Sunday, December 6, 2015

Evaluation of IFAD's programme in The Gambia points to good project design but pitfalls in targeting

Participants at IFAD Evaluation Workshop
Development projects carried out in The Gambia by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – the UN agency specializing in rural development – have been well designed, but faced challenges during their implementation, an evaluation report produced by IFAD’s Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) revealed today at a national workshop in Banjul.
The evaluation assessed five IFAD-financed projects carried out between 2004 and 2014. According to the report, the projects had an overall positive impact on the rural population. For example, they enabled families to purchase items that gradually covered the households’ needs and made them more self-sufficient. Village savings and credit associations encouraged families to invest more time in income-generating activities, such as producing groundnut paste, tie and dye fabrics, and soap,  resulting in an increase in basic household assets. Through the Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project (PIWAMP), food-crop production grew from 4,503 to 50,481 metric tons (MT) from 2006 to 2012, a 41-fold increase.

Since 1982, IFAD has supported 10 projects and programmes in The Gambia for a total cost of US$196 million, of which IFAD contributed US$73.1 million. The support has focused on helping the government strengthen and empower farmers through their organizations and communities, with an emphasis on managing watersheds; promoting access to markets and linkages to value chains; creating rural financial and credit service; livestock development; and research, extension and training.
“The relationship between IFAD and the Government of The Gambia has been one of mutual trust and reciprocity, with the IFAD country strategy providing the strategic framework,” said Ides de Willebois, Director of IFAD’s West and Central Africa Division. “The IFAD country programme focuses strongly on youth and women’s empowerment in the development of value chain activities, improving productivity, as well as enhancing access to markets infrastructure.”
Even though the design of the programme was found to be relevant, i.e. conforming to the needs and priorities of target groups and policies of the recipient country, projects were not fully effective in implementing their activities. For instance, in upland areas PIWAMP was effective in preventing erosion and increasing production, but more limited in lowland areas due to infrastructure for tidal control that was found to be incomplete or in need of repair. Moreover, the lack of a clear targeting strategy prevented the projects from properly selecting beneficiaries and allowing investments to address the needs of the poorest populations.
“An area that IFAD needs to take into account for the next country strategy is sustainability of benefits, which the evaluation report found to be challenging in all interventions,” said Oscar A. Garcia, Director of IOE. “Although a focus on sustainability of benefits in some projects has increased over the years, there is ample room for improvement. For example, the type of infrastructure that projects provided did not encourage ownership by the community members, who sometimes considered them too sophisticated or difficult to maintain.”
According to the evaluation report, the projects clearly contributed to an increase in yields, but the lack of a structured value chain approach – i.e. investing on activities and services that bring a product from input supply to production, processing, and finally to the market – prevented beneficiaries from enjoying the full profit of their improved production, as value chain activities were not linked with agricultural production or building on agricultural knowledge. Although the projects have piloted innovations, such as alternative energy sources (biogas and improved cooking stoves) and digital community maps, not enough support was given to including these activities more fully. Moreover, innovations were not sufficiently coupled with an exchange of learning with and between project staff, government bodies and beneficiaries, says the report.
Among the recommendations made is the need to develop a new country strategy together with potential beneficiaries and the government that gives clear guidance on partnership opportunities and has a detailed targeting strategy for reaching the rural poor. The evaluation also highlighted the need to adapt value chain support (from production to sales) to the local conditions and to building the capacity of beneficiaries – for example, to store their products, process them locally and transport them to markets – so that they can benefit from higher prices and earn more.
The full report is expected to be released in early 2016.

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