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Type and impact of projects

As has been noted in the first part of this chapter, different aid organizations have a variety of objectives or goals. Even if there is a consistency of objectives, there can be very different criteria for measuring success. Within the UN system there is a series of themes or catch-phrases that help to guide development efforts, if not actually serve as objectives. Typical examples are "integrated rural development", "self-reliant development", "assistance to the rural poor", and "technical co-operation among developing countries". The crux of the problem is how to measure progress towards these relatively vague and general goals, to say nothing of the more specific goals of each individual UN agency.

One of the proclaimed goals of UNDP is to act as a preinvestment agency, with UNDP sponsored studies, surveys, or projects being taken up and implemented by other funding agencies such as the World Bank, regional banks, or even private capital. This definition of UNDP's role allows a more quantitative assessment of "success", and Jackson 11969) noted that of 114 survey projects, 42 had generated $1,800 million in investments, 27 had developed a second phase, 31 were still in the follow-up process, and 14 had not resulted in any further action.

UNDP estimates that from 1972 to 1981 its activities have led to over $33p00 million of additional investment. Just over half of this has come from public funds in the recipient country, and this would presumably include all the various counterpart contributions for UNDP projects. Another 28 per cent is derived from multilateral sources (primarily the World Bank) and 12 per cent from governments on a multilateral basis. Only $2,750 million of private investment has been generated as a result of UNDP's activities. UNDP has also provided some technical assistance support to $9p00 million of outside investments (UNDP 1982q).

Recent attempts to help the poorest countries in the first phase of searching for oil is another indication that UNDP still considers pre-investment activities one of its primary functions (DWB 1980). Most of the major dam-building projects on the large rivers in the Sahel also have been facilitated by pre-feasibility and evaluation studies organized through, if not sponsored by, UNDP. Hence, from a purely economic point of view, UNDP's activities in the pre-investment field have been relatively successful. Certain administrative innovations, such as the participation of World Bank and other personnel in UNDP's projectidentification and evaluation missions, have significantly contributed to UNDP's success rate. This type of collaboration at the project-identification stage has also been adopted by other UN agencies

On the other hand, the criterion of "outside funds invested per unit of UNDP activity" is not applicable to most UNDP projects. Many of UNDP's activities are directed at facilitating rural development in one or more sectors or at building up a country's infrastructure.

Economic success in rural development projects is very difficult to assess because of the different ways in which and sectors to which public and private capital can flow. Other factors, such as crop yields and rural health, can be evaluated on a quantitative basis, but it may be difficult to separate the effect of a particular project from other causal factors (Hopkins 1974) or to set benchmarks for "success". Clearly the final determination of success is the extent to which positive change is continued or expanded after the external support is withdrawn. However, in many ways it is easier for the sponsoring agency to continue projects than to initiate new ones. This, plus the never-ending nature of rural development, helps explain why some projects have been extended repeatedly beyond the original planning period, yet show few signs of long-term viability.

The criterion of the extent to which activities are taken over and run locally is even more important for projects designed to strengthen the local infrastructure. For example, it seems that the time required for the establishment of agricultural research and training centres has been consistently underestimated, to judge by the number of phase-two, phase-three, and even phase-four projects. One such centre in Mauritania was begun in 1964 and entered phase three 14 years later, with the hope that two more years of working with expatriates would finally qualify the national staff to take over. A similar project in Upper Volta encountered the usual difficulties in that the contribution of local staff at the working level was only half of what was expected, and at the technical level only one-third of the planned 636 counterpart man-months were realized. This, combined with periodic lapses in the provision of experts, made it extremely difficult to train counterpart staff to take over (UNDP/FAO 1969). Another factor is the problem of retaining trained personnel in a given project; in Upper Volta in 1978, 17 of the 18 trained veterinarians were working in administrative positions (GAO 1978). In their review of World Bank activities, Mason and Asher (1973) note that the World Bank has also been less than successful in training counterpart staff on the spot. Jackson (196 provided the interesting statistic that 33 per cent of the projects initiated were expected to develop a phase two; this proportion is probably still accurate 16 years later.

In general, the lack of infrastructure and trained personnel in the Sahel make large-scale, capital-intensive projects such as roads and dams much easier to execute than people-oriented projects. The demands of capital-intensive projects in terms of counterpart contributions, complementary personnel, and local involvement are far less than most other types of rural development projects. Thus, these large infrastructure projects provide a convenient means of disbursing large sums of money, and bilateral agencies find that a large proportion of these funds can be recycled to their own country through the hiring of sub-contractors and the purchase of machinery and materials. Assuming that these capital-intensive projects are successfully completed, there still remain the questions of how the benefits are measured and distributed among the d ifferent segments of the affected population and how the capital improvements will be maintained.

Despite such considerations, the World Bank has been shifting its priorities away from classic, capital-intensive projects in transportation and electric power to agriculture Priorities are also shifting within the agricultural sector. In the past, 50 per cent of agricultural loans were for irrigation, drainage, and flood control, but the Bank (and many other agencies) have become proponents of integrated rural development. This change has been caused by a number of factors, including the realization that many of the big dams have not achieved their goals and that the provision of credit in terms of either cash or materials has often helped only the medium- and high-income farmers, thus exacerbating the gap between rich and poor. Lele (1975) notes that the twin problems of providing credit-namely the lack of administrative manpower and the uncertain profitability of innovation through credit (i.e. uncertainty in ability to repay)- mean that alternative approaches, such as the creation of co-ops, need to be formulated. In her view co-ops would spread the risk and lessen the administrative work by providing credit on a group basis. Dupricz (1979), in reviewing integrated rural development projects in Niger, found that co-operatives were never fully adopted because they were imposed rather than developed in response to an actual need.

A critical conflict that has to be resolved when planning and evaluating rural development projects is the conflict between cash and subsistence crops. Many believe (e.g. Raynaut 1977; Dupricz 1979) that financial and technical assistance is always oriented towards export rather than subsistence crops. Any such bias presumably results from a combination of local and donor priorities and values. Donors presumably find it easier to work with commercial crops, for production is concentrated on fewer farmers, and the farmers are likely to be better off and better educated than their subsistence-cropping colleagues. By definition, their crops become part of the market system, so that their cultivation and management can be influenced by market forces. Local governments may emphasize cash crops for this latter reason, as well as a general desire to increase exports. It is also easier to tax and control those farmers who are active in the marketplace. Noting that Mali's cotton-seed production reached a record high in 1971-1972, Lofchie (1975) questions to what extent the 1968-1973 famine was due to drought and to what extent it was an indirect result of the emphasis on cash crops. In general an emphasis on the commercial sector has been criticized for having little effect on the standard of living of the subsistence population and for leading to food shortages in areas where marketing systems are inadequate (Lele 1975). Low food prices, while beneficial to the politically powerful urban population, can discourage food-crop production and thereby lead to a greater dependence on imported food. Similar arguments have been made against food aid, as this may also serve to lower incentives and thereby lead to lower agricultural production (Lappe et al.1981). As might be expected, studies commissioned by the World Food Programme indicate that food aid does not articially depress food production provided the projects are well formulated (WFP 1978).

From an ecological point of view, projects that encourage a shift from subsistence cropping to cash-cropping have a much greater potential impact than projects that seek to improve subsistence farming. An increase in cash crop production usually depends on bringing new land into production and implies a degree of capital and credit availability that in turn facilitates mechanization, inputs of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, the use of improved seeds, etc. Short-term economic considerations encourage further expansion onto even more marginal land and a reduction in the usual fallow period In developing subsistence farming, change tends to be much more incremental, and there is typically much less expansion of the area under cultivation. Thus the potential impact on the environment is much less. Furthermore, it is typically the wealthier farmers who can afford to invest in cash-cropping, and an emphasis on cash-cropping will tend to push the subsistence farmer onto poorer quality land. In situations where a fallow period is normally used to restore soil fertility, a vicious circle can rapidly develop in which poor yields lead to shortened fallows and greater desiccation as a result of the reduced plant cover, which in turn causes a deterioration in soil quality through increased wind and water erosion, resulting in yet poorer crops and a further extension onto yet poorer lands (Wade 1974).

Another factor which is rarely attacked head on in rural development projects is the question of land tenure. Lele (1975) notes that for tenant farmers a targe increase in yield is necessary before any technological innovations are adopted, while for land-owners any increase in yield will improve their economic condition, so innovations tend to spread more rapidly among the latter. Clearly this can lead to an increasing gap in incomes; yet most develop ment projects do not come to grips with questions of land tenure because of the threat this would pose to the existing social, political, and economic order. As a result, Lappe and Collins (1977) question many current development policies and make a number of recommendations on public participation, self-reliance, criteria of success, etc.

Mixed farming projects, which combine animals (usually used also for traction) and crops, have also met with very limited success in the Sahel. While these can increase the cropped area, the labour required to care for the animals, the high initial and maintenance costs, and the shortage of fodder in the dry season, together with a variety of sociological factors, make this approach another theoretically logical concept that is exceedingly difficult to realize (Delgado 1978). Ferguson (1977) notes that animal-crop combinations are most feasible in areas that (1) have friable soils and a minimum of trees, (2) grow cash crops (usually groundnuts or cotton) to provide the necessary economic return, (3) have local herds from which the oxen can bedrawn,and (4) have appropriate training, credit, and equipment. From an ecological viewpoint the keeping of more animals in the village would only exacerbate the pressure on the immediately surrounding vegetation and the circles of desertification often present. Long-term erosion must also be taken into account. Lewis (1979) noted that every farmer interviewed in Dukolomba in Mali offered or admitted that the plough wears out the soil more quickly than the hoe. Thus, animal traction may well require a host of other inputs-fodder crops, equipment, fertilizers -that the average farmer cannot justify unless land is abundant and the farmer concentrates on cash crops.

On the basis of past experience, Mason and Asher (1973) suggested that there are two main strategies appropriate for agricultural development: it is possible either to focus on a cash crop over a wide area or to work comprehensively in one area with high agricultural potential (i.e. with good soil, high availability of water, access to markets, etc.). However, the long-term sustainability of both strategies is still open to question (NAS 1983).


Selected sectoral reviews

To further illustrate these resource~development problems, it is useful to look at several sectors in greater depth. The forestry sector is of particular interest because the short age of fuelwood has been a major development issue only in the last 10 to 15 years. A tremendous amount of aid funds and effort have been directed to this area with generally unsatisfactory results. In contrast, livestock development has been a major concern for a much longer period of time, although the results again can be considered mixed at best.

Forestry Projects

In the forestry sector, the availability of wood was the subject of one of the first reports from the Special Sahelian Office after the 1968-1973 drought (Raeder-Roitzsch 1974). This painted a rather dire picture of demand outstripping supply, and this type of logic, combined with rapid increases in the price of fossil fuels, triggered a rapid increase in aid for forestry-related activities. From 1975 to 1982 an estimated $160 million was spent in the Sahel, with most of these funds being devoted to the establishment of new plantings. The average cost of these afforestation efforts has been approximately $800 per hectare.

In reviewing forestry activities in the Sahel since 1972, Weber (1982) concluded that only 25,000 ha of new plantations have been successfully established. Of these 25,000 ha, perhaps one-third produce little or no wood because of fires, grazing, or their protected status (e.g., green belts around urban areas). Overall, Weber estimates the survival rate of the newly planted trees at only 10 to 20 per cent. Efforts in the area of training, infrastructure, and invem tory have been more successful, but the basic problem of an assured fuel supply is far from being solved.

In general the technical obstacles are few, as one can draw on the experience of both English and French foresters in West Africa and the Sudan, as well as related work in countries such as India and Australia. The primary problem is one of local participation. As Weber (1982) states, "The common denominator of success is the way projects have been administered in the field, how the local population was approached and how project activities are being carried out so that local interests are stimulated and respected." Without active involvement by the local people, fires, grazing, and trampling take a heavy toll. Ac tive opposition in the form of uprooting is not unknown, for the farmers and pastoralists often view state-sponsored forestry as a competing land use (Howe and Gulick 1980).

Staff, transport, and tools are also limiting. As an example, Howe and Gulick cite one office in Upper Volta that was responsible for 10,920 km2 but had only one mobylette (motor~scooter) and 30 litres of fuel per month. The sheer impossibility of effectively policing large, diffuse areas of wood production only emphasizes the absolute necessity of working within the context of the needs of the local people.

A shift from expropriating land for government-owed plantations to more social forestry will require significant change in the attitudes and policies of the Sahelian countries (Weber 1982). For people to invest labour and possibly capital in protecting the natural vegetation and planting trees, they must receive benefits greater than their investments; this usually requires a stable landtenure system that recognizes the rights of the rural inhabitants. In view of the increasing pressure on the land, there must be a shift in attitudes and government re" gulation from designating and protecting government forests to working with local inhabitants to establish wind-breaks, village wood-lots, and agro-forestry systems (World Bank 1978b). As noted by Le Houerou (1978), a continuing decline in woody vegetation in the Sahel will cause massive disruption to the life~styles of both the nomadic and the sedentary inhabitants of the rural areas.

Livestock Development Projects

The production of livestock is the most common use of land in the Sahel, and its high visibility has made it an important focus of development for a relatively long time. On the other hand, there has been relatively little in the way of long-term studies. To understand the controversy surrounding the effectiveness of livestock projects, it is necessary to understand the historical background. In this respect the Niger case study presented at the 1977 UN Conference on Desertification (UNCOD 1977a) provides an outstanding example of the problems of pastoralists in a world in which they have decreasing control. From a position of dominanace over (or at least co-existence with) sedentary farmers, the pastoralists have seen a consistent bolstering of sedentary farmers and cash-cropping at their expense, first by the colonial power and then more strongly as the post-independence governments have taken hold and established more effective communication and transportation networks.

The initial desire of the government bodies was primarily to control and pacify the nomads. To reduce farmer pastoralist conflict and to protect the traditional pastures from erosion, a variety of regulations were promulgated. For example, in 1962 Niger prohibited the growing of crops north of the 400-mm isohyet (Ferguson 1977), and in Tunisia and Syria crops were prohibited on slopes greater than 15 per cent. None of these regulations have been effectively enforced (FAO 1975), and the Niger government has gone so far as to protect farmers who migrated north of the designated boundary (UNCOD 1977a). Thus, the declining power of the pastoralists has resulted in the encroachment of sedentary farmers onto traditional grazing lands, a breakdown of traditional boundaries between the various pastoral groups, and an increase in large stock compared to small stock because of the shortage of shepherds (caused in part by the end of slavery) (UNCOD 1977a).

Over the past few decades efforts have been made to improve the lot of the pastoralist, with the initial emphasis being on the provision of veterinary services and animaldisease control. Rinderpest and pleuropneumonia were wiped out in many areas, although it first had to be learned that veterinary services are under-utilized when the tax collector accompanies the vaccinator (Horowitz 1979). In order to make more areas available for dry-season grazing and thus increase total production, various welldrilling programmes were undertaken. It was thought that these wells would also help to stabilize the pastoralists -a goal that was deemed desirable (FAO 1962) for social, medical, and educational reasons and was accepted by governments for political and economic, if not humanitarian, reasons. At least in the area of the Niger case study, the initial management scheme for the wells was based on controlling access and having the user pay, but because the government did not want to appear to be favouring any single group and feared difficulties in collecting the fees, these management policies were not implemented. As a result, areas that previously had water only in seasonal pools or shallow, hand-drawn wells now had deep boreholes, diesel pumps, and abundant water. The proper spacing of these high-volume boreholes with low-volume shallow wells was supposed to result in an even distribution of pasture use between wet and dry seasons. If certain areas allocated for dry-season use did show signs of degradation, the pumps could be shut off to prevent over-use. However, this was rarely done, and it is widely agreed (UNCOD 1977a; Horowitz 1979; Hoben 1979) that the construction of boreholes has led to an over-concentration of animals around the few watering points, with circles of degradation of up to eight kilometres in radius around each borehole and the destruction of most trees within several kilometres. These circles of over-grazing were exacerbated by the 1968-1973 drought, for the seasonal watering points dried up earlier than usual, leading to an even greater concentration of animals at the wells and a disappearance of the surrounding vegetation. Most animals then died of hunger rather than thirst. Percentage losses varied among species, as cattle need water every day and thus could not graze far from the wells, while sheep and goats need water only once every two days and camels every five to ten days. This allowed camels to forage further afield, where the concentration of animals was much less, resulting in a proportionately lower death rate during the drought.

While a clean water supply is essential for the health and development of rural populations, these documented circles of desertification would suggest that there is little justification for providing water beyond immediate human needs unless there is an accompanying management strategy (Horowitz 1979). The provision of water for livestock must include a means to limit pasture use. Restrictions can be either technological (e.g. shallow wells where water must be drawn by hand and which may dry up, or means to limit the operation of the pumps to a short time) or sociological (e.g. granting control over a water source or area to a specific group of pastoralists). Since technological solutions are more amenable to planning, most livestock projects have been conceived in this vein, but none can be considered an unqualified success. This results in a continuing controversy over the best approach. For example, ranching schemes allow complete control over access, number of cattle, and intensity of use, and therefore can prevent degradation of pastures, but they have not demonstrated economic viability or social acceptability to the nomads in the Sahel (Wade 1974). Horowitz (1979) and Bernus (1971) note that some pastoral groups oppose the construction of any public wells, preferring instead to pay for shallow wells where they will have control of access.

Although past well-drilling programmes have tended to result in desertification in the immediate vicinity of the wells, it is not clear whether there has been a widespread decline in the quality and productivity of Sahelian rangelands. Often a long-term decline in pasture production has been assumed in order to help to justify a particular action, but World Bank reports, for example, have come down on both sides of the degradationino-degradation issue. Hoben (1979) notes that the data can often be contradictory, depending on the location, time of observance, and observer bias.

The problem of assessing vegetation change in the Sahel is vastly complicated by the irregularity in rainfall. Horowitz (1979, citing Bille 1974 and Swift 1977) notes that aboveground plant production varied on a single site from 1,300 kg per hectare in a "good" year to 590 kg per hectare in a "bad" year and virtually nothing in 1972. This decline in production is typically accompanied by a reduction in the numbers of some of the higher-quality forage species (Bernus undated; Bremen and Cisse 1977). Some authors (e.g. Stebbing 1937) have claimed a general shift southward in the desert margin, while others note that as the rains return the vegetation exhibits a remarkable resilience (Le Houerou 1978; Warren and Maizels 1977). In general there is agreement that intensive grazing does cause an overall shift towards weedy species with a shorter lifecycle. There is also little doubt that grazing pressures have intensified. In 1970, at the end of a period of relatively wet years, the animal population was estimated to be twice the 1930 figure and one~third higher than the 1960 estimate (Wade 1974). A recent NAS study (1983) suggests that there has been both a decline in actual productivity and a decline in the desirable species, and that the increased dominance and numbers of cattle are the main cause.

Since heavy grazing can have certain effects similar to those of low rainfall, it is difficult to separate animal induced changes from climate-induced changes. Fortuitous timing and management allowed the separation of these factors on a ranch in Mali which receives an annual average precipitation of 590 mm. In those areas which had little or no grazing pressure the 1970-1973 drought caused a significant decline in woody and herbaceous species that were near the northern limits of their distribution, and these tended to be replaced by invader (weedy) species rather than more northern (xerophytic) species (fig. 6). The changes in the herb layer were more pronounced, with mean coverage in lightly grazed areas dropping from 40 per cent to 25 per cent and standing crop reduced by nearly half. In areas that were also heavily grazed there was a clear substitution of ephemeral legumes and poor quality grasses for some of the preferred fodder species. Woody plants exhibited similar trends, with an increase in coverage due to protection from grazing, a shift in species composition due to drought, and a loss of the palatable species in the heavily grazed area (Bremen and Cisse 1977).

FIG. 6 Changes in the species composition of a pasture in the Sahelo-Sudanian zone due to drought versus changes due to a combination of drought and heavy grazing, "Savannah forage" here refers to the generally preferred fodder species found in the moister region just to the south of the Sahel. (From Bremen and Cisse 1977)

Degraded areas that are completely protected from grazing show complete recovery (Le Houerou 1978), but the rate should be measured in terms of years rather than of months. Herbaceous species that disappear during drought quickly reappear when precipitation levels return to normal values, but recovery in the shrub and tree layer is, of course, much slower. Even with abundant rainfall primary productivity does not return immediately to pre-drought levels (UNCOD 1977a), and Bremen and Cissť (1977) postulate that nitrogen may be more limiting than water in the initial stages of recovery.

Fire is another controversial topic, some seeing it as destroying the limited forage available, while others see it as releasing nutrients and stimulating growth. A number of efforts have been made to control burning, but these have been generally unsuccessful. Both Kucera (1978) and Warren and Maizels (1977) state that burning during the dry season consumes low-quality fodder and stimulates growth by releasing nutrients and reducing competition. By discouraging shrubs, fire can help lessen the incidence of tsetse and trypanosomiasis, but the decline of woody species correspondingly reduces the availability of dryseason fodder and fuelwood. Hence, fire-breaks are not necessarily beneficial in the Sahel or Sudanian zones and are not socially or economically viable.

The training of personnel has been very inadequate, as Mauritania, for example, had only nine veterinarians in 1978 ( USA 1 D 1979b).

The improvement of transportation and communication links has not drastically altered the traditional marketing pattern but has helped to encourage the expansion of sedentary farmers and a system of exports that has shifted beef consumption to urban consumers in Lagos, Abidjan, and Dakar rather than the local farmers (Abercrombie 1975). The development of ranch projects has been beset by serious administrative and financial difficulties, has disrupted the traditional land-use system, and does not facilitate adjustments in grazing intensity in accordance with annual variations in productivity.

In summary, the results of past attempts to improve livestock productivity have been mixed at best. Wells have increased dry-season utilization but disrupted traditional rights and led to severe localized degradation. The simplistic appeal of an easily implemented technological fix has continued to attract donors to well-drilling, and local governments have taken the political credit without the attendant responsibility. The provision of veterinary services "has tended to be counterproductive except where accompanied by marketing or stock production control programmes that have been adequate to control the growth of animal units" (Ferguson 1977). More generally, an FAO sociologist has said, "One of the basic factors in the situation is overpopulation, both human and bovine, brought about by the application of modern science."

A wide variety of projects are now being designed that build to varying degrees on traditional social groups and their respective lands. Practical assessment is impossible at this early stage, but success or failure will still provide a better idea of how the various traditional socio-economic systems operate, and thus will provide a better basis for future project design. To a certain extent the concept of local management is inconsistent with large-scale projects, such as the recurring theme of stratified livestock production. In such a plan, animals are supposed to be progressively shifted south for final weight gain and slaughter close to the urban markets. In a broad functional sense this is close to the traditional practice of taking the animals far to the south in times of drought. While stratified livestock production was the basic idea behind SOLAR {one of the six transnational projects proposed during the UN Conference on Desertification), implementation on an international basis in the Sahel is now recognized as impossible. Even in one country, the economic and social barriers to establishing such a system are severe. Proposals to establish industrialstyle feedlots near the major markets and abbatoirs (slaughterhouses) are equally impractical, primarily for economic reasons (Horowitz 1979; Ferguson 1977).

The integration of animals with sedentary farming is another logical approach that has serious social and economic flaws (Delgado 1978). Others advocate game ranching or the use of drought adapted species such as camels, but these also wili pose a variety of social and economic difficulties. Clearly a technological fix is not possible, nor will there be a painless solution. Some shift in the pattern of settlement and/or the means of livelihood is necessary if widespread, irreversible degradation of pasture lands is to be avoided.

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