Viet Nam: Productive Rural Infrastructure Sector Project in the Central Highlands
The design standards of productive rural infrastructure (PRI) should adequately address the risk factors associated with climate change and the shifting land use patterns.
With the tremendous pressure on Viet Nam’s provincial administrations to achieve economic development, investments have tended to prioritize the expansion of PRI with designs that are often based on outdated standards and cost norms. Irrigation and road designs thus typically result in lower capacity with structural weaknesses, consequently requiring repair and/or upgrade shortly after commissioning. For example, significant periodic maintenance was required for the subprojects in Buon Tria–Buon Triet communes of Lak district within just 2 years after commissioning. However, due to the limited revenue generation capacity of provincial governments, it is not always possible to meet the operation and maintenance (O&M) costs of the project assets. Given this, it is of great importance that PRI design standards adequately address current risk factors, particularly under expected climate change scenarios and the changing land-use patterns.
Formal organizations and institutional arrangements are necessary to maintain rural infrastructure in good condition.
During the completion review field visits, it was observed that irrigation facilities are better maintained than low-volume rural roads. This is because budget allocations to irrigation management companies provide for a minimum level of service and people are engaged on a part-time basis to maintain canals and keep gates in operating condition. In the case of low volume rural roads, not only are commune funds more limited than provincial sources, the institutional structure to maintain alignments is also inadequate. As a result, commune people’s committees often engage voluntary groups (youth or women’s associations) to carry out basic maintenance and vegetation control at a scale that requires mechanical intervention. Without a formal organization and institutional arrangement to do the job, the maintenance of rural roads is often left undone or done too late.
Adequate supervision is necessary to ensure the timely completion and handover of fully operational, quality infrastructure.
All the works contracts under this project were supervised by consulting engineers appointed to ensure that detailed engineering designs were followed, and contractors’ claims were legitimate. However, the supervision of some subprojects was insufficient to ensure timely completion and handover of fully operational, quality works. Of note were (i) a nonfunctioning pressurized piped irrigation system in Cu M’Gar, Dak Lak; and (ii) a poorly constructed irrigation system in Ea Soup, Dak Lak.
Viet Nam’s e-procurement system is highly efficient.
Eight civil works packages under national competitive bidding were procured successfully using Viet Nam's e-procurement system. All the e-procured packages achieved high efficiency with an average of 50 days end-to-end procurement time. However, there were only one or two bids per package. This may be because of the new procurement procedure but may also reflect small contract values (less than $1 million per contract).
The Productive Rural Infrastructure Sector Project in the Central Highlands, approved by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for a loan of $77.68 million-equivalent in September 2013, aimed to regenerate and upgrade underdeveloped or outdated productive rural infrastructure (PRI) in Viet Nam. It targeted areas with existing irrigation schemes that had good potential for agricultural production. PRI investments were to include irrigation and associated rural access infrastructure upgrades in the Central Highlands Provinces (CHPs) of Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Gia Lai, Kon Tum, and Lam Dong.
The project’s envisaged impact was increased rural incomes and sustained livelihoods in the participating CHPs. Its expected outcome was improved rural and agricultural productivity, to be achieved through the following planned outputs: (i) improved PRI; (ii) enhanced capacity to develop, manage, and use PRI; and (iii) efficient project management. It was to have a positive impact on the lives and livelihoods of 3.75 million rural residents (71% of the CHP population, of which 34.3% were ethnic minorities and 22.4% were considered poor) by facilitating access to inputs (including irrigation water), markets, health services, education, and employment opportunities while reducing production and marketing costs.
Investments screened for inclusion were pre-identified in the participating provinces’ socioeconomic development plans and met the eligibility criteria agreed with the government. The 23 subprojects eventually selected (3 for phase 1, 12 for phase 2, and 8 for phase 3), consisted of irrigation facilities and associated rural roads to improve market access. Two of the subprojects, which employed piped delivery systems and water-efficient application technologies, were chosen for their demonstration value and replication potential in the CHPs, particularly in Lam Dong and Dak Lak where higher value annuals, perennials, and industrial crops abound but water resources remain limited.
At completion, the project achieved all its PRI output targets. It rehabilitated and expanded 40 irrigation schemes, covering over 19,738 hectares (ha) of command area (revised target after the midterm review was 17,500 ha); and constructed or upgraded 254.4 kilometers (km) of rural roads (target was 130 km). Works contracts provided jobs to 2,583 local unskilled workers, 40.3% of whom were women. Operation and maintenance plans have been in place for all irrigation subprojects and implemented by provincial irrigation management companies. Completed rural roads have been transferred to commune councils and maintained by commune organizations.
The attainment of output 2 targets was mixed: of the 6 targets, 1 was not achieved, 3 were partially achieved, and 2 were achieved. Condition inventories were not established as planned. Project management and PRI users’ trainings and studies on improved PRI and irrigation scheme management were only partly achieved. Achieved targets were on the number of training courses and participants in irrigation scheme management and on HIV/AIDs and road and dam awareness campaigns. All targets on output 3 were achieved, albeit with dela
The output deliveries enabled the project to substantially achieve its outcome targets. Crop yields for rice, coffee, and pepper increased and 390,370 people, against the target of 267,727, benefited from the improved rural roads. Overall, the project thus achieved its envisaged impact, contributing to reduced poverty among the direct beneficiaries (14.95% in 2012 to 6.81% in 2018) and increased average household income in the subproject areas (D20.2 million in 2018, up 53.5% from 2013).
The project had the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as executing agency, and the provincial people’s committees of the participating CHPs as implementing agencies.