West Noubaria Rural Development Project
Project Performance Evaluation
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) undertook a project performance evaluation of the West Noubaria Rural Development Project in the Arab Republic of Egypt. The project's goal was to enhance the livelihoods of the target population through increased sustainable economic activity and greater social self-reliance. It covered 78 villages in the Noubaria land reclamation zones located on either side of the Cairo-Alexandria desert road. The total targeted population was 36,180 households or 228,000 individuals.
The evaluation found that the project addressed the most urgent needs of the newly settled smallholders and made an effective contribution to their overall wellbeing. The newly created community organizations are providing a range of basic services, including education, health, and credit. But, the evaluation also highlights the need for increased attention to sustainability issues, also in similar projects from the outset. The newly-created community organizations must have a legal status to be able to provide effective services on a sustainable basis. Community-managed credit funds are effective and easy to access, but they do not address the longer-term need for financial services. Attention must also be paid to ensuring sustainable access to, and use of, limited water resources through appropriate technology and an adequate institutional framework.
Rural Livelihoods Support Programme (2017)
Project Performance Evaluation
The objective of the Rural Livelihoods Support Programme in the Republic of Malawi was to sustainably reduce poverty through the promotion of on- and off-farm and wage-based incomes. The programme was implemented between 2004 and 2014. It operated in an environment of evolving decentralization and worked through local government bodies, especially village-level bodies, for example, in 245 villages, spanning 36 Village Development Committees.
One of the main achievements of the programme is the goat pass-on system, which has increased the resilience of the target groups and provided them with alternative sources of income. The programme sought to increase the productivity of maize through the provision of extension services. However, by focusing on maize in a mono-cropping system, it did not take into account other options for enhancing adaptation to climate change and improve nutrition security among the target groups.
Agricultural Rehabilitation Programme in Orientale Province
The Agricultural Rehabilitation Programme in Orientale Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was implemented in a context of serious hardship. It took strategic measures that had rapid impact on agricultural production and food security, and human and social capital. Actions included improving road access, creating grass-roots organizations, distributing agricultural and fisheries tools and inputs, and rehabilitating social infrastructure. The programme contributed to reviving the agricultural economy and instilling a participatory local development dynamic in the programme area.
However, the highly challenging implementation context was not sufficiently taken into account in the overly ambitious and complex programme design, and the programme team’s planning and management capacity was not commensurate to the challenges. Consequently, programme efficiency was low with important implementation delays and very high operating costs, which only improved towards the end. In addition, sustainability of impact is at risk because of the weak maturity of producers' organizations and limited capacity of public and private service providers.
Programme performance and impact could have been much higher, had the programme had more realistic objectives and geographical coverage, and more appropriate duration and phasing; had it given more attention to capacity building among community-based organizations and deconcentrated government services; and had it better integrated marketing and environmental aspects to reduce risks related to overproduction, environmental degradation and climate change.
Rural Microenterprise Promotion Programme
The Rural Microenterprise Promotion Programme (RuMEPP) in the Republic of the Philippine implemented between 2006 and 2013, sought to address two main areas of impediments to microenterprise development – finance; and knowledge and skills.
One of the programme's notable achievements is its contribution to enhancing the Government’s support, in particular that of the Department of Trade and Industry, to microenterprise development in terms of approach and scale, while also linking up with other opportunities and fostering partnerships with other actors. The programme was effective in mobilizing and organizing business development services, which provided critical support to start-up microenterprises and to upgrading existing microenterprises. A major advancement was made in terms of the systematic integration of marketing-related issues to organized trainings (e.g. packaging and labelling, product design and development), as well as other types of support (e.g. facilitating linkages with market outlets).
A large proportion of the programme funds was allocated for credit lines and was all disbursed through microfinance institutions, reaching numerous microenterprise borrowers. However, there was insufficient attention to how microfinance institutions' services could be strengthened to better cater for different types of clients in addition to or rather than simply injecting liquidity into the financial sector.
Finance for Enterprise Development and Employment Creation Project
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with a population density of 1,174 inhabitants per sq.km in 2011. Depending on the source, rural poverty stood between 43 and 53 per cent at the time of project design (2006). The agriculture sector (including crop, livestock and fisheries) makes up about 18 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and is the main source of employment, absorbing 47.5 per cent of the workforce. The majority of farmers (53 per cent) are landless. While agriculture is the backbone of the rural economy in Bangladesh, it does not provide year-round income earning options. There are many microenterprises in rural and peri-urban areas in both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors which, if developed, could have a large potential to employ the rural poor. A key constraint to the growth of these microenterprises is access to finance and value chains.
The Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) has undertaken a project performance assessment (PPA) of the Finance for Enterprise Development and Employment Creation (FEDEC) in Bangladesh to: (i) provide an independent assessment of the overall results of the project; and (ii) generate findings and recommendations for the design and implementation of ongoing and future operations in the country.
Project design and implementation. The project was approved in September 2007. The IFAD loan effectiveness date was 8 January 2008, and the actual loan closing date was 30 September 2014, being a six-year implementation period. The PPA mission to Bangladesh took place in November 2014. The project goal was to stimulate pro-poor growth to increase employment opportunities and reduce poverty. The project objective was to expand existing microenterprises and establish new ones. To achieve the objective, the project design envisaged three key components: (i) microfinance services, (ii) value chain development (VCD); and (iii) project coordination and management.
The project was implemented by Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) as the lead agency through partner organizations. PKSF is the government apex funding agency for non-governmental organizations, and held overall responsibility for project implementation under the conditions and terms of the Subsidiary Loan and Grant Agreement. PKSF worked with 159 partner organizations regarding microenterprise lending and with more than 44 partner organizations relating to VCD activities. These partner organizations (which also operate as microfinance institutions –MFIs - but are not limited to that function) have significant experience in providing microfinance while many have become familiar with microenterprise financing through earlier projects which did not have a focus on value chain access. Since retail financing to microenterprises was the main activity of the project, these partner organizations were actually the drivers of the whole project.
The total project cost at design was US$57.8 million, with the expectation of being proportionately shared by IFAD (61 per cent), Government/PKSF (38 per cent), and beneficiaries and partner organizations (1.3 per cent). At closure, the total actual project cost was US$314.74 million, financed by the IFAD loan to the amount of US$35.67 million (11.3 per cent), the PKSF contribution to the amount of US$57.06 million (18.1 per cent), and partner organizations and beneficiaries to the amount of US$222.01 million (70.6 per cent). The contribution of participant partner organizations to the microenterprise loan funds, although present from the beginning, increased dramatically towards the project end to enhance their equity participation in microenterprise lending.
The FEDEC approach was geared towards increasing the income of the rural poor by creating improved access to finance for the microenterprises. Development of a range of value chains was also an integral part of the project design and was envisaged to foster the economic growth of not only the microenterprises but also the backward and forward market actors thereby creating further employment for rural poor people in Bangladesh. The key assumption of the project was to reach the poor directly through the growth of microenterprises accessing microfinance, and indirectly through job creation. During implementation, a much higher number of microenterprises than initially targeted responded positively and met the eligibility criteria for receiving loans laid out by the implementing agency and, consequently, the partner organizations and the project tapped into this opportunity. However, the major risk identified was whether these microenterprises being financed were actually creating more employment and income for the rural poor.
The project financed four major categories of enterprises namely: trade and service, agriculture, and manufacturing and processing. The share of trade in total loan outstanding was the highest (48 per cent), followed by agriculture (25 per cent), services (15 per cent) and basic manufacturing and processing (12 per cent). Use of loans in trade was dominated by small retail businesses, while in agriculture the dominant sub-sector was livestock. Service sector loans were dominated by house construction and small-scale motorized passenger vehicles, while mini-garment production dominated the basic manufacturing and processing category. The project completed a revised number of 44 value chain sub-projects against an initial set target of 60. An analysis of the value chain sub- projects reveals that an overwhelming majority of them (91 per cent) are in agriculture including crops (flowers, vegetables, rice, bananas), fisheries/crab/ prawns and livestock.
Relevance. The project appropriately included both financial and complementary non-financial services but lacked support to any form of beneficiary organization. The objectives were relevant to the 2005 National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction and well aligned with the 2006 IFAD Country Strategic Opportunities Programme. Particular attention was given to scaling up microcredit initiatives to meet the needs of growing microenterprises and small businesses in the rural areas, thus contributing to the rural economy and job creation. Limited or lack of access to finance is indeed recognized as one of the key constraints to the growth of microenterprises in Bangladesh. The project also tried to improve the capacity of MFIs to provide non-financial services for business growth (training, marketing, technology, etc.) by providing technical support and through a VCD approach. In this last respect, the project was overly ambitious in scope given the short period of time available for implementation.
Micro-enterprises in Bangladesh provide not only sustainable income-earning options for entrepreneurs but also wage employment opportunities for poor people. The latter segment of the rural population, mostly landless, depends largely on agricultural labour opportunities which are periodic. However, the FEDEC did not really target the poor/most vulnerable or monitor their inclusion in, and benefits stemming from, the project. A much larger portion of loans went to the trading business, which employs relatively less people than the manufacturing and processing sectors. Employment creation for women was also not rigorously sought after. Not all partner organizations applied project guidelines regarding the eligibility of microenterprises for loans and sometimes loans were provided to microenterprises that could have accessed them through formal institutions.
Effectiveness. FEDEC has built the capacity of PKSF and partner organizations to efficiently support microenterprise development as per the objective. Overall project effectiveness, with respect to the number of microenterprises which received loans, was highly satisfactory as it reached the target mid-way through the project. With a very high recovery rate of 98.53 per cent, it appears that the microenterprise loan financing service has been able to create a strong foothold and is very likely to continue. The number of microenterprise borrowers registered an increase of 483,774 (from 79,403 on 29 February 2008 to 563,177 on 31 March 2014) (67.1 per cent women), against a target of 117,700 (an achievement of 411 per cent). Likewise, the average loan size went up from BDT 59,281 in February 2008 to slightly more than BDT 80,000 in March 2014. The project far exceeded the two critical lending targets, i.e. the number of borrowers and the average loan size/total loan outstanding.
Efficiency. The larger part of the overall project budget (98.6 per cent) was spent on microenterprise lending and the project performed very efficiently in this context. The original funds for microenterprise lending for the total project had been disbursed by mid-term. The recovery rate has also been outstanding. For loans given to partner organizations by PKSF, the cumulative recovery rate was 98.5 per cent, while that of loans given to microentrepreneurs by partner organizations was 99.15 per cent. The IFAD-PKSF eleven-year consolidated partnership and PKSF's in-depth knowledge of financial services combined with a network of 250 national partner organizations, provided FEDEC with a unique opportunity for sharing costs, ownership, trust and knowledge.
Rural poverty impact. Rural microenterprise entrepreneurs, the first target group of the project, significantly raised their income and assets as a result of microenterprise loans and families owning a microenterprise are now more food secure. However, the change was not as significant for the rural poor, often landless and/or female-headed households, the second target group of the project, who were expected to benefit from the growth of microenterprises through employment creation. Most microenterprises accessing loans did not belong to the most labour intensive sectors, and increased labour demand was largely absorbed by unpaid family labour.
PKSF introduced training on environment and regulatory issues related to microenterprises for PKSF and partner organizations’ staff. Unfortunately, this was not followed-up proactively with the microenterprises except for perhaps in the flower sub-sector. Results show a large increase in the production of nutrient-rich fish and some positive impact in terms of quality and quantity intake within the target households.
Sustainability. Considering the high recovery rate of microenterprise loans, it is very likely that PKSF and partner organizations will continue providing the service. In addition, since microenterprise lending also reduces transaction costs (bigger loan size compared to microcredits) the growth of microenterprise clients in the overall portfolio of each partner organization is likely to increase. Hence, the financial service for the target group can be considered sustainable. However, the picture for the non-financial services is not as bright. Integration of the private sector in an efficient and sustainable manner in the VCD projects was hardly visible. PKSF is committed to the sustainability of the microenterprise approach developed under FEDEC through its continued financing to, and supervision of, partner organizations. The IFAD-funded Promoting Agricultural Commercialization and Enterprises Project (PACE) approved in September 2014 also provides a great opportunity to consolidate the innovations introduced, particularly seasonal loans.
Innovation and scaling up. The project took an innovative approach by addressing the financing needs of the less-poor operating microenterprises with potential to expand. A key assumption was that the microenterprises would themselves employ more poor people following their growth. In VCD projects, some technology innovation in the local context was observed with, for example, the introduction of improved mung bean production technology, expanding high value and more labour-intensive flower production, prawn culture associated with fish, etc. FEDEC has promoted the introduction of new financing products (seasonal loans); as well as new varieties of crops (summer tomatoes, mung beans; gerbera, roses and gladiolas flowers, prawns, catfish) in areas where they were not produced before. PKSF has documented some of these innovations and has trained partner organizations to diversify their financing products. However, the absence of strong partnerships with the private sector undermines potential for scaling up innovative enterprises.
Gender equality and women's empowerment. A much higher proportion of loan recipients (67.1 per cent of 483,774 borrowers, a total of 324,612) were women. Notwithstanding the fact that most were used as a conduit by their male partners, many of them successfully mediated their access to credit to gain access to other resources and strengthen their voices in family decision-making. FEDEC’s contribution to increasing mobility and participation of women cannot be underestimated. One out of the eight microenterprises visited during the assessment was run by women. However, microenterprises and value chains seemed not to have been selected with conscious efforts to ensure gender equality and women's empowerment.
Targeting. PACE, based on lessons from FEDEC, should provide start-up capital to first generation ultra-poor (those immediately below the poverty line) with specific mechanisms and tailored financial products/non-financial services that would reduce risks in working with this target group. In addition, more careful selection criteria for microenterprise lending should be adopted and monitored carefully with priority to those working in sub-sectors with higher potential for employment generation and gender balance. This will require clear monitoring and evaluation of activities that include impact/outcome indicators linked to other services. The geographic focus should be in the poorest areas of the country, to increase the probability that more of the poor can benefit from employment creation.
Business/non-financial services. PACE should have a clear strategy on how to develop the business/non-financial service markets around the selected value chains. Value chain constraints to growth are often linked with lack of, or poor, service provisions either from within the chain (in embedded form) or from lateral provisions. The importance of embedded service provisions in agricultural sectors in Bangladesh cannot be underestimated as poor farmers can hardly afford an information service on a fee basis. To ensure sustainable impact, it is essential to develop/strengthen the service providers of the selected value chains instead of the project directly providing those services. PACE, therefore, needs to have a clear strategy to identify the service market gaps in selected value chain and build their capacity through facilitation activity with a clear exit plan.
Value chain development. Learning from FEDEC, PACE should refocus on a smaller number of pro-poor value chains as opposed to the 30 value chains foreseen. This also means that a simple view to VCD is not sufficient and assessments must identify not just blockages to access markets but all linkages related to input/output policies that may impact negatively on sustainability.
Institutions. In the development of enterprises and accessing value chains it is essential to develop them (producer/processor groups) into formal institutions and in the context of Bangladesh clear support should be given for these groups to form into companies. Such a process will strengthen their knowledge, roles and responsibilities to engage in business for further profit and/or expansion and will avoid potential elite capture. Support to farmers’ organizations could play a vital role by giving members improved access to market, information, and agricultural technologies, and related services and public goods.
Partnerships. PACE should place a high priority on developing a wide range of partnerships to leverage expertise, access and wider benefits to IFAD-supported projects. For example, they should partner with other IFAD-supported programmes in the country (implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture; and by the Local Government Engineering Department [LGED]) as well as with IFAD-supported regional programmes to support farmer organizations. As PACE aims at the development of 30 value chains, they should leverage on these partnerships with other relevant programmes. In particular, they should leverage their expertise and links with private companies that are involved in those programmes and are interested in undertaking joint market assessments, trainings and expanding access to the market for the microenterprise.
Rural Diversification Programme
The goal of IFAD's Rural Diversification Programme in Mauritius was to (i) broaden the income and resource base of the target population of small and marginal planters, fishermen, unemployed, landless and female-headed households and (ii) improve their technical and entrepreneurial capacity through training and the strengthening of grass-roots groups and organizations.
While the programme was found to have contributed to increased income levels and food security through higher agricultural production and fish catches, and some community projects have supported poor women to overcome social and economic exclusion, the overall achievement of the development objectives was deemed moderately unsatisfactory. The programme came short of meeting its objectives of decreased farmer dependency on sugar cane, the environmental impact remained high, and there was a failure to address critical issues such as human resources constraints and not internalizing previous learning due to weak monitoring and learning. For future projects, the report recommends more attention being paid to support value chains and market linkages, improved access to credit and methods to increase community ownership.
Oasis Sustainable Development Programme
The overall goal of the Oasis Sustainable Development Programme was to promote oasis development by enabling the empowerment of oasis communities to participate effectively in the pursuit of the national objectives for poverty reduction and the fight against environmental degradation.
The programme's stronger points are related to its relevance and alignment with the priorities of the Government and IFAD and with the needs of the target group living in a rural environment, subject to high levels of climate risk, erosion, natural resource degradation, water shortages, poverty and emigration.
Its successes have laid the basis to generate the desired socio-economic transformations in the oasis environment. Notwithstanding these globally positive achievements in terms of relevance, effectiveness and rural poverty impact, major challenges remain:
- the low likelihood of sustainability of infrastructures that may jeopardize the long-term durability of the project's achievements;
- a modest level of policy dialogue which has not enabled the base institutions to integrate their work into communal institutional planning;
- and the capacities of water user associations in place, which remains fragile.
Pastoral Community Development Project II
The Pastoral Community Development Project in Ethiopia successfully introduced community-driven development, which was key in empowering pastoralist communities. Overall, the project performed strongly on its major components, which included improving livelihoods through access to social and economic infrastructure and financial services. Moreover, good progress was made towards gender and women’s empowerment. The effects of better access of pastoral women to education and health, and their economic empowerment, could contribute to profound changes in their communities.
There are, however, some areas which need to be addressed and improved during the third phase currently under way. These concern the inclusion of local knowledge and social and environmental effects due to climate change and the sustainability of benefits generated. In addition, the assessment recommends that the project ensures the mobility of pastoralists is respected, and that the project engages in a more open dialogue with other Ethiopian ministries and actors, including development partners active in pastoral development.
Environment Conservation and Poverty-Reduction Programme in Ningxia and Shanxi
The Environment Conservation and Poverty-Reduction Programme in Ningxia and Shanxi aimed at sustainable and equitable poverty reduction for 300,000 vulnerable rural households living in an environment with a fragile and deteriorating natural resource base. A large number of these impoverished households belonged to the Hui ethnic minority. The programme used a multisectoral approach to address the main causes of poverty within a fragile environment. Programme activities were implemented in the context of wider Government efforts to reduce poverty in the region. The scale of the concerted efforts enabled a far-reaching transformation of the rural landscape, with significant improvements in basic education and health services, and consolidation of the natural resource base. Value was added through the consistent efforts to target programme benefits to the poorer households, in particular women. Although it has delivered a number of results, the programme failed to stand up to its original intention and purpose. In particular it did not deliver the transformative approaches or innovative practices that could have informed ongoing Government programmes and policies for poverty reduction in environmentally sensitive areas. Analysis of the factors limiting the relevance, effectiveness and impact of this programme highlights the need for IFAD to keep abreast of China's rapid development.
Microfinance and Microenterprise Development Project
The Microfinance and Microenterprise Development Project in Djibouti aimed to establish a viable network of savings and credit unions; promote microenterprises services and develop sustainable non-financial services; formulate and adopt a national microfinance and microenterprise strategy with a legal framework; and strengthen and diversify income-generating activities. Overall, the project 's contribution is important in terms of reform of the microfinance sector, particularly through the adoption of legal texts and strategies, and partnerships with institutions specialized in microfinance. The project has advocated for an inclusive approach that has promoted women's participation in decision-making regarding the governance of savings and credit unions. However, sustainability of benefits has been hampered by human resources constraints of savings institutions and credit unions, the absence of an apex structure, the continued importance of subsidies, weak profitability of the portfolio and weak savings and credit unions operational and financial autonomy. The evaluation recommended that future interventions focus on strengthening the network of credit and savings banks so that they can better serve the target group.