario, alza en las tasas de interés en los sistemas de crédito para todas las actividades y transformación del modelo de asistencia técnica y transferencia de tecnología por parte del Estado para estimular la participación privada y grupal. Algunas de las consecuencias de esta política crediticia han sido la disminución del crédito otorgado por el sistema bancario nacional a los sectores productivos, especialmente el agrícola, y un crecimiento en el financiamiento a actividades de consumo como son el crédito personal y las tarjetas de crédito.
Relacionado con los cambios anteriores, se realizaron modificaciones de los objetivos de algunas instituciones gubernamentales. Por ejemplo, el CNP, que de acuerdo con el diseño original del Proyecto se encargaría de la compra de los granos producidos por los agricultores del PPZN, a partir de la cosecha 1995/1996 no participó más directamente en la compra del frijol. Debido a que en esa cosecha no se dio un precio fijo, sino que este fue fijado por la oferta y la demanda, ocurrió una significativa contracción de la producción, que ha obligado al Gobierno a estimular la creación de mecanismos alternativos. Por otra parte, cabe destacar el apoyo brindado por RUTA durante la ejecución, particularmente en aspectos relacionados con la administración del proyecto, crédito, seguimiento y evaluación, agroindustrias y capacitación.
A lo largo de la ejecución del Proyecto se han ido incorporando varios cambios importantes, no previstos en el diseño original ni en el IA, que han sido positivos para la consecución de los objetivos del Proyecto. Los más importantes fueron los siguientes:
(a) Reorientación del crédito. Hasta principios de 1994 se focalizó hacia cultivos de corto plazo dirigidos sobre todo a mejorar la seguridad alimentaria (granos básicos), pero a partir de esa fecha se comenzó a financiar una gama amplia de rubros de inversión (tanto agrícolas como ganaderos), con la intención de capitalizar a los pequeños productores.
(b) Modificación de la forma de pago de intereses y capital. Se pasó de cobros trimestrales a cobros dependiendo del rubro financiado (post-cosecha para el caso de créditos de operación en agricultura, anual en el caso de inversión en ganadería, y según el ciclo de producción del cultivo en el caso de inversión en agricultura), lo que permitió el acceso al financiamiento a personas ubicadas en el segmento más deprimido de la población rural de la zona (de menores ingresos y de menor extensión de tierra).
(c) Apertura del crédito a pequeñas empresas rurales.
(d) Ampliación del componente de comercialización para introducir el apoyo a proyectos agroindustriales.
(e) Aporte de instituciones nacionales, sobre todo del INA.
Hasta el 30 de junio de 1996 el Proyecto ha otorgado 2 180 préstamos a 1 439 prestatarios. Considerando que el diseño del Proyecto preveía atender con crédito a 1 700 productores, los 1 439 prestatarios representan el 84,6%. Al ritmo de crecimiento actual, esta meta se alcanzaría al finalizar el primer trimestre de 1997. De todas formas, como los créditos a personas jurídicas (grupos) se contabilizan -a partir de la instalación del Sistema Computarizado de Administración Bancaria en Crédito (1994)- como unidades, se puede asegurar que el número de prestatarios totales es mayor que el contabilizado. Cabe también destacar que la instalación del software crediticio impulsada por el proyecto (aprovechando una innovación introducida en otros proyectos financiados por el Fondo en algunos países de América Latina) ha permitido reducir notablemente los plazos entre la solicitud y la concesión de los créditos (de aproximadamente tres meses a tres semanas).
La asistencia técnica a los productores beneficiados con crédito está a cargo de las agencias de extensión del MAG, una en cada cantón, apoyadas por tres promotorías (Dos Ríos, Aguas Claras y Bijagua) en el cantón de Upala. En la actualidad existen 19 extensionistas que trabajan en el área del PPZN, 13 contratados con fondos del Proyecto y seis de la plantilla ordinaria del MAG. Estos técnicos realizan la colocación y seguimiento de los créditos concedidos en rubros agropecuarios.
La asistencia técnica y la capacitación brindada a beneficiarios indirectos (que no reciben crédito del Proyecto), se ha ofrecido sobre todo a productores financiados por otras fuentes. Algunos de éstos no se consideran grupo objetivo del Proyecto, al tener más de 30 hectáreas. De todas formas, no existe una estimación precisa del número de estos beneficiarios indirectos, debido a que hay productores que asisten a distintas actividades, por lo que cada uno puede ser contabilizado más de una vez. Según datos de los Informes de Avance Físico y Financiero de cada año, se contabilizan 1 536 beneficiarios indirectos hasta diciembre de 1995 -no hay datos para 1996-, lo que representa el 40,4% de los 3 800 previstos.
Comercialización y agroindustrias
Las actividades realizadas por el CNP para el Proyecto son las siguientes: (a) reuniones, cursos y charlas con técnicos y productores, para tratar aspectos de procesamiento y comercialización de los productos y administración de empresas, (b) difusión semanal de precios (en finca, planta, mercado mayorista y minorista) a asociaciones de productores, a través de las agencias del MAG y otras instituciones que tienen relación con el sector agropecuario, (c) análisis de expectativas de exportación (piña, raíces y tubérculos, cardamomo), (d) estudios de factibilidad de proyectos de comercialización y agroindustrias, o revisión de los mismos cuando no son realizados por la institución, (e) trámite de crédito y asesoría técnica a agroindustrias y proyectos de comercialización, y (f) sondeos a empresarios para determinar posibles mercados, sobre todo para las agroindustrias financiadas.
El PPZN ha financiado cinco pequeñas agroindustrias, para cuyo diseño y ejecución se contó con asesoramiento del CNP: (a) una planta secadora de cardamomo, (b) una planta procesadora de plátano tostado, (c) dos plantas procesadoras de productos lácteos, y (d) un trapiche ecológico para producción de panela de dulce. Todas tienen o han tenido problemas de comercialización y organizativos, en parte, debido a que en los estudios de factibilidad se ha tendido a sobreestimar la capacidad de producir y de comercializar los productos.
Por otro lado, existen cuatro proyectos de crianza y comercialización de mariposas en cautiverio financiados a grupos de mujeres. Estos mariposarios fueron impulsados por técnicos del MAG, quienes son los que realizan el asesoramiento y seguimiento. En la actualidad los ingresos son escasos y existen problemas en la consolidación de los grupos.
Los cursos -tanto a productores como a funcionarios y técnicos- han sido impartidos -entre otras instituciones- por el INA, la Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) -a través de FUNDEVI y FIAA-, la Escuela Centroamericana de Ganadería, el CENAP, el CECADE, el CENPRO, la Asociación Ecologista Costarricence (AECO) y RUTA, y por los técnicos de las instituciones coejecutoras, dependiendo de la temática. Los extensionistas son los que se encargan de la coordinación local de los cursos, apoyando a los instructores.
Los cursos dirigidos a funcionarios y técnicos del Proyecto se centraron en: comercialización, tratamiento post-cosecha, agroindustria, computación, contabilidad, administración de empresas agropecuarias y análisis del crédito, raíces y tubérculos, granos básicos, cítricos, inseminación artificial, análisis de suelos, administración de proyectos de desarrollo agrícola y rural, formulación de proyectos, seguimiento y evaluación y mujer y desarrollo rural.
La capacitación a productores y organizaciones abarcan -sobre todo- los siguientes temas: proceso de elaboración de plátano tostado, proceso de producción de lácteos y derivados, comercio internacional (a los miembros de las agroindustrias), selección y reproducción de bovinos, producción higiénica de leche, sanidad animal, inseminación artificial, producción y uso de forrajes, administración de empresas, comercialización, cultivo de frijol, arroz, maíz, plátano, tomate, chile, hortalizas, piña, raíces y tubérculos, cardamomo y cítricos, manejo de agroquímicos, establecimiento y manejo de plantas medicinales y conservación de suelos.
En el diseño del Proyecto se preveían 48 cursos o charlas a agricultores. Hasta mayo de 1996 se impartieron 95, por lo que esta meta se ha superado con creces. Las actividades de capacitación a través de la radio, tal como se incluía en el diseño del Proyecto, no se han llevado a cabo. En 1996 se capacitaron en radiodifusión 12 productores y tres técnicos, para realizar un programa semanal en la radio, pero todavía no comenzó. Tampoco se han desarrollado actividades de capacitación en el área de organización campesina, aunque se ha detectado debilidad organizativa y falta de liderazgos participativos.
Los cursos considerados de más utilidad por los productores, en orden de importancia, son: conservación de suelos, administración de empresas agropecuarias, manejo y cuidado del ganado, utilización de agroquímicos, producción de raíces y tubérculos y producción de frijoles. Por su parte, los técnicos encontraron más útiles los cursos de temas pecuarios, inseminación artificial y análisis de suelos. Sobre todo los cursos con actividades prácticas. Cabe destacar que a pesar de que han recibido cursos sobre ganadería, consideran que les hacen falta más capacitaciones pecuarias, ya que muchos créditos se han otorgado a rubros relacionados con ese tipo de actividades (casi el 50% hasta junio de 1996), y que la mayoría de los técnicos del MAG no son especialistas en zootecnia o veterinaria (solamente seis de 19).
Participación de la mujer
El componente de participación de la mujer también participa en los créditos otorgados a agroindustrias y empresas de comercialización a grupos de mujeres (una planta procesadora de plátano tostado y cuatro empresas de crianza y comercialización de mariposas en cautiverio). Debe especificarse que el enfoque dado a nivel de diseño fue hacia la atención a necesidades de las mujeres y a fomentar proyectos exclusivos con mujeres. Es decir, no se sigue un enfoque de género, que se basa en un trato equitativo pero no separado de los sexos.
Otras actividades realizadas por este componente son las siguientes: (a) participación de los técnicos y gestores del PPZN en seminarios sobre mujer y desarrollo rural, (b) eventos de capacitación a mujeres sobre: autoestima, género, socialización, relaciones humanas y poder. De todas formas, las actividades de capacitación en relación a género se han llevado de forma conjunta con las actividades de capacitación en general. De hecho, es la misma persona la que se encarga de la coordinación de estos dos componentes.
Según datos de la UCP el PPZN atendió hasta junio de 1996 directamente a cerca de 200 mujeres que participan en grupos organizados y a 197 mujeres a través de servicios de crédito y asistencia técnica.
Efectos, impactos y sostenibilidad
Los puntos fuertes del Proyecto, según la percepción de los beneficiarios -en orden de importancia- son los siguientes: (a) Posibilidad de acceso al crédito a pequeños productores sin garantías reales. (b) Concesión de créditos oportunos en tiempo y plazos de pago. (c) Aumento de la producción debido a que el crédito posibilita la compra de insumos. (d) Mejora de la dieta del productor y su familia de los clientes con crédito para ganado de doble propósito. Y (e) disminución del trabajo a jornal y aumento del auto-empleo en la propia finca.
Por otro lado, según los técnicos del PPZN y de las instituciones coejecutoras, las fortalezas del Proyecto son las siguientes: (a) Posibilidad de acceso al crédito a pequeños productores con bajos recursos que no son atendidos por los bancos. (b) Tasas de interés bajas y más estables que en los bancos. (c) Rapidez en el otorgamiento de créditos y plazos de pago adecuados al pequeño productor. (d) Capitalización de los productores. (e) Organización y capacitación para las agroindustrias. (f) Capacitación y asistencia técnica en rubros no tradicionales en la zona (cultivos, agroindustrias y mariposarios). (g) Mejoramiento de la alimentación de las familias de los prestatarios con bovinos de doble propósito. (h) Disminución del trabajo a jornal y aumento del auto-empleo en la propia finca.
El grupo objetivo
Productores que nunca antes habían tenido acceso al crédito (por tener bajos ingresos, por carecer de bienes inscritos o tierra propia) han sido financiados por el PPZN. Además, se estudian caso por caso las causas de morosidad para hacer renegociaciones de los pagos si las razones del fracaso de la producción financiada fueron ajenas al productor, lo que es muy valorado por los productores, aunque no todos los técnicos realizan esta tarea de forma tan minuciosa. Además, los productores reconocen que el crédito otorgado es oportuno, en tiempo y plazos.
Producción y rendimiento
En general, el crédito y las actividades de asistencia técnica han ayudado al aumento de la producción y del rendimiento, aunque la opinión sobre la necesidad de asistencia técnica varía según las características de los productores, ya que unos manifiestan necesitarla o apreciarla más que otros. Los productores que consideran que necesitan asistencia técnica, son sobre todo las mujeres jefas de familia y los parceleros de asentamientos más nuevos (de cinco años o menos). Por el contrario, los productores que indican que casi no necesitan asistencia técnica, son los parceleros de asentamientos más consolidados.
Algunos técnicos del MAG han realizado esfuerzos para conseguir un mayor rendimiento del ganado a través de la introducción de inseminación artificial y pastos mejorados. Las dos actividades han sido aceptadas por algunos pequeños productores a pesar de las primeras reticencias. Estas actividades para el mejoramiento del hato ganadero y aumento en la producción lechera son muy importantes, considerando que a junio de 1996 casi el 50% del crédito se concentra en rubros relacionados con la ganadería bovina (compra de ganado, cercas, corrales, establos, pastos mejorados, etc.) y por ser el sistema de producción ganadera uno de los principales problemas de la zona detectados en el diseño del Proyecto ("sistema de explotación extensiva, pastos naturales pobres y un descuido generalizado de las prácticas sanitarias").
Ingresos, calidad de vida y aspectos nutricionales
La zona donde se ubica el Proyecto es agrícola y ganadera (sobre todo bovinos). Sin embargo, algunos asentamientos son sobre todo ganaderos. Esta actividad es menos riesgosa (no está tan influida por los problemas climáticos ni por las plagas o enfermedades) y su comercialización es más segura (aunque los precios fluctúen, no hay saturación de los mercados). Además, permite a la familia del productor mejorar su dieta diaria al disponer de leche y sus derivados para el consumo o incluso el aumento de ingresos cuando estos productos se comercializan (leche y quesos). La actividad ganadera es especialmente recomendable para las mujeres jefas de familia, porque requiere menos dedicación y porque estas familias son más vulnerables en las actividades agrícolas (necesitan mayor apoyo extra-familiar y la frecuencia de venta de productos a intermediarios que nunca les pagan parece ser mayor). Además, los terneros que nacen de las vacas compradas con el crédito, se utilizan para pagar los intereses y son una forma de ahorro. Sin embargo, hay productores con crédito para ganado que consideran que el producto de los animales comprados no es suficiente para pagar la deuda adquirida.
Muchos de los parceleros de los asentamientos del IDA en la zona del Proyecto tienen su tierra pero no capacidad de explotarla, por lo que sus ingresos los obtienen trabajando como jornaleros. El crédito y la asistencia técnica del Proyecto les ha permitido dedicarse a sus parcelas, creando autoempleo a numerosos parceleros, aunque eventualmente sigan haciendo trabajos a jornal fuera de sus fincas. Se ha conseguido no sólo aumentar el auto-empleo, sino también el empleo familiar, fomentando la unidad familiar.
Situación de la mujer
Las mujeres de la zona del Proyecto han recibido tanto capacitación como asistencia técnica y crédito, aunque sólo el 14% de los "clientes" del Proyecto son mujeres, y no el 23,5% (400 de 1 700), tal como se previó en el Informe Actualizado del Diseño del Proyecto (IA). Además, se ha intentado realizar actividades productivas para grupos de mujeres. Hasta la fecha, han recibido crédito cinco grupos formados exclusivamente por mujeres: una planta secadora y comercializadora de plátano y cuatro mariposarios. Ninguno de estos proyectos es muy rentable hasta la actualidad.
Las mujeres que se han beneficiado más del crédito obtenido a través del Proyecto son las jefas de familia que tienen créditos para compra de ganado de doble propósito. Todas ellas manifiestan haber mejorado la situación alimentaria de su familia, y algunas también su situación económica (por la venta de leche y quesos).
En el área del Proyecto se encuentran zonas protegidas como el Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja y la Reserva Forestal de la Cordillera volcánica de Guanacaste. Fuera de estas áreas, la situación de los recursos naturales de la zona presenta un serio deterioro producto de un desarrollo inadecuado, en el cual -en muchos casos- se destruye la montaña para introducir cultivos o pastos que, además de ocasionar la destrucción del bosque, no protegen la cobertura del suelo, provocando una fuerte erosión, lo que repercute directamente en la productividad del suelo. El PPZN ha abordado esta cuestión a través de: (a) cursos del INA a productores y técnicos sobre conservación de suelos, y (b) entrega de alimentos del PMA a cambio de actividades de conservación de suelos. Los productores que han realizado este tipo de actividades en su finca manifiestan haber notado diferencias en la productividad.
Las organizaciones existentes en la zona: (a) son sobre todo Asociaciones de Desarrollo Integral, Comités de Salud y Patronatos Escolares (donde se da el servicio de comedor escolar); (b) no tienen una alta participación de los afiliados en la elaboración y ejecución de los planes y proyectos; (c) sus puestos de dirección casi siempre son ocupados por los mismos directivos; y (d) presentan una escasa participación de la mujer dentro de los cuadros directivos. Es decir, existe una escasa experiencia organizativa y poco liderazgo participativo, situación más acusada en las asociaciones con objetivos de producción y comercialización. Esta escasa experiencia organizativa en la zona de actuación del Proyecto ha dificultado el trabajo con grupos ya establecidos, y explica -por otro lado- la alta morosidad del crédito otorgado a través de organizaciones en los años 1992 y 1993. Los campesinos de comunidades que recibieron crédito a través de Asociaciones de Desarrollo destacan que esa fue una experiencia muy negativa, ya que debido a la mora que aún conservan (aunque sea de un solo productor) se les retiró la cédula fiscal a la Asociación, por lo que ya no pueden realizar actividades de interés general (relacionadas con escuelas, acueductos, salones comunales, etc.), lo que repercute negativamente en el bienestar de toda la comunidad.
Los técnicos del MAG (13 contratados con fondos del PPZN y seis de la plantilla ordinaria) y un funcionario del BNCR son los encargados del seguimiento crediticio y de asegurar las recuperaciones. El funcionario del BNCR también tiene a su cargo el seguimiento de la cartera ordinaria del Banco. Al finalizar el Proyecto terminarán los contratos de los 13 técnicos contratados con el presupuesto del PPZN. Por ello, si no se articulan mecanismos que aseguren la recuperación de los créditos otorgados, es previsible que tras la finalización del Proyecto el fideicomiso se vaya descapitalizando por dificultades en las recuperaciones.
El PPZN ha realizado un esfuerzo para conseguir la coordinación entre las instituciones coejecutoras (MIDEPLAN, MAG, CNP y BNCR). De hecho, debido a la forma en que el Proyecto fue diseñado, sin esa coordinación la mayoría de sus actividades no hubieran podido llevarse a cabo. Además, se ha logrado la cooperación de otras instituciones que no habían sido previstas en el diseño (por ejemplo el INA). Pero la coordinación debe ser mejorada, sobre todo entre el MAG y el CNP. Esta coordinación entre las instituciones es imprescindible para asegurar la sostenibilidad de las acciones del Proyecto después de su finalización. Debe aprovecharse la actual voluntad política de coordinar las actividades de todas las instituciones que tengan relación con el sector agropecuario a nivel nacional. La coordinación puede mejorarse de la siguiente forma: (a) Realización de PAOs conjuntos; (b) reuniones de intercambio de experiencias positivas y negativas; (c) difusión de información sobre precios y expectativas de comercialización fuera y dentro del país; y (d) adecuación de la asistencia técnica, la capacitación de productores y el crédito con las necesidades de provisión de insumos para las agroindustrias.
El PPZN se ha relacionado poco con otras organizaciones del entorno (ONGs y organizaciones campesinas), lo que dificulta su sostenibilidad. Los productores vinculados al PPZN no están organizados, por lo que no podrían influir en decisiones del Gobierno sobre el futuro de los servicios del Proyecto. Sólo si se asocian con otras organizaciones locales sería viable su participación significativa en decisiones futuras.
Cuestiones principales y recomendaciones
Los principales problemas del Proyecto según la percepción de los beneficiarios son los siguientes: (a) dificultades para la comercialización de productos financiados (raíces y tubérculos, piña, plátano y cardamomo); (b) escasa asistencia técnica en cuestiones ganaderas; (c) falta de información-capacitación que ayude al productor a una buena compra de bovinos; (d) escasa asistencia técnica en comunidades con caminos de entrada difícil para vehículos en días de lluvia; y (e) dificultades para encontrar a los técnicos los días de oficina establecidos.
Los principales problemas del Proyecto según la percepción de los técnicos son los siguientes: (a) falta de fondos para validación e investigación; (b) no adecuación de las condiciones del crédito a los productores más pequeños y más recientes; (c) falta de incorporación al Proyecto de actividades de agua potable, salud y caminos (o coordinación con instituciones para brindar apoyos en esas cuestiones); (d) falta de motivación y reconocimiento económico a los técnicos, que pueden marcharse a otro trabajo mejor remunerado; (e) dificultad y lentitud para compra de equipo y pago de viáticos a los técnicos.
Existe una total dependencia de los productores con crédito de los extensionistas, que son los que deben aprobar el crédito antes de pasar por el Comité de Crédito, y quienes les recuerdan las fechas de pago y negocian la reprogramación de los pagos en caso de vencimiento, además de la supervisión del rubro financiado. El problema surge porque las oficinas del MAG tienen los lunes como "día de oficina" establecido, pero no todos los lunes están los técnicos allí, debido a otras actividades y compromisos no postergables (cursos, reuniones, etc.). El extensionista es, por ello, un agente de crédito sin horario de oficina fijo, lo que dificulta la atención a los clientes.
No se preveían actividades de investigación-adaptación, aunque se contaba con los servicios generales del MAG para ello. En la actualidad este tipo de actividades las realiza el PRIAG, que finaliza en octubre de este año. Por ello, los técnicos del MAG (sobre todo en Guatuso y Los Chiles, donde no actúa el PRIAG) no han podido hacer investigación para validar las tecnologías ni para resolver problemas de plagas y enfermedades (graves en algunos casos, como en el tiquisque) que se han presentado.
Las actividades de extensión se realizan sobre todo de forma individual (con visitas a fincas), tal como estaba diseñado en el IA. Actualmente, la política del MAG (debido, entre otras cosas, a la reducción del gasto público) es realizar extensión de forma grupal, por lo que ha establecido los Centros Agrícolas Básicos (CAB) para ahorrar recursos y tiempo, pudiendo atender a más productores. En la zona del Proyecto solamente en los lugares en que también existen actividades del PRIAG (cantón de Upala) y en algunas comunidades que tienen CABs (en la zona del Proyecto existen 39 comunidades con CAB, pero pocos son realmente operativos), la extensión se realiza de forma grupal, en parcelas demostrativas. Además, la extensión individual sólo cubre los rubros financiados con crédito y no llega a productores no financiados. Se recomienda una metodología mixta, que combine la transferencia individual con la grupal. De todas formas, habrá que estimar también los costos del cambio (sobre todo capacitación y sistema de control).
En la zona del Proyecto existen numerosas organizaciones campesinas, sobre todo Asociaciones de Desarrollo Comunal y grupos de mujeres. Sin embargo, la mayoría no cuentan con suficiente capacidad de convocatoria. Esta es una de las causas de que la metodología de extensión grupal no consiga una asistencia numerosa.
La asistencia técnica diseñada para el Proyecto pretendía no solo promover el uso de tecnologías apropiadas para las necesidades de los pequeños productores, sino también la realización de un proceso de capacitación y consolidación de las organizaciones de productores y del proceso de comercialización de sus productos. Sin embargo, no se realizan actividades de fortalecimiento y consolidación de las organizaciones, sobre todo por falta de formación específica en la materia de los técnicos de las diversas instituciones participantes en el Proyecto.
Comercialización y agroindustrias
Aunque éste fue considerado en el informe de Diseño como "uno de los componentes más importantes del Proyecto sobre todo si se tiene en cuenta que el presente Proyecto promoverá el desarrollo de actividades relativamente nuevas para la mayoría de los productores como son piña, cítricos y la producción a escala comercial de plátano y raíces y tubérculos", el presupuesto que se le asignó fue de USD 552 600 (5,3% del costo total del Proyecto).
Uno de los supuestos del diseño del Proyecto era que no existirían problemas de comercialización de granos básicos ni de leche, que serían los principales rubros financiados. Sin embargo, debido a los cambios institucionales y de política general durante la ejecución del PPZN, los rubros financiados se diversificaron, y algunos de ellos presentan dificultades en la comercialización, sobre todo raíces y tubérculos y los productos de las agroindustrias. De hecho, a pesar de que el Proyecto ha aumentado la producción, la situación alimentaria y el empleo de numerosos productores con crédito, las dificultades de comercialización de algunos de los productos financiados han impedido que el impacto positivo sea mayor.
Los nuevos objetivos del CNP (asesorar a los agricultores y a sus organizaciones sobre manejo post-cosecha, comercialización y agroindustrias y realizar formulaciones, análisis y evaluaciones de proyectos agroindustriales) se adaptan a las necesidades del PPZN. Sin embargo, el CNP todavía no ha cumplido con eficacia sus nuevas funciones dentro del Proyecto por diversas razones: (a) el cambio de objetivos de la institución es asimilado lentamente por su personal, y (b) el personal carece de experiencia para asumir sus nuevas funciones. Por ello, los estudios de factibilidad de proyectos de comercialización y agroindustrias, efectuados por el CNP como paso previo a la concesión de crédito, tardan en realizarse entre cuatro meses y año y medio. Estos retrasos han sido problemáticos: (a) por la creación de expectativas a grupos cuyas propuestas después han sido rechazadas, y (b) porque el proyecto en estudio dejaba de ser competitivo al establecerse otro proyecto igual por productores o comerciantes no financiados por el PPZN.
Las agroindustrias establecidas con apoyo del Proyecto se han enfrentado con diversos problemas debidos -sobre todo- a las siguientes cuestiones: (a) falta de capacidad gerencial, (b) sobreestimación de los volúmenes de producción de insumos para las agroindustrias (cardamomo y leche), (c) errores en la predicción de volúmenes y precios de comercialización, (d) errores en los estudios sobre la competencia, y (e) falta de estrategia comercial (etiquetado, canales de comercialización). Los técnicos del CNP han detectado estas carencias, por lo que han propuesto contratar personal para que apoye y enseñe a las Juntas Directivas por un período de un año.
Los técnicos del CNP reciben información del Departamento de Inteligencia de Mercados sobre precios nacionales e internacionales y sobre legislación o acuerdos internacionales que pueden influir en la producción agropecuaria. Esta información les llegaba hasta abril de este año con uno o dos meses de retraso, lo que no era muy operativo. A partir de esa fecha esa información les llega cada 15 días.
La relación entre los técnicos del MAG y del CNP es escasa, por lo que los extensionistas agropecuarios carecen de información para asesorar al productor en relación a fluctuación de precios, previsiones de comercialización, etc.
Los problemas de comercialización debidos al mal manejo post-cosecha de los productos -ya detectados en el diseño del Proyecto- siguen existiendo.
Los productores creen que el PPZN debe encargarse de la comercialización de los productos financiados. Dada la actual función del CNP esto no puede ser así. Además, si el Proyecto actuara como intermediario, no se aseguraría la sostenibilidad de estas actividades una vez finalizado el período de ejecución del Proyecto. De todas formas, hay que tener presente que uno de los objetivos del Proyecto es "establecer servicios e infraestructura de comercialización y asesorar al pequeño productor para garantizar la comercialización de la producción generada con financiamiento del Proyecto, e incrementar la capacidad de negociación de las organizaciones de los productores".
Los cursos impartidos a productores (sobre todo por medio del INA) han sido muy numerosos. Estos se han definido entre extensionistas y la UCP, que solicitan al INA su ejecución dentro de un programa anual acordado de cursos. Pero se ha comprobado que mientras en algunas comunidades se han dado cinco cursos o más desde el inicio de la ejecución del Proyecto, en otras comunidades no se ha impartido ninguno. Además, la materia de los cursos no necesariamente tiene relación con los rubros de producción de los asistentes. Debe tenerse presente que estos cursos han sido realizado casi exclusivamente con recursos del INA, que no forman parte de los recursos en efectivo de contraparte del Gobierno de Costa Rica (aunque se contabilizan como contraparte en especie).
Participación de la mujer
Se han financiado actividades productivas y de comercialización a grupos de mujeres (planta tostadora de plátano y cuatro mariposarios) porque son proyectos productivos desarrollados en actividades no tradicionales que no perpetúan el rol tradicional de la mujer rural. Pero cabe destacar que el PPZN ha financiado estos proyectos sin un estudio adecuado sobre su rentabilidad y capacidad organizativa, y -en algunos casos- sin que existiera identificación del grupo con la actividad a emprender. La necesidad de cumplir con el objetivo de financiar actividades productivas a grupos de mujeres fue el factor decisivo en la toma de desiciones.
Seguimiento y evaluación
Según el diseño del Proyecto, en los primeros seis meses de la ejecución debía llevarse a cabo un Estudio de Base, en el que se incluirían los niveles de desarrollo, las condiciones socioeconómicas de los pequeños productores y la capacidad operacional de las instituciones de apoyo. Aunque se comenzó a trabajar en dicho Estudio, nunca se llevó a cabo. La inexistencia de datos de comparación, dificultan en la actualidad la determinación de los efectos y los impactos del PPZN sobre la población objetivo.
Tanto la Propuesta de Seguimiento y Evaluación para el PPZN elaborada en 1992, como su revisión de 1995 contienen elementos valiosos. Pero como presentan demasiados indicadores sin una priorización y -en algunos casos- confunden objetivos con indicadores, no han sido de demasiada utilidad para el SyE del PPZN. Por otro lado, pocos de los indicadores propuestos se refieren a las variaciones en las condiciones de empleo, nutrición y calidad de vida, por lo que no permiten la evaluación del impacto del Proyecto sobre la población objetivo.
En los diversos Informes de Avance Físico y Financiero las referencias al cumplimiento o no de las actividades previstas se refieren a las previsiones anuales realizadas por el PPZN, y no a las previsiones de los documentos del diseño del Proyecto, por lo que existen pocas comparaciones entre los objetivos generales y las actividades realizadas.
66. El responsable del SyE se ha dedicado también a otras actividades importantes (pero que han reducido considerablemente su tiempo disponible para SyE): apoyo a la dirección y coordinación del Proyecto, organización y coordinación del proceso de planificación anual del PPZN, atención de misiones, realización de la solicitud de ampliación temporal y de área, etc.
Sobre la organización del proyecto. Hasta el momento, ha habido poca participación de los productores en el proceso de planificación, gestión y seguimiento y evaluación del Proyecto. De hecho, sólo participan a través de un representante en cada uno de los Comité de Crédito (sin voto hasta 1993 y con un voto entre cinco a partir de esa fecha). El momento actual, en que se discute una posible ampliación temporal y/o geográfica y un posible cambio en la forma de actuación del Proyecto, es una gran oportunidad para ampliar la participación de los productores en la toma de decisiones, con el establecimiento de mecanismos de coordinación y discusión de propuestas.
Aunque cada institución coejecutora tiene sus tiempos y sus rutinas, debe hacerse un esfuerzo para realizar verdaderos Planes Anuales Operativos (PAOs) conjuntos, y no un agregado de PAOs individuales. Esto permitirá la consecución de los objetivos del PPZN y la coordinación institucional.
Sobre el sistema computarizado de administración bancaria en crédito. Con base en la información recogida de los usuarios del 'software' de crédito (personal del BNCR y técnicos del MAG) las propuestas de mejora que se sugieren son las siguientes:
(1) Modificar el informe de salida para que presente (además de la información actual) un resumen con indicadores clave, que sinteticen la situación de la cartera, y que permita apoyar al seguimiento y a la evaluación.
(2) Establecer un nuevo indicador que recupere la información relacionando el monto de lo que se recuperó en un período dado frente a lo que había que recuperar en ese mismo período. Este indicador podría desglosarse: (a) por rubro; y (b) por extensionista.
(3) Introducir una reforma en el "software" para que el usuario tenga la posibilidad de realizar de forma sencilla salidas de información según sus necesidades. Esto no significa que el usuario tenga posibilidad de modificar el programa base.
(4) Desarrollar las capacidades locales para que se puedan realizar reformas del programa más en profundidad en un plazo corto si así se considerara necesario.
(5) Analizar los ajustes requeridos por los usuarios y realizar a la brevedad las adaptaciones necesarias para satisfacer sus necesidades. En particular,
(a) que en la hoja resumen por extensionista haya información que relacione el cobro de un período con el plan de cobro de ese mismo período (en %);
(b) que en pantalla (sin necesidad de imprimir) se puedan ver las fechas de los siguientes pagos;
(c) que el sistema incluya datos del fiador;
(d) que incluya el número de beneficiarios en cada crédito grupal.
Sobre extensión agropecuaria. Para disminuir los riesgos debidos a enfermedades, plagas y/o problemas de comercialización debe fomentarse la diversificación productiva, no el monocultivo. Agricultores que tuvieron problemas de comercialización de productos que habían sembrado en grandes cantidades tras conseguir una financiación (tanto de operación como de inversión: yuca, cardamomo y piña), han vuelto a la diversificación.
La asistencia técnica hasta el momento se ha hecho de forma individual (tal como se indica en el IA), salvo en los casos en que el área del Proyecto coincide con las actividades del PRIAG y en algunas comunidades con CABs, donde se han realizado actividades grupales. Esta asistencia técnica individual ha llegado exclusivamente a los productores con crédito y se ha centrado en los rubros financiados. El PRIAG acaba sus actividades en octubre de este año. Por lo tanto, aprovechando que los técnicos que han realizado las actividades del PRIAG son los mismos que los del Proyecto (en Upala) podría comenzarse una transferencia de tecnología que combinara la transferencia individual con una metodología de grupo, formando a los técnicos que no han estado previamente trabajando de esta forma. Esto permitiría (a) cumplir con el objetivo del Proyecto de ofrecer asistencia técnica también a productores sin crédito (los beneficiarios indirectos hasta diciembre de 1995 eran el 76% de los 2 020 previstos, pero algunos se han contabilizado más de una vez y otros no pertenecen al grupo objetivo del PPZN), (b) que los productores con crédito no sólo reciban información sobre rubros financiados, sino también sobre otros, lo que disminuiría los riesgos de morosidad, y (c) adecuar la forma de actuación del MAG dentro de la zona del Proyecto a la forma de actuación recomendada por el Ministerio, que es como el MAG tendrá que trabajar cuando finalice el PPZN.
Para conseguir mejorar los resultados obtenidos a través de la extensión con técnicas grupales, es necesario capacitar a los productores en temas organizativos y a los técnicos en metodología participativa.
Debe continuarse con el esfuerzo de regular la compra de bovinos financiados, orientándola hacia fincas de conocida buena calidad en la zona, para garantizar el éxito de la actividad de los pequeños productores con crédito para ganado, ya que se han detectado problemas de morosidad debido a que al comprar ganado de mala calidad no se consiguen los ingresos esperados.
La ganadería y los elementos relacionados (cercas, corrales, establos y pastos) son los principales rubros financiado por el PPZN (casi el 50% hasta junio de 1996). Por ello, deben reforzarse las recomendaciones y charlas sobre manejo higiénico del ordeño, ya que en los análisis realizados en las plantas procesadoras de leche se han detectado altos porcentajes de contaminación. Este problema no sólo repercute en dificultades para la comercialización, sino también en la salud familiar y en el aumento de infecciones del ganado (mastitis). Se recomienda enfatizar al productor que el tiempo y esfuerzo que dedique a la higiene del ordeño repercutirá tanto en sus ingresos (menor gastos de medicamentos en animales infectados) como en la salud de su familia.
Continuar y aumentar las actividades de inseminación artificial y adopción de pastos y forrajes, para conseguir la mejora del hato ganadero y el aumento en el rendimiento lechero. Esto requiere involucrar a nuevos veterinarios y zootecnistas que apoyen a los cinco actualmente trabajando para el PPZN.
La programación de las actividades de extensión con metodología grupal deben ser realizadas de forma participativa con las comunidades. Los productores, al sentirse partícipes de las decisiones del Proyecto, tendrán una mayor identificación con el mismo y un mayor compromiso para asistir de forma regular a las actividades programadas.
El diseño del Proyecto no asignaba presupuestos a las actividades de investigación-adaptación agropecuaria. En la actualidad esas actividades se realizan a través del PRIAG, solo presente en el cantón de Upala, que finaliza en octubre de este año. Se recomienda que esas actividades sean contratadas por el PPZN, utilizando la experiencia ya existente y empleando presupuestos de los fondos no asignados. Otra alternativa complementaria es establecer convenios con universidades que permitan realizar tesis de grado o de post-grado en la zona del Proyecto, siempre y cuando el tema de las mismas sea consensuado entre el estudiante y la dirección del Proyecto.
Dada la dificultad de aumentar el número de extensionistas debido a las políticas de restricción del gasto público, y la necesidad de ampliar la asistencia técnica a productores financiados y no financiados por el Proyecto, es importante explorar la posibilidad de encarar la extensión contando con "expertos locales" ya existentes en la zona y preparando a otros brindándoles el apoyo necesario (capacitación, material, etc). De hecho, el uso de campesinos locales como colaboradores en la extensión ha demostrado ser exitoso en otros proyectos co-financiados por el FIDA. Estas experiencias han permitido reducir sustancialmente los costos de transferencia de tecnología, mejorar la comunicación con los productores y su aceptación de las nuevas tecnologías, crear una fuente de empleo local alternativa y asegurar la continuidad de las actividades de extensión después de la finalización del Proyecto.
Sobre comercialización y agroindustrias. Los técnicos del MAG y del CNP (que son los encargados de la colocación de créditos) deben recibir información periódica y actualizada sobre precios y situación del mercado nacional e internacional y sobre políticas nacionales o acuerdos internacionales que puedan afectar a los precios de los productos agropecuarios. Esto les permitirá tener elementos a la hora de asesorar al pequeño productor.
En el área del Proyecto no existe tradición de almacenamiento de la producción, por lo que los productores venden inmediatamente después de la cosecha (aunque los precios estén bajos), porque la espera repercute en la calidad de los productos, y pierden la cosecha en la tierra en caso de que no encuentren comprador. Se debe capacitar a los productores sobre tratamiento post-cosecha y almacenamiento de granos básicos y raíces y tubérculos (esta es un área en la cual es posible que la FAO pueda apoyar).
El objetivo del PPZN para las agroindustrias y actividades de comercialización financiadas debe ser consolidar las organizaciones como empresas, fortaleciendo su capacidad administrativa y financiera, para asegurar su sostenibilidad tras el cierre del Proyecto. Esto puede requerir un replanteamiento de algunos proyectos agroindustriales ya existentes, el apoyo por etapas a nuevos proyectos y un mayor apoyo con asistencia técnica específica durante la ejecución.
Es necesario incrementar el número de productores que entregan leche a las procesadoras y su constancia en la entrega, aumentar el precio que se les paga por litro y mejorar la calidad del producto entregado. Los tres elementos están interrelacionados. Para aumentar el número de productores que entregan leche se debe, por un lado, considerar el problema del transporte (algunos productores tienen que recorrer distancias largas hasta el punto de entrega por caminos en mal estado, con riesgo de pérdida del producto); y, por otro, asegurar un mercado suficiente y constante, y disminuir los costos de administración para aumentar el precio que se paga por la leche. Si el precio al productor es mayor, previsiblemente aumentará el número de productores que entregan, así como su constancia, a la vez que se lo forzaría a mejorar la calidad de la leche entregada. Todo lo anterior aumentaría no solo los ingresos de los ganaderos, sino también la calidad del producto consumido por él (o ella) y su familia.
Es necesario reforzar la capacitación a los productores de cardamomo y a los técnicos que los supervisan, ya que hay diferencias entre la forma actual de cosecha y manejo post-cosecha y la recomendada por los expertos. De todas formas, se requiere un análisis previo que confirme que el costo extra en la cosecha y post-cosecha será compensado al productor con un aumento en los precios que se le pagan.
El problema de los intermediarios que recogen los productos en la finca y que no pagan al productor es un hecho bastante extendido. Es necesario solucionar este problema. Las organizaciones de productores, apoyadas por el CNP, podrían realizar un censo de intermediarios, que permitiera identificar a los incumplidores y difundir esta información (por ejemplo a través de la radio).
Sobre capacitación. Los cursos impartidos a productores deben adecuarse a sus horarios de trabajo para facilitar una mayor asistencia.
A través del PPZN diversos grupos de productores han recibido capacitación sobre conservación de suelos, a la vez que se entregan alimentos del PMA a cambio de trabajos de conservación. Pero considerando la fragilidad de algunas zonas del Proyecto, ya que hay comunidades que se encuentran en zonas denominadas "de amortiguamiento" (tierras colindantes con áreas protegidas), que Costa Rica es uno de los países con mayores áreas protegidas pero con una de las tasas de desforestación más altas del mundo y que una de las características de la zona es que las malezas, las enfermedades y las plagas se propagan por la humedad del medio y por un empleo inapropiado de los productos agroquímicos, es necesario intensificar y profundizar la capacitación y sensibilización tanto de técnicos como de productores sobre protección ambiental (conservación de suelos con curvas de nivel o terrazas, mantenimiento de acueductos, reducción del uso de agroquímicos, uso de herramientas agrícolas apropiadas, diversificación y rotación de cultivos, manejo de las microcuencas para un mejor aprovechamiento del agua), y aumentar el seguimiento y control de las actividades de esta índole que realizan los productores.
Deben intensificarse las actividades y cursos relativos al fortalecimiento organizativo, tanto dirigidos a técnicos como a productores. La sostenibilidad de las acciones del Proyecto dependerá -en gran medida- de la fortaleza de las organizaciones de productores.
Debe iniciarse a la brevedad el programa radial de capacitación al productor, para lo que han sido capacitados 12 productores y tres técnicos. La radio es un medio que permite el contacto "de productor a productor" de zonas alejadas y el intercambio de experiencias.
Sobre participación de la mujer. Antes de financiar actividades productivas a grupos de mujeres se deben realizar estudios de factibilidad económica y sostenibilidad organizativa como los llevados a cabo para otras actividades productivas. Lo importante no es sólo financiar a grupos de mujeres para que desarrollen proyectos productivos en actividades no tradicionales y que no perpetúen el rol tradicional de la mujer rural, sino también que esos proyectos sean rentables y permitan recuperar la inversión realizada. Se debe estudiar, además, la disponibilidad de tiempo de las mujeres (considerando otras actividades realizadas, distancia y condiciones del camino desde su casa a la planta, etc.).
Sobre seguimiento y evaluación. El Proyecto se encuentra en su etapa final y no se han realizado estudios de efectos. Por otro lado, las actividades de seguimiento se realizan a través de visitas a beneficiarios para conocer su opinión sobre la marcha del Proyecto. Por lo anterior, se recomienda que la USE realice estudios de caso sistemáticos. Estos estudios de caso deben centrarse en "productores tipo" (hombres y mujeres) y en las actividades de transformación primaria y comercialización que se están impulsando (agroindustrias, mariposarios, etc.) y en las que se incorporen en el futuro.
El seguimiento y la evaluación del Proyecto no debe centrarse solamente en actividades realizadas (número de créditos colocados, porcentaje de crédito desembolsado, cursos de formación impartidos, etc.), sino también en los efectos e impactos que esas actividades tienen sobre la población objetivo.
Sobre fortalecimiento organizativo e institucional. Dado que se está intentando aumentar el número de créditos a través del establecimiento de intermediarios financieros y que los problemas de comercialización muestran la importancia de dar asistencia técnica no sólo sobre rubros financiados (sino también sobre otros rubros existentes en la finca del productor), es imprescindible realizar actividades de fortalecimiento de las organizaciones campesinas para aumentar la transferencia de tecnología de forma grupal. Para ello podría contratarse una consultoría que comenzara las acciones y que capacitara a los técnicos. Si se aprueba la reforma del Addendum 2 del fideicomiso (que permitiría contratar directamente personal), una posibilidad alternativa es incorporar a la UCP un profesional (por ejemplo, sociólogo rural), en vez de contratar una consultoría. El fortalecimiento de las organizaciones de productores también se considera importante para la comercialización de los productos primarios o agroindustriales.
Sobre el Organismo Ejecutor. En Costa Rica existe bastante complejidad burocrática para autorizar desembolsos públicos para la contratación de personal, bienes y servicios. Esta situación en la actualidad se ve agravada por la política de recorte del gasto público. Para proyectos futuros sería recomendable estudiar la posibilidad de que el Organismo Ejecutor sea una institución autónoma (por ejemplo el INA), las cuales no tienen que refrendar los contratos con la Contraloría, ya que son aprobados por la Junta Directiva. Puede ser necesario optar entre mayor control financiero o mayor agilidad en la ejecución. Otra solución alternativa podría ser realizar un acuerdo general con alguna institución (por ejemplo el IICA), a través de la cual se realizarían las contrataciones de algunos bienes y servicios de una forma más ágil, como sucede en otros países de América Latina.
Sobre la adecuación del crédito al grupo objetivo
Los proyectos de desarrollo rural con componente de crédito deben adaptar la forma de pago a las posibilidades de los pequeños productores. La amortización de intereses trimestral no se adecua al flujo de ingresos de estos clientes, que disponen de efectivo principalmente en la época de venta de la cosecha. Si se quiere que el crédito llegue al pequeño productor, los cobros deben adecuarse al rubro financiado (post-cosecha para el caso de créditos de operación en agricultura, anual en el caso de inversión en ganadería, y dependiendo del ciclo de producción del cultivo en el caso de inversión en agricultura). De hecho, aunque los productores con crédito desearían que las tasas de interés fueran más bajas, esta cuestión se queda en un segundo plano, ya que lo importante para ellos es la posibilidad de acceso al crédito y la adecuación de los pagos a sus posibilidades. El PPZN cambió la forma de cobros desde principios de 1994, después de las recomendaciones de una consultoría FIDA-RUTA.
Sobre extensión agropecuaria
Los proyectos de crédito agropecuario que pretendan introducir cultivos no tradicionales en la zona (sobre todo cultivos de exportación) deben tener un apoyo importante en extensión y en comercialización, para asegurar que se están promoviendo cultivos que serán comercializados a precios razonables.
Las tecnologías promovidas por los proyectos casi siempre necesitan adaptación, sobre todo si se presentan enfermedades y plagas imprevistas. Por ello, los proyectos de desarrollo rural con actividades de asistencia técnica deben incluir en su presupuesto fondos para actividades de adaptación tecnológica.
Para mejorar los ingresos por la venta de productos agropecuarios deben fortalecerse las organizaciones de productores. Estas permiten un mayor acceso al uso de insumos, a la asistencia técnica y al crédito. Además, se pueden aprovechar las economías de escala para la producción. Por ello, las actividades de fortalecimiento organizativo y de formación de los extensionistas en técnicas de transferencia grupal deben tener prioridad.
Es necesario dar mayor peso relativo a las actividades de comercialización del que se les otorga en los proyectos, porque los aumentos en la productividad no siempre se acompañan de crecimiento de los ingresos netos si los productos no se comercializan debidamente. Además, si un productor no puede comercializar productos financiados por el Proyecto, adquiere una visión negativa del Proyecto en su conjunto, aunque la oportunidad del crédito y la asistencia técnica productiva sean percibidas como adecuadas.
En los proyectos de desarrollo rural con crédito para inversión en agricultura de exportación o para agroindustrias se deben seleccionar extensionistas con conocimientos sobre política agrícola nacional, acuerdos internacionales de comercio y situación de los mercados (o capacitar a los ya contratados) para que cuenten con elementos adecuados a la hora de recomendar y financiar rubros de producción para su venta en mercados internos y externos.
Sobre participación de la mujer
Las actividades económicas con participación de la mujer deben incluir análisis de factibilidad económica y sostenibilidad organizativa, para evitar la formación de falsas expectativas y la desarticulación de los grupos de mujeres.
Sobre seguimiento y evaluación
Las propuestas de SyE para los proyectos deben contener más elementos prácticos que teóricos. Los indicadores que se establezcan no deben ser muy numerosos, y deben referirse tanto al contexto del Proyecto como a las actividades, a los productos, a los efectos y a los impactos del mismo. Además, se deben incluir parámetros que orienten a la USE sobre qué porcentaje de cumplimiento se considerará aceptable y a qué nivel se debe 'encender la luz de alarma'.
Sobre organización campesina
La experiencia de este Proyecto y de otros en Costa Rica (como el Proyecto de Desarrollo Agrícola de la Zona Atlántica) muestra la importancia del fortalecimiento de grupos organizados (asociaciones, cooperativas, etc.) que establezcan un vínculo entre el gobierno y los productores, con el fin de convertirse en agentes de cambio y de desarrollo de sus regiones una vez finalizado el período de ejecución de los proyectos financiados con capital internacional.
Rainfed Agriculture Development Project in the Governorate of Sidi Bouzid (1996)
The geographic area covered by the project coincides with the twelve districts of the Governorate of Sidi Bouzid, totalling 755 500 hectares. In 1994 the total population in the Governorate was 377 700 inhabitants, of whom 78% living in rural areas. The cultivated area is 412 000 hectares, with 33 000 farms (381 000 ha) plus the Government's "organised sector" (31 000 ha). It consists of plateaux intercepted by rocky chains. The climate is semi-arid to arid in the south (300-200 mm). Agriculture primarily based on rainfed tree crops, localised but dynamic irrigation and sheep production. Rainfed cereal crops cover large areas but production is erratic. Until some forty years ago the region was dominated by cereal crops and extensive sheep farming.
The development of tree crops, sustained by a series of programmes or projects since 1960, has been the major factor in the evolution of the pastoral system towards sedentarized agriculture. Irrigation is practised locally. Tree crops covered some 195 000 ha (physical area) in 1996, mainly olives (4 million trees) and almonds (3 million trees). Mixed cropping (intercropped olives and almonds) is practised on approximately 43% of the physical area. Although sedentarized, extensive sheep and goat production is still important (545 000 head, equivalent to 16 head per farm). Most farms using irrigation also grow rainfed crops. Tree crops are important throughout most of the Governorate except in the north-west (unsuitable soil) and the south-east. Small holdings (less than 10 ha) account for 61% of all privately owned farms (25% of the area); medium-sized holdings (10 to 50 ha), 36% of the total number and 57% of the area; large holdings (more than 50 ha) account for 3% of the total number and 18% of the area.
Project design and objectives
The rainfed agriculture development project is derived from a more far-reaching project which was intended to develop "small and medium-sized holdings" in the Governorate of Sidi Bouzid, using rainfed and irrigated farming. During the appraisal phase, the irrigation component was detached from the rest to become a separate irrigation development project. Since the Government and IFAD also wished to develop rainfed agriculture, a second project was set up. It was implemented by OMVPI, the agency which already had responsibility for the irrigation project. FADES was chosen as cooperating agency, while the World Bank had that role in the irrigation project. In both projects the objective was to have an impact on "small and medium-sized farms" through actions aimed at attaining a sustainable improvement of productivity in both agriculture and employment. Approximately 6 600 farms were involved, equivalent to 20% of the total number of farms in the Governorate. The target group was thus composed of 70% small holdings (less than 20 ha with an income of around USD 130 ) and 30% medium-sized holdings (20 to 50 ha with an income of USD 400).
Objectives and components
The development of rainfed agriculture is considerably limited by agroclimatic constraints. In this context, fruit trees, which had developed considerably since the 1970s, appeared to be the only activity capable of producing sustainable and relatively regular incomes. In the early 1980s, it was estimated that a further 50 to 60 000 ha were suitable for this type of crops – compared to the then (physical) planted area of 140 000 hectares. The development of tree crops was therefore chosen as the principal strategy for rainfed agriculture. Clearly less emphasis was given to livestock production which was nonetheless a major activity in the Governorate . Project support to farmers was to be the provision of works together with credit for planting. The project envisaged the planting of 13 400 ha of which 6 300 ha in almond trees, 4 300 ha of pistachio trees and 2 800 ha shrub fodder crops. The project intended to finance up to 3 ha of plantations for each beneficiary.
The project components were:
- Provision of agricultural credit to cover the investments required for the planting of fruit trees and fodder crops and for the purchase of 1 000 animal-drawn tanks for watering the plantations.
- Provision of agricultural equipment to OMVPI for support activities
- Rental of tractors and bulldozers for 210 000 hours for soil preparation.
- Construction and fitting out of 12 shallow wells and 3 boreholes to irrigate the plantations.
- Construction of 15 drinking troughs and of 12 disinfestation dips.
- Strengthening OMVPI's intervention capacity; maintenance equipment, setting up input distribution centres.
- Strengthening OMVPI extension services.
The Ministry of Agriculture was to entrust OMVPI, already responsible for the irrigation project, with the execution of the project. A single project management unit and a single monitoring and evaluation unit would serve both projects.
Expected effects and assumptions
Estimated yields at full production (about 20 years after project start-up) were 2 814 t of almonds and 944 t of pistachios. The planting of fodder crops (14 000 t) was expected to generate an additional production of 186 t of meat and 7 t of wool. The rate of return was estimated at 13% over a period of 30 years.
The mission had at its disposal the information contained in the annual reports, the mid-term evaluation report (1987) and the completion report drawn up by CRDA in January 1996. The quality of the information was affected by the fact that numerous unclassified documents were inaccessible following the dissolution of OMVPI and by insufficient monitoring and evaluation data. The evaluation information was integrated by field work and special farmer surveys during the final mission as well as during the preparatory missions.
The principal change during the project was that of the institutional framework. Indeed, the dissolution of OMVPI occurred in 1989 and its responsibilities were transferred to the regional Commissariat (CRDA) representing the Ministry of Agriculture. Said transfer was accompanied by the liberalisation of the economy and the Government's disengagement from some of its functions. Several direct Government service components such as the provision of inputs were thus no longer justified. But the mechanical work to support the investment was maintained. The mid-term evaluation, which was performed after these changes, gave rise to a number of recommendations which were taken into account.
The project, originally envisaged for a period of five years, used its funds over a period of nine years (1986-1994). This extended closing was possible thanks to remainders resulting from certain prices that were lower than expected and from local funds derived from exchange rate differences. During the course of the project, a number of changes were made to adapt the components to the farmers' requirements as well as to changes in the political and economic context.
The Tunisian dinar comparison of the costs envisaged (TND 11 million) and the effective costs (TND 10.5 million) shows only a slight difference. In US dollars, however, the difference is notable, the effective cost in USD (11.7 million) being decidedly less than that originally estimated (USD 13.3 million). This discrepancy can mainly be explained by exchange rate variations. The accounting structure of the costs also reflects important changes: the purchasing cost of equipment originally envisaged at 30% of the total project cost was actually 10%; farm credit dropped from the originally estimated 40% to 18%; equipment rental – entered under other items in 1984 – represented 49% of the effective costs, whereas the cost of wells and boreholes rose from the envisaged 4.6% to 16%. The cost of the institutional development component dropped from 24.7% to 9%.
Over the period 1986-89, total project expenditure and the IFAD loan accounted respectively for 38 and 19% of the OMVPI cumulative investment budget. During the CRDA period (1990-94), these figures were 20 and 13%. Compared to the OMVPI and CRDA cumulative investment budget, from 1986 to 1994, these figures were 22 et 16%. IFAD financed 65% of the costs instead of the originally planned 45%. Subsidies accounted for TND 2.3 million (TND 402 per beneficiary). The participation of beneficiaries, not quantified by the project, was estimated by the mission at TND 2.25 million. The cost of the project, including this self-financing element, is therefore TND 12.8 million instead of TND 10.54 million, according to the project accounts. Self-financing would therefore account for 21.4% of the actual total cost.
Fruit trees planted. The project contributed to the planting of 13 720 ha of fruit trees - 2 705 ha of almonds, 4 375 ha of pistachios and 6 638 ha of olives. The latter species, excluded at the time of the evaluation due to unfavourable price projections, was then included again following farmer demand and better market prices for olives. The planted area is approximately the same as that originally planned but with a different structure. All the districts in the Governorate were included in the fruit tree project but 66% of the total planted area and 83% of the olive trees are concentrated in four of them. Project activities involved the selection of the sites and the beneficiaries, soil preparation work financed by the project (3 957 ha of clearing et 10 715 ha of deep tilling ), the provision of saplings, monitoring and maintenance of the plantations. The average cost of the plantations was 742 TND/ha for almond trees (originally TND 534), 832 TND/ha for pistachio trees (initially TND 630 ), and 482 TND/ha for olive trees, corresponding to an average of 645 TND/ha. The average cost per beneficiary was TND 1 311 .
The 5 720 beneficiaries of the fruit tree plantations received an average maintenance subsidy of 209 TND/ha (originally TND 200). The subsidy was very unevenly distributed due to differences in access to credit. Some 1 155 beneficiaries obtained credit : taking into account the various project contributions (loans, subsidies and works), they received 862 TND/ha, which is 217 TND more than the effective investment cost (645 TND/ha). The other 4 565 beneficiaries, without access to credit, only received from the project 410 TND/ha (in works and subsidies); they therefore self-financed 235 TND/ha, equivalent to one third of the investment.
Creation of a watering capacity. Watering the saplings during the first years is the critical element for this type of investment. By abandoning the customary practice (whereby watering is the responsibility of the local authority), the project intended to build up in the beneficiaries a self-sustaining watering capacity. It therefore financed the purchase of 735 animal-drawn tanks, thus covering 13% of the beneficiaries involved in the fruit plantations. It also implemented 12 boreholes (three originally planned) and 12 shallow wells (initially 12). These various funds also covered the supply of drinking water. Several boreholes are already or can be used for irrigation. Drinking troughs (11 out of the 12 initially envisaged) were provided for livestock but, into account the existing equipment, the disinfestation dips were considered of no use.
Soil and water conservation measures (CES). These measures were not originally envisaged in the project but proved necessary to counteract the risk of erosion in areas just cleared or tilled with mechanical means. They involved 2 000 ha of banquettes on privately-owned farms.
Planting of perennial fodder crops. The project had planned to plant perennial species on privately-owned farms (by providing loans). The farmers preferred fruit trees, so the perennial fodder crops were planted on land reserved for collective use. The project thus funded, as a public investment, 1 150 ha of acacias and spineless cactus (2 000 ha planned). The cost was 400 TND/ha for cactus and 850 TND/ha for acacia (the average cost of fruit plantations being 645 TND/ha).
Provision of credit. The planned amount of credit was TND 3.6 million, of which 70% (SDR 1.46 million) to be financed by IFAD. The total credit distributed amounted to TND 2.0 million, entirely financed by IFAD. The plantation loan covers 15 to 24 years with a grace period of 8 to 12 years. It is guaranteed by the title-deed. The medium-term loans for equipment (water tanks) have already matured, and 64% of the repayments are outstanding. The long-term credit only concerned 20% of the farms receiving support to plant fruit trees and approximately 30% of the areas planted. It only accounted for 18% of the project costs compared to the forecast 40%.
Institutional support. The measures involved constructions (OMVPI headquarters, which were subsequently passed on to CRDA, and two territorial extension units) and extension (external training courses, local extension activities, purchase of equipment). They were also to cover monitoring and evaluation activities. The Planning Unit did not have time to operate effectively before the dissolution of OMVPI. The CRDA took over some of OMVPI's activities but within the framework of a service that performed more general functions.
Effects on the target group. The beneficiaries were, in theory, chosen following the logic of farmer "demand". But in fact, a somewhat "spatial" logic was used, since the experts had to determine which areas were suitable for the plantations. The distribution of the 5 720 beneficiaries involved in the tree crop plantations shows that 43% of the areas were planted on land belonging to 18% of the beneficiaries who planted more than the established limit of 3 ha (30% of the area belongs to 10% of the beneficiaries, the latter having planted more than 5 ha). Small-scale planters (with a planted area of less than 2 ha) are the most numerous (64% of the beneficiaries) but they only own 35% of the areas planted with support from the project. The structure of the plantations shows that the larger holdings have a proportionately larger area under pistachio trees and the smallest have a proportionately larger area under olive trees - almond tree plantations remaining approximately stable (20% of the planted area for all farm sizes). A comparison of these data with those of beneficiaries by farm size shows that 22% of the beneficiaries (farming 56% the total land area owned by the beneficiaries) have areas of more than 20 hectares. The beneficiaries with less than 10 ha account for 47% of the total (17% of the farmed areas).
The comparison of this breakdown by farm size with the total farms in the Governorate shows that the larger categories (20 to 50 ha and more than 50 ha) were favoured because they account respectively for 26 and 30% of the beneficiary holdings, whereas farms of less than 5 ha and 5 to 10 ha only account for 10 and 17%. On average, 18% of the total farms benefited from the project's fruit-tree plantation measures. The overall objective achieved is of the order of that forecast (20% of the farms) but it is distributed differently: 57% of the areas planted should have been on farms of less than 10 ha (compared to an actual 36%), and farms larger than 50 ha were not intended to be included (13% of the planted areas did benefit however).
Medium- or long-term loans were obtained by 1 890 BNA clients. The distribution of these loans shows that the most widely represented category (less than 10 ha, 61% of the farms) received the least credit (18% of the clients). The holdings with more than 20 ha (15% of the farms) provided 45% of BNA's clients. The amount of the loan ranges from TND 364 per farm for the category of less than 10 ha to TND 1 986 per farm of more than 50 hectares. It is observed that 40% of the farms of more than 20 ha and which benefited from the tree crop plantation component, did receive some credit. The proportion is reduced to 20% for farms of less than 10 hectares. The subsidies having been distributed according to the areas planted, it is the larger growers who received the most: 43% of the subsidies thus went to planters who exceeded the established threshold of 3 hectares.
The beneficiaries of the other measures of the rainfed project include some 300 livestock producers who use the collective fodder crop plantations. They include the beneficiaries obtaining drinking water from the boreholes and wells (14 000 persons served). Approximately 90 farmers irrigate their crops with water from the boreholes.
Effects on production. The forecast fruit tree yields are generally lower than those estimated: almonds 300 kg/ha instead of 350 kg; pistachios 210 kg/ha instead of 250. Olive yields are 700 kg/ha. Bearing in mind that the planting of the trees is staggered in time, full production will be reached in 2012 (25 years after the first plantations). Additional production will be 4 976 t of olives, 811 t of almonds and 919 t of pistachios. The net value of the additional production (including cereals and by-products) will be TND 8.4 million, equivalent to TND 616 per hectare planted. The net value of fodder crop production achieved with the project is estimated at 49 TND/ha, for an investment cost roughly equal to the average cost of the trees planted. It is observed that the area under almond trees is 60% less than that forecast, while that of pistachio trees is approximately the same as that envisaged. The olive tree, however, which is well-known and reliable, is less profitable than the other species : it accounts for 50% of the areas planted but only 20% of the net value of the additional production.
Impact on income and employment. The gross income obtained on one hectare planted is TND 668 for almonds, TND 1 794 for pistachios and TND 222 for olives. The remuneration of a day's work, for each species, is valued at TND 33, 69 and 15. The gross income before the project (cereal crops and extensive livestock production) was of the order of 100 TND/ha. The annual income projections with respect to the debt schedule show that the repayments will not affect the farmer's income in the case of almonds or pistachios. But the problem exists for olives which show a negative balance between the eighth and the twentieth year.
Economic rate of return on investments with the project. The rate of return of the project over 30 years is 16.4%, compared with the appraisal's estimated 13%.
Impact on the environment. The project has had two opposite impacts on the environment: on the one hand it has exposed the planted area tilled with mechanical means to water and wind erosion, which is partly compensated by the soil and water conservation works (CES); on the other hand it has increased the biomass which adds to that of the plantations set up in the last thirty years or so, thus modifying what was formerly an arid and steppe-like ecosystem.
The overall outcome of the project is positive. It could be improved in the future if all efforts are made to increase yields where possible, notably for pistachios. The basic lesson learned is that it is possible to invest in an economically profitable manner in areas with poor potential in Central Tunisia under two conditions:
the interventions must be part of a sound regional development policy;
- the Government's direct financial aid to private investment must integrate the self-financing of farmers.
That being said, it is also to be stressed that, contrary to the intentions of the project, smallholders have in proportion benefited less from the project than farmers belonging to the more prosperous categories. The lack of integration and coordination among the various technical services involved, the inefficiencies of the financing systems, and the geographic concentration of the project's actions have greatly contributed to this imbalance.
The beneficiaries must be better identified in order to more effectively direct the financial aid towards the target group (primarily holdings of less than 20 ha). The larger farms must be oriented towards financing mechanisms different from those envisaged for smallholdings.
- The project accounting plan system should be revised so that the data on actions implemented are readily retrievable – other than in the form of budgetary items as defined in the loan agreements.
Action integration and technical approach
The range of actions should be extended in order to better respond to the diversity of the farms. The rainfed agriculture development project was primarily for rainfed tree crops, and operated according to poorly differentiated procedures. The development of rainfed farming calls for more diversified solutions adapted to the different types of holdings. Livestock production, which is essential for rainfed farms, should thus be the object of targeted approaches.
- The technical solutions should be more effectively diversified according to the areas and farms concerned. The planting techniques were, overall, well assimilated. However, there are weak points as far as the pistachio, objectively the more interesting crop, is concerned. The planting actions were generally well accepted, particularly thanks to project support for preparatory operations.
The credit needs and conditions should be more efficiently evaluated. The credit regulations, which comply with existing regulations, did not take into account the contributions of the project, so that the credit required was overestimated. Loan reimbursement over a period of 18 to 20 years is unrealistic and leads to forgetfulness and outstanding payments. The financing plan should take into account other sources of farm income - notably irrigation and livestock production. It should be possible to make a specific case-by-case analysis.
- The duration of Government support with regard to initial maintenance should be extended. As in the preceding programmes, this type of support, in the form of works or subsidies, proved to be indispensable. It is indeed very difficult for most smallholders to go beyond the phase of plantation start-up. The experience acquired in other programmes show that these farmers should be monitored over a period of three to five years. The subsidies should, however, be reduced or suppressed for large- and medium-sized holdings for which more important sources of financing are readily available.
Institutional support and monitoring
Consultation mechanisms should be set up so that the technical services adopt an "integrated" and multidisciplinary approach in their work. Systems should be introduced to disseminate information on the actions and results obtained in each sector.
The national extension strategy should be better adapted to the local needs and conditions and programmes should be draw up with the users and adapted to farm diversity. Approaches originating from central bodies and based on "national orientations" should be more flexible.
A monitoring and evaluation system should be devised to make better use of the capacity to adapt already shown by the CRDA agents.
Employment Generation Project (1996)
The project area comprises of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue islands. The topography is mostly mountainous with limited flat land. The soils are generally free of stones and are light to work. However, the sand fraction is over 80% and calcareous with little organic matter. Fertility is poor and sustainable agriculture requires extensive use of fertilisers and manure. The climate is tropical with two seasons, a dry south-east monsoon (July to October) and a moist north-east monsoon (November to June). The rainfall varies from 1 600 to 2 600 mm. Agriculture is mainly practised by the smallholders. They produce subsistence crops and rear livestock in their backyards or cultivate small plots of no more than 2 ha, producing mainly fruit and vegetables.
Conception et objectifs du projet
The target group comprises of the near landless, the landless and the unemployed, estimated to total 5 490 families. The near landless are defined as low-income families cultivating crops and/or raising limited livestock (poultry and pigs) on small plots or in backyards for subsistence and to generate additional family income. This group comprises of about 3 000 to 4 000 families. The landless group is defined as smallholders with an average plot size estimated at less than 0.5 ha. The third category, estimated at 1 400 people, comprises of the unemployed. Of these, about 32% are men and 68% women. Of the women, 92% are unskilled as against 58% for men. About 500 are female heads of households and single. An estimated 400 are men who are heads of households. These unemployed have no access to land. The Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs (MESA) provides the unemployed with cash for the upkeep of their households if part-time employment cannot be secured. Those that can secure part-time employment (street cleaning, garden maintenance, etc.) are paid a half-day's wage of SR 25. However, many of the female-headed households are unable to take advantage of these opportunities because of the lack of affordable child day-care and the rigidity of working hours. The income of the target group has been estimated to range from R 6 000 (USD 1 070) for those with part-time employment to a maximum of R 12 000 (USD 2 140).
The objectives of the Employment Generation Project (EGP) are to improve smallholder income and standards of living through increased agricultural productivity and promotion of income-generating activities. These objectives would be achieved through a strategy aimed at (i) restructuring the agricultural system to expand the smallholder sub-sector; (ii) introducing appropriate incentive policies and technology suitable for smallholders; (iii) institution building through training and technical assistance to support agriculture more effectively; (iv) providing support services, including credit, input supply and marketing; and (v) introduction of effective participation by project beneficiaries. Project components include: (a) Small Farm Development; (b) Input Storage and Distribution Improvement; (c) Extension Support and Research; (d) Income-Generating Activities; (e) Credit; (f) Fisheries Development; (g) Coconut Rehabilitation and Cinnamon Pilot Project; (h) Project Management; and (i) Marketing Management Information System.
Several effects were expected as a result of the EGP intervention. These include annual incremental production of fruit and vegetable (estimated at 176.3 tonnes), as well as of honey and poultry. However, as far as marketing of the produce is concerned, it was assumed that marketing parastatals would play key roles in product assembling, processing, storage, and wholesaling. In particular, the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB) was expected to play a major role in marketing. The private sector's involvement in marketing would be promoted by the EGP, as well as through organisation of women groups, training, marketing and credit. Overall, it was assumed that the number of farmers who would benefit directly from the project would be around 5 250 families, and that a positive impact on beneficiaries' agricultural productivity and income would be evident.
The Interim Evaluation Mission (IEM) of the EGP visited Seychelles from 25 November to 13 December 1996. The purpose of the mission was to evaluate the overall performance of the project in relation to stated objectives, targets, schedules and budgets, to identify the critical internal and external factors which have influenced implementation to date, as well as to make recommendations and draw lessons from IFAD's experience in Seychelles, which would serve as inputs in the preparation of IFAD's future strategy in Seychelles. The mission's itinerary included meetings with the officials of the Government of Seychelles (GOS) in Victoria, field visits on Mahe and Praslin islands, as well as interviews with beneficiaries, various collaborating institutions, implementing agencies and the project management team.
Seychelles' main economic activities are tourism and industrial fishing, followed by small-scale manufacturing, and to a much lesser extent by agriculture. Seychelles has made rapid economic and social progress since independence in 1976. GNP per capita has risen over six-fold from USD 870 in 1976 to almost USD 6000 in 1995. As of 1993, 18% of GDP came from industry, another 18% from tourism, with the government supplying another 13%, agriculture only 3% and other services 48%, including those from domestic services and private non-profit institutions. In the case of agriculture, it's share of GDP has dropped from 10% in the 1970s to a barely 3% today. In the 1940s, agriculture employed over three quarters of the labour force. As of 1995, agriculture employed only 6% of the labour force. In 1995, tourism generated around 15.4% of GDP, 60% of goods and services, and 19% of formal employment, whereas fishing, the second most important export, lagged far behind accounting for only 1% of GDP and about 8% of the exports of goods and services. In 1995, the public sector still employed about 60% of the formal labour force.
Until 1993, Seychelles' development strategy had been influenced by the dominant role of the state in the economy, the importance of tourism and activities related to it, and by the country's heavy dependence on imports. The government owned and managed assets in key sectors of the economy. However, by the early 1990s the fragility and structural weaknesses of Seychelles' economy became increasingly apparent. The dominance of the public sector led to a situation of high public expenditure and to deficit financing from foreign grants/loans and local commercial banks. The financial imbalance and shortage of foreign exchange set the stage for a change in government policy, which was initiated following the constitutional referendum of 1993. The government radically changed it's development strategy from a state-driven to a market-oriented approach, promoting the private sector (with tax incentives and financial packages), diversifying the productive base of the economy (by encouraging fishing, industry, agriculture and a number of other financial and transhipment services) and focusing on export promotion. The GOS also adopted a less dominant role in agriculture. For instance, Government cooperatives, state farms, and some of the land previously used for coconut plantations were privatised. Now, GOS limits its role to providing support services to farmers. Moreover, regarding marketing and pricing, the role of the SMB has been reduced: farmers are now free to sell their produce locally at any price. Hence, it must be recognised that the EGP operated in a rapidly evolving macroeconomic and political environment, which could not have been anticipated at appraisal.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources (MAMR) and other implementing agencies consider the main impacts related to EGP to be increased production and productivity in agriculture, reduction in agricultural imports, and renewed interest in agriculture, especially on the part of new and younger farmers. However, although it is difficult to quantify the role of EGP in contributing to these impacts, it may be stated that the EGP (in combination with the new market-oriented policies in agriculture) played a significant part in achieving these objectives.
Young unemployed women have participated in the project through the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs (MESA) income-generating activities (for instance, women employed in the crafts sub-project found their participation very useful), some of the less well-off farmers under the Blocker Schemes have benefited from the project through training and provision of infrastructure. Some relatively poor people have borrowed from the Seychelles Credit Union (SCU). The 1994 Mid-Term Review (MTR) held a workshop comprising of representatives from the concerned institutions, as well as beneficiaries from SCU and extension services, which strengthened project implementation. The overall participation of the intended target group and targeting of assistance to the disadvantaged was slow in the beginning, mainly due to exogenous factors, such as the shift in government policy from public to private sector. The more promising activities in this area took place during the later stages of implementation, as GOS and the concerned institutions recognised the need for active beneficiary involvement along with more focused targeting, and therefore reoriented their activities in order to promote a closer rapport with the rural population and EGP beneficiaries.
The following are some brief statistics on this subject: eighty people took loans through IFAD's line of credit from the SCU (33 percent of borrowers were women). The average loan size was SR 17 500, whereas the average annual income of the borrowers was roughly SR 32 000 (which is above the average annual income of the intended target group: SR 6 000 - 12 000). Thirty-two rural poor women participated in the crafts sub-project (a total of 60 participants were targeted). Twenty-five new bee-keepers were trained (out of a 100 targeted). Sixty-six of the 120 families were allocated land under the Blocker Schemes and more than 40 of these families had been granted access to irrigation. Fifty-three small farmers received training, and in all 21 project-related staff were provided local and overseas training.
Irrigation and drainage schemes (Small Farm Development): These consist of small dams, reservoirs, and pipes for distribution of water to farms at Amitie (Praslin), Anse Boileau and Port Glaud which have been completed and are operational. Farmers connected to irrigation facilities have benefited with increased output: at the end of 1995, production of vegetables increased by more than 200 percent from 1991, and, as for the output of fruits, a nearly 400 percent increase was registered over the same period. Many farmers have received training in fertilisation and have utilised the water pipes to apply both water and fertiliser to the crops efficiently, which have contributed to improving crop yield. Few farmers are still awaiting connection to water supply (especially at Anse Boileau and Amities) - the pending requests for water connections are likely to be granted within the first half of 1997. In all, so far 65 hectares (ha) of land are under irrigation, as against a target of 86 ha. The remaining 21 ha will also be under irrigation by the end of 1997. The establishment of an Irrigation, Drainage and Infrastructure Unit has ensured a basic framework for the operation and maintenance of the irrigation schemes.
Feeder roads (Small Farm Development): 1.8 km at Anse Boileau and 0.4 kilometre at Val d‘Endore of access roads have been constructed and rehabilitated. However, due to unexpected escalation of costs, the target of 3 km of road rehabilitation and construction could not be met.
Land Surveys (Small Farm Development): Surveying had for a period of time caused a bottleneck in the development of the Blocker Schemes, mainly due to the lack of experienced technical staff within the Ministry of Community Development (MCD). But with EGP support and funds, which were used by MCD to contract private surveying companies, the task was expedited. Currently, the survey work in all the four Blocker Schemes has been completed.
Land Allocation (Small Farm Development): A land allocation committee oversees the land allocation process. As mentioned, a total of 66 new families were allocated plots. Moreover, 122 old farmers were authorised to stay on their existing farms. At the end of 1996, there were still 54 vacant plots to be allocated, while more than 100 applications for the land had been received. Generally, the "new farmers" in the scheme are the poor, unemployed, landless and the youths who seriously want a career in farming. The "existing farmers" are the original farmers who are on "matured" farms. The latter are farmers who already enjoy the fruits of their labour and are generally better-off and older. Due to the delays in survey work, there has been a backlog of applications for farm land. However, since the surveys have now been completed, the processing of the applications has resumed and allocation will soon be finalised. GOS assured the evaluation mission that the remaining plots would be allocated at latest by mid-1997 and the full target of land allocation under the project would be realised.
Lease Agreements (Small Farm Development): As per project design, land is on leasehold for a tenure of 5 years at a rental rate of SR 108 per acre. Long-term lease is conditional on continuous cultivation of the farmland. There has been a delay in the signing of Tenancy Agreements, mainly due to the many deliberations on the terms and conditions of the Agreement, particularly the rental rate. Agreement terms are now finalised.
Input Storage, Distribution and Markets: Activities envisaged at appraisal under this sub-component have been implemented successfully. As agreed, a central store has been constructed in Victoria for the repackaging of seeds, fertilisers, chemicals, pesticides and other agricultural inputs. Office and parking facilities have also been constructed. Moreover, one retail store has been renovated on Mahe as expected and office space at the extension office at Amities (Praslin) has been upgraded. Four chillers for seed storage and other store equipment have also been installed in the retail stores. The central and retail stores appear to contain sufficient supplies. Two vehicles were procured using earmarked EGP resources to support storage and distribution activities. A computerised Inventory Stock Control Management System has been installed in the main store, which is expected to improve efficiency in overall management of stocks and stores. In addition to the above infrastructure, the loan agreement was modified during implementation to allow for the construction of four small rural markets, two on Mahe, and one each on Praslin and La Digue (in June 1992, IFAD was advised that funding for the renovation of the other retail stores was no longer necessary since the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations - FAO - had provided grant funding for the purpose. GOS then requested IFAD to reallocate the funds for construction of the rural markets). On the whole, the construction of these markets has provided an increasing number of farmers and fishermen with the opportunity to display and sell their produce.
Extension Support Services: There are 6 extension officers and each officer provides advice to 80 registered farmers in 6 agricultural districts. Extension officers visit each farmer at least once a month, and in 1996, compost making, terracing and fertiliser application techniques made up the primary extension themes. Extension officers also meet amongst themselves once every fortnight to exchange experiences and discuss problems. Sometimes a technician or a subject matter specialist is invited to such sessions. All 6 extension officers have been provided with local and international training to upgrade their know-how and skills. Extension personnel organised seminars and workshops, and in all, more than 50 farmers were trained in a range of related subjects, including soil and water conservation, irrigation and drainage methods, as well as pesticides and chemicals application. Moreover, on-field trials and demonstrations were also held. In general, the technical assistance and training provided to the extension staff have tended to steadily improve the capability of the extension service, while strengthening its contact with farmers and improving communications with the research wing.
Research and Development: The Soil and Plant Diagnostic Laboratory has been functioning since February 1994. A vehicle purchased with EGP funds is being used for site visits. An Atomic Spectrometer for soil analysis has also been procured. Furthermore, all equipment and re-agents which were stolen or destroyed by vandalism have been replaced and the laboratory is now fully operational and well equipped. Technicians at the laboratories have been provided training in USA in computer simulation for crop growth and nutrient management. The MAMR is seriously reconsidering its policy of providing soil and plant analysis free of charge due to shortages of resources to purchase the reagents necessary to sustain the operations of the laboratory.
Coconut Rehabilitation and Cinnamon Pilot Project: Coconut (copra processing) and cinnamon rehabilitation pilot projects were to assist in the promotion of small enterprises among the rural poor. The rehabilitation of coconut trees is limited to 3 ha of coconut grove. Coconut rehabilitation is no longer a priority of the government, largely due to the negligible international demand for copra from Seychelles. However, following pressure from some environmentalist groups and the tourist industry (who fear the potential negative effects of the disappearance of coconut trees from the country's landscape), the government agreed to rehabilitate a few ha of coconut plantations. With regard to the cinnamon pilot project, EGP funds were used for the renovation of a cinnamon drying kiln, which is being operated profitably by a private company (who have leased the kiln from the Ministry of Industry), creating about 60 jobs in harvesting and drying cinnamon bark for export.
Agricultural Production: The IEM noted that EGP has successfully assisted in the overall development of the Blocker Schemes, specifically in terms of land allocation, provision of improved extension support and dissemination of knowledge about new technologies, input supply and distribution, research facilities, as well as the enhancement of the irrigation and drainage systems, and the rehabilitation and construction of access roads. These factors have contributed to agricultural production, which are reflected in the national agricultural figures of the Agricultural Planning Section of MAMR. The latter announced in 1996 that imports of fruits and vegetables have fallen from 60 percent to 40 percent. The incremental production mainly originated from the Blocker Schemes. Crops grown and marketed successfully include a wide range of vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, eggplant, capsicum, cucumber, pumpkins, cabbage, beans, sweet potatoes, pineapples, mangoes, water melons, etc.
Bee-keeping: Bee-keeping activities began in 1992, but were discontinued after 1994 due to a change in the priorities of MAMR and because the latter was unable to provide adequate technical support to the bee-keepers. However, in all about 25 new bee-keepers were trained (target was to train 100), 2 bee-houses were constructed and only 47 (out of 1000 targeted) modern hives were distributed. Beneficiaries who used the new hives experienced a significant increase in honey production (the average yield of a hive increased from 5-9 kilograms per year since the beginning of the project till 1994). The benefits of this activity have been shared by all the participants and it seems no special emphasis was given to the IFAD target group. Following a survey undertaken by MAMR in 1995 on the subject of bee-keeping, the latter is perceived as an important activity (based on an increased local and international demand for good quality honey), and therefore the Ministry is trying to revive and promote the art of bee-keeping.
Crafts sub-project: This activity was conceived by the MESA, and the MTR endorsed EGP's involvement in the sub-project. Since October 1995 several unemployed women have been involved in the programme (implemented by MESA), which is intended to provide training to develop skills in cottage-industry type of activity, including sewing, soft toy making, embroidery, handicraft development, tailoring, etc. After graduating from the one year programme, women are expected to begin their own small enterprises with assistance from the Ministry. EGP has provided a pickup vehicle and placed an order for 28 sewing machines (as agreed at sub-project inception) to support the programme, which will extend beyond the closing of IFAD's loan.
So far, 32 ladies of the 60 targeted have participated in the training activities; the training sessions last a full day and are held once a week for a one year duration. The trainees are based in four districts and training space is provided in community centres provided by the district administrations. The current results of the training are very encouraging with some crafts being sold in local trade fairs, as well as in the Home Industries Shop in Victoria. At the end of the course, the sewing machines will be sold to the trainees and a revolving fund will be established with the proceeds to support other employment generation projects identified by MESA.
Agricultural Small-Scale Income Generating Activities: The appraisal report identified several possible agricultural IGAs, namely pig fattening, cattle fattening, and poultry production. However, with the exception of bee-keeping, achievements of this component have not been significant due to a conjunction of factors, including lack of technical assistance and unfavourable regulations. For instance, with regard to pig fattening, people wanting to undertake such an activity require a government permit, which are issued only after site visits have been undertaken by MAMR, MCD, and MOH personnel for approval. Moreover, slaughtering and marketing of pigs are done only by the SMB (private slaughtering is forbidden). These regulations are intended to safeguard public health and the environment, but nonetheless discourage the informal sector.
Credit: This component of the EGP had 2 different lines of credit, one to be provided through the Development Bank of Seychelles (DBS) for agricultural purposes and another through the Seychelles Credit Union (SCU) for off farm income generating activities.
The DBS, a parastatal institution whose interest rates are subsidised, never became active in the EGP, mainly because they were unwilling to relax their lending criteria (borrowers are required to make an equity contribution equivalent to 25% of the loan amount; strict collateral requirements; minimum loan size of SR 15 000). DBS insists on full control of its lending practices and approval process, and views MAMR approval of agricultural projects as a bottleneck in the loan processing stage. Due to these reasons, DBS has also refused a substantial sum for on-lending under African Development Bank's (AfDB) Integrated Agriculture Development Project (IADP).
With the support of an IFAD grant of USD 62 000 for credit, the SCU, a broad based co-operative bank, has provided 80 loans, totalling SRs. 1.4 million (roughly USD 304 000), which represents an average loan size of SR 17 500 per beneficiary. Since DBS did not participate in the project, SCU also provided loans for agricultural purposes, in addition to those for off farm income generating activities. Hence, of the 80 loans made, 25 were for agriculture, and out of the total SCU EGP loan portfolio, about 30 percent of the borrowers are women. Forty three loans were taken for establishing new ventures (12 of which were taken by women). The interest rate of SCU loans was 11 percent per annum, which was the same it charged its members for loans from its regular portfolio. However, in the agreement with the SCU there was no special provision to cover administrative costs associated with the management of IFAD's credit line. As a result, SCU found itself having to cover a large portion of such costs through its regular operations. As of December 1996, 75 percent of the loans have been repaid and SCU is making concrete efforts to improve this aspect of their operations. However, SCU's overall loan management appears sub standard; SCU only has 2 field officers who are responsible for loan appraisals and its capacity to monitor loans and follow up on repayments needs to improve. These issues contributed to limited SCU attention towards IFAD's target group, both in terms of credit delivery and follow-up support.
Of the total grant of USD 62 000, a balance of USD 13 000 remained at the time of the IEM, and UNOPS recommended these funds be used for training of SCU staff and for the expansion of field support to loanees regarding credit management, which in turn would improve the use of loans and repayment rates. Finally, SCU has engaged a private auditing firm to prepare an independent audit report specific to their activities under the EGP project.
Marketing Management Information System: The project design provided for a marketing intelligence officer through UNDP assistance to initiate a market intelligence system to provide information to MAMR and farmers on production, imports, market and retail prices and availability of produce. The marketing information system has not been implemented because agreement with UNDP about financing this activity fell through. Hence, neither has training nor extension support been provided in produce marketing.
Project Management: A Project Management Unit (PMU) was set up with the requisite equipment. However, in the early implementation period the Project Manager (PM) was not allocated a deputy and secretarial support was provided only on a part-time basis. The PM was granted short-term international training (PM went to Israel to learn more about income generating activities and visited IFAD projects in Kenya to familiarise herself with IFAD project management and co-ordination arrangements, including preparation of annual work programme and budget, monitoring and evaluation, as well as the operational procedures of UNOPS). MAMR's accountant dealing with EGP accounts was provided overseas training in budgetary management. The same accountant was also trained in UNOPS operational procedures for loan processing and disbursements. During project execution, several technical working committees (by subject matter) were formed, which greatly assisted in co-ordination of project activities and helped focus implementation. EGP activities and performance gained much through the full-time supervision and follow-up on the part of the PM, who, as mentioned, in the initial project period was requested to dedicate time to other MAMR duties. Lastly, EGP sponsored several other international training courses/workshops for staff working in institutions/departments/ministries related to the project: a total of 21 staff were trained in the following activities: apiculture (1 person), monitoring and evaluation (1), finance (3), extension (6), research (5), soil laboratory technician (1), and phytosanitory technicians (4).
Monitoring and Evaluation: No formal Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system (or unit) was set-up in the project, as this was not envisaged during appraisal. However, monitoring and reporting was undertaken by the PM, and given the absence of formal data collection mechanisms, the task was performed fairly well. Early on in project implementation, UNOPS assisted project management in defining progress indicators for reporting purposes, but associated data was not collected in a systematic manner, largely due to lack of personnel in the PMU. A participatory MTR workshop conducted in 1994 was instrumental in refocusing project design and strengthening co-ordination amongst the implementing agencies. Furthermore, a good Baseline Survey was undertaken by MAMR in 1992, with special focus on the small farm development component.
The overall sustainability of EGP will depend largely on MAMR's ability to anticipate and respond to the evolving needs of the project's activities. With regard to the small farm development component, the EGP has made significant progress in defining the terms of lease agreements (of the lands) for small farmers, and the addition of a clause to the agreements will now enable farmers to renew the agreement after five years (provided conditions of tenancy have been met - that is, 80 percent of the land is used for agricultural purposes). This will encourage long-term farm investments and small farm productivity. The establishment of the Irrigation, Drainage and Infrastructure Unit will help in sustaining the operations of the irrigation schemes. Water fees charged to farmers are placed in a revolving fund for the maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure. GOS has preferred to control and manage the irrigation system as a public utility due to the lack of experienced farmers' organisations or private management. Moreover, the fees charged for lease of the lands are also used for the sustainability and upkeep of other MAMR services, such as extension. For crop research activities, the training of new technicians and MAMR's decision to introduce a user fee to meet part or full cost of research services will ensure future sustainability of this service. To promote the sustainability of the input distribution system, MAMR has decided to lease the distribution store at La Digue to a private operator on a trial basis, with a view to ultimately leasing out the remaining stores as well. The rural markets constructed are being sustained through rents that are charged to farmers who use the market facilities for selling their produce. The sustainability of the crafts programme will be ensured through a revolving fund that has been created by MESA: the equipment purchased through the EGP for the crafts programme will be sold off at the end of the training and the proceeds will be deposited into the revolving fund to support other similar employment generating projects. Finally, SCU's policy to suspend additional loans till 95% of outstanding loans have been recovered will enhance the sustainability of IFAD's line of credit.
Given that the project was implemented during a period of rapid macro-economic and political evolution, it is concluded that the overall performance of the project has been fairly satisfactory. With specific regard to disbursements and physical implementation, the project did indeed do very well. At the time of the IEM, around 96 percent of IFAD loan funds had been used. Most of the construction and/or rehabilitation of infrastructure has been achieved, and procurement of equipment and other goods was undertaken in a timely manner. Technical assistance and training was provided both to beneficiaries and to project personnel, equipping them with additional expertise. However, from a purely developmental perspective the project could have achieved more, and with the exception of the crafts sub-project, it appears that no special attention was given to IFAD's target group; a large proportion of benefits seems to have gone to people whose incomes were above the level of the intended target group. This was due to a combination of factors, including: lack of technical support from MAMR (particularly in the case of extension services); a severe shortage of staff at the Seychelles Credit Union capable of identifying IFAD's target group for credit purposes, as well as monitoring the loans to ensure that they are being used for the intended purposes; and the absence of a referral system to direct the potential beneficiaries to SCU. For the success of future projects, more emphasis should be laid on targeting and beneficiary participation. In addition, the establishment of a formal M&E system would greatly assist in project implementation. A realistic assessment/evaluation of the capabilities of the proposed institutions needs to be undertaken prior to their involvement in IFAD operations.
In view of the high costs for loan formulation and administration in relation to loan/project size in Seychelles, IFAD and GOS could consider ways to reduce these costs when defining a future co-operation framework. One possibility is to embark on interventions that would attract sufficient cofinancing, either from bilateral or multilateral sources, coupled with an arrangement where joint project preparation and appraisals could be conducted. As far as IFAD is concerned, this would reduce the ratio of funds used for project formulation to funds used directly for project implementation and investment. Such arrangements may require a higher degree of flexibility on IFAD's part, but the Fund should not compromise on its focus and mandate towards poverty alleviation and rural development. Related to this suggestion is for IFAD to cofinance projects or components of projects from the pipeline of other donors, those which broadly match IFAD's type of lending.
IFAD's new strategy in Seychelles must be in harmony with the government's priorities, taking into account the uniqueness of the country's economic framework and poverty profile (where income per capita is relatively high, agriculture has limited scope due to restricted availability of arable land, and where the rural poor are not full-time farmers). Moreover, with the AfDB's IADP presently under implementation, it would appear that typical agricultural development interventions such as the EGP would duplicate ongoing efforts, bypassing majority of the rural poor. Hence, when selecting future investment activities, IFAD must ensure that the areas targeted would complement the overall development strategy of the country, and that sufficient incentives are apparent to the beneficiaries to keep them committed to project activities. Based on EGP's experience, an area where IFAD's potential involvement would of value-added is in the development and support of micro-enterprises.
As an island economy, Seychelles suffers from both geographical and structural constraints which include: (i) a very small market size making it difficult for them to benefit from economies of scale; (ii) limited accessibility to international capital markets, especially for projects/activities aimed at tackling poverty at grassroots level; (iii) a heavy reliance on the foreign exchange gained from tourism and fisheries; and (iv) the country's remote geographic location. Moreover, the rate of economic growth has been declining over the past several years. These are some of the main factors which contribute to making the country highly vulnerable to external financial shocks. Hence, the IEM supports GOS's request for IFAD to consider lowering the interest rate of future loans, from ordinary to intermediate terms.
Small Farm Development
The mission recommends that MAMR undertake a feasibility study in marketing of agricultural products, especially fruits and vegetables. Such a study would provide MAMR and the government with data and analysis of the potential of marketing fruits and vegetables, help identify local, regional and extra-regional markets and give indication of prices, extent of demand, quality requirements, packaging, labelling, as well as reliability of steady supply. Transport facilities and associated requirements should also be reviewed. On the agriculture production side, such a feasibility study could assist in developing market-oriented policies and strategies both for commercial and smallholder farmers, as well as focus extension services towards those markets that are identified and pursued.
It is recommended that the GOS organise a special workshop for farmers to disseminate knowledge and information about the best practices for environmental conservation, as well as the detrimental consequences of poor environment management on agricultural production in general. During such a workshop it is important to include subjects such as water management and soil conservation (which is being practised only sporadically), as well as integrated pest management (which could be combined with information on traditional techniques as alternatives to pesticides and chemicals). Optimal management and disposal of agricultural residue may be an important subject to cover.
It is recommended that extension officers be provided with additional on-the-job training in non-traditional extension areas, such as book and record-keeping, small-scale agro-processing, marketing, farm economics, and other such areas. This would be useful to the target group, who would benefit from advice in areas that are important for overall agriculture and farm management. The provision of such technical advice to farmers would enable the latter to assess the profitability of various farm activities and would lead to overall better allocation and management of scarce resources.
As recommended in supervision missions, SCU should continue to focus on establishing a sound framework for loan recovery before beginning additional disbursements. Loan recovery provisions should include training of borrowers in loan management, recovery of outstanding loans and a temporary halt to additional lending until approximately 95 percent of the credit line has been recovered. This would also ensure that additional lending would be better targeted, more closely meeting the lending objectives of the EGP line of credit.
Future IFAD projects should include detailed provisions for monitoring disbursement of loans to the target group. These monitoring provisions should be clearly stated in the loan agreement. Where required, institutional support (including training) should be provided to the lending institutions and collaborating institutions such as MAMR to strengthen their capacity to identify the target group for credit and to appraise, monitor and manage loans. This kind of training should take place early in project implementation.
Income Generating Activities
Because of the prior investments made as well as the potential and current demand for bee-keeping, MAMR should consider placing renewed emphasis on this activity. It is recommended that MAMR promptly either: i) appoint the skilled bee-keeping technician (currently part of the Ministry's overall extension force) to provide training to other extension staff so that they can cater to the need for bee-keeping advice and promote the activity; or ii) appoint a new part-time person with the requisite know-how to fulfil this role.
Once the people participating in the crafts sub-project have concluded their training and are equipped with the appropriate skills, MESA should ensure that appropriate and timely support is provided to them for initiating and developing small enterprises. This should include provision for additional advice and support on marketing, procurement and maintenance of equipment and business planning, among other things.
Monitoring and Evaluation
It is recommended that future IFAD-assisted projects and programmes in Seychelles include an M&E system that would be set up at project inception with appropriate technical assistance. Such a system would not only ensure continuity of flow of information for implementation purposes and management decision-making, but also assist in the monitoring of beneficiary participation with a focus on gender issues. The M&E system would also be of high value for eventual impact evaluations. Moreover, a participatory approach should be adopted to M&E, whereby the beneficiaries are consulted in M&E design, data collection and evaluation; this would help project management to stay attuned to the beneficiaries' needs and perceptions.
Future project design activities should include a participatory project preparation process to build consensus on core design issues, to ensure proper targeting, and understanding of IFAD's specificity, and donor co-ordination. A participatory project design workshop could be undertaken which would include analysis of opportunities and gaps related to potential areas of interventions as well as joint planning of interventions to address these gaps. More specifically, a future project could also include provisions for: (i) a participatory project start-up workshop to bring together key stakeholders to jointly plan and co-ordinate detailed work plans for implementation; (ii) annual planning and review workshops to strengthen co-ordination among concerned implementing agencies; (iii) training MAMR extension staff in participatory rural appraisal (PRA) techniques to strengthen their capacity to involve farmers in agricultural group formation, as well as in planning and implementing agricultural activities; and (iv) strengthening the Farmers' Association so that the latter can help to organise farmers in group based activities.
Potential Thrusts for Future IFAD Lending
During the IEM several thrusts for future IFAD investment were suggested by MAMR and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Planning and Environment (MFAPE). These tended to confirm the findings of the IFAD Country Strategy and Opportunities Paper (COSOP) of December 1995:
Strengthening Agricultural Extension: Several proposals were received during the mission to strengthen extension services. These included: i) restructuring of extension services through the introduction of "agricultural assistants" to better link extension services to full-time farmers and "backyard" agriculturists; ii) developing MAMR human resources through Bachelors level training in agriculture and agricultural certificate courses; iii) strengthening the Soil Fertility Management Unit; and iv) promotion of tropical fruit cultivation on household plots.
Small Scale Agro-Processing and Marketing: The mission spoke with several individuals and government officials about the potential for small-scale agro-processing for local consumption and the tourist market. Business concepts covered vegetable and fruit processing, juice production, spices and honey. IFAD might address constraints related to lack of marketing and packaging know-how, reduction of post-harvest loss, provision of technical advice on quality control, and access to appropriate small-scale processing technologies.
Strengthening Artisanal Fisheries: There are about 1000 fishermen engaged in artisanal fisheries. On the whole, these fishermen fall within IFAD's target group with high daily and seasonal variability in catches ranging from SRs 1,500-4,000 per month. Activities in this area could include institutional strengthening for the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), training programs for fishermen and unemployed youth in new fishing techniques, small business management, boat building and fish processing. Credit could be provided for fishing equipment and other related activities.
In addition to the above-mentioned areas, judging from the results of the IEM and also taking into account the findings and conclusions of the COSOP, the evaluation mission is of the opinion that IFAD's involvement in income generating activities would also be a viable alternative. This would very much be in line with the government's current priority to support employment generating activities as a response to rising unemployment rates, which have grown from 7 to 10 percent from 1993 to 1995 (this is largely attributed to a decline in the growth rate of the economy). Access to compulsory education means that a large number of students are on the job market every year. In addition, numerous youths drop out of school every year, and although they do not possess any specific training or skills, they are in search of employment. Furthermore, nearly 50 percent of households are headed by women who also seek jobs. Many of them simply cannot afford the transaction costs (for transport, day-care for children, clothes) which would enable them to be employed far from their homes. Hence, also taking into account the initial success of MESA initiated crafts sub-project, IFAD's support in this area would reinforce GOS's efforts in reducing unemployment and raising incomes through employment generation activities, which includes the promotion and support of micro-enterprises and cottage industries.
When planning future activities, IFAD should take stock of it's previous experience in Seychelles with regard to targeting. It is important to have an accurate picture of the target group. In the case of the EGP the following issues were dominant: i) the target group definition was not transparent to project implementors; ii) its evolving needs were not perceived; iii) mechanisms for beneficiary participation were inadequate; and iv) the limited capability of the involved institutions. It is critical to ensure that such issues are addressed right from the beginning of the project to support proper targeting and beneficiary participation. During formulation, a survey of the potential target group should be conducted to ascertain their characteristics and needs. Surveys may also be conducted during the course of implementation to assess their evolving needs. In order to improve beneficiary participation, social and community organisations should be involved in the project as they provide a useful link between project management and the beneficiaries. For instance, in Seychelles the Farmers' Association, which was recently re-established, can play a significant role in this regard. In addition, targeting becomes easier when group-based approaches (for instance farmer groups, fishermen groups, etc.) are adopted. Although Seychelles' farmers do not have a culture of operating in groups (as compared to their peers in mainland Africa), they are slowly appreciating the usefulness of group-based activities. It would be unwise for IFAD to further invest in development projects whose broad objectives are to increase the incomes of the poor, without addressing the fundamental issues that would make such an intervention truly successful. Therefore, in the Seychelles context, to guarantee effective targeting certain issues need to be focused upon, including institutional strengthening, particularly through the provision of financial services as well as skills through training and upgrading. Targeting of EGP suffered precisely due to the lack of such essential services.
In a small country like Seychelles, it is even more important to carefully assess the capabilities of potential implementing agencies, particularly in terms of their resources and personnel, as well as their commitment to and understanding of IFAD's mandate. In the EGP, the generally limited capacity of the project implementing institutions was a cause for much concern (for instance, simply due to lack of staff the SCU could not pay much attention to IFAD's line of credit, thus leading to loans being allocated to candidates who did not meet IFAD's target group criteria of income). Moreover, the large number of components in the EGP has also led to difficulties in coordination amongst the institutions involved in the project. Hence, in countries with limited implementation experience and expertise of both government and the private sector to execute ambitious projects, IFAD should carefully consider the number of components (in a project) to finance. Too many components may cause implementation and organisational deficiencies, as well as lead to over-emphasis on the project's physical and financial progress at the expense of the desired socio-economic impact of the project.
The economic and political environment within which projects operate are of utmost importance. The EGP was designed at a time when Seychelles' economy was being driven by the government sector and the transition to market-oriented economic policy that took place during the course of the EGP demanded refocusing of project objectives and activities. This evolution in the operating environment certainly contributed to some missed opportunities, especially with regard to targeting, and hence, the final impact of the EGP. For projects to be successful in achieving their socio-economic objectives, the need for a stable economic framework and political setting cannot be overstated. However, since it is difficult to anticipate such changes at appraisal, IFAD projects should be designed to ensure maximum flexibility to respond to the changing needs in the operating environment.
Concerning credit there are several lessons to be learned from EGP's experience with DBS and SCU. Firstly, credit institutions need to be selected carefully and with a clear and realistic understanding of their commitment to operating IFAD's lines of credit. In the case of the DBS, the latter withdrew from the project after the loan agreement was signed, which prompted the need for loan amendments and reorienting implementation and project objectives. Secondly, the overall institutional capacity and experience of credit agencies need to be very thoroughly assessed prior to involving them in IFAD credit operations. In the case of EGP, SCU had inadequate institutional capacity to reach the target group and in particular to identify, screen, and supervise eligible borrowers who met the target group criteria. Finally, issues related to credit recovery should be anticipated in project design, which should include realistic plans for credit recovery.
The absence of a formal M&E system reduces the effectiveness of project management. M&E systems help clarify project objectives and assist in focusing project activities to the defined target group. Moreover, data collected during routine monitoring exercises can provide a constant insight into the constraints of the target population, and by involving the latter in participatory monitoring a sense of ownership in the project may be instilled, an element vital for final project success. In the EGP, the lack of an M&E system led to deficiencies in participation, as well as added to the difficulties in project management and its decision-making capabilities. All future projects/programmes need well-designed and implemented M&E systems, which ought to be made operational as early on in implementation as possible.
Farm Reconstruction Project, Re-stocking Activities (1996)
The Federal Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BA) is a small, mountainous country, almost landlocked. The climate is continental except for the immediate hinterland of the Dalmatian Coast on the Mediterranean Sea. The country has a surface of about 51 000 sq. km. and a population of about 3.4 million with an additional million living abroad (1995).
The project area was supposed to cover the whole area of BA. Implementation was to start in the Bosniac-Croat Federation (BiH) and then be extended to the Republika Srpska (RS) in co-ordination and accordance with the international community and the key institutions involved in the peace process. During its first phase the project has limited its interventions to the Federation’s territory, particularly to the areas that were mostly hit by the war (i.e. Bihac, Gorazdhe, Mostar, Sarajevo, Tuzla and Zenica).
Under the Reconstruction Programme for BA, the Government and the international community have formulated a USD 330 million Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Programme for Agriculture and Rural Areas. The Farm Reconstruction Project (FRP) initiated by IDA and IFAD is the first project under the programme. IFAD has financed the FRP’s restocking activities component.
At design, the target group of the IFAD-financed restocking activities component would be private, experienced smallholder livestock producers and their families, having use of land areas ranging from 1 ha to 5 ha. According to 1995 figures there were, in 1981, 264 406 private farm households within that range, i.e. 49% of the total number of private farms. Priority would be given to refugees, returnees and farm families who suffered substantial damage during the war, including the loss of all or the greater part of their livestock.
Additional eligibility criteria were: (i) technical competence in the relevant areas of livestock production; (ii) ability to provide adequate shelter and feed for new livestock provided under the project; (iii) access to an effective mating service; (iv) access to adequate product storage and marketing outlets; (v) agreement to keep mating/calving records for cattle and lambing records for sheep; (vi) agreement to returning animals of the same number, kind and condition which they had received; and (vii) bona fide evidence of their committment to rebuild and operate their farms, e.g. starting repairs and/or crop production (Staff Appraisal Report, paras 4.01-4.03).
The immediate objectives of the restocking activities component were to restore and improve the beneficiaries’ food security and help them generate additional cash income and employment. The medium-term objective was to lay the basis for beneficiaries’ participation in later development interventions aimed at enabling them to generate an acceptable standard of living from smallholder livestock production.
The FRP has four components: (i) Farm Mechanization; (ii) Restocking Activities; (iii) Animal Health; and (iv) Project Implementation Support.
Expected benefits from FRP include: (i) increased farm production, on-farm employment and incomes; (ii) expanded off-farm rural employment opportunities; (iii) increased food security; (iv) a significant improvement in stock quality; and (v) cost-saving and revenue-raising opportunities for the Government. An initial 2 300 farm families would be the direct beneficiaries, followed by a second generation of direct beneficiaries of 2 000 farm families.
Key assumptions were (a) a stock distribution pattern of two heifers or ten sheep per beneficiary farm family, and (b) that the peace agreement would hold in the region.
An Interim Evaluation Mission of the FRP - Re-stocking Activities visited BA from 25 November to 11 December 1996 (a draft Executive Summary of the Interim Evaluation (IE) Report was made available to IFAD Operations Department on January, 1997). Due to the exceptional situation and time constraints, the evaluation took place contextually to a formulation mission (follow-up project) fielded by IFAD’s Near East and North Africa Division (PN), to look into the definition of a potential second phase of the Livestock Component. Although there was continuous and mutual exchange of information between evaluation and formulation experts, each mission was entirely independent from the other.
The evaluation mission’s specific Terms of Reference (TORs) were to (a) assess the importation and distribution of IFAD-financed cattle and goats into BA; (b) assess the distribution of animals to farmers, with particular attention to the suitability of recipient farmers in terms of the eligibility criteria set out by the Staff Appraisal Report (SAR); and (c) evaluate the living conditions for the livestock provided, particularly in relation to the availability and quality of feed, animal husbandry and access to mating services. The evaluation was to be based on (i) data provided by the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) and by the Regional Implementation Units (RIUs), and (ii) field visits throughout the Federation.
Bosnia has suffered tremendous damage since the war broke out in 1992. Around 250 000 people were killed and 1.5 million of the 3.8 million estimated to be currently living in BA are internal refugees or displaced persons. While the project was identified at the end of 1995, annual per capita income had fallen to an estimated USD 500 from USD 1 900 in 1990. Industrial input was about 5% of 1990 output .
Eighty percent of the population was partly or fully dependent on humanitarian aid.
A year later some significant improvements had been made, although poverty is still widespread and economic recovery will take time, as well as infrastructure reconstruction. The Dayton-Paris Agreement has managed to stop the war, but there is still high uncertainty regarding the future of civil cohabitation. Also, the problem of returnees has not been solved as yet.
The project covers most areas of the Federation, particularly those that were mostly damaged during the war. The project in general, and the livestock component in particular, was meant to address some of the most urgent needs of the rural population, notably to start reconstituting the family herd, either for self-consumption or in view of establishing a livestock-based micro-enterprise. Also, the project would contribute to the Government’s efforts to reconstitute a national herd of improved cattle and rehabilitate milk production and marketing.
The project was approved by the Executive Board in April 1996, therefore it only has a few months of implementation history behind. However, the progress made in these few months in terms of cattle selection, identification of beneficiaries at the local level and organizational arrangements for animal distribution is outstanding, given the logistical difficulties and the situation prevailing in the country. Thanks to a high level of committment of all parties involved (World Bank, IFAD, Bosnian Government, project staff, local staff), the implementation period was actually reduced from thirty to eight months and all animals were distributed before the end of 1996. This achievement cannot be underestimated, given the state of need of designated beneficiaries and the extremely cold weather conditions of continental Bosnia, whereby getting a heifer before roads are blocked by snow can make the difference between life and death.
There have been several adjustments of the project during the implementation phase. For example, (i) sheep were not purchased because those available for purchase were not suitable for the local climatic conditions. The sheep budget was used to buy more heifers; and (ii) on credit: the reimbursement system adopted was not in kind as assumed at design, but in cash as it was chosen locally.
Also due to its design and implementation speed, the project experienced a number of shortcomings and outstanding issues concerning targeting, credit, coordination, M&E, technical assistance, livestock distribution, veterinary services etc. These are briefly highlighted below (section 4).
Targeting. There has been no strict implementation of targeting criteria as designed in the SAR. Municipalities have publicised the program and drew up lists of interested farmers, setting the priorities according to local observation of actual needs. The only criteria which were reported to be applied everywhere were: (a) war-damaged households and (b) appropriate conditions for keeping the heifer. Nevertheless, in the prevailing situation, the system used has proved effective and targeting is satisfactory.
Beneficiaries' perception. The evaluation mission visited farmers in areas of Tuzla (2 days), Gorazdhe (2 days), West Herzegovina (1 day), Mostar (1 day), West Bosnia (1 day), Vitez (2 days) and Zenica (1 day). Farmers were randomly selected from the list of beneficiaries.
All farmers with one exception (Black & White, Tuzla) expressed high satisfaction with the quality of the animals they received. This also indicates that the selection process of heifers has been careful and highly professional. All farmers interviewed declared that this (livestock) program has addressed the basic and most urgent needs of distressed populations given the prevailing circumstances.
Effects on beneficiaries’ incomes. It was evident from field interviews (with one exception in the area of Mostar) that no cost-benefit analysis was made to see whether, and at what conditions, loans for heifers could be repaid out of the animal itself. Also, none of the farmers interviewed was keeping breeding records as stipulated in the SAR (ref. additional eligibility criteria).
Many beneficiaries’ main objective was to reconstitute the household’s assets stock using all available opportunities. Most of them are part-time farmers, therefore their concern about income-generation from animals is traditionally limited or non-existent, although employment opportunities are currently very slim for most people. Many beneficiaries are demobilized soldiers who do not appear to have the slightest worry about loan repayment. If this were the case, their investment would have a zero cost for the household, therefore would be an income-generating one independently of its actual profitability.
Specific effects on women. Most beneficiaries’ household heads are part-time farmers and borrowed for a single animal in order to satisfy family needs in terms of milk supply. Their main objective is that, whatever happens in the future, their children will not be left without milk again. The project has a direct beneficial effect on families, particularly on mothers of small children.
It is usually the women that look after the animals. When beneficiaries borrow for a single animal (which was the project policy in most areas), farming is not their main or exclusive source of income. As it is usually the husband that seeks off-farm employment, the wife takes care of the animal. Project-financed heifers are therefore a source of employment mainly for women.
Finally, a significant number of project-supplied animals went to female beneficiaries.
Specific effects on the environment. There was no evidence of any project-related detrimental effects on the environment.
Sustainability. It is too early to make an assessment of the perspectives of project activities in terms of sustainability. It is possible, however, to pinpoint the main aspects by which the sustainability of project-related activities is likely to be influenced. Such aspects relate to (a) the credit scheme, (b) the animals’ survival rate, and (c) political stability, upon which depends the flow of international funds for reconstruction.
Credit supervision and repayment
The UPI Bank branch network does not appear to be sufficiently widespread over the Federation territory to guarantee for effective credit supervision. As farmers usually identify an institution with the person that represents it locally, UPI Bank is virtually non-existent as far as farmers are concerned. This could easily create problems in case of limited non-repayment and encourage widespread non-repayment as a consequence.
UPI has a high social motivation to perform credit supervision, but its financial interest (1% interest on sub-loans) is very low. Furthermore, the risk of non-repayment lies entirely on the Government [Ministry of Agriculture (MOA)]. The bank is also undergoing privatization of capital, as most financial institutions in Bosnia. In the light of the above, it is unlikely that UPI will use much of its own resources for the project credit supervision and to pursue bad loans in the long term.
The repayment system has to be reviewed and clarified. Loans have to be repaid in Deutschmarks, but many farmers are not aware of this and many of them have no easy access to foreign currency and/or institutions that accept it. As the risks of non-repayment have finally to be borne by the Government, the latter is the only authority that can actually guarantee enforcement of repayment.
There are several areas within the Federation where veterinary services are either not readily available or not accessible to the poorer layers of the rural population, including IFAD project beneficiaries. The rehabilitation and supply of Municipal Veterinary Stations (MVSs) remains an outstanding issue although it is partly being addressed by the German development agency GTZ.
The quality of service by quarantine stations within the Federation is also questionable. According to IFAD livestock specialist, hygiene is not satisfactory in the stations and this causes an excessive death and abortion rate.
However, while the mission was taking place, IFAD reached an agreement with MOA and started financing local veterinary services -including artificial insemination- in order to ensure that veterinary support will be available for IFAD-financed heifers and their calves.
On the basis of this agreement, financed on a grant basis, performance-related contracts are signed by the PIU and MVSs, by which the latter should cover all heifers provided under the project for a period of one year.
Complaints have been expressed to the Interim Evaluation team on several occasions regarding the quality of transports provided for the delivery of heifers.
The project implementation speed has contributed to contrasts and problems between the PIU and part of the foreign Technical Assistance (TA). The Bosnian project management has repeatedly highlighted to the evaluation team the need to use, whenever possible, available qualified local professional staff instead of foreign TA.
Project implementation Unit
Decentralization of decision-making process: several progress reports have highlighted the need for a higher level of decentralization of decision-making at the regional and municipality levels. Poor communication between PIU, RIU, municipalities and beneficiaries have been reported throughout the project implementation phase. Coordination problems are particularly acute in the case of the RIU Mostar, that operates on a mixed Bosniac-Croat territory.
Monitoring & evaluation: the M&E system has not been set up before project startup. Data collection has been limited to list of animals procured and list of final beneficiaries. The officer in charge of M&E within the PIU has just been appointed. The system and persons in charge of data flows from the grassroots level to the RIUs and PIU is not defined. Selected indicators for the evaluation of socio-economic project performance are not clearly identified and used.
Financial controller: the issue of finding a replacement for the TA Financial Controller has been addressed late and a possible solution to this problem was only found a few days before the end of the TA’s last contract.
Lessons learned and recommendations for a follow-up phase
Given the overall satisfactory performance of the FRP - Re-stocking Activities and the high level of unmet demand, a follow-up project is recommended along the lines of the first one. However, a number of changes should be pursued: a stricter application of more realistic targeting criteria, a revision of animals to be selected (i.e. several complaints about Black & Whites), a better defined credit supervision system, a more decentralized decision-making process, a livestock selection responding to different types of demand (i.e. subsistence and entrepreneurial) and a flexible, grass-rooted M&E system.
Over 90% of farmers expressed their plan to keep the heifer if female, whereas less then 50% declared they would keep a male for more than a few months. Those who would keep the male were farmers planning to build up their own herd in areas where Artificial Insemination (AI) was either unavailable or too expensive. All the others would sell them for slaughter after a few months to a year.
In the region of Zenica, the Government had reportedly expressed to the beneficiaries its interest to recover part of the loan in kind, as to avoid the loss of animals of high quality breeds and to generate a revolving fund in-kind to benefit more farmers out of the heifers imported until now. This option could be experimented wherever the conditions of quarantine stations allow for safe animal collection and redistribution by the State. However, by no circumstances should this option become a compulsory sale of calves to the State Farms independently of the farmers’ own choice.
There is a general pressure for more animals to be delivered, as a considerable share of demand has been unmet for several reasons. The only areas where no unmet demand was reported are those most war-affected areas that have been given top priority in distribution (e.g. Gorazdhe), but there again, the return of most refugees is foreseen as taking place next spring and more demand will emerge then. In other areas where activities started late because of institutional confusion (e.g. West Mostar and Livno areas), the real extent of demand has yet to emerge.
Two main lines of requirements have emerged from the farmers interviewed: (a) to get one heifer for family needs (demand unmet by the first phase); and (b) to get several heifers to develop a livestock micro-enterprise. The latter need has emerged predominantly, but not exclusively, in the Livno and West Mostar areas. These two types of need should both be addressed by a second phase, probably with separate components and with different types of animals.
Marketing of milk
Many beneficiaries interviewed expressed their interest to upscale their level of production, but only in case the milk marketing circuit were to be rehabilitated and efficiently managed. This issue should be addressed while pursuing the objective of reconstitution of the livestock national herd, as well as targeting micro-entrepreneurs through a second phase project.
Targeting in the project has been satisfactory although SAR targeting criteria were not strictly applied. Beneficiaries selection by municipalities has generally been satisfactory, also due to the widespread state of need in rural BA. The follow-up project should try to address the needs of eligible farmers who have already been identified in 1996 but whose demand has been unmet. Rapid diagnostic surveys should also identify targetable returnees who regained their land after the baseline survey was conducted in the initial months of the project. Identification of beneficiaries in the areas of Mostar and West Bosnia, which started several months later for institutional problems, should be completed.
Targeting mechanisms in the follow-up project should consider the double nature of demand for heifers, i.e. for micro-enteerprise development and for subsistence purposes. Furthermore, it should be noted that the need to feed the animals (which has generated a 1 - 5 ha land availability criterium in the first phase) has excluded the neediest rural people from the project. In order to better match IFAD’s mandate, a follow-up project should consider ways of addressing the needs of these people, too.
There are reasons to believe that the credit supervision and recovery system will create problems after the first instalments are due (April 1997). A financial institution able to guarantee supervision in the field should be in charge of the credit component. IFAD’s Project Management Department may wish to include in the Financing Agreement of a follow-up project a clause by which a scarce recovery rate in this project can cause a loan suspension in the next one.
Due to time constraints, the participation of farmers in the selection of animals has been almost entirely absent. This should be rectified in the follow-up project where eligible farmers should be consulted in relation to their preferences for animals. This could be carried out in co-operation with Agricultural Staff in the Municipalities concerned.
The need for a rapid project implementation has also caused a generally poor information of farmers regarding the details of the credit scheme. As farmers are not receiveing heifers for free, a follow-up project should put much more emphasis in providing complete and consistent information to all farmers interested in the scheme.
Given the difficulty of project implementation in the Croat-majority areas of the Federation, special institutional arrangements may need to be developed in the second phase in order to ensure a better functioning of project-related activities in these areas.
The identification and recruitment of a local counterpart to replace the TA Financial Manager has been delayed for several reasons, notably the difficulty to find a technically highly-qualified person with an excellent knowledge of english, computer-literate and willing to accept a temporary employment (most people with such characteristics having a permanent one). The person selected and recruited for this delicate and crucial job will need to be closely assisted and supervised at least during the first period on duty. The TA or another financial expert should be guaranteed for this purpose during the initial stages of a potential follow-up project.
Monitoring and evaluation
The M&E system should be designed and put in place before project startup and be ready to start operations right from the beginning of project activities, as an integral part of the PIU. Arrangements should include a period of Technical Assistance by a qualified M&E expert to be distributed over the project period (e.g. two months at project startup, one month after one year of implementation, one or two months during mid-term evaluation or review, etc). A local M&E expert should be selected before project startup, receive some training and work in close co-operation with the TA. The M&E section should also be provided with a vehicle and computer facilities. Incentives should be foreseen for local field staff designated to systematically and continuously feed information into the system, to allow for effective management and, eventually, evaluation of project impact.
Surveys should include a non-targeted control group to facilitate evaluation of project socio-economic impact on its beneficiaries.
Given the difference in cost between the two categories of experts, the high unemployment rate now prevailing in BiH and the country’s generally high level of education, the Government’s request to absorbe local professional staff instead of foreign TA is legitimate and should be met whenever possible. On the other hand, it is useful for local project staff to benefit from the assistance of foreign TA in all those disciplines where there is limited internal knowledge (e.g. M&E) and also to learn to relate to foreign rules and regulations (e.g. finance and procurement, livestock supply). All parties involved have the responsibility of guaranteeing that the project is implemented in the best possible way and the argument of local unemployment should not be used at the detriment of quality of project performance.
IFAD, the Government of BiH and PIU should agree on a balance of TA and local staff requirements before project startup. IFAD and the Cooperating Institution should make sure during project implementation that the selected TA is actually performing according to the high standards required. On the other hand, monitoring should also make sure that the Government/PIU does not use this argument as a pretext to liquidate whatever TA is not in line with its modus operandi.
Community-based Agriculture and Livestock Development Project PRODAP
Situated off the coast of Senegal, to the west, the ten volcanic islands making up the Republic of Cape Verde have a dry tropical climate, with a rainy season from July to November. Precipitation is highly variable and increases with elevation. The slopes facing north-east receive more moisture. Agro-ecological conditions across the archipelago are diverse:
- the arid zones (average annual rainfall below 200 mm), located in the lower-lying parts (all the flat islands and the fringes of the mountainous ones), account for over half the country's land area. They are akin to deserts and lend themselves exclusively to pastoral or silvo-pastoral use;
- the semi-arid zones (average annual rainfall 200-400 mm) and sub-humid zones (400-600 mm) are mostly found on sloping land at middle elevations. Rainfed farming (mostly maize and beans) and livestock raising is practised;
- the humid zones (average annual rainfall over 600 mm) are found limited to smaller areas at higher altitude, in excess of 500 m, and with north-east exposure on some islands;
- the irrigation schemes constitute a category on their own. They are small and scattered, and found mostly in coastal extremities of valleys.
Project design and objectives
The project targets the resource-poorest households in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid zones in the four zones on Santiago island (three arid, one partly semi-arid and one sub-humid). The target population comprised at design 1 010 such households, with a total of 6 060 persons. Yet, the pilot nature of this project implies that the extension recommendations generated should be replicated for all arid, semi-arid and sub-humid zones. Hence, ultimately, the entire population of these zones should become beneficiaries.
Objectives and components
The project has four objectives to: (i) improve the living conditions of the target group; (ii) acquire an understanding of the physical and socio-economic environment in these zones, and test and finalize extension recommendations and methods of intervention capable of replication in all the arid, semi-arid and sub-humid zones; (iii) ensure that the knowledge generated, and derived technical recommendations, are appropriated by the relevant national institutions (INIDA, INFA, INERF, etc.) by involving them directly in project implementation; and (iv) improve knowledge and diffusion processes through the formation of farmers' associations.
Four components were included: (i) development of rain-fed farming and family livestock raising (in the semi-arid and sub-humid zones); (ii) silvo-pastoral development in the reforested arid zones; (iii) credit; and (iv) institutional support and strengthening.
Expected effects and assumptions
The country since Independence, has concentrated agricultural development efforts on the irrigated and humid areas. Technical recommendations have been generated, extended and are well adopted in these areas. Examples are improved techniques for seed multiplication, for potato and sweet potato cultivation in the humid areas, and water management in the irrigation schemes.
In contrast, the arid, semi-arid and sub-humid zones, accounting for by far the greater part of the island area - and rural population - have received little attention. This is explained since suitable technical packages have not been available. It is true that a major acacia (Prosopis) tree planting programme has been achieved since Independence; with 40 000 trees, plant cover in the arid zones in large part has been reconstituted. But no efforts had been made to turn these replanted areas into silvo-pastoral use, under community management, to assist the population resident in these areas.
Poverty alleviation could take off once methods of intervention and extension recommendations have been generated for the semi-arid and sub-humid zones, and for improved silvo-pastoral use, Furthermore, it was expected that poverty would be reduced through appropriate environmental conservation and anti-desertification measures. The potential impact would be substantial:
- it is precisely in these arid, semi-arid and sub-humid zones that the country's poorest population are to be found. There is little hope for them of being able to leave these parts. The number of people living in rural areas remains stable; the number of households relying on farming for a living, fully or in part, is on a rising trend.
- developing extension recommendations in these areas is a response to two major national-level concerns: desertification control in the arid zones, and control of water-erosion in semi-arid and sub-humid zones. Soil erosion makes surface water retention very difficult (excessive wash-load); this limits the possibilities of improving the country's water resources. All currently available sources are from groundwater, and exploited to the limit.
Moreover, the project is expected to introduce improved community based management approaches in these areas. The "food for work" arrangements for acacia (Prosopis) planting and for road construction works, etc., enable the population to survive where, previously they had been victims of successive food shortages. These activities, directed and managed from afar, have fostered attitudes of "excessive dependence". PRODAP is expected to counteract such dependency by promoting management schemes better suited to the preferences of beneficiaries. Of concern is not only better use of "results" - i.e. the plantations - but participation in design and implementation of such schemes. Even, in a not too distant future, some local participation in funding such schemes may be necessary, since food aid is declining in volume, while financing from private sources may be increasing, notably in the form of emigrant remittances).
A fundamental assumption is that extension recommendations and intervention methods for the arid, semi-arid and sub-humid zones will have to be generated through a research and development approach. This means experimentation, pilot activities, village level try-out and adaption as called for, prior to extension. PRODAP unambiguously is a research and development project.
The Mid-term Evaluation mission visited Cape Verde, the Island of Santiago and all project sites from 5 to 31 May 1996. The analysis of impact is based on existing surveys (though these had been made little use of by the project) and supplementary enquiries made by the mission itself.
The project had been designed one year prior to the first democratic elections held in Cape Verde, which in 1991 led to a change of Government. The changes in economic policy introduced by the new Government have scarcely affected the project, but the institutional reform in the agricultural sector fundamentally altered its context. It was necessary to review the entire institutional setting of the project in 1992.
Soil and water conservation
The project has made good the shortcomings noted in the appraisal report regarding soil and water conservation activities; much has been done to enrich the applied research aspects. The approaches employed represent a break with the traditional conservation method in Cape Verde, where barriers and walls are constructed of stones. The final evaluation of impact can be made only over the longer term and may have to exceed ten years. Yet, the increased production of biomass from Leucaena is substantiated. There is also some evidence for that yields of maize and beans have improved. The progress in limiting erosion will be firmer once species have been found that complement the Leucaena hedges and make them more compact. The project has attained its quantitative objective by covering about 620 ha as defined by the appraisal report.
Project activities to raise livestock started up without thorough understanding of the farming systems. Current practices and underlying strategies of farmer-pastoralists were almost totally ignored. Conversely, results from the animal husbandry activities are not in line with expectations. While genetic upgrading of cattle has been successful, that of goats has failed. Intensive poultry raising with purchased feed produced acceptable physical results, but at a too high cost. Replication is not possible (technical follow-up every day; loan repayment dates repeatedly put off). Moreover, silvo-pastoral activities in the arid parts have not progressed beyond the stage of demonstration plots.
Extension; awareness building; training
The project's objectives for extension, awareness building and training implied a high level of community participation. The project document set rigid targets for the building up of farmer associations. The project management wanted to improve upon the approach reflected in the SAR. But the cooperating institution defended the approach and targets set. This precluded the emergence of a two way communication between project staff and beneficiaries. The associations formed remain an artificial construct, with unclear objectives. Beneficiary dialogue and participation are quite limited.
Not less than 18 extension agents are active in awareness-building and rural mobilization, but their role should be expanded. The number of agents is excessive, since there is one "animator" per association. They have all attended a six-month training course. They have been trained more in the transmitting messages to the farmers than to gather information for feed back. Their training and monitoring leaves much to be desired.
This component was conceived rigidly with little attention to institution building. The objective was to see the beneficiaries supplied with the cash or credit resources to ensure that they would start the directly productive activities designed by the project. The financial institution was unable or unwilling to assume its responsibility; the project itself provided credit to 21 households for intensive raising of improved poultry, and pig fattening, with purchased feed.
The loans were not well adapted to the beneficiaries' technical and financial capacities. Loan repayment rates have been insufficient (at 54%), despite debt rescheduling and the intensive monitoring.
Effects assessment and sustainability
PRODAP in the semi-arid and sub-humid zones has responded to the challenges. The introduction of plant (vegetable) cover on the bunds of the farmers' plots is one example. For the first time conservation practices have been carried out on farmers' plots, with their help. The aim remains to raise their incomes through higher labour productivity (e.g. through higher output and enhanced yields) and reduced soil erosion. The results are still not sufficiently certain. Surplus forage production is not yet turned to profit in line with expectations; enhanced yields are still uncertain; additional extension recommendations are needed if meaningful results are to be achieved in the matter of erosion control. Nonetheless, the project seems to be moving in the right direction: it is realized that the validity of these results can be confirmed only over the longer term.
In contrast, project results in the arid zones are not encouraging, and are limited to demonstrations of fodder production.
The salient feature emerging from this Evaluation is the ineffectiveness of PRODAP as a research and development project. Activities such as intensive poultry raising have been carried forward as pure extension activities which fall outside of the research and development approach. Similar remarks apply to the credit component. This omission in applying the research and development methodology, even though this approach was to have been the project's main thrust, explains the failures. The knowledge base has not been built-up to permit that activities spring first from a diagnose and understanding of the constraints that affect the target group, and second from an appropriation of the methodology involved for generating solutions.
The knowledge base is still limited. First, the understanding of the environment concerns mainly the physical dimensions, e.g. the important soil characteristics in semi-arid and sub-humid zones are now understood,
whilst the socio-economic dimensions are largely left unexplored. Second, promising avenues for raising productivity have been opened up in the semi-arid and sub-humid zones, the development of extension recommendations is still in an early stages. Third, even though soil and water conservation practices have been introduced for the first time in a participatory mode on the farmers' plots, and generate value added, the adoption of the research and development methodology (practically unheard of in Cape Verde before the project) is still at an early stage. Fourth, the required knowledge of the experimental methodology to be applied is still limited among institutions and beneficiaries. In short, in the absence of a managed, monitored and supervised approach, it is not surprising that the knowledge base is only slowly and imperfectly evolving.
The impact on the target group is as yet negligible. It is still too soon for the effects of the activities undertaken to emerge. Even so, what has been achieved is satisfactory in the case of the genetic upgrading of cattle. In other areas, e.g. in intensive dairy production the impact is negative in the sense that the cost of loans exceeds the profits made; this explains the weak loan repayment performance. In benefit and cost terms, PRODAP has a very high cost for the level of effectiveness it has achieved.
How efficient is monitoring and evaluation? The original design, the means brought to bear, the supervision missions and support from consultants have all failed to enable the M&E Unit to undertake the its role within a research and development project. Only the monitoring of planned activities and of their direct effects has proceeded relatively well. Evaluation of socio-economic constraints and of impact leaves much to be desired.
The M&E unit has not contributed to exchange information between the partner institutions, associated with the project, and the beneficiaries).
Unless, results are analyzed, communication flows are improved and useful knowledge is institutionalized, voluntary constructive action and change will not take place. The M&E unit activities need to be far better managed. To this end, the original design for all the activities to be completed need to be revisited. M&E units should not be overcharged with physical activities so that there is no time and space left for meaningful analysis and reflection.
It remains that the M&E Unit is far from playing its part as a builder of awareness, or stimulator of reflection within the project.
Principal problems. The principal cause of PRODAP's inefficacy, first and foremost rests in the ambiguity (which has characterized it from the start). Its very name (Community-based Agriculture and Livestock Development Project) and the detailed programming of activities contrast with the specificity of its objectives. The former are defined in minute detail in the project document, presented as a series of pre-conceived activities promoted by extension and addressed to the beneficiaries in terms of a participatory approach. On the other hand, as reflected by the objectives, the project unmistakably is intended as a research and development operation of national interest. To wit, its high cost when set against the number of beneficiaries could not easily be justified if it were not to have this pilot character.
The ambiguity characterizing this project from the start reappears at all levels, and this is at the origin of the contradictions inherent in the very project document. This ambiguity has led to different interpretations confusion among national institutions, donors and consultants. Three examples: (i) the rural awareness building and mobilisation (service d'animation) carries the name of Extension Service, and operates as such; (ii) the credit service was designed as a support to the extension function; and (iii) the project was placed under the wing of the Agricultural Extension Department, when logically, as a research and development project, it should come under the Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Forests.
Several constraints have accentuated the project's inefficacy: (i) methodology and procedures; (ii) the cost/benefit (efficacy) ratio reported by the Ministry of Agriculture's services; (iii) communication and participation; (iv) competence; and (v) the use made of technical assistance.
Main issues and recommendations
The most important recommendation to be made is that the ambiguity be removed as to the nature of the project: this is the principal cause to its problems. The nature of the project must be clarified; the conditions must be created for it to develop its activities - those of a research and development project - to the full.
The overall objective of PRODAP, as research and development project, should be redefined: (i) to devise extension recommendations that can be taken up by the resource-poorest families in the arid, semi-arid and sub-humid zones, to assist in relieving their poverty; (ii) to assist in solving national-level ecological problems; and (iii) to devise and set in train a process of information and training in order for the relevant national institutions and other partners in development to appropriate the methodology of programming and executing research, development and ensuing extension activities through participatory processes.
This overall objective translates into three sectoral objectives, which are covered by the first three components, whilst the three "transverse" objectives are being taken care of by the fourth component.
It is necessary to abandon the artificial and hardly pertinent division into the five sub-components of the pre-appraisal report. The component entitled "integrated development of rainfed agriculture and family livestock raising" must become a component designed to improve farmers' systems in semi-arid and sub-humid zones. The starting point must be the extension recommendations available for these zones (these are being developed) and what the project has already achieved. With an approach geared to needs, the agro-economic potential and to the tangible solutions for the different types of household in these zones, family income status can be analyzed in the context of evolving farming systems; this has hitherto been lacking.
The component entitled "development of silvo-pastoralism in the reforested rangelands/arid zones" is, again, a component designed to bring about an improvement in farmers' practices. It needs to be redefined around a strategic core of research and development of extension recommendations for silvo-pastoralism. In order to improve the chances of success with this essential but difficult component, the intervention should be limited to a single area and not three. As regards existing plantations, the experiment-demonstration element needs to be broadly diversified and enriched. In any case, it is essential that efforts should not be limited to the experiment area, but should be directed to launch as soon as possible the pilot development programme originally called for. As regards future plantations, a research programme needs to be mounted, together with the Forest Services, without delay.
The credit component must be made into a pilot component to explore decentralized, self-governing financial services with autonomy vis-à-vis the rest of the project. This component, again, must recover a research and development character in order for the relevant institutions to devise and adapt methods for setting up decentralized rural financial services. There is every justification for this component. As of yet there is no other method available in Cape Verde offering satisfactory results. Valuable experience in building up decentralised rural financial services is available in neighbouring countries.
The institutional support and strengthening component is expected to answer to three "transverse" objectives, namely: (i) an understanding of the national and socio-economic environment (here responsibility belongs more specifically to the M&E Unit); (ii) promoting the research and development methods (responsibility here belongs more specifically to the awareness-building services (rural animation); and (iii) acceptance of methodology and project results by the relevant national institutions (responsibility with the PMU coordinator himself). To be able to carry out these tasks, the services concerned will need to be revitalized and strengthened.
The foregoing redefinition of project objectives and organization needs to go hand in hand with an improved strategy for approaching the target group and, inter alia, aiming to:
- consolidate the extension recommendations by exploring their potential and actual adoption, and impact on household income;
- integrate these recommendations into approaches for participatory management of local areas. Forming local groups of labourers for the purpose of soil and water conservation would be one such step.
- make use of capital transfers from the outside ("food for work" arrangements; emigrant remittances) to generate multiplier effect in the local economy; and
- make allowance for the cultural dimensions of development and aim to bring about a change in attitudes, especially as regards the dependence on hand-outs and the feeling of non-attachment to the place where one lives.
The institutional situation of PRODAP needs to be clarified - in the sense that it should be attached to the Department of Agriculture, Forests and Livestock (DGASP). This would open up possibilities for collaboration on specific programmes, e.g. involving the forest services in the project's second component and turning the results to profit in the use made of the National Development Fund (FDN). In any case, relations with the other institutions need to be radically overhauled.
Most important of all, when these recommendations are taken into account they must be accompanied by a far-reaching change in the project's decision-making approach. Recommendations cannot be adopted simply because someone decrees that they should be. Their implementation calls for mobilizing the different partners and for thorough scrutiny. Recommendations will have to be thrashed out, effectively shared: a clear commitment is required from each and everyone. Only on these terms, will the project be able to take the qualitative leap forward that is now so necessary.
For this mobilizing to be possible, it is important to organize without delay an initial workshop to define and discuss the recommendations with the project management, the staff responsible for awareness building, farmers' representatives and the various institutions concerned. Following this, all means should be brought to bear in order that the recommendations could be put into effect and the results followed up.
PRODAP is particularly rich in the lessons it has to teach by virtue of its nature as a research and development project. Despite its many limitations, it is a rare example of an IFAD-financed project going so far along this type of approach.
The research and development formula is essential in approaching the resource-poorest rural people - IFAD's target group. They are subsisting in large part from their own means on marginal or nonproductive land, such as that found in Cape Verde, and Santiago island in particular. The recommendations that have been developed to the point where they can be used by the extension services are usually suited only to the better-off farmers, who have the best land and are well integrated into a market economy.
On Santiago island, where PRODAP is going forward, the extension recommendations and methods of approach are insufficiently adapted to local constraints. The only recommendations currently available and sufficiently developed for extension purposes concern the irrigated areas and the humid zones at higher elevations. In the marginal areas, no specific technical recommendations (except for angola peas) are available for extension and direct adoption.
PRODAP has five essentials lessons to be borne in mind for research and development projects:
- the need to recognize "research and development needs"
It is fundamental, before designing any project, to identify those recommendations that are available, i.e. sufficiently tried out and adapted to the point where they are suitable for extension purposes. This means discerning also those that, need further development, testing and adaptation to the conditions of the target area and target group. This first phase represents diagnosis of research and development needs; it is essential that this process be conducted together with the target group itself. By such diagnosis, extension activities can be avoided that will later prove to be ill-adapted and not effective.
- new procedures are needed
In the first place, a research and development project has to be developed in terms of the methods of approach and not in terms of detailed activities and outcomes. The analysis made of the results must be made first in terms of gaining knowledge and know-how, and not of material achievements. The utmost flexibility should be used in review procedures in such a way as to obtain rapid feed-back so that corrections can be made in light of results, whenever necessary.
- the time dimension needs to be taken into account in order to secure continuity in the approach beyond project end
Research and development take time. In the first place, one has to specify measurable objectives in helping the local staff and the relevant institutions to acquire the necessary skills in this research and development. In the second place, the objectives must be translated into a series of indicators against which acquisition of skills can be monitored.
- research and development costs must be kept to a reasonable level
Excessive and useless expense can be avoided if the research and development approach is carefully thought out (which it was not in the case of PRODAP).
- innovative solutions are required for technical assistance
Innovative or alternative solutions need to be found for long-term technical assistance. A compromise is required between the need of reduced costs, as against securing continuing longer term benefits from the knowledge generation process. A long-term partnership arrangement with an institution specializing in research and development, with regular support missions, training courses and attendance at workshops, could be one solution.
Lessons learnt for project design in general
As distinct from the lessons learnt concerning specifically the need for precise definitions, and the need to adopt a research and development methodology and clear-cut procedures at the design stage, PRODAP has five essential lessons to impart as regards project design in general.
- An understanding of socio-economic conditions at the start
The project's acquaintance with the socio-economic conditions of the target group at the start was very limited. The greater is this initial incomprehension, the higher is the probability that changes to the project concept will be needed in the course of execution. Moreover, the harder it will be to modify and adapt a project. This is why it is essential, at the design stage, to analyze the target group's socio-economic as well as physical environment, and to conduct highly specific surveys to ascertain constraints and the farmers' degree of motivation and their preferences.
- Strategies and procedures for adapting and reformulating the project.
It is also necessary, in the appraisal reports, to define clearly a strategy and procedures for revising in the course of execution a project's objectives and activities. In the case of PRODAP, such a strategy, and procedures, were not spelt out: this explains the series of problems discussed in this Evaluation.
- Forming farmers' associations - a means to an end and not the end itself.
Setting up farmers' associations cannot be an objective in itself. These associations are first and foremost instruments for their members. They in all cases respond to precise needs; and their place is given in a strategy for interacting with the target group; but they cannot represent, and embody, a final objective of a project.
- Transparency in sub-contracting
PRODAP brings out the risks inherent in a project based on contracting out to public institutions chosen in advance. It should be recalled that the underlying purpose of these contracts was to involve these institutions in the project so that the institutions in their turn might make the results, and the methods of approach their own. Yet the contracts - subcontracts - led to a lack of transparency in management: this led to high implementation costs. This idea of involving national institutions is important. But this presumes a genuine partnership arrangement, and accountability, reflected in a protocol of agreement and transparent co-management of joint activities.
- The project offers several lessons for the financial services in the rural context, and shows that:
- credit is a specific service that must be kept separate from the technical support services; credit is especially important for extension projects, but less for research and development projects; and
- the financial services may also need a research and development approach, especially when credit supply is poorly adapted to the demand and there are no institutional solutions in the country that are backed by sufficient experience, and are established, recognized and replicable.
Lessons learnt as regards project operation
PRODAP offers three important lessons for project implementation in general:
- evaluation and support provided by IFAD and the cooperating institution are essential for developing the capacities of the monitoring and evaluation units. The units should not be overloaded with demands for its services. Otherwise, the unit's ability to gather and analyze information, and to develop its own capacity for reflection and adaptation will suffer.
- recruiting and training farmer-"animators" are important for a participatory approach. These persons constitute a highly desirable kind of collaborator in awareness building; they belong to the environment, they are familiar with the target group and they remain when the project comes to an end. There are two rules that need to be observed to ensure that these persons will be truly operational: first, they should be recruited when they have a mature age (30-40), even if they have had less education than younger candidates. The latter in any case usually have other ambitions and do not easily remain in their environment. The training of these farmer-"animators",moreover, must be considered a priority matter. Such training should proceed alternating between their daily practices, and the need for analysis and reflection pursued jointly with other farmers and the project management; and
- the cooperating institution has an important and difficult part to play, in assisting research and development projects. A close dialogue and a partnership are needed between the project itself, this institution and IFAD. Sometimes this dialogue has been lacking: in the present case. the cooperating institution was not present at the project start-up workshop.
Hoima / Kibaale Districts Integrated Community Development Project - Interim Evaluation
The project area covers the Hoima District, which is located in the Uganda's equatorial zone. The altitude ranges from 670 m to 1 500 m. The total area of the district is about 10 000 square km. Of the 6 600 square km of cultivable land, only 14% were under cultivation in 1987. The climate presents a bimodal rainfall pattern with the possibility of two growing seasons during the calendar year. The average annual rainfall ranges from 800 to 1 500 mm depending on the year and the ecological zone. Zone II, the south and south-eastern sections of the district, enjoys a benign rainfall pattern; soils of gritty, sandy and gravely loams are of intermediate fertility with the highest potential occurring in the area to the east of Hoima Township. Zone III, the northern and western sections, has generally shallower clay loams of intermediate to low fertility and a generally lower rainfall.
Project design and objectives
The project area population in 1988 is estimated at about 379 200 people (61 000 families) at design. The project target group consists of the people who are most at risk from hunger, malnutrition, ill health and a general low quality of life: mainly young mothers and children. The project proposal to provide primary health centres facilities and services should cover the women and children of about 39 000 rural families out of total number of 55 000 who do not already have access to basic health care (the estimated balance of 16 000 families live in too remote district areas
The project's economic activities would be targeted on the women of an estimated 51 000 of the 70 000 families unable to pay graduated taxes of more than USh 4 300. The project training and credit would be provided for about 12 040 or 17% of these families (31% of project target group).
Objectives and components
The project aims to:
(i) reduce morbidity and mortality among the most disadvantaged people in Hoima and Kibaale Districts, particularly rural women and children;
(ii) improve their nutritional and health status;
(iii) increase both farm and off-farm income; and
(iv) establish the framework for integrated, district-based development of social services in Uganda.
The project has five components: (a) health, (b) water and sanitation, (c) agriculture, (d) community development, (d) infrastructure support, and (e) management support services.
Expected effects and assumptions
Welfare benefits include access to improved health facilities and health education. The closer proximity of potable water supplies would create the opportunity for these families to spend more time in productive work and to perform that work more efficiently. The health programme would generate incremental output approximated at USH 1 193 million annually.
Project implementation would improve cultivation practices on an estimated 18 600 ha farmed by 12 040 smallholders. Adoption of the improved practices of the MIP by the beneficiaries would result in an increase in the value of production of about USh 65 700 (38% on average family incomes in 1988) for the typical producer in the Banana zone; and USh 57 200 (35%) for the average Banana-Millet zone. At the projected rate of take-up, incremental production after deduction for seed retention and storage losses is expected to reach 1 670 tonnes of maize, 2 080 tonnes of plantain, 760 tonnes of beans and 790 tonnes of groundnuts.
An Interim Evaluation Mission of the Hoima District Integrated Development Project (HDICDP) visited Uganda from 3 August to 6 September 1996. The Interim Evaluation Mission specific terms of reference (TOR) were to (a) analyze project performance and achievements, particularly in relation to project beneficiaries; (b) assess the project impact on the development and social well-being of the communities in the project area; and (c) examine the sustainability of project activities in terms of cost- effectiveness, community participation, cost-sharing and recovery.
In addition to traditional methods of evaluation, the IEM applied Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methodologies to carry out a Participatory Evaluation (PE). The PE was conducted in six sub-counties and 12 villages in the project area to ascertain the beneficiaries opinions and perceptions on project interventions, participation, and sustainability.
Uganda in general, and the project area in particular enjoyed peace and stability during the period of project implementation. In addition, some of the fruits of the structural adjustment programme, e.g. increased agricultural produce prices, have been felt by producers at the farm-gate. This has been assisted by the roads improvement programme executed by the project as well as the government and other donors such as Irish Aid.
The project had been noted for design flexibility during implementation. Adjustments in design included (a) the construction instead of rehabilitation of health units, (b) incorporation of health programmes for HIV/AID, malaria control and registration of births and deaths, (c) improved home programme, (d) the abandoning of the minimum input package, (e) the restructuring of the revolving credit fund, (f) the establishment of the liaison office in Kampala and (g) reducing the number of schools in the water sanitation programme.
Project implementation started only in 1992 and gained momentum in 1995, consequently little impacts are expected at this stage. It is also difficult to identify impacts attributable only to the project interventions, since there are other programmes funded by the government, as well as other donors and NGOs in the project area. Furthermore, the impacts brought about by the prevalence of peace and by macro-economic adjustments, particularly on development of markets and increases in agricultural produce, are more significant than those to which the project had contributed. Notwithstanding these factors, the Interim Evaluation Mission noted project impacts on various fronts.
Statistical Indicators. The only available data concern Hoima district where AVSI has started implementing the HMIS. The catchment areas of all the health units in both districts have been defined, but indicators cannot be calculated because there is no one to input the data from the peripheral health units. The main areas of improvement concern immunisable diseases (and mortalities) and morbidities related to water-borne/water-washed diseases.
Immunisable diseases. According to the FDP, only 6% of the children under five had been vaccinated against tuberculosis (BCG) in 1989. The coverage in 1994 was reportedly 107%, but only 70% were found to have verifiable scars. Although the target for BCG vaccination is 100%, 70% remains a huge improvement. Vaccinations against measles, polio (OPV) and diphtheria/ whooping cough/ tetanus (DPT) are verifiable only by consulting the child's card. The same discrepancies are noted but the verified levels for 1994 again reflect significant improvement and over 80% of the women had had at least two shots against tetanus. Anti-polio was not even given in 1989. Coverage in 1994 was higher than 85%. The project's contribution is through sensitisation on the benefits of immunisation.
Mortalities have certainly declined due to better immunisation but project activities have probably not had much impact on maternal mortalities except through vaccination against tetanus. The existing maternities are not adequately staffed and there is little hope that the project's seven units will fare any better. The training of TBAs can be expected to have a significant impact but their number is still small.
Morbidity reduction is the front where there seems to have been significant improvements that can be linked to the project. Apart from the immunisable diseases already mentioned above, both the HMIS-Hoima data and beneficiaries report the virtual disappearance of skin diseases, significant reductions in eye diseases, diarrhoea and malnutrition. Kwashiorkor is no longer considered a problem. The only negative trend concerns AIDS and the related opportunistic diseases (tuberculosis, measles, herpes zoster, etc.).
Access to safe water and sanitation. Less than 40% of the population of Hoima district has access to safe water and the situation is considerably worse in Kibaale district. School boreholes will not make much difference to this situation and the intended demonstration effect of the latrines is practically zero. Impact on child health will be nil for as long as they continue to return home to unsanitary and unsafe conditions.
This component has clearly been least effective in carrying out its mandate and creating an impact on the target population. Adaptive trials and demonstrations have not been effectively undertaken, and therefore the demonstrative impacts on farmers is virtually nil while improved seed and plant materials have not been effectively propagated in sufficient quantities to have a measurable impact on local farms. The extension service has failed to reach the farmer. Therefore any increase in food production cannot be attributed to HDICDP.
As anticipated by the FDP, the impact of access tracks on community services and marketing was favourable. Beneficiaries confirmed that CATs have bolstered local trade, with more traders coming in, produce buyers renting shops for storage purposes, agricultural produce prices increased significantly..
(d)Revolving Credit Fund
Disbursements of credit from project resources has not commenced, but as the evaluation analysis has shown that considerable positive impacts are felt from the formation of women's groups. In social terms, cohesive women's groups exercising regular savings and conducting regular meetings are established and trained by CDD and the Cooperative Department. These groups gained considerable experience in handling financial transactions, managing small-scale businesses and diversifying their portfolio of investments. The situation has matured for a full-scale distribution of credit.
(e)Coordination & Management
The overall project management has been satisfactory. The PCU has increasingly assumed an implementation role as opposed to the mere coordination originally assigned to it. The achievements of the PCU are a result of a remarkable continuity as well as smooth hand over and cooperation among the top management. But there remained a serious problem with the finance management. It was only after a lapse of four years that a satisfactory arrangement could be worked out and still pending the execution of the advisory services to the district treasury.
Effects assessment and sustainability
Beneficiaries' Perceptions. Participatory evaluations conducted with a view to capturing beneficiary perceptions of the evolution ofhealth over the past five years confirm reports of a better situation in Hoima, probably in the last two or three years. The ailments that beneficiaries felt had improved the most over the past five years are the same ones that are indicated by the HMIS-Hoima data. Measles incidence is ranked at 25% or less of the levels recalled for 1991, whooping cough, polio and tetanus at less than 15% for Kibaale and even less (even zero) for Hoima. Significant reductions are also indicated for kwashiorkor among children. The reductions in skin and eye diseases are significantly greater for Hoima than for Kibaale where water problems are more severe. Participants mentioned immunisation and sensitisation and training on hygiene (cleanliness), water-handling and nutrition as the main reasons for improved health, as well as availability of drugs and creams at the health unit and in the shops.
Effects on beneficiaries incomes. The trend analysis of economic status (incomes, declining hardships, markets for crops, etc.) showed that the year when things really started improving is often the one when a major road was opened. The improved economic environment was also attributed to the effects of community sensitisation/ mobilisation and women's group formation. The project was responsible for supporting roads improvements in many but not all of the communities through the provision of tools and culverts, and CDD has worked steadily with the women's groups for over two years.
Specific effects on women. Many of the trends show that groups already existed in the late 1980s, when CDD started this activity. Project support to CDD has been highly instrumental in reviving this approach towards the development of women.
Staff allowances and operational expenses. The project generously rewarded its own staff and, to a lesser extent, the staff of the local implementing agencies. There is a broad consensus that, while some incentives are necessary, the current level will not be maintained by the districts once the financial responsibilities of these activities are transferred to them. The situation would be further exacerbated with the termination of the technical assistance support and the discontinuation of the training programmes.
Whereas community sensitization and beneficiaries training under the CDD proceeded well, the financial aspects implied mixed results. Communities shared the costs of the construction of the health facilities, the community centres and the access tracks and crossings and provided communal labour on voluntary basis but failed to ensure the recovery of services costs.
The district level support is not likely to materialize because the capacity for revenue collection has increased only marginally. Only limited training was provided by the project. The revenue collection staff was retrenched at the operational level of the sub-parishes. Furthermore, the tax-base remained small, and its expansion was restricted by political interventions. It is logical to conclude that without huge influx of financial support from the centre, the Hoima and particularly Kibaale districts would find tremendous difficulties in sustaining project supported services in health, sanitation, water, education, agriculture and community skill development.
Main issues and recommendations
Lack of funds. Over-expenditure of project coordination funds as compared to design constitutes a threat to both sustainability of project activities' management and the project's capacity to reach its original closing date (31.12.98).
Staffing. The staffing of the PCU has been adequate, but not so for districts and implementing agencies. The explanation lies with the incentive package, which has been more than adequate for PCU staff and deficient to the district and agencies staff. Whereas the project catered in full for the PCU staff, it could only provide limited support to the district bureaucracy, which are short of resources to maintain an adequate reward system.
Finance. Financial management is currently normalizing after years of difficulties, mainly due to unfortunate experiences with TAs. A major consequence of TA discontinuity has been the absence of TA provided to DA Treasury staff, which hinders sustainability in view of increased DA management responsibilities after project closure. The mission was informed that a Financial Advisor is being recruited to address this issue.
Procurement. The procurement of goods and services has been an important source of delays in project implementation. Surprisingly, at the beginning of project implementation, the procurement procedure had taken shorter time; but during peak of project implementation, considerable delays were experienced. Some components such as the health and sanitation, revenue collection, roads, drilling programme for water have been affected significantly in pace and cost of implementation.
Health. The effectiveness of the infrastructural improvements supported by the project are heavily conditioned by quality of staffing. Central government wants to pull out of district health matters and the districts do not have the financial resources to take over. There is evidence that very few of the existing health units will be able to finance themselves unless they raise fees to double or triple current levels.
Agriculture. The BDFI has not developed its demonstration/trials activities to a level that would enhance training. Without proper and convincing demonstrations, the benefits of residential training will be minimal and will not prove to be cost-effective for the project. Training was recommended to be brought down to the field level yet little systematic training has reached the group level. Research linkages have been weak and there is a notable lack of demand- driven research from the farmer level. Despite the support of the AEP to the district UES, there remains a poor link between researchers, extension workers and farmers.
Access Roads. Given the geographical distribution of CAT programme activities to date, it appears that the more accessible and better-off areas have been reached. Although this is understandable for various reasons, it does raise the issue of whether a greater effort can be placed on targeting of the most disadvantaged communities in Hoima and Kibaale.
Credit. Institutionally the structure of the RCF is still weak. The SIDAs - the association of the groups - do not have a recognized legal status, and hence the difficulty of a formal linkage to UWFCT arises. This is critical for loan recoveries and hence the sustainability of the credit scheme. Moreover, it becomes even more critical when the project winds up and there is no envisaged linking with either the DA or the banking system in the area.
Monitoring & Evaluation. (i) No evidence of support to the project by central M&E services was found by the mission. (ii) The baseline survey and the credit study are not satisfactory. (iii) Evaluation has not taken off yet. In this respect, the PCU has stressed the absence of TA support on M&E which was foreseen at the design stage but never materialized.
Coordination and Management (C&M). The project accommodated the split of its area into the domain of two districts at a cost. It would be more practical to limit future project intervention to one district, in which case C&M would be facilitated by the integration of the project activities into the normal functions of the district administration. However both districts qualify for the follow-up phase and hence the project activities should be undertaken by the district agencies directly, perhaps with some assistance from a procurement manager.
Regarding the optimal top-up of salaries and project allowances meant to motivate PCU, DA and IAs staff in implementing project-related activities, three principles should guide project leadership in this respect. First, project allowances should be based on staff performance. Secondly, they should be set at a level that the government can sustain with its own budget. In particular, project allowances should take into consideration declared government policies, on civil service "minimum living wages". Finally, they should be in line with other donors' allowances given to their own projects' staff.
As a matter of principle, the GOU should immediately terminate collection of income tax from donors' funds and UNOPS should stop honouring such payments. The total amount paid is approximated at above USD 100 000 (amounted to USD 94 000 for period 1992-95), should be reimbursed by the GOU to the project. This is crucial for the support of project activities, since the project is short of finances to continue to the design closing date of December 1998. In the future, such lapses should be avoided, by applying the spirit and principles of donor financing.
The project should concentrate its efforts on the in-service training for women's credit group, SIDAs, CAs and revenue collection. Since the DA will embark on the selection of district staff to run activities at all levels, the project should limit its training to enhance capacity building at district level. The on-going training of health and community development staff should be implemented as planned.
Finance. The design paper was overambitious in its assumption that the Financial TA had to (a) manage project financial services and (b) provide TA to the District Administration staff. The two functions should be separated.
Both at the project and at the district level, the financial officers should have the ability and the authority to design an allocation plan of project/district resources available every year. If budget limitations established at the design stage turn out to be unrealistic, the project M&EU and PCU, as well as IFAD and the Cooperating Institution should spot the issues in time for new budgetary plans to be based on proper analysis, then discussed and approved.
Procurement. There is a need to review Government procurement procedures with the objective of reducing the time and hassle. The GOU has already started a review process for CTB procedures. Indeed the CTB has improved on its procedures over the last five years by establishing technical committees at project level and practically endorsing the technical committee recommendations for the final award. The Government should take a step further, whereby the decision of the project procurement committee, in which a representative of the CTB participates, should be considered final.
Development of Community Participation. The CDD has performed effectively in the sensitization programme and has contributed directly in the implementation of the health, sanitation, water and women group formation for the credit programmes. It is essential that the project provides all necessary support to the CDD to continue its constructive role. The project support should include mobility, training, and allowances. Districts' authorities should redraw their priorities to ensure adequate number of staff, operational funds and prompt payment of staff salary and allowances.
The proposals for phase II made by project implementers are reasonable and founded on the experience acquired so far and many opportunities for low-cost approaches are identified. Of particular interest is the use of the community centres for agricultural training purposes.
Health, Sanitation and Water. The proposals for phase II presented by project implementers contain provisions for five new health units, only two of which seem to have sufficiently large catchment areas. The chances of self-sustainability of the units must be studied in detail in collaboration with the communities themselves before deciding on the design. The other proposals for the second phase are reasonable, though the impact of the envisaged training activities will be heavily conditioned by the quality of staff. Funding for additional health infrastructures should be subject to careful and fully participatory analysis of the community's financing capability.
Agriculture Support Services. Although the project has taken a step forward to address a demand-driven process, there is a lack of focus on the decision-making side of alternatives which address the production strengths and weaknesses of localized situations, together with the costs and revenues of alternative ventures. The BDFI Management and Technical Committee will have an important role to play in ushering in this change of attitude. BDFI must develop its adaptive trials and demonstrations to a much more serious level with better management. With a growing interest in livestock production systems in the area, BDFI should undertake more work in alternative fodder production and how it can be integrated into farming systems. A farming systems approach would demand a systematic PRA initial identification of farm management issues with participants at the start-up of the workshop for farm management. Modalities for decision-making on production options, with a focus on marketing, must also be developed.
The FEWs represent an existing structure at the sub-county levels (and lower) which remain under-utilized by the SIDAs. Since regular meeting of SIDAs is now established, SIDAs should be involved in the collection of data monitoring the level of contact of FEW's with individual groups. This independent system will help to ascertain the real level of contact between FEWs and groups which the project is supporting both logistically and financially through allowances.
Access Roads. The DOW has been dependant on the CDD sensitizing efforts of communities, the entry point for HDICDP components. The process could be enhanced by facilitating a PRA community mapping exercise. This would ensure broader consensus and views on the placement and prioritization of CATs, especially those of women who may be marginalized in the decision-making process. The importance of allowing the communities to work out a system themselves, rather than choose a blueprint approach for them should be emphasized.
Rural Credit. For the SIDAs to function as rural financial intermediaries, the issue of their legal status should be resolved immediately. Given the BOU concern with the institutionalization of the micro-financing institutions, the project should approach the BOU for assistance. One possible scenario is the registration of the SIDAs as credit unions who will be held responsible collectively and individually of loan performance. Registration as cooperatives should be an option of the last resort, because of their dubious performance in the past. As steps are being taken to register SIDA and groups, the PCU should agree with UWFCT to start a pilot credit scheme using the USD 120 000 at the project disposal.
The RCF should continue beyond the present contract of UWFCT (April 1998). If UWFCT establishes credibility in administering the RCF, its contract should be renewed, possibly under the Masindi Project, or under the auspices of the BOU, which is in search for a modus operandi for micro-financing. The contract for the second phase of UWFCT should include a stipulation for graduating and linking groups with the formal banks in the project area, if such services have been sufficiently developed.
Monitoring and Evaluation. It is important that M&E Units be established at central level (MOLG, MPED) and linkages reinforced with the M&E function at the project and district (DPU) levels. Training, TA and logistical support should be provided to DPUs to enable them to perform M&E functions, if the DA is to replace the PCU in a potential second phase. More efforts should go into the selection of performing consultancies, definition of TORs and quality control of the work delivered. Definition of M&E procedures, identification of impact indicators, logical framework should be ready by PY1.
The evaluation function of the M&E unit should be given due consideration through identification of appropriate indicators, collection of the optimal amount of data and systematic analysis of data. The evaluation task could be assigned to the central M&E units thus fostering operational linkages with the project and districts units. The selection of agencies or consulting firm to undertake base line or field surveys or evaluation studies should be based on merit and performance.
It would be more appropriate and less problematic if the project is located within one district as it was intended originally for the HDICDP; but since project activities in both Hoima and Kibaale districts need to be consolidated and since both districts are eligible, target areas of the second phase would have to incorporate both. Yet the project activities should be integrated with the respective district administration.
There are certain requisites to ensure successful coordination and implementation of project activities. These include: (a) project components and details of requirements and project activities should be spelled out separately for each district at the design stage; (b) the district administration represented by the office of the CAO should be directly responsible for the coordination of project activities, while the respective district level implementing agencies undertake direct field responsibility; (c) the project procurement should be undertaken on a combined basis for both districts and the services of a special procurement officer/TA could be retained for this purpose; (d) the district should retain and train qualified and dedicated staff; this process should be assisted by the decentralization policy which devoluted this authority to the districts; and (e) the control of project finances and the financial training at district and IAs levels should be separate functions.
For the purposes of effective implementation monitoring and future evaluation, the next phase of the project should start with the conduct of an elaborate BLS by a competent consultancy firm as a precondition for loan disbursement. IFAD may consider financing this activity on a grant basis from the special preparation facility.
In the following phase, physical construction and/or rehabilitation of health centres should be restricted. Expansion in health centres should be considered only under the following conditions: (a) an established community based demand and strong commitment for participation, materially as well as managerially; (b) strong elements of sustainability of the health centre services as reflected in (i) a commitment for cost-sharing and recovery; (ii) a large catchment area that would reduce the unit cost of services provided to affordable levels; and (iii) the provision of quality services in the health centre to attract users; and (c) for the referral system to function, the health centres should be staffed with qualified, dedicated and motivated medical staff.
The sensitization programme conducted by the CDD should continue to be the core of the second phase. The positive impacts of the community sensitization have been felt on all project activities, even though only meager project resources were made available to CDD. The sensitization of community should be greatly assisted by the completion of the training physical infrastructures (BDFI, RTC, and community centres).
Human skill development in terms of various training programmes and participatory community institutions (FEWs, FERs, CHWs, VHCs, HUMCs) have been established during the first phase; and these should be an integral part of the design of the second phase.
The major criticism of the second phase proposals presented by the PCU is the lack of input from these institutions into the needs and hence the design of the second phase. As participatory rural appraisal (PRA) may assist in the design of project based not only on the knowledge of the community of the resources, but on the communities' demands, it is recommended that a PRA be undertaken prior to the design of the project.
In a direct link to community sensitization, the foundation for a successful credit programme has been laid out, almost towards the end of the first phase. Not only should the implementation of the credit component continue to the end of the current project, but it should continue into the second phase. However, the credit design should reinforce some important aspects, which the mission already noticed, such as: (a) the graduation of the loanees from the project lending programme to borrowing from groups' own resources and local banks, through enhancement of their credit worthiness. This would also imply more banking services to become active in the rural areas; (b) sustainability of the credit operations should be ensured beyond the use of small funds from their own savings. This is achievable through reasonable returns to the loaned funds and prompt repayment of loans; and (c) the encouragement of diversification of businesses within and without farming, particularly in trading, marketing and small-industries.
The agricultural support programme has continued to lag behind in the current phase of the project, the essential elements for the programme to become effective are: (a) during the second phase, the agricultural support program should be placed under the direct control of the districts administrations; (b) the extension system using FEWs, FERs, CAs with BDFI providing the technical backup support should be activated; (c) improvement of the management of the BDFI, and the empowerment of the management committee are critical to the future role in the provision of technical solutions to the farmers field problems; (d) the BDFI should be required to develop an adaptive research programme that is farm system oriented, responsive to farmers needs and based on problem-solving approach i.e demand driven; (e) technical extension messages and the means to deliver them should be made available for extension workers to be effective; and (f) it is not necessary that the MIPs are provided through project financial resources. However, women farmers in need of credit for to obtain farm inputs could be assisted within sound financing arrangements.
Community access tracks and swamp crossings represent a genuine entry point for community organization. The current phase of the project had attempted social organization of women, the success of which is in large part attributed to the total community sensitization programme including sensitization of men to allow their women to participate and for them to take part in activities such as access roads and crossings or village water supply schemes. In the second phase, a broad village-based social organization should be established along with the women groups using these project activities as entry points.
Small-Scale Water Control Project (SSWCP) (1995)
Mid-term evaluation report
The Gambia has a total area of 10 400 square kilometres and lies on the West Coast of Africa. It consists of a narrow strip of land 10 Kilometres wide on either bank of The Gambia River; stretching from its mouth eastward for 400 kilometres. The population was one million in 1994, growing at an annual rate of 4.1% . The climate is sub-tropical and annual average rainfall varies from 2 200 mm in coastal areas to 800 mm inland. The topography is riverine flats and swamps (lowlands), leading up gradually to highlands up to 50 m above sea level. The lower and central river section has areas of actual and potential acid sulphate soils and saline-alkaline soils. Sea water intrudes upstream when there are low discharge rates of the river into the sea; and the salt water boundry moves upstream in the dry season. During the last two decades a significant migration upstream of the salinity front took place due to repeated droughts. The project is located in MacCarthy Island Division (MID), about 300 km east of Banjul, the capital. Annual average rainfall is 850 mm and the dry season extends from November to May. Main highland crops are groundnuts, maize millet and sorghum. Rice is grown mainly in the lowlands. In the Western half of the project area double cropping of rice is impossible due to saline intrusion.
Project design and objectives
The project is the second IFAD financed lowland rice development project in The Gambia. Its strategy has been based on lessons from experiences derived from the first rice project, JPSP which were: (i) the lack of sustainability and replicability of capital intensive large-scale pump irrigation schemes; (ii) the importance of involving farmers at design and implementation of schemes; (iii) the need to minimize land reallocation to avoid complex land tenure issues; (iv) the need to avoid complex water management systems so that farmers can be easily involved in their operations and management; (v) labour shortage as an essential constraint; and (vi) the appropriation by men of women's plots when yields increase following technological improvement. With these lessons in mind, the overall design objectives were to increase rice production, income and household food security for women rice cultivators in the lowlands (swamps) of MID.
Women were intended to be the project's main target group as they constitute the bulk of swamp rice producers. At the household level, crop production is divided between upland and lowland areas. Traditionally, the former is the responsibility of men, while the lowlands are cultivated by women. Women have user-rights over swamp plots and enjoy only limited ownership rights. Land allocation is controlled by traditional authorities (the Alkalo at village level or the Seyfo at the district level). At household level (average size 10 persons), the male head divides the land at his disposal into communal fields (maruo) and personal fields (kamanyango). Households lowland plots are often distributed over several swamps. Women in swamps cultivate maruo and kamanyango plots and have to walk long distance between swamps and from the villages in the upland. Average size of landholding in the swamps is about 0.1 ha. A total of 6 350 plot holders were meant to benefit from the project (one per household) of these 4 100 persons are within the swamps and 2 250 are in other areas of MID (through project's support to farming systems). At the time of Appraisal 60% of the population in MID had incomes 40% below the poverty line.
Objectives and components
Objectives. Project objectives include: a) promoting environmentally sound water control schemes in the lowlands of MID and the improvement of crop husbandry techniques to increase rice production; b) establishing a participatory framework for swamp rice development; c) easing women's workload through the use of labour saving equipment; and d) promoting income-generating activities and crop diversification. The project approach would be based on participation of beneficiaries in project design, implementation and evaluation and new technologies will only be introduced if they enhance indigenous systems rather than create "new systems" of production.
Components: Water control development (60% of project cost) aims at the development of 1 500 ha in 10 - 15 schemes, providing flood control, tidal drainage and irrigation. Schemes are surrounded by protection dykes (riverside and upland dykes) and include main, secondary and tertiary canals. Access tracks to the swamps will also be constructed. Water management within the schemes would be based on simple principles. World Food Programme (WFP) will provide compensation food rations to farmers unable to produce due to construction work, and food for work to the farmers involved in building the main structures. Construction at tertiary levels and operations and maintenance of the schemes are the responsibility of beneficiaries. The distribution of schemes over the Northern Bank and Southern Bank of the River in MID depends on actual farmers demand.
Support to rice farming systems (17% of project cost) includes a demonstration and extension programme to promote the replacement of traditional rice varieties by High Yielding Varieties (HYVs); to improve nursery techniques and fertilizer use efficiency; and to promote horticultural crops. A trials programme will identify the most appropriate land preparation methods using animal traction; test labour-saving equipment for women, and test and select appropriate improved rice varieties. Credit and Women's Group Development (23% of project cost) will support a short-and medium-term credit programme to be implemented by The Gambia Cooperative Union (GCU), together with the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) ActionAid The Gambia (AATG), responsible for group formation and training. Groups will be trained in credit management, water management, operation and maintenance of schemes and in literacy. Day care centers will facilitate the work of women in the swamps, and an Annual Consultation on tidal rice production will provide beneficiaries, project staff and implementation agencies a participatory forum to assess project progress and discuss relevant issues.
The project is implemented under the responsibility of the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MANR). The project is integrated in the Ministry and day-to-day management is the task of the Divisional Agricultural Coordinator (DAC) in the southern part of MID (renamed senior DAC). A small Project Support Team, including technical assistance in irrigation engineering, agronomy and group formation and six counterpart staff, will assist the senior DAC in implementation. A subsidiary loan agreement has been signed between the government, GCU and ActionAid for the implementation of the credit programme. The Appraisal specified only in broad terms the main design features of the M&E system which would be the joint responsibility of DOP of MANR and the Senior DAC. Participatory M&E was strongly emphasized.
Expected effects and assumptions
The principal direct result from the project would be an increase in production of rice by 4 550 tons. This incremental production would increase household food security, income and, in a relatively minor way, reduce imports. About 830 tons of this production would be from a dry season crop (double cropping), thus improving the food supply position during the hungry season. The Economic Rate of Return was estimated at 16% . Project activities would also reduce women labour requirements for rice production. Unquantified benefits would include income generated from horticulture crops and non-farm enterprises, improved health and reduction of malnutrition. The annual consultation mechanisms would help establish participatory approaches and increase understanding of problems faced by women as lowland rice producers.
Project's design implied a number of assumptions including: (i) rice is the major element of food security in the project area; (ii) replacing local varieties by HYVs is an essential requirement for increased rice production; (iii) the main constraint to improvement in rice productivity in the tidal swamps is lack of water control; (iv) full water control is feasible and is essential for using HYVs; (v) the use of labour intensive technology in building water control infrastructure is feasible and will guarantee sustainability; (vi) full farmers' participation in selection implementation and evaluation of projects' activities; (vii) water management within the irrigation schemes is a simple process and smooth operations by farmers groups should be easy and feasible after a short training period, and (viii) cooperation between the project government and non-government institutions is feasible and forthcoming.
An interdisciplinary mission visited the field for a period of three weeks (five weeks for the sociologist) and held discussions with project's staff, implementing agencies and beneficiaries. A Rapid Rural Assessment (RRA) was undertaken in the project area, with beneficiaries participation, to assess project's effects/impact and beneficiaries views as of MTE. The MTE was preceded by a field preparatory phase carried out by an irrigation engineer to assess in detail the technical issues and results of the water control component.
An Economic Recovery Programme has been launched since the mid 1980's to deregulate the economy, eliminate price distortions and achieve external and internal balance. The programme yielded dividends at macro and sectoral level, but the country remains highly dependent on food imports (especially rice) and external assistance. The government is increasingly realizing that the interest of the poor should be safeguarded, and formulated in 1994 a Strategy for Poverty alleviation based on the findings of a National Dialogue on the relevant issues. Uplands crops continue to be more profitable than rice, whose market price is low due to extensive (unregulated) imports of broken rice. Rice growing is still essentially a subsistence crop and is the domain of women. Only small amounts of surplus rice is sold to satisfy immediate cash needs at whatever market price.
Overall objectives. At MTE and just one and half years to loan closing date, all project objectives have been only partially achieved. As of mid 1995, only 300 ha (of which 200 at Dankunku) have been brought under some sort of water control, representing a meager 20% of Appraisal estimates. The number of beneficiaries cultivating plots covered by water control has been estimated at 1 100, i.e., 27% of Appraisal targets. The credit component has just been initiated prior to the MTE and both income generating activities and crop diversification have had limited success. No benefits seem to have been incurred in other areas of MID. Despite such modest achievement of objectives disbursement of IFAD loans amounted to 76% up to the same period.
Scheme selection and implementation delays. The Appraisal Report indicated that scheme development should start in Dankunku although the site does not fully meet the criteria for scheme selection. In addition to delays in starting construction activities severe soil problems (potential acid sulphate, salinity and unsuitability for construction) caused major complications (sinking, shrinkage and fissuring of dykes) requiring repeated project intervention which led to spending a major share of project resources and time in this scheme. Moreover, beneficiaries' participation in Dankunku was not forthcoming partly because they were not consulted at the scheme design stage. Development of other schemes was consequently delayed. At MTE only five engineering schemes had been equipped with water control works. Total area benefiting from some sort of water control was just under 300 ha (of which about 200 at Dankunku). The rate of construction covering approximately 100 ha/year is far less than that stipulated at Appraisal. In four additional sites flood protection is in progress. This brings the total area potentially under "water control" in the current schemes to about 500 ha, i.e., 33% of Appraisal estimates. No activities were undertaken on the Northern Bank of the River.
Water control and scheme size. Repeated subsidence, cracking of the dykes hence flooding at Dankunku prevented water control and was partly responsible for severe crop failure in 93/94. These problems while particularly acute at Dankunku, also exist in other sites. At MTE, in none of the schemes was water control and management effective (in the sense of securing a standing level of 10 cm of water in the field) to allow for the plantation of semi-dwarf HYVs as stipulate at Appraisal. Due to high salinity levels, even with good water control double cropping will never be possible at Dankunku and the potential for yield increase will remain limited. Construction speed and participation of beneficiaries in other schemes were better than in Dankunku. Due to labour shortage only 49% of the developed area could be cropped; such shortage decreases the ability of existing beneficiaries to maintain the schemes. Scheme size proposed at appraisal (100-200 ha) proved too large to manage and the project introduced some corrective measures to adapt scheme size. Lessons drawn from the Dankunku experience have led the project to adopt a two stage approach in construction which seems to respond better to farmers needs but will take a long time for fine-tuning water control and management.
Water management. Water management, which takes place at three levels simultaneously (field, tertiary unit, and scheme level), proved much more complex than was foreseen at Appraisal. The project established a three tier organizational structure. The smallest units are the Water Users Groups (WUGs) which include farmers working adjacent plots in one swamp; followed by Swamp Development Committees (SDCs) at swamp level to oversee water management issues; and Local Management Committees (LMCs) which include representatives of all villages involved in one scheme (which can include several swamps) to resolve cross cutting and policy issues. By MTE, 24 WUGs, 5 SDCs and 3 LMCs were established. None of these groups are yet working properly and both project staff and beneficiaries are unclear about responsibilities and work modalities. The extent of training requirements for water management was not anticipated at Appraisal and the project did not undertake appropriate activities for this purpose. A swamp model has been constructed near the project office, but only 50 women have been trained in the basics of swamp water management and no field follow-up training was undertaken.
Food for work. WFP had foreseen support to swamp development, amounting to 348 400 man-days in 1992-94 and covering 700 ha to be developed. By May 1995, only 60 700 man-days had been utilized, mostly because construction was more machine-intensive than initially estimated (the project having to replace beneficiaries); the resort to hired labour to replace voluntary work and because of the limited area developed. Food aid for compensation of produce lost during construction work amounted to 152.5 tons against 113.4 tons planned. This was due to the project decision to compensate farmers for the loss of the 1993-94 crop in Dankunku.
Support to farming systems. Implementation of the trials and demonstration programme has been delayed by the late development of the schemes. The planned activities outside the schemes were not implemented. Demonstration work on farmer's fields has included the distribution for the 1994/95 season to 629 farmers of 3 101 kg of seed of four improved varieties which had been previously tested and selected by farmers. However, the distribution programme has not been adequately monitored. A small programme of mini-kit demonstrations has been undertaken with 148 farmers on 10.4 ha. Results are not available. Other demonstrations involved improved nursery techniques, line transplanting, fertilizer applications and vegetable growing and were attended by 900 farmers. The project undertook only some demonstrations (no trials) in the use of oxen ploughing in the swamps. No trials of other labour savings equipment for women were undertaken. Controlled trials have been undertaken only in the field of varietal selection, improved crop husbandry and fertilizer effectiveness; trials on improved varieties were successful and some interesting results were observed with respect to yields response to fertilizer and improved cultural practices. Overall however results recorded were unstable and yields reported were inconsistent and unreliable. Shortage of extension staff prevented widespread interaction with farmers.
Credit and women's droup development. The implementing agency for credit, GCU, has been suffering financial and managerial problems for quite some time. It reluctantly initiated a small inputs loan programme in April 1994 and distributed some loans for income-generating activities to women groups. Results were not encouraging with recovery of the inputs loans at 51%. Collaboration between GCU and the NGO, AATG in training of credit groups did not materialize because of differences in approach with the NGO (which does not apply interest on its own credit programme) and of lack of communication, motivation and follow-up. Savings groups were established by the project both in swamp villages and non-swamp villages more successfully. A total of 36 groups were formed with 2 241 members, of whom 2 003 or 89% are female. Savings were intended to serve as down payments for GCU operations; as these were not forthcoming it has been used for lending among group members, but no information on performance of such loans is available. Training by AATG in credit management, literacy, leadership and group formation was inadequate and insufficient. AATG decided unilaterally to withdraw from the project after an internal evaluation in 1995.
Participation. The Appraisal Report left the precise modalities for the organization of beneficiary participation undefined, stating that this would be left to the farmers themselves. Severe implementation delays were encountered in forming beneficiaries groups. Identification of women farmers actually cultivating in the swamps, obtaining land owners agreement on the list of land users, re-allocation of plots due to infrastructure construction, and farmers cultivating several plots spread over the swamp, were all factors that upset the initial attempts to set up WUGs. These groups were only established after scheme construction. During scheme design and construction, no real participatory framework existed except for the LMCs which represent the interests of the land owners. The Annual Consultations provided the only forum for beneficiary participation so far.
Two annual consultations were held. The first, in 1994 was confrontational with Dankunku beneficiaries blaming their 1993/94 crop losses (70% to 90%) on faulty design of the scheme leading to increased salinity in their fields. As a result of the consultation the project commissioned a study on salinity within the scheme. The MTE investigated this matter very closely and concluded that other factors were primarily responsible for crop failure. The return to pre-project output level in 1994/95 season reassured the farmers. The second Consultation in 1995 allowed farmers to visit schemes other than Dankunku and made them aware of their potential benefits. Both meetings served as a useful review forum and an outlet for participatory assessment by project beneficiaries. The implication of these consultations for project design and implementation still needs to be worked out.
Monitoring and evaluation. The project's M&E Unit was established only in 1993 with one staff seconded from DOP of MANR and five enumerators. The qualifications of the M&E officer is not commensurate with the job requirements as broadly defined in project design and usually expected in donor-supported projects. This is partly due to shortage of qualified staff at DOP hence its reluctance to send the few available on secondment. The training provided by DOP and the project to the M&E Officer is insufficient to close the gap and the incentives provided for Unit staff are also insufficient for adequate motivation. The Unit has so far exclusively emphasized the monitoring of physical progress based on data collection and compilation of a large number of quantitative indicators. These have been at times confusing and contradictory and were not always developed in consultation with other project staff. No attempt was made to measure the qualitative aspect of project services nor their impact on beneficiaries. Participatory monitoring of project progress envisaged at appraisal was not undertaken.
The work of the Unit has been useful to management only in cases where the planned values of indicators could be made available to compare with achieved values. Due to the absence of coherent annual work plans for some components, lack of awareness of the importance of M&E and lack of effective cooperation with the M&E Unit, the planned values, in many instance, could not be obtained. The Unit also suffers from inadequate levels of computerization and irregular flow of information on field programme of work and a number of logistic difficulties. Some duplication of work between enumerators of the M&E Unit and enumerators of other components and low level of coordination of field work also exist. This often resulted in contradictory and inconsistent data.
Project management. In the course of implementation a substantial volume of additional staff (38 incremental positions) over the initial 29 foreseen, has been recruited for the Project Support Team. A full scale PCU and a M&E Unit, charged against the IFAD loan, have been set up. This is contrary to the original design feature of integrating project management into the divisional ministerial structure. The senior DAC, assigned the responsibility of day-to-day management, is also responsible for the Ministry's current work programme as well as for activities foreseen under some other donors' supported projects. Therefore, he is only available on a part time basis for the project which has impaired effective management. This was compounded by low level of cooperation, coordination and communication between senior project staff. The project has incurred high levels of operating cost, caused by, among others, excessive vehicle use. Programming and budgeting is not undertaken in a manner which allows financial and physical progress monitoring. Expenditures are authorized on the basis of overall availability of funds in the IFAD loan categories rather than a well defined work programme. The accounting systems has been computerized but the programme used is complicated and does not correspond to the needs of the project.
Supervision reports have been very detailed and adequate analysis was undertaken of many relevant issues. Frequency and regularity of supervision have been according to IFAD/OPS agreement and composition of the missions has been overall well balanced, except perhaps for some lack of emphasis on sociological factors in project implementation. However, execution of recommendations often fell far short of the intended result and the Cooperating Institution and IFAD do not seem to have defined a clear formula for the consequences to the non-adherence to supervision recommendations. During the course of implementation and supervision, four different Project Controllers in IFAD assumed successively responsibility for the project. This may also have contributed to the lack of adequate response from IFAD's side to supervision recommendations and to a number of technical issues raised during implementation.
Effects assessment and sustainability
Results of the Rapid Rural Assessment undertaken by the mission reveal some positive effects of the project on women rice producers in the swamps developed after Dankunku; benefits varied by swamps and villages. These include improved access roads, increased protection from bush pigs, increased rice yields, improved food security and increased unity and participation in the village. Overall, women rice cultivators continue to be the main recipients of project services in the developed schemes, but little has been done to improve their living standards and household food security through labour-saving equipment, income-generating activities or credit. The crucial problem faced by the project is the sustainability of structures, schemes' operations and project benefits.
Household food security has been assumed to increase as a direct function of increasing rice production. A major finding of the MTE's RRA is that for most beneficiaries household food security is not exclusively based on rice nor on other commodities. Household food security is envisaged as an overall management-strategy used to maximize and renew household resources, ascertain self-sufficiency and maintain physical and mental well being for household members. A large number of factors interplay to determine the household behaviour in this respect including the gender and ethnic dimensions, age distribution within the household, characteristics of the cereals in the staple food basket, access to land social services and income generating activities, ... etc. Hence, the narrow focus of the project (rice) has been a limiting factor in effectively reducing food insecurity. Even with respect to rice production, as such, project's effects have been modest. Only two cropping seasons were experienced under the project in Dankunku and one season in the other 3 schemes where construction is almost complete. Because of crop failure in Dankunku in 93/94, the small area cultivated in the other swamps, and the limited crop intensity due to labour shortage, the overall increment in rice production by the time of MTE has been limited. Some improvement can be expected with the development of the post Dankunku schemes with higher potential for better yields and double cropping.
The use of HYVs. The need to replace local varieties by fertilizers responsive HYVs was assumed imperative in increasing rice production. It became therefore the driving force in shaping other design features specifically full water control requirements, water management, and credit for inputs. Mission analysis of project's effects point out that under the soil characteristics of the swamps in MID and keeping the capital intensity of the technology at a reasonably low level, full water control can never be achieved. Therefore semi dwarf HYVs cannot be efficiently used. MTE analysis of trial results indicates that, if improved cultural practices are adopted by farmers, including the use of improved varieties adapted to incomplete water control, paddy yields will respond positively even without fertilizers application. Tests on fertilizers application indicate that their effects are not significant and that improved husbandry practices (plant densities, age of seedlings, row transplanting ... etc) are more determining factors for paddy yields/. While the project has successfully identified five improved varieties of seeds, adoption is so far limited due to poor extension efforts.
Sustainability of structures. The sites chosen to start construction (Dankunku) did not fulfil the technical criteria specified at appraisal with respect to soil characteristics and acidity hence the repeated problems encountered and lower than expected results. Political considerations played an important role in this choice. If the technical considerations were strictly adhered to this site would not have been included among projects schemes. Overall, the technical difficulties for construction under tidal conditions have been underestimated hence the project target of developing 1 500 ha is far too optimistic and cannot be realized. Shrinkage, fissuring and sinking of dykes in the swamps conditions are likely to continue for a long time and unless continuous repair and maintenance is done sustainability of the structures is greatly at risk. Beneficiaries participation is below expectation and even tertiary channels are not systematically dug by farmers let alone their willingness to maintain it. These considerations render sustainability of the structures a doubtful matter. Overall, the technology proposed does not seem justified given the technical and socio-economic conditions prevailing in the lowlands of MID.
Sustainability of scheme operations. Scheme sustainability is severely threatened by the absence of appropriate water management by farmers. The assumption of smooth operations of schemes by farmers proved unrealistic. In effect the project introduces a completely new method of rice growing. It constitutes a change from a very extensive, low-input, individual farming system, to a complex, more intensive higher-input and cooperative system. Water management in this new environment is an intricate operation. It requires coordination and synchronization of actions between scheme users. Such cooperation is a new dimension in farming tradition and need to be gradually acquired. Training for water management has not been adequate nor sufficient. Progress has been hampered by lack of staff trained in water management. By MTE, no operation and maintenance manuals were available, neither for staff nor for the farmers. The Water Control Unit prepared technical specifications for operation and maintenance, but this has not been disseminated to farmers by the Group Development Unit. Hardly any maintenance is performed in the schemes (the only maintenance done was performed by the project). The results are clearly visible and the status of the dykes and canals are quite poor. Some technical factors also complicate water management in the swamps, e.g. the small tidal range and the extended transplanting period from September till December. No training of farmers to shorten this period took place. Lack of clarity as to respective responsibilities of various farmers groups and lack of effective participation by direct water users limited progress in water management. The three tier system established by the project is still ambiguous, ineffective and lack appropriate representation.
Household cash income for beneficiaries in swamps other than Dankunku has increased as a result of the project but no quantitative estimates was possible due to lack of baseline data. In project households rice sales make up 30% of women's cash income as against 16% in non project household where the bulk of cash income comes from groundnuts. MTE findings also indicate that: (i) the amount of income earned from rice cultivation for women is highly dependent on the type of labour system they use i.e. whether they pay for labour in cash or reciprocal labour; (ii) proportion of rice sold immediately after harvest or later in season; and (iii) whether rice is sold to meet an immediate cash shortfall or as a petty trade business.
Extension effects: the assurance in the loan agreement with respect to the pasting of extension workers was not respected. As a result the extension impact of the project has been extremely limited in spite of an obvious potential for improvement in cropping techniques and the existence of demand for advice by project's farmers. The accademic nature of many of the trials undertaken and unreliable data on the results limited the efficiency of whatever extension efforts were made. Following demonstrations (for ?) the use of ox ploughing farmer's expectations have been raised while the socio-economic and organizational feasibility of the use of oxen has not been confirmed. Nor was credit forthcoming to allow for financing this activity. Women expected therefore that ox ploughing would be done for them by the project. According to recipients of improved seeds the germination quality was not satisfactory. Due to the lack of an extension follow-up and advice, many women mixed the seeds with those of their own traditional varieties and planted the crop all over their plots in an effort to minimize risks. Improved seeds were therefore used outside the project schemes as well as for consumption.
Beneficiaries participation. The sequence of recruiting technical experts (first the engineers followed with delays, by the sociologists) meant that engineering work preceded group mobilization hence precluding from the start participation in design. Even when farmers participated in initial discussions of design features, most often engineers based their design on technical criteria. The situation in schemes developed after Dankunku is somewhat better as some attempt is made for group mobilization prior to construction. During implementation it appeared that beneficiaries motivation is less than anticipated due to several reasons: project improvements involve only some of the rice plots actually cultivated by women; benefits of the projects are not fully understood by the beneficiaries; beneficiaries investment (labour) benefit more the land owner who may decide any time to re-allocate the plot to another farmer, and in the first schemes the aid-dependency syndrome has negatively effected beneficiaries willingness to contribute labour. Uncertainty about project's effects created apprehension by the land owners and community leaders; influencing beneficiaries attitude. This required the intervention of the Minister of agriculture to reassure land owners that their rights will be preserved. LMCs remain dominated by village traditional leaders and influential men, and tend to reflect the interests of land owners rather than users. Homogeneity of ethnic background has not been always observed in group formation. Nevertheless, in some of the most recently developed schemes when benefits became more apparent after the first season, incentives to participate have been higher than earlier schemes.
General impact on women. As meant at design, women represent the bulk of project beneficiaries. The division of labour between men and women does not seem to have been affected by the project, as men's upland crops remain more remunerative than swamp rice in the wet season. Dry season double cropping of rice is more attractive to men than women, the latter being occupied in more rewarding income-generating activities in the uplands. Project development did not seem to have had any effect on mitigating the existing power structure but, so far, no land tenure issues arose and women do not perceive this as a problem. However, most schemes are still in a development stage with fine-tuning of the tertiary infrastructure requiring more time. The risk therefore remains, that after completing of all development work, if rice cultivation becomes more profitable, men could take over swamp land from current women cultivators. This aspect should be monitored closely.
Impact on women's non-farm income and labour time. Overall, the impact of the project in this area has been modest. While women are the focus for credit and income-generating activities, the programme has been limited in coverage and in the identification of potential product market. Knowledge of credit management remains very weak among beneficiaries and most women do not have exposure to borrowing and repaying with market interest rates. The credit initiated recently by GCU was not preceded nor associated with careful and well designed training and monitoring to ensure economic viability and social feasibility. Women did not benefit from labour savings farm equipments most of which is still owned by men. The only project intervention which had significant positive effects on women labour time is the construction and upgrading of access roads, which reduced substantially the required travel time to reach the swamps avoiding difficult spots where women had to walk through often waist-high water. The easier access to the swamps has modified the need for organized day care centres as women can leave their children in the villages for a shorter time with household elders.
While female membership overall in LMCs amounts to 60% (still less than the percentage of women in beneficiaries), the crucial advisors to these committees are the influential, religious and traditional male leaders. SDCs and WUGs with presumably more operational duties have a higher female membership but remain largely ineffective. Women training on group formation, leadership and literacy, was too short, misfocussed and irregular to be effective. Language and ethnic characteristics of communities are not fully considered in assigning trainers. The training of the latter was equally ineffective.
Economic rate of return. At Appraisal, using optimistic assumptions about yields, use of oxen traction by beneficiaries and labour savings equipment the ERR has been estimated at 16%, base case. No update of the ERR could be made due to the lack of reliable yield estimates. However, by the end of the project, about 500 ha are likely to be developed against a project assumption of 1 500 ha. Assuming all other parameters unchanged, which in reality will not be the case, the ERR will already be reduced to about one-third of the initial estimate.
Finally, the mission's assessment reveals that a number of assumptions made at Appraisal were unrealistic. These refer in particular to: (i) the capacity of MANR at divisional level to undertake the day-to-day administration and supervision of project activities; (ii) the technical feasibility of introducing full water control in tidal swamps with the proposed technology, and hence of the feasibility of promoting the use of the semi-dwarf high yielding rice varieties; (iii) the necessity of using fertilizers to increase paddy yields; (iv) effective inter-institutional cooperation; (v) capacity and financial viability of the designated credit institution (vi) labour availability to cultivate all plots brought under water control; (vii) suitability of machinery inherited from JPSP to undertake construction work in tidal swamp conditions; (viii) the sustainability of major labour intensive water control infrastructure in swamps conditions; and (ix) simplicity and cultural acceptability of water management practices and the ease of dissemination of these practices through various farmers' groups.
Main issues and recommendations
Modifying implementation strategy to maximize impact. Because of the modest achievements of the Project so far, the non-realism of a number of design features and the limited time and resources remaining, the mission recommended modifying the implementation strategy of the Project to consolidate project activities and sharpen its focus on achieving its central objective i.e., increasing rice, production and income of women producers, and enhancing scheme sustainability. A three pronged strategy is proposed: (i) consolidation of water control work and stressing completion of ongoing construction work; (ii) implementation of an intensive extension programme targeting improved agronomic practices and adoption by women farmers of identified technical packages; and (iii) implementation of a focused and relevant training programme directed at farmers and their groups in existing schemes to improve their ability in water management and in operations and maintenance of structures.
To operationalize the above mentioned strategy, an Immediate Action Plan (IAP) has been proposed by the mission consisting of the following main elements (for details see chapter VII Reccommendations):
(i) activities in water control and management should be consolidated and should focus exclusively on the completion of work in the swamps currently protected against floods, and those where work has already started (a total of nine swamps). No expansion beyond these nine swamps should be undertaken. No work in the North Bank of the River Gambia should be initiated. All in all a total of 500 ha would be brought under water control up to the end of 1996 (33% of appraisal estimates);
(ii) no further investments should be made in civil works in the Dankunku swamps using IFAD funds beyond what is included in the consolidation plan and the recent agreement reached between the project and the beneficiaries;
(iii) consolidate and streamline the existing Farming System and Group Development Units into one single organizational structure under the name of Scheme Support Services (SSS). The SSS will exclusively emphasize activities that have the largest and most direct impact on increasing rice yields, production and scheme sustainability. These consist of intensive extension efforts to disseminate relevant technical packages to specific swamp conditions and focused relevant training in group formation and water management covering both beneficiaries as well as Project staff;
(iv) given MTE mission's assessment of GCU capabilities and its financial viability and taking into account remaining implementation time, the mission recommends to immediately halt all further funding of GCU activities from IFAD resources and to reorient Project-supported savings groups towards existing savings and loan schemes in the Project area such as VISACA;
(v) the Project's M&E unit should consolidate and improve the existing system. This would require reducing and streamlining the monitoring indicators with some emphasis on qualitative performance; allowing for local training of the M&E officer; supporting the unit with a larger computer capacity and reducing its field staff; and
(vi) to strengthen the weak project management and implement the Immediate Action Plan in an efficient manner, external managerial support is needed. The task of this support will include the rationalization of project staffing, the restructuring of project organization and overseeing the implementation of the action plan.
8. Follow up on the MTE recommendations
The Immediate Action Plan proposed by the MTE mission was approved by the Government, IFAD and the Cooperating Institution for immediate implementation. In September 1995, a UNOPS/IFAD follow-up mission was fielded to ensure that the IAP is being adequately implemented and that the project is concentrating on the identified priorities. The mission suggested and GOTG agreed to set up a Project Management Working Group (PMWG) to oversee the implementation of the IAP and to ensure the integration of the project activities and services into the national structure upon completation of the project. The PMWG is chaired by the Director of DAS with senior representatives from DOP, SWMU, NARI and VISACAs, and would meet on a quarterly basis at project headquarter. As of July 1996 the PMWG had met three times. In support for project management capacity to implement the IAP the UNOPS/IFAD mission mentioned above recommended two short-term consultancies to be carried out during 1996: (i) to support improved agronomic practice for rice cultivation (undertaken in early 1996) and (ii) to support the M&E unit in the preparation of final impact surveys (to be mounted in the third quarter of 1996).
Household food security: Beneficiaries perception of household food security is much more complex than what is usually perceived by project designers and is not exclusively based on commodities. It is a multidimensional resource-management strategy applied to optimize the use of households resources and generate sufficient food and income to satisfy the diversified needs of all members of the household. Such strategy varies by gender, ethnic background, age groups and access to assets, services and income generating activities. Standardized yardsticks for food security, often based on a single food crop, used to assess it or design interventions to achieve it are therefore inadequate.
Characteristics of the swamps soil and the need for location specific technology. The characteristics of swamp soils in the Gambia, and perhaps elsewhere, are location specific and vary greatly with the pattern of tidal flows, underground water movement and chemical content. New technologies should not therefore be applied uniformly to all swamp areas; they should be preceeded by location specific investigations to determine the relevant technical parameters and the most suitable technological interventions.
The impact of technology and the need for a pilot phase. When investment projects introduce technologies which require a significant change in communities way of life and cultivation practices, the uncertainties hence risks of failure are high enough to justify the emphasis on simpler technologies involving the improvement of existing practices without large variations in farming and community traditions. Meanwhile a limited "pilot phase" intervention could be undertaken to fully test the implication of the new technology and its sustainability, prior to wider replication.
Effective participation and the sequence of intervention. When the construction of irrigation structures involves temporary production loss, and water management requires new forms of social organization, mobilization of beneficiaries is a crucial element in implementation. However, the sequence of intervention will be the determinant factor for effective participation hence probabilities of success; group mobilization should start first followed by engineering work, and not the reverse. Such sequence would ensure full appreciation of project's benefits by group members; participation of beneficiaries in the design of the schemes and assuring traditional leaders that their rights will not be threatened by the project. Without the latter assurance, beneficiaries attitude can be easily influenced against the project.
Labour intensity of technology and scheme sustainability. The choice of labour intensive technology for water control infrastructure is not a complete guarantee for sustainability. For these two factors to coincide the following conditions should materialize: (a) the benefits of these infrastructure should be fully demonstrated to the beneficiaries; (b) the opportunity cost of labour should be lower than the expected benefits (including food for work when necessary); (c) maintenance of structures, scheme operations and water management should not be intensive or complex, but relatively simple and for which the beneficiaries have received adequate training; and (d) beneficiaries ownership of the schemes should be ensured through appropriate and timely processes of participation.
Modalities of participation At face value it might seem correct to leave it to beneficiaries to decide on the modalities of their organization for operation and maintenance of irrigation schemes, as this reflects a true participatory approach. In reality project staff will need to provide a basic outline for such organizations, ready to be modified according to beneficiary needs. In SSWCP, much time and effort have been spent on this issue and external political intervention was required to resolve it. The large representation of land owners in the crucial committees, hence their influence, could have been mitigated by more farmer presence from the start, guided by the project. If the project had prepared such guidelines this would have facilitated the structuring of committees accordingly.
Management modalities While integrating project management in existing ministerial structures assures uniformity in implementation modalities, it tends to encourage, under retrenchment programmes, direct hiring by the project of additional personnel. This may lead to the creation of a full Project Management Unit (PMU) when: a) appraisal of the effective implementation capacity of the Ministry is not undertaken properly and the ministry's capacity is overestimated; b) additional staff, over and above Appraisal estimates, are assigned to the project, constituting a separate support unit for the project manager; and c) ministry staff working for the project request and receive specific project allowances, distinguishing them from other Ministry staff and creating an unforeseen burden on the project budget. The argument for integration: assuring sustainability after the project, does not therefore hold. An autonomous PMU well defined from the start might have operated more effectively and efficiently.
Technical versus political considerations. Implementation of the project from the beginning has been subject to political considerations. This started with Identification and Appraisal decisions to include Dankunku in the project although it did not meet the criteria set by the Appraisal. Possibly, the insistence on GCU involvement in the project is the result of similar political considerations. Prevalence of political over technical considerations results in delays in implementation and misallocation of project resources away from intended beneficiaries. In such situations IFAD and CI should provide sufficient countervailing power to protect the interests of the genuine target group.
Implementation of supervision recommendations. Regular supervision of the project resulted in frequent recommendations for improved implementation; they were accepted by government during wrap-up meetings at the end of each supervision mission. Many of such recommendations were not implemented or were only partially followed up. Lack of implementation or late implementation of recommendations had no consequences for project management nor for the Borrower, thereby nurturing further the laxed attitude of project management. Effective application of sanctions after repeated non-compliance might have avoided some of the problems encountered during implementation.
Projet de Développement Agroforestier de Diourbel (1995)
Programa de Crédito y Apoyo Técnico para Pequeños Productores Agropecuarios del Noroeste Argentino
En virtud del interés evidenciado por el Gobierno de la República Argentina y por la División de América Latina y el Caribe del FIDA en una segunda fase del mismo, se acordó (siguiendo las prácticas del FIDA en situaciones como ésta) realizar una evaluación intermedia del programa. El trabajo se llevó a cabo en Argentina durante los meses de junio y julio de 1995, realizando entrevistas a personas e instituciones vinculadas a la ejecución del programa en las provincias de Corrientes, Formosa y Misiones, así como en la Capital Federal. Al finalizar las visitas se realizó un taller de evaluación con el fin de generar, validar y diseminar conocimientos sobre el programa, contando con la asistencia de técnicos y funcionarios involucrados en la ejecución del programa en las tres provincias, así como de los integrantes de la misión de diseño de un nuevo programa para la región y de la institución cofinanciadora. En los siguientes párrafos se sintetizan las principales observaciones de la misión, lecciones extraídas de la experiencia y recomendaciones para mejorar la eficacia y eficiencia de las actividades encaminadas a combatir la pobreza rural en el noreste de Argentina.
Contexto del programa
Al analizar y sintetizar el programa es importante tomar en cuenta elementos claves del contexto en el cual se lo diseñó y ejecutó: primero, se trata de una región y un país con escasa experiencia en desarrollo focalizado en pequeños productores de una zona como el Noreste.
Por lo tanto, éste ha sido un programa pionero en la región. Segundo, en esta área hay una fuerte tradición de no repago de los préstamos otorgados por los bancos provinciales. Tercero, durante los años de ejecución del programa en los mercados financieros se han estado otorgando préstamos a tasas reales de interés sumamente elevadas, lo cual es en parte consecuencia del período de hiperinflación que precedió la ejecución del programa. Cuarto, se está llevando a cabo una regularización impositiva y previsional que a corto plazo incrementa fuertemente los costos de transacciones de los beneficiarios del programa. Quinto, las instituciones involucradas en la ejecución del programa tenían una experiencia muy limitada en participación campesina.
Descprición del programa
El Programa de Crédito y Apoyo Técnico para Pequeños Productores Agropecuarios del Noreste Argentino fue estructurado en tres partes: crédito (de inversión y capital de trabajo para organizaciones y grupos de productores o explotaciones individuales), actividades de apoyo al pequeño productor y a las comunidades aborígenes (promoción, organización y capacitación; validación y transferencia de tecnologías; fortalecimiento de los institutos de tierras para la titulación de las explotaciones) y apoyo institucional (implantación de un sistema contable-financiero; seguimiento y evaluación; fortalecimiento de los Bancos Provinciales).
El grupo objetivo del Programa está constituído por una población de alrededor de 15 200 pequeños productores de las provincias de Corrientes, Misiones, Formosa y Chaco, de los cuales se estimaba llegar con diferentes acciones a 4 800 beneficiarios directos; posteriormente la provincia del Chaco no participó del Programa pero no fue modificada la meta en términos de beneficiarios directos.
El Programa es el primero de este tipo en la República Argentina, iniciado y cofinanciado mayoritariamente por FIDA, que del presupuesto total de USD 21 800 000 ha comprometido una participación de USD 11 500 000, correspondiendo al BID USD 5 000 000 y a la contraparte local USD 5 300 000.
Sus objetivos son los siguientes: (a) poner a disposición de un determinado número de pequeños productores agropecuarios, hombres y mujeres, del sector privado de las provincias de Chaco, Formosa, Corrientes y Misiones, los recursos financieros necesarios para el desarrollo de sus explotaciones agropecuarias; (b) incorporar a los pequeños productores, beneficiarios del Programa, a los sistemas institucionalizados de crédito, mediante la provisión de servicios de apoyo; (c) promover y reforzar las organizaciones de campesinos y las comunidades aborígenes; y (d) sentar las bases para la ejecución de programas similares en otras regiones del país.
Limitaciones del diseño
La concepción del programa corresponde a una visión que si bien era innovativa en la época en que se lo formuló (mediados de los años 80), hoy en día, a la luz tanto de la experiencia en Argentina como en otros países latinoamericanos (y de otras regiones), no es adecuada: un sistema de financiamiento rural en el cual los intermediarios financieros tienen un papel marginal, donde no se crean mecanismos para el ahorro de las áreas rurales, se carece de una operatoria clara en materia de recuperaciones, no hay incentivos apropiados para el repago oportuno de las deudas, no se establecen provisiones para cubrir deudas incobrables, etc. Por otra parte, los objetivos del programa no están claramente establecidos y no había un tratamiento adecuado de los aspectos relacionados con la comercialización, crédito y género, lo cual complicó la puesta en marcha efectiva del programa. Tampoco se identificaron indicadores claves para seguimiento y evaluación ni instituciones que participarían en el trabajo de evaluación.
Resultados positivos del programa
No obstante las limitaciones señaladas en el párrafo precedente, y las dificultades impuestas por el contexto, se alcanzaron algunos resultados positivos que cabe destacar. De hecho, el programa, con las adaptaciones introducidas durante la marcha del mismo, posibilitó la realización de una vasta gama de actividades, más allá de las originalmente concebidas. Esta flexibilidad ex-post, estimulada acertadamente por la supervisión del programa, ha sido una de las características positivas de la ejecución.
Así, cabe mencionar la contribución al proceso de diversificación agrícola y no agrícola de los pequeños productores de bajos ingresos, el desarrollo organizativo (incluyendo la creación de asociaciones), los encadenamientos hacia adelante y hacia atrás con actividades no agropecuarias (carpintería rural conectada con la apicultura, miniequipos industriales, procesamiento de producción hortícola), el establecimiento de vínculos de los productores pobres con mercados de insumos y productos y el desarrollo de capacidades locales, tanto de productores como de técnicos.
Las dificultades encontradas para iniciar de modo efectivo el programa, en parte debidas al carácter multiprovincial del programa y al proceso hiperinflacionario, generaron un fuerteretraso en los desembolsos de los fondos para préstamos. Cabe destacar que si el programa hubiera comenzado sin retrasos muy probablemente los desembolsos se hubieran realizado sin rezagos (tomando en cuenta las experiencias de otros programas cofinanciados por el BID y FIDA en esa misma época en Paraguay, en un contexto incluso menos crítico, y financiadas por el FIDA en Bolivia durante la hiperinflación), pero hubiera sido altamente probable que la hiperinflación erosionara el valor real de los préstamos y de las recuperaciones. En ese sentido, el atraso en el inicio de las operaciones resultó una especie de "bendición disfrazada". Por otro lado, también llevó a una presión por desembolsar los fondos correspondientes al componente crédito, parcialmente financiado por el BID, lo cual especialmente dada la modalidad operativa del programa, significó sacrificar otras actividades de los técnicos multi-funcionales. En este marco, la presión por desembolsar fue "sembrando" el problema de la mora, sobre todo dadas las condiciones mencionadas en los párrafos precedentes.
El actual sistema de crédito impulsado por el programa esinsostenible. Aún cuando la tasa de interés real es positiva en varios puntos, los ingresos generados por intereses no cubren los costos de los préstamos (aún sin considerar las provisiones por incobrables que no se están realizando). Los bancos provinciales actúan como ventanillas (tal cual estaba planteado en el diseño del programa), sin asumir riesgos ni costos, y sin desarrollar capacidades para el manejo de este tipo de programas por parte los intermediarios financieros.
La informatización de las operaciones crediticias ha sido una de las innovaciones introducidas por el programa. Los resultados son variables: en Corrientes, el Banco Provincial ha conseguido desarrollar un sistema que funciona adecuadamente. En cambio,
en Formosa, el sistema informatizado resultan tan poco confiable que se las cuentas se llevan manualmente en paralelo. Un factor clave para dar cuenta de las diferencias observadas radica en la existencia de capacidad local para apoyar el mantenimiento y desarrollo del soft, capacidad a cuyo desarrollo contribuyó el Programa.
Otra innovación del Programa ha sido el mecanismo de garantía solidaria, con la finalidad de permitir el acceso al crédito a aquellos pequeños productores sin garantías individuales suficientes. En la práctica se realizaron adaptaciones al esquema original, y en aquellos grupos donde algunos prestatarios no pagaban sus deudas, finalmente se le otorgaban préstamos nuevos a los demás integrantes del grupo. De esta forma, en realidad lo que ha estado operando es una especie de grupos cuasi-solidarios, ejerciendo cierta presión grupal pero el no repago por parte de al menos uno de los miembros de los grupos no impidió que los demás recibieran préstamos (como corresponde en el caso de la garantía solidaria en sentido estricto).
En general el Programa careció de un enfoque unificado para la extensión. Se fueron desarrollando iniciativas ad-hoc pero sin un marco ordenador. En algunos casos los Fondos Rotatorios para Actividades Innovativas permitieron generar y difundir innovaciones. Determinadas contrataciones de especialistas dieron buenos resultados. Pero en todos estos casos las iniciativas partieron de los técnicos.
Los técnicos del programa tienen funciones múltiples (tanto en lo específicamente técnico, como en la organización como en crédito). Esta multifuncionalidad de los técnicos tiene la ventaja de evitar el problema de la falta de coordinación entre quienes desempeñan diversas funciones. Pero la falta de especialización no ha permitido realizar todas las actividades básicas con la intensidad necesaria. En particular, al tener que dedicar una considerable proporción de su tiempo primero a colocar préstamos y después a recuperarlos, frecuentemente han carecido del tiempo necesario para brindar asistencia técnica propiamente dicha.
La capacitación de los técnicos ha sido valiosa, tanto en la concientización sobre la temática "género" como en aspectos estrictamente técnicos. Las pasantías han sido fructíferas y en general se han aprovechado solo de modo limitado las posibilidades brindadas por las universidades locales y regionales (el aprovechamiento ha sido sobre todo en aspectos tecnológicos, mucho menos en las áreas sociales).
Si bien en algunas provincias han operado Comités que permitieron cierta participación campesina, el Programa no generó oportunidades significativas para la participación de los eventuales beneficiarios. Más bien, en algunos casos los técnicos han prácticamente tomado a su cargo la organización y hasta la realización de tareas que deberían estar a cargo de los productores (por ejemplo, en el área de comercialización).
Organización y supervision del programa
El Programa ha operado como si fuera un conjunto de tres proyectos (uno por provincia) con una coordinación a nivel provincial y otra a nivel nacional. Esta última ha desarrollado una estructura permanente de apoyo en las áreas género, capacitación y seguimiento y evaluación. En cambio, no ha habido un apoyo sistemático en crédito y asistencia técnica (dos áreas estratégicas del programa). En cuanto a la supervisión por parte de los organismos internacionales financiadores, la misma contribuyó a flexibilizar el Programa. Pero cabe destacar que la frecuencia de misiones de supervisión por parte de la institución cooperante del FIDA (el BID) a las tres provincias fue baja y dichas misiones estuvieron en la mayor parte de los casos dedicadas a problemas específicos relacionados con los bajos niveles de desembolso de los fondos correspondientes al componente crédito y con los altos niveles de mora. Por otra parte, cabe destacar que mediante la intervención del FIDA se hizo posible realizar acciones de capacitación a través del Subprograma Regional (Pentanacional) de Capacitación (con sede en Tucumán, TAG-155), además de pasantías en otros proyectos de la región, asistencia a seminarios y talleres, y apoyo de consultores.
Seguimiento y evaluación
El sistema de seguimiento y evaluación no fue adecuadamente presentado en el contrato de préstamo, cuyo artículo VI, en el cual se trataba este tema, era demasiado general. Esto ha dificultado la supervisión de S&E. En el área de seguimiento se ha ido realizando un trabajo importante en la recopilación de datos, así como en la capacitación de los técnicos que trabajan en las provincias en S&E. Más limitado ha sido el trabajo de análisis y síntesis, en tanto que en el área de evaluación solamente se avanzó en el estudio de base.
Recomendaciones y lecciones de la experiencia
Durante los años de ejecución del Programa se han puesto en marcha un conjunto de procesos que todavía no han fructificado plenamente. La experiencia ha sido valiosa y es oportuno capitalizarla en el marco de un Programa nuevo que sea más eficaz y eficiente, consolidando los logros del actual y que avance en nuevas direcciones, en armonía con las lecciones de la experiencia y tomando en cuenta la existencia de un contexto diferente, en el cual se trata de conciliar competitividad con desarrollo social. Consiguientemente, se propone que en un nuevo Programa se tomen en cuenta las siguientes orientaciones(algunas de las cuales (indicadas con asterisco *) podrán también aplicarse en lo que resta de la ejecución del actual Programa:
a) debe prepararse el marco lógico del programa o proyecto, planteando con claridad un conjunto limitado de objetivos y los medios que se incluyen para alcanzarlos, así como los indicadores correspondientes.
b) realizar un análisis de la capacidad institucional, complementando el marco lógico, lo cual permitirá tener bases más sólidas para la formulación del programa y la
identificación de las áreas en las cuales serán necesarias acciones de fortalecimiento. Además,
c) los intermediarios financieros deben ser responsables por la colocación y recuperación de los préstamos, especificándose claramente la operatoria a seguir en materia de recuperaciones y estableciendo un conjunto de incentivos apropiados para el repago
oportuno de las deudas. Además, un nuevo proyecto debe incluir mecanismos que permitan canalizar el ahorro de los beneficiarios potenciales. Deben explorarse mecanismos
alternativos a la garantía solidaria (como, por ejemplo, fondos de garantía) para aquellos casos, como en Formosa, donde no ha funcionado adecuadamente.
d) dimensionar adecuadamente el componente de crédito, lo cual requiere por una parte el análisis de la capacidad institucional planteado en b). Si no hay condiciones apropiadas para implementar un componente de crédito, entonces es conveniente o no incluirlo o que el mismo represente una proporción pequeña de los fondos aportados por el Programa. El dimensionamiento del crédito por provincia tiene que tomar en cuenta los montos disponibles y esperados de las recuperaciones del programa en ejecución (NEA I) en las provincias correspondientes. Además, es importante no suponer, como frecuentemente se hace, que el autofinanciamiento será nulo.
e) desarrollar un mecanismo ágil para la contratación de asistencia técnica que responda a las necesidades de los pequeños productores, incluyendo la posibilidad de contratación directa por parte de los beneficiarios potenciales. El programa podría contribuir aportando información sobre oferentes de asistencia técnica y coordinando actividades en distintas zonas, fomentando trabajos grupales que puedan bajar los costos de la asistencia técnica y hacerla accesible a los productores pobres.
f) * generar instancias para la participación activa de los beneficiarios potenciales, tanto en la programación como en la implementación, seguimiento y evaluación de las actividades financiadas con fondos del programa. Las modalidades específicas variarán de zona a zona.
g) * establecer vinculaciones con las universidades y centros de investigación de las provincias, no solamente para problemas tecnológicos específicos sino también para cuestiones relacionadas con aspectos sociales y económicos. Por ejemplo, en Misiones, la Universidad tiene especialistas reconocidos internacionalmente en el área de proyectos para pequeños productores. Pueden realizarse contratos para trabajos específicos así como facilitar en el marco del Programa la preparación de tesis, tesinas o trabajos de campo que puedan aportar al mismo. Su contribución puede ser fundamental en el área de evaluación.
h) desarrollar una estructura organizativa ágil y capaz de apoyar el trabajo en varios campos, por ejemplo, dotando a una Unidad de Coordinación a nivel nacional de un fondo de asistencia técnica que le permita contratar apoyos específicos para los diferentes componentes del programa (aproximadamente 20 meses consultor/a por año).
i) * apoyar la supervisión de la Institución Cooperante del FIDA con Asistentes Locales (ASes), lo cual permitiría aumentar la frecuencia de las misiones, bajar los costos y desarrollar capacidad local. Este tipo de modalidad sería en principio aceptable para el BID, cuyo nuevo énfasis en el combate a la pobreza lo posiciona mejor que en el pasado para desempeñarse como institución cooperante de un futuro proyecto FIDA para el NEA.
El Programa de Crédito y Apoyo Técnico para Pequeños Productores Agropecuarios del Noreste Argentino ha sido un programa pionero. Un nuevo programa en la región permitiría consolidar los resultados que comienzan a madurar y, además, a través de cambios en las modalidades operativas (tomando en cuenta las orientaciones precedentes), permitiría sentar las bases para un desarrollo rural sostenible en la región.