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LESSONS:

Agriculture Sector Development Program

sector: Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development | country: Cambodia

Program Related

Technical assistance (TA) inputs. The implied assumption of the TA work plan (with its heavy emphasis on early TA inputs) was that the policy and institutional reforms would be achieved quite early on and that the remainder of the time would involve just monitoring and evaluation of implementation. Policy reforms take time, and continued monitoring and effort are required from the TA, the counterparts, the government, and ADB throughout the program in order to effect policy and institutional change.

Local ownership of process. It was not until the establishment of working groups for each of the tranche conditions in late 2005, under the initiative of the program support unit (PSU), that ownership of the process became more localized. There were delays in the development of work plans and budgets, and the consequent disbursement of funds to the working groups caused a delay in meeting tranche conditions. However, resolving difficulties and obstacles was made easier by empowering the working groups to come up with their own ideas and solutions through internal processes.

Commitment to change. This is an important issue and lesson learned from the program loan activities. Although there clearly was a commitment to change in relation to most tranche conditions, there was back-tracking on the initial commitment to divest state-owned enterprises. However, after considerable reflection and reconsideration of options over the program period, all state-owned enterprises were successfully divested, and the benefits of this – significantly better operations and financial performance of the ongoing enterprises, and cost savings for those wound up – are increasingly appreciated.

Resettlement plans. At appraisal, the social and cost implications of the resettlement plans required in connection with the divestment of the state-owned rubber estates (SOREs) were not fully anticipated. This was a key reason for the 2-year delay in the release of the second tranche of the program loan. The scope and cost of resettlement plans needs to be clearly recognized at the time of project design, since they are time-consuming to prepare and costly to implement.

Project Related

Funding constraints. The uptake of some project activities was constrained by the lack of funds (or credit) for necessary capital expenditure items (e.g., costs of establishing greenhouses, chicken-raising facilities). This was accentuated by the project’s deliberate policy of seeking to involve a substantial proportion of the rural poor, who lacked cash or access to credit. Future projects should include adequate funds for such purposes or seek involvement of a nongovernment organization with funding available for such items.

Value of diffusion and informal extension services. Budgetary constraints mean that once the project ends, follow-up provision of provincial and district extension services from Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) staff is limited. This highlights the importance of developing the informal farmer-to-farmer and input-supplier-to-farmer extension services. In particular, the village extension worker (VEW) program introduced late in the project’s life has trained a number of farmers who will continue to disseminate their knowledge to neighboring farmers. Some farmers have become involved in the production of inputs to new technologies (e.g. fingerlings, chicks, and vaccinations) and are therefore motivated to encourage other farmers to also become active participants in the new technologies.

Profitability of new farming technologies. New activities such as vegetable growing, mushroom growing, pig fattening, chicken raising, and fish farming are more profitable than traditional paddy production and have had high adoption rates. However, for most of the targeted farmer households these new activities will be supplementary to paddy cultivation rather than a substitute for it. This is because most smallholders’ paddy production is for own consumption rather than for sale. For household food security reasons, paddy will continue to be grown given the perceived risks associated with nontraditional agricultural activities.

Decentralized training. The project targeted a large number of districts (18) in four different provinces. The geographical spread meant that a decentralized training model was essential. Project staff deployed in the provinces and districts needed to be skilled to a level commensurate with the requirements of the project – i.e., agricultural commercialization and diversification. MAFF provided this training and skills development centrally but enabled provincial and district extension staff to provide training and back-up support to the farmer households.

Farmer-based agroenterprises. The project found very few agroenterprises in the target districts. Toward the end of the project, the focus switched to providing agribusiness skills to the higher-performing farmer households that had already been trained in the new technologies. A number of examples emerged where these farmer households moved along the production chain and got involved in the production and/or sale of farm inputs to other farmers – e.g., chicks for chicken farming, fingerlings for fish farming, chicken feed, vaccines. A positive side-effect of this process was the commercial incentive for these farm input suppliers to conduct extension services free, or for a small fee, to promote the sale of their farm input supplies. These were generally non- poor farmers with sufficient resources of their own to develop these activities. However, the project also benefited poor farmers to a significant extent.

Monitoring and evaluation. Monitoring and evaluation is an important part of any project and the Agriculture Sector Development Program and Project (ASDP) was fortunate to have monitoring and evaluation officers in the PCU and in the provinces and districts. The adoption, diffusion, and cost/production surveys were an important part of the monitoring and evaluation system and helped provide information on the value of the project. This aspect of the project was particularly well implemented.

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