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close this bookDevelopment Projects in the Sudan: An Analysis of their Reports with Implications for Research and Training in Arid Land Management (UNU, 1979, 58 pages)
close this folder4. Project evaluation
View the document4.1 Common problems
View the document4.2. Performance

4.1 Common problems

Analysis of the projects described in chapter 3 permits the discussion of a number of problems which throw some light on issues of development in general on the one hand, and on specific aspects of arid land management on the other. There is certainly no way always to differentiate clearly between these areas, and the author is not sure that it would always be sensible to do so. Development of arid areas is a complex task which combines elements of social and capital investment. training and research, organization and motivation of the people involved; it calls for much central as well as decentralized planning and implementation. It demands a national framework allowing rural development a certain priority and at the same time requires the observation of environmental restrictions to save and restore the very natural resources the people depend on. To isolate factors which are purely "arid land issues" may have some theoretical value but will not be very helpful in designing and implementing projects of the types described above. The overall issue may rather be stated as follows: projects in arid and semi-arid regions should be organized with the goal of economic viability and social acceptance of the people involved under the restriction that permanence of cultivation is possible and provided for.

As a first step towards the systematic development of a training programme in arid land management (section 5.2) and out of the experience of the analyzed projects. the following major problem areas can be identified:
-permanence of cultivation,
-organizational shortcomings,
-social acceptance, and
-economic viability.

Out of these four problem areas only one, permanence of cultivation. seems to be a pure arid land question, while the remaining three are apparent also in many non-arid land projects. On the other side. experience shows clearly that there is no way of solving the question of the permanent use of arid land resources without having projects that are not plagued by organizational problems (administrative, infrastructural logistic. staff quality, etc.) and economic issues (low yields, high costs great risks, budgetary restrictions, marketing problems, price policy, etc.). These problems and issues are part of the arid land situation as well as of the general state of development of the country. The possession of large areas of arid land makes development certainly more difficult than it is in regions with a more temperate climate. But areas with more rainfall have other problems in a number of fields which make the development process as difficult as in arid areas. This can be observed if one compares northern and southern Sudan and their states of development.

The remaining social acceptance problem of many projects will be discussed later in more detail. but in connection with the discussion above it seems appropriate to point to one specific aspect. People in arid land regions are mainly nomads and their way of life is determined by the needs and the rewards of their livestock economy. Project experience shows that social acceptance is no particular problem if the function of the nomadic livestock system is secured. If not, the people may disappear with their animals into the vast hinterland. This could be called a specific issue of the arid land discussion which, of course. is not observed with settled cultivators in more temperate zones. The positive side of such a signal of nonacceptance of a development project by nomadic people may lie in the fact that mistakes or deficiencies in project design become apparent very soon after a project starts. This opens the door for remedies very early during the project's lifespan. Projects in non-arid areas may go on for long periods with the illusion that they are accepted by the people because the residents are still around. but in reality they don't care at all and the project collapses after the experts leave.

4.1.1 Permanence of Cultivation

All the project reports analyzed and personal observations leave many doubts that the permanence of cultivation of rain-fed projects in the Sudan has been given the attention this issue needs from an environmental and economic point of view. Historical experience in most countries of the world gives evidence that the use of arid land in modern times is mainly an issue of profit expectations for individuals and the society, not of protection of the soil to keep it fertile for more than one generation. For the purpose of this study. permanence of cultivation may be defined as participants having 25 or more years perspective towards their use of the land they start cultivating as a development project. Will it be possible to create "farmers" out of cultivators who are presently operating the schemes ? Doubts are expressed in three ways:
1 ) Does the environment allow continuous cropping ?
2) Does the administrative performance guarantee the continuous cropping ?
3) Are the local people motivated to continue efforts to secure continuous cropping ?

Most data show high rates of fluctuations of yields due to a number of reasons. The major reason has certainly been the irregularity of rainfall in the project areas. This points to the fact that the economic risk of such projects will always be high, and only people who are able to carry this risk should be encouraged to be engaged in mechanized rain-fed schemes. But besides rainfall. the tendency of most projects to show decreasing yields after initial high returns to their investment points to the serious impact mechanized farming may have on the environment. The depletion of soils has apparently started immediately after the first crop has been harvested. Specification of fallow in the crop rotation proved to be a major difficulty. None of the project reports was able to give an answer to questions about permanence in the affirmative only. In some instances. the problem may be reduced by the introduction of more rigorous crop rotation, the application of fertilizer, the better observation of soilconserving techniques, etc. In other instances. the cultivation of the project area may have to be confined to certain years only. whenever favourable weather conditions allow cultivation without an irreversible threat to the environment. But in general. the question about the permanence of cultivation cannot be answered without more research based upon reliable long term rainfall data and soil fertility studies. Some project areas have apparently been selected very haphazardly, without proper surveys at all in this respect. Studies on motivation and participation of the local population were usually also not done.

All reports on irrigated projects show less doubt that the soils can be cultivated permanently as long as water remains available and minimum standards of soil preparation, crop rotation, and fertilization are observed. The major production problems seem to be the lack of knowledge about the optimum combination of crops. the question of soil salinization, the need for drainage. the danger of not mastering the weed problem, etc. In addition. human and administrative problems are dominant due to the lack of social research into the most suitable system of participation of the local population. and due to the low standards of organizational performance at various levels of the central and regional institutions. as well as in the projects themselves.

4.1.2 Organizational Shortcomings

The problems of organization emerged in all types of projects, which was certainly not unexpected. Some were due simply to the remoteness of the projects, which made it difficult to provide the necessary services and inputs at reasonable costs and on time. The question to be asked is whether or not certain projects should have been started at all if the infrastructure for transport. services, processing, etc. was simply not there to justify the beginning. The factual knowledge about such links must be improved through training devices for those people who make decisions about project implementation. The common problems that inputs were always late or not available at all. that timeliness of land preparation and seeding was seldom observed, and that crops could not be harvested point to major shortcomings of planning and implementing procedures. This needs serious attention in future arid land management programmes. People must be trained in methods to identify bottlenecks early enough to allow impacts of their removal during the project's life-span without being bound to slow administrative structures. The question of the most suitable project organization for all projects cannot be answered from the available data. This remains open to the specific circumstances of each project. Qualification of the staff is a major bottleneck. If highly qualified staff cannot be attracted, the targets of a project have to be adjusted to the real level of performance which can reasonably be expected from less qualified staff. The inclusion of a certain period of in-service training for highly motivated young experts, instead of starting them immediately on their own, without experience, would have solved some problems.

A number of organizational problems would have been solved by the better co-ordination of various agencies of the governmental machinery. The lack of awareness that different ministries and their regional representatives can be co-ordinated through a common plan of action points to the fact that psychological and organizational aspects of coordination have never played any decisive role in project design and implementation. But they contribute to quite a number of failures. This became very obvious, e.g., by the need for organizing the necessary labour force for harvesting cotton in the larger irrigation schemes. Huge losses occurred due to insufficient recruiting procedures for hiring labour for seasonal work.

4.1.3 Social Acceptance

All of the projects show various problems of acceptance by the local population. A wide range of opinions, from the outright rejection of the whole project up to the very active involvement of people to support a project structure. was observed. A number of problems arose from land ownership disputes, especially among settlers and nomads. The experience from such projects shows clearly that land rights have to be settled before the project activities start-or many efforts will be in vain. Not taking into account the legitimate interest of livestockowning nomads when starting a settlement scheme in their area has been the reason for many troubles. In addition, the neglect of local leaders and their role in tribal conflicts has accounted for a number of expected and unexpected events which, to say the least, reduced the speed with which the project moved ahead.

Social acceptance became a particular problem in irrigation projects where nomads were expected to be available for scheduled work in their fields at time periods which apparently clashed with their livestockherding interests. The nomads opposed the management interest in those projects also where livestock had to be restricted to certain specified areas despite the fact that the pasture conditions there were insufficient. The nomads in each case gave priority to their livestock interests. not to the project's intention. One further aspect can be cited as reducing a pasture scheme's success: livestock disease control connected with tax revenue collection for the government. This causes many owners to present only parts of their herds, resulting in animal health problems for the region as a whole.

Social acceptance of development proposals apparently has much to do with available opportunities for the target groups to participate effectively in the project planning. Consequently, quite a number of failures are due to the lack of institutions, e.g.. cooperatives. to allow the grassroots level a proper participation. A further point: the involvement of nongoverment organizations (NGO's) in project implementation has seldom been tried but it may be the key for more interest of the local population in an active engagement.

4.1.4 Economic Viability

Most of the economic results of the projects are acceptable from the private point of view of the farmers, but not of the public as a whole. All the projects are heavily subsidized by the government, mostly from external sources, and none would be able to continue without further support. This is not only true for investments but, in a number of cases, for the recurrent budgets also. The calculation of the social profitability of the projects includes the revaluing of inputs and outputs at shadow prices for labour, capital, and foreign exchange, which reflect better the true opportunity costs of these resources than do existing market prices. But the problem is that many of a project's benefits and costs are in the form of indirect social or environmental effects; their contribution to the national income or their losses cannot be directly assessed.

Depending on the observer's point of view, some projects may be called economically viable as long as the private profitability of the projects is secured and the major goal of creating some productive employment for that region's population is reached. The economic return for the individual depends mainly upon the national price policy for the output and the costs of inputs (including labour). In addition, price fluctuations and late payment for products may have negative impacts upon a project's results. Large income variations among a project's population indicate that more care must be taken to select settlers who have a homogeneous level of training and motivation suitable to reach the project's goals.

The projects' internal economic problems arose mainly from budgetary constraints, the high costs of maintenance and fuel, the low standard of infrastructure with resulting heavy expenses for transport and communication, as well as the lack of management flexibility. But the major cause for concern lies in the fact that physical yields are not sufficient to justify the existing cost structure and cost volumes. Further efforts to raise private and social profitability must at first be directed towards yield-increasing and fertility-stabilizing activities. In addition, the creation of other job opportunties outside the projects may help to ease some of the economic problems observed that were due to seasonal unemployment.

One particular economic problem of irrigation schemes has been pointed out through facts of reduced yields due to lack of water during the late season. While quite frequently the first crop got more than enough water during the rainy season, the second crop suffered because of a low water storage capacity. Sometimes it did not pay to harvest a second crop at all because of very low yields.

Credit. another case in point, has a major role in most project plans, but many reports show low rates of repayment of loans for various reasons. The management usually tries to recover credit by subtracting all costs from the return of the cash crop only. That in turn reduces the interest of farmers to produce such a crop because the product price has lost its incentive effect. The system must be changed to allow the repayment of credit from various sources throughout the year. not just from the only cash crop produced.

A further concern is the quick transfer of staff. The losses occurring because staff members are transferred too frequently cannot be calculated easily but must be of great magnitude, judging from the low performance of the many projects where staff problems became apparent. The question of motivation of staff to serve in rural areas has been widely discussed in the literature on many occasions. There is certainly need for more understanding of the situation of project personnel in remote areas. Motivation goes hand in hand with accomplishment. Therefore project design in arid land areas has to make sure that realistic goals are set, and if reached, awards should be given to strengthen the motivation of staff to continue. The question of personal interest in the results of a project seems to be one key to improvement of staff performance and to reduction of frequent transfers. Solving issues of staff motivation and staff frustration must be a serious part of the total project approach.

A more interested staff would certainly attack a number of common administrative problems of economic viability. such as inadequate accounting, missing supervision of technical equipment, and little interest in local research and assessment, with more vigor than usually observed by a casual visitor. They would also welcome more evaluation of their projects if they knew that such activities were there to help improve performance and not for control only.

4.2. Performance

The distribution of the common problems mentioned is given in Table 24. The table reveals that permanence of cultivation, organizational shortcomings. social acceptance, and economic viability are of different magnitude at the various locations. But it seems that all projects, despite different designs and sizes of operations, have some problems which could be tackled successfully with the same kind of strategy. This is certainly true for permanence of cultivation and the shortcomings of organization. Table 24 shows these problems in most projects to be serious or most serious. The scale of judgment is of course a very arbitrary, one; subjective observation dominates objective data, which are not always sufficient to allow a balanced view. But it is an attempt to summarize the main critical points of the analysis.

The third common problem, social acceptance. has a mixed rating. On the one hand, this is due to the special Sudanese situation that vast areas of land are still available for cultivation. and projects need not necessarily clash with other vested interests in those regions. Projects could therefore be designed to fit expectations and resources of particular groups of people, such as immigrants, local small holders, tenants, absentee farmers. hired labour, nomads, etc. Each group has a unified social background and project organization could be adjusted to their specific needs. On the other hand, every time heterogeneous groups had to be included in one project, serious problems of acceptance were observed. This was especially true with nomads and their integration into a settlement scheme. This points to the need of data collection about the local population's opinions of the project's plans prior to their implementation. Wherever possible, plans must be prepared with the people, not for them!

TABLE 24. Range of Common Problems in Eight Development Projects, Sudan. 1978

No. Scheme Type Permanence
of Cultivation
3.1 Simsim Area rain-fed XXX X XX XX
3.2 Khashm el Girba irrigated XX XXX XX XX
3.3 Sag el Na am irrigated X XX X XXX
3.4 Babanusa Area livestock X XXX XX X
3.5 Nuba Mountains rain-fed XXX XX X X
3.6 Gerih el Sarha livestock XX XXX XXX X
3.7 Agadi State Farm rain-fed XXX X X XX
3.8 Dura Schemes rain-fed XXX X XX XX

Note: XXX = very serious problems. XX = serious problems, X = light problems

TABLE 25. Socio-economic Indicators of Selected Projects, Sudan, 1978

No. Scheme Type Income Generation Employment Local People's
Private Public Creation Involvement
3.1 Simsim Area rain-fed + · + +
3.2 Khashm el Girba irrigated + · +  
3.3 Sag el Na'am irrigated - - - +
3.4 Babanusa Area livestock        
3.5 Nuba Mountains rain-fed + - + +
3.6 Gerih el Sarha livestock + - - -
3.7 Agadi State Farm rain-fed . . - .
3.8 Dura Schemes rain-fed - · + +

Note: + = positive. - = negative. · = not significant

The fourth common problem, economic viability. is listed as serious to light for most projects. No project can be called economically sound from the private and the public point of view. The results depend. of course. heavily upon the evaluation methods used and the definition of social costs. It is equally difficult to calculate all social benefits to find a balance for each project. A sufficient economic viability of projects was reached in those cases where alternative project designs were developed and a selection process among alternatives could be implemented. This led to a better organizational structure and facilitated some flexibility in management decisions to improve the economic performance.

For further analysis, certain socio-economic indicators are worked out and presented in Table 25. They show the capacity of projects for private and public income generation as an indicator of the combination of local resources and additional external capital and labour input.

Employment creation has been added to emphasize the fact that income generation through economic growth'is fine as long as larger numbers of people will find productive employment. If economic growth has been accomplished without increasing the labour input in those regions where labour has been in surplus. project planning must certainly change to organizational types where employment creation plays a more decisive role.

Finally, local people's involvement indicates the degree of "bottom-up" planning and implementation. The difficulties are well known; the question is whether planners have always tried hard enough to get a local articulation process started.

4.2.1 Income Generation

The majority of projects show positive results for private income generation. This apparent profitability of the listed projects is demonstrated by the fact that most people plan to continue cultivation or ranching at the project site. There are also enough applicants ready to take over from those who may leave the schemes (for whatever reason). Large windfall gains during the first years before soil depletion starts are especially notable.

From the public point of view. the situation looks different. None of the projects has proved so far that it will be viable without continuous government support or that all expenses (including loans) can be repaid out of the generated income. If the government takes into account the environmental consequences of the projects' activities in arid land regions, the life-span of the projects may be shortened considerably. For example, for the Simsim Area Project, the World Bank originally calculated an economic rate of return to the investment of 17 per cent. Now, however. a major downward adjustment has to be made due to the fact that fallowing is not practiced and soil exhaustion is cutting the life-expectation of the project in half. This reduces the economic rate of return for the government to close to zero.

4.2.2 Employment Creation

Employment creation has lately become a major goal of development policies in many countries. The Sudan is no exception, as the ILO report Growth. Employment and Equity pointed out in 1976. The projects observed for the present study are not necessarily good examples; their employment potential is limited, except for the irrigated projects. In fact, the mechanized farming schemes are designed to use very few workers, because labour is usually not freely available in those remote areas and cultivation and harvesting are only feasible with tractors and mechanized equipment. In general. in the arid regions of Sudan, the number of people looking for jobs is quite limited. If employment opportunities are offered at irrigation schemes, they are mainly seasonal, and comfortable facilities for housing are usually missing. Employment creation is therefore a very complex problem, and most projects restrict themselves to the fuller use of underemployed people of the locality, or they have invited a small number of settlers to come to a scheme permanently and employ their family labour.

4.2.3 Local People's Involvement

The selected projects show different degrees of participation. Most projects were planned "topdown" only. People apparently have to be organized before a project starts to enable them to articulate their needs and their local experience. A number of projects' problems have certainly something to do with this point and future projects should avoid such shortcomings. In sparsely populated areas, the local population's involvement is not an easy task, and the administrative staff has to be motivated to try again and again to reach the project's goals. But a project can only survive if the public support is secured and the management is in line with the people's potential and expectations. Local people's involvement seems to be especially crucial where changes of the total life-style of the people are necessary to reach the project goals. It seems to be significant that a sufficient integration of people into the structure of the project could be reported very seldom. The interest of most participants remained passive; full-hearted participation has not been accomplished. People did not talk about "their" project and they did not identify themselves with the management's intentions. They felt as if they were objects of a "government project," not subjects of a development process. Some reports point to a tendency of the members to oppose management decisions rather than to participate in a joint decisionmaking process. Where savings could be accumulated, they were usually not invested in the project, but used for activities or consumption in other sectors of the economy.

In general, the analysis indicates that local people's involvement has to become a major concern of future planning or more projects are bound to fail. One concept of ''integrated rural development"-not planning for the people, but planning With the people-definitely needs acceptance as a training component of planners. Training courses for arid land management should therefore devote equal time to basic knowledge and the techniques of production on the one hand, and to means of motivating and organizing the active participation of the population on the other.