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LESSONS:

Smallholder Development Project: Project Completion Report

sector: Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development, Transport | country: Lao, People’s Democratic Republic

Better coordination with other development partners and government agencies during the original project design stage could have helped avoid the need to re-formulate the rural roads component and strengthened the government’s commitment to make counterpart funds available on a timely basis. Robust design and monitoring framework (DMF) preparation is essential for setting clear project objectives, targets and performance indicators within a logical results chain. Other key lessons include (i) the project performance management system should be understood by the project management and implementing teams and the system should be well defined and developed early in the project cycle; (ii) frequent changes in the ADB project officer interrupts the continuity of implementation supervision; (iii) more robust financial management assessment at appraisal may have helped avoid financial management problems experienced during implementation; and (iv) supplementary investment in the form of additional financing can greatly improve overall project efficiency, once an appropriate intervention focus has been identified and employed, even following delayed implementation of the original investment. ADB could have responded better to the project’s early implementation problems and should have been clearer in formulating the objectives logic and performance targets.

Concentrating effort on farmer production and marketing groups (FPMGs) through a learning-by-doing process turned what was a pilot project at the outset into a demonstration at completion. FPMGs were shown to be successful as units for production and marketing, extension delivery, provision of skills and technology and as contracted primary suppliers. However, the project’s approach was costly in terms of scale because FPMGs required intensive support. Although all groups still exist at completion it is not clear how they may expand or be replicated. Despite successful use of new technology such as improved rice seeds, many FPMGs now face problems in overcoming credit and trade policy constraints. Ultimately, their future will depend on how effectively they can deepen linkages with the private sector.

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