Microprojects in Swaziland
Reflecting the growing realisation that, in development as in
other fields, small projects on a human scale sometimes offer better chances of
success, the idea of microprojects was first put forward during the Lomegotiations in 1974/15. Adopted 'on an experimental basis' at that time,
microprojects have since been confirmed as a highly effective EC aid instrument.
Projects qualify as microprojects if they meet a priority need
expressed and identified locally, and if they are run on the initiative and with
the involvement of the local community benefiting from them. Typical projects
are rural water supplies, dip tanks, schools, woodlots, small enterprise
projects and footbridges.
Microprojects are a way of making significant improvements in
the living conditions of rural populations, particularly the poorest and most
isolated sections who are cut off from other types of development aid. For rural
populations, they are often the only instrument of progress available,
particularly for women and children. The implementation of a microproject often
involves the setting up of a project committee which helps the community to
assume responsibility and develops local management capacity. This new
organisational ability then underpins the future running of the project. In this
way, both the sustainability and the impact of the project are improved.
Microprojects are growing in popularity and extent. Currently,
nearly half of the ACP countries have chosen to take advantage of this
particular form of cooperation, although they still represent a small proportion
of the overall aid made available under the Lomonventions (2.5% under LomII).
Swaziland is one country that has a high proportion of its
development assistance from the EC in the form of microprojects - over 15% of
the LomII National Indicative Programme (ECU 3 million) was allocated for
this purpose and although the figure is somewhat lower under LomV it is still
a substantial component in the overall programme (ECU 2.2 million or roughly 9%
of the total).
The big increase in the commitment to microprojects in Swaziland
which took place under LomII was accompanied by a conceptual change in the
way they were to be administered. A largely autonomous MPP Unit was established
consisting of an EC-funded technical assistant as project manager supported by
local staff for financial control, project appraisal and monitoring. The
flexibility with which such an independent unit could operate soon proved to be
a major advantage. It became clear at an early stage that the Government
ministries had a much more limited capacity for this type of activity than had
previously been supposed but, instead of grinding to a halt when faced with this
obstacle, the MPP Unit was able to adjust and keep moving.
It started working more closely with NGOs, who were often closer
to local communities and were well-placed to ensure that beneficiaries were
appropriately trained. The MPP also strengthened its direct links with the
beneficiary groups and implemented some projects itself, or even devised
innovative ways of utilising assistance from private commercial firms.
In this way, the MPP Unit became a catalyst for mobilising many
parties concerned with rural development. It is to the credit of the Swaziland
Government that it saw the necessity of flexible and autonomous management of
the Unit. The latter's responsiveness to community needs and its ability to give
an immediate reply to requests is undoubtedly the secret of its success. More
than 200 projects have now been implemented, bringing social and economic
benefits to more than 85 000 people.
In the early phase of the programme the majority of projects
were for building schools. More recently, however, requests have increasingly
focused on income-generation and rural employment creation. Such projects are
more demanding in terms of appraisal, the training that is required, and
follow-up than those in the social sector, and plans are under way to strengthen
the MPP Unit's ability to respond to this challenge. In the first four years
(under LomII), the projects implemented with the Unit's assistance
represented almost 4% of the total capital expenditure of the Swaziland
Government - an extraordinary achievement when one considers that the Unit has a
staff of only ten people!
Under LomV, the existing arrangements are set to continue,
with the emphasis increasingly on income-generating projects. On the
organisational side, the only major change is that the management of the MPP
Unit will be localised. It is worth noting that the figure of ECU 2.2 million
does not include technical assistance, which is now accounted for separately.
The reduction in funds for microprojects is, accordingly, less than the raw
Projects that can be funded fall into four main categories:
Agricultural: Irrigation, dams, wells, vegetable gardens, crop
production, livestock and animal husbandry, dip-tanks and forestry.
Social infrastructure: Education (schools), non-formal education
(such as workshops for carpentry or tailoring), health care (rural clinics or
maternity wards), women's and youth group activities, cultural and community
centres, rural water supply and sanitation.
Economic infrastructure: Markets, warehouses, stores and silos,
craft industries and premises to encourage commercial activities, rural
electrification and agro-based industries (such as mills and oil extractors).
General infrastructure: Minor roads minor bridges and