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close this bookGATE - 3/91 - Impact - A Neglected Dimension of AT (GTZ GATE, 1991, 52 p.)
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View the documentThe impact of appropriate technology - A neglected dimension
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View the documentPlanning, observing, steering - Participative impact monitoring
View the documentParticipative planning and evaluation - Expensive in the short term, cost effective in the long term
View the documentThe forgotten overall goal
View the documentAn effective tool for project development
View the documentCreative cooperation demands mutual understanding

The forgotten overall goal

Impact Analysis of German Technical Cooperation Programmes is Rarely Integrated in Project Implementation

by Nina Boschmann

" Help to self-help" is the core of German development policy, the declared overall goal of Technical Cooperation "to increase the performance capacity of individuals and organisations". The support afforded by the GTZ is intended to enable the counterpart, be it a state authority, a private executing agency or a group of the poor in the population, increasingly to solve its problems independently.

Astonishingly this dimension has, however, rarely been incorporated into the GTZ's planning and reporting practice, in contrast to the Church agencies. Although enormous efforts have been made to upgrade project management, project impacts are hardly ever analysed.

Where impacts are documented we find almost exclusively negative side effects (e.g. environmental degradation, negative impact on the standing of women). Fields such as "participation" or "ability to solve problems" are not mentioned, although they enjoy such high priority when development cooperation is presented in public. Today's PR material rarely shows the German expert of the past, rolling up his sleeves, prepared to get to grips with the task of development. Much more often we see self-confident individuals from the Third World at work.

One-dimensional planning methods

So, why are the impacts of TC projects merely propagated, rather than being analysed? The first reason is as simple as it is revealing: long-term guidelines usually take a back seat in direct project management. They reflect a sort of basis consensus reached by the various actors, but are rarely used to influence concrete actions.

This is heightened by the application of a one-dimensional, hierarchical planning procedure as used by the GTZ. Since the mid-80s most Technical Cooperation projects have been structured according to the tenets of ZOPP (the German acronym for objectives-oriented project planning). This planning method is based on a strong causal link. Thus for every project an overall goal is laid down, and from this the project purpose and objectives, results and activities are derived.

Results and activities are laid down exactly in the plan of operations in quantitative terms and as regards the timing. Progress reports on the implementation thereof must be submitted every six months. The reporting system is standardized and in many cases computerized. The system is designed to give the GTZ Head Office a rapid overview of project progress and indicate when action must be taken. It cannot therefore be too complex or comprehensive.

So as not to overtax the projects recourse is often taken to external planners to draw up the plan of operations. Sector-specific indicator banks are intended to facilitate the selection of indicators necessary to verify activities and results.

Despite the obvious advantages of the system for GTZ Head Office the procedure has drastic consequences for the projects. Interdependence between various activities, results or objectives are not recorded. The restriction to one overall goal (e. 9. autarchy of an isolated province in basic foodstuffs) means that it is very often unclear that, for example, very different activities are needed to achieve a rapid increase in the production of one crop than, to anchor food production within a specific target group.

Where a choice must be made between a production-oriented objective and a participation-oriented objective (say 90% of farmers in the province cultivate staple foods again), the former is usually selected, perhaps with some sort of condition attached.

The convenience of having easily formulated indicators blinds planners to the fact that each historical situation demands its own individual solution, and that a sustainable solution is only possible when the people involved help to design it. This phenomenon now no longer appears to be a situation to be achieved, it is taken as read.

The same thing happens at lower levels in the planning hierarchy. Everybody who has ever attended a ZOPP seminar has seen how certain aspects, which many participants considered important are "only" recorded as assumptions, which need only be touched on in reports.

The concentration on tried and tested, i.e. output-oriented objectives in planning is facilitated since, at first sight, these indicators appear clearer, more solid, more unassailable than participation-oriented objectives.

One thousand hectares of maize are one thousand hectares of maize. What do the conflicts at a village meeting, however, say about the ability of villagers to solve their food problems? Of course the one thousand hectares of maize may be badly maintained and produce a low harvest, they may in fact be somewhat less than claimed because the state agricultural extension agent exaggerated opportunistically, the farmers may be unable to sell the harvest profitably. But the one thousand has a magic ring to it, something impressive about it which bears testimony to great participation and can be passed on without major complications.

The type of conflicts at a village meeting on the other hand may reflect the strenuous efforts of the farmers to find new ways, to cut the umbilical cord to the project and process their own experiences. But it has a whiff of subjectivity: who can ever check what was said there and what the consequence was thereof?

If the path of traditional planning, geared to easily quantifiable indicators is once taken, there is practically no justification for a project to suddenly start recording other project impacts outside this framework, specially since recording such impacts demands imagination and is time consuming and complicated.') It is rare that anyone takes a more farsighted approach.

External or GTZ appraisers who perform periodic progress reviews also tend to stick to the schema laid down in planning.

The bureaucracy's own interests

This completely logical behaviour pattern at project level is strengthened by the attitude of many of the GTZ's counterpart organisations which can be classed as part of the state bureaucracy.

It is not generally in the interests of these institutions for the poor target groups to learn subtleties, which make their clientele as independent as possible from the bureaucracy.

In the fight with other state and nongovernamental groups for funding and influence it is important for them to be able to provide evidence of directly attributable success. Since salaries are usually low, employees must be given clear tasks and subjected to a rigid control.

Many counterparts share this point of view. A civil servant who is responsible for a major programme is seen to be less replaceable in times of austerity than his colleague who is only in charge of a small-scale project. Project impacts at target group level are not necessarily anything to be proud of.

The following example taken from a soil protection project in Ecuador illustrates this.

Division of labour

In cooperating with NGOs the GTZ is often confronted with the other extreme - the rejection of all quantifiable objectives which could inhibit the awareness building process of the target group. Project impacts are then also difficult to determine when it was not laid down at the start, how we are to recognize that the change has taken place.

Even if we agree that both the quantitative output of a project and the social and awareness-building impacts contribute to the success of the project there is still no decision about the priorities to be set between the two. A project will always become more complex if the "impact analysis" is incorporated in a serious manner.

The final reason for the lack of impact analysis in GTZ projects can be found in the division of responsibilities between the GTZ and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ). The evaluations performed by the BMZ are more methodically demanding and more comprehensive than the GTZ project progress reviews.

They are the only systematic impact analysis of Technical Cooperation projects alongside the BMZ's periodical cross-section analyses on specific topics (e. 9. project impacts on women).

Recent BMZ publications tend to continue this division of responsibilities, while recommending that the GTZ record so-called "experience values" (subjective, non-formalized experiences which are considered important) in its field, so as to augment their serviceability as an early warning system.²)

As long as no consensus is reached on this point project impacts will continue to be analysed only very late in the course of the project or when massive problems arise, by which time it is often too late to rectify things by steering or management.

A civil servant from the statistics office visits a GTZ-assisted project at the forestry administration, to record data on the total surface area undergoing afforestation.

Civil servant: "So, how many hectares do you have then?"

GTZ: "We don't have any hectares."

Civil servant: "I beg your pardon. You can ten me in acres if you prefer."

GTZ: "We're not afforesting any acres either." Blank astonishment and incomprehension on the part of the civil servant.

GTZ: "We're carrying out soil protection activities, planting trees around fields and on meadows, generally indigenous trees. You can't measure it in hectares. Our objective is, in any case, to get as many farmers as possible involved, not to afforest a surface."

Civil servant: "Well that's very interesting I'm sure. But what can I write?"

GTZ: "Write what I just told you. "

Civil servant: "No, I can't do that Should I write zero?" Counterpart: (agonised scream) NOOOOOOO!!!!!


The analysis of project impacts is not part of the GTZ's everyday routine. That is the thesis of the author of this article. She reaches her conclusion on the grounds of the planning methods used (objectives-oriented project planning) and the attitude of counterpart organizations, which are often more interested in short-term visible success. The author sees the division of responsibility between the GTZ and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ) as another reason for this state of affairs.


L´analyse des effets du projet n'est pas prevue dans le travail quotidien de la GTZ. Telle est la these de l'auteur du present article qui cite comme raisons de cet etat de fait les methodes de planification employees (planification des projets par objectifs) et le comportement des organisations partenaires qui visent souvent des succes rapidement presentables. Une autre raison citee par /'auteur est la division du travail, telle qu'elle est actuellement pratiquee entre le Ministere federal de la Cooperation economique (BMZ) et la GTZ.


El trabajo cotidiano de la GTZ no deja lugar para analizarlos efectos de los proyectos. Esta es la tesis que adelanta la autora del articulo, quien declara que esto se debe a los actuales metodos de planificacion (Planificacion de Proyectos Orientada a Objetivos)yalcomportamiento de los organismos contraparte, que con frecuencia estan interesados en obtener resultados rapidos y evidentes. Ademas, la autora discierne otros problemas derivados de la actual division del trabajo entre el Ministerio Federal de Cooperacion Economica (BMZ) y la GTZ.