The project implemented an integrated model to agricultural productivity growth, combining infrastructure development with the institutional development of farmer organizations and capacity development of farmers. Strengthening of the farmer professional associations and water users’ associations has provided the institutional mechanism for farmers to take over the operation and maintenance responsibility for small project facilities, including applying the cost-recovery scheme with the user-pay principle. Regular trainings to farmers in integrated pest management, soil testing and balanced fertilization application, water-saving technologies, and marketing, enhanced their productivity skills and capacities, making it more likely for income benefits to be sustained across time. Along with the participatory approach to infrastructure management, continued income increases will foster the sustainability of the project.
This project supported the comprehensive agricultural development (CAD) program of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) government to enhance national food security and employed a holistic approach to address common sector issues. It covered six provinces and 68 counties and consolidated county activities into provincial subprojects by applying a single integrated CAD model in all the counties. The project lending modality enabled the consolidation of the large number of activities scattered across six provinces into six provincial subprojects. However, it required the processing of an unusually large number of contracts (657), which was helped by the preparation and use of standardized bidding documents. Reporting requirements, including on safeguards were streamlined, and an integrated management information system was set up at the State Office for Comprehensive Agricultural Development. Adoption of a uniform integrated model and streamlining of procurement and reporting processes proved instrumental in the project’s success.
The impact and outcome indicators identified in this project’s original design and monitoring framework, i.e., absolute increases in grain output and farm income at the impact level, and yield growth and irrigation water use efficiency at the outcome level, comprised results that were attributable to many factors other than the project. While the comparison of indicators between the project and non-project areas in the provinces supported the positive impacts of the project, it was not possible to isolate the project’s impact from the other factors without baseline information and a precise definition of control group. In addition to well-defined indicators, future projects should also clearly define the baseline and control groups and monitor and assess impacts through periodic sample surveys to reliably evaluate their performance and contributions to changes across time and at project completion.
The sustainability of rural infrastructure interventions, mainly rural roads and irrigation schemes relies heavily on securing funds for their proper O&M. Existing reliance on ad hoc government transfers to cover O&M expenses should evolve into user-paid fees to guarantee the proper functioning of the infrastructure during its expected lifetime.
Sector projects of a multisectoral nature face the risk of having implementation problems and achieving lower than expected development outcomes. Additional work at project design needs to identify and establish clear rules about the types of investments that are eligible for financing, ensuring that these contribute to the project’s stated outcomes. At implementation, a close communication of the rules for investment is critical to avoid delays stemming from extensive revisions to proposed investment plans.
For greater effectiveness of the monitoring and evaluation framework of the project, the overall logic and results chains as well as indicators need to be firmly established and tested before project effectiveness. Three main aspects can be improved: (a) project attribution needs to be addressed in the methodologies used for collecting indicator data, (b) measuring the degree of infrastructure use by beneficiaries provides more accurate information of the project’s results than focusing on physical progress in construction, and (c) the development results of capacity building activities are better assessed through measurement of the degree of behavior change of beneficiaries.
A safeguards manual was prepared for this project, categorized B for environment and A for indigenous peoples. However, a safeguards mission in February 2016 observed that the manual was not systematically used in preparing the required subproject safeguard documents. Lack of awareness of due diligence requirements and weak implementation capacity across all levels of the project organization, along with lack of budget and monitoring, caused some gaps in safeguards implementation. No significant adverse environmental impacts occurred during minor civil works; however, as there was no third-party validation of the land donation process undertaken mostly for right of way acquisition, the scale of land impacts and effectiveness of mitigation activities cannot be established. The need to provide adequate training to key project implementers and other relevant stakeholders is highlighted by the experience. Hiring of full-time, qualified safeguards specialists throughout the project life would also be important, especially for complex, multisectoral poverty reduction projects. Other measures that could strengthen safeguards compliance in ADB projects are the inclusion of environment and social safeguards management plans in the bidding documents; thorough review of right-of-way acquisition, particularly for donated lands, and proper annotation and documentation of the land donations; inclusion in the project resettlement frameworks of guidelines on voluntary donation based on international best practice; and consistent monitoring of safeguards implementation.
Inadequate attention was given during this project’s preparation to ensuring that performance indicators in the design and monitoring framework were appropriate and data was collectible and verifiable. A project performance monitoring system (PPMS) was also not established. The completion survey, a norm in ADB-financed projects, was not conducted, although there were some assessments made by the EA on project accomplishments in some components. These shortcomings inhibited the conduct of a comprehensive assessment of project performance and sustainability of results. In future, ADB should work with EAs to establish project PPMS immediately at startup and ensure its consistent and effective implementation. Appropriate feedback mechanisms, which can help with the early resolution of implementation issues, should be established. Close monitoring of expenditures by budget category is equally important to assess implementation progress.
This project supported trainings, demonstrations, and cross-learning visits by farmer groups to enable agrarian reform beneficiaries and their communities to move from subsistence production to market-oriented surplus generation. Trainings provided improved farming practices, crop varieties, integrated pest management, and crop diversification, etc., but there is no substantial assessment of therefore it is unclear how these trainings improved productivity and incomes. Moreover, there are no project records to show that these trainings were supported by inputs to enable farmers’ adoption of the high-yielding agricultural practices and technologies promoted. These deficiencies should be addressed in future similar activities. Farmers’ trainings should be accompanied by the provision of corresponding required agricultural inputs. Promoting understanding of market operations and the need for private sector participation and knowledge and skills formation for agricultural value chain development should also be given greater attention.
Under output 2, this project increased the efficiency of the seaweed enterprise in Oriental Mindoro province by partnering with the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Labor and Employment, and LGUs. The experience has demonstrated how partnerships could lead to greater resources and ability to achieve results. In general, however, project-supported enterprises had difficulty attracting the private sector due to their small size and limited production scale. (Preparation, Implementation: stakeholder engagement, partnerships)
The 2003 50:50 cost-sharing policy between the national government and local government units (LGUs) in counterpart funds for development projects aimed to empower the LGUs. But as LGUs have limited financial capacity to cofinance rural infrastructure, the project during processing proposed to retain the 10%-20% LGU share in counterpart funds under the first phase of this project. After this was disapproved by national authorities, the executing agency (EA) decided to proceed with the original scope of the project, envisaging initiatives and alternative financing arrangements to assist LGUs in meeting their equity requirements. Notwithstanding their increased equity, many LGUs agreed to participate in the project. The inability of the LGUs to raise their counterpart funds, despite various alternatives developed by the EA and other national agencies, resulted in the project meeting less than half of its key rural infrastructure targets (40% accomplishment in farm-to-market roads and 38% in small scale irrigation). Greater due diligence during project formulation may have better gauged the impact of the increased LGU contribution and would have allowed the infrastructure targets to be adjusted accordingly. (Preparation, Implementation: budgeting, counterpart funding)
This project has demonstrated the complex and multisectoral nature of agrarian reform and poverty reduction, in trying to attain which, it became a bit too broad in scope and lost its focus. As a result, it achieved only 1 of its 4 planned outputs: organization, mobilization, and capacity building of agrarian reform communities for community-driven development. It mostly fell short of its targets in agriculture and enterprise development (AED), rural infrastructure, and institutional development. Agricultural value chain and small farmer agro-enterprise development, although achieved, and tenure improvement proved more complex than anticipated. The project should have undertaken a more thorough review of all these interventions and streamlined activities according to existing capacities, budgets, and timeframes.
GAP implementation was highly successful: the project completed 95% of its gender activities and achieved 90% of its gender targets. This resulted in women’s socioeconomic empowerment, indicated by high levels of women participation in project activities and decision-making and access to project benefits. Active participation and close coordination between the implementing agencies and the gender consulting team primarily accounted for the project’s strong gender performance. To boost the chances of success, GAD implementation in future projects should ensure the conduct of GAD orientation and training among key agencies at project inception, adequate funding and human resources, and the collection and use of gender−disaggregated data in project monitoring, reporting, and evaluation.
The project empowered the communities to identify and prioritize infrastructure subprojects through the participatory Commune Investment Plan process. While fostering ownership and commitment, the process also placed the communities in a good position to effectively monitor project implementation, which helped address the risk of corruption and financial mismanagement and ensure high-quality infrastructure. Community participation in enhancing the sustainability of physical assets and project benefits was further bolstered by the formation and subsequent operationalization of special purpose groups such as farmer water user groups and road operation and maintenance groups.
Major social capital increases had occurred with the formation of various types of farmers’ groups, including agricultural cooperatives, savings groups, and on-farm and off-farm business groups. This was established by the end-of-project financial and economic analysis, which also revealed that typical agri-enterprises, with 30–35 members, had an annual turnover of about $1,700−$3,400. Repayment rates of 100% for credit accessed from self-help groups and cooperatives, and the growth of savings group capital from an initial $40 to, in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars were indicative of significant social cohesion and a remarkable level of collective capacity. But before all these could happen, intensive training had to be provided to enable individual farmers and their groups to diversify income and livelihood sources and make their small businesses profitable.
Use of the CDD approach of empowering communities to identify, prioritize, and implement commune-level infrastructure investments aligned the investments to beneficiary needs. Along with the creation of new on- and off-farm opportunities, these investments enabled the project to significantly contribute in improving the connectivity, food security, productivity, incomes, and living conditions of the poor in 3 provinces in the Tonle Sap basin. By project completion, average village–commune travel time had been reduced; cropping intensity rose; rice production increased; and more diverse livelihood and income sources were generated. The resulting decline in poverty incidence in the participating communes reduced the need for the communities to migrate seasonally to the buffer zone of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve to meet their subsistence shortfalls. Going forward, wider impacts can be achieved by disseminating good practices and ensuring the sustainability of productivity and income increases.