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«Edited by Helene Bie Lilleør and Ulrik Lund-Sørensen Practical Action Publishing Ltd The Schumacher Centre, Bourton on Dunsmore, Rugby, ...»

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6.3 Relevance This section discusses the extent to which the activities and outcomes of RIPAT are, in our view, consistent with the overall project aims of achieving household food security and reducing rural poverty. Our overall finding is that the objectives of RIPAT are highly relevant for and consistent with the needs of poor farmers in northern Tanzania. A farmer from the Elakonoto RIPAT group in Marurani village (RIPAT 1) said: ‘Members used to be viewed by others as average poor farmers. Now they are viewed by the community as resource persons, in terms of both knowledge and material resources. Many come to them for advice and even for loans.’ Basket of agricultural technology options RIPAT offers farmers a basket of agricultural technology options designed to bridge the agricultural technology gaps identified during initial needs assessments and problem analysis, and thus to help the farmers use existing techniques more effectively (see Box

2.2 in Chapter 2 for details about the content of the basket of options). The technology gap can be understood as the difference between the farm production that is achieved with the agricultural technologies currently being used by farmers and the production that could be achieved by the same farmers if they had access to better technologies and had the capacity to adjust them to local conditions. The gap is caused both by lack of knowledge of techniques and training in their use and by lack of access to equipment and agricultural inputs for implementing better technologies.

The closing of the technology gap aims to achieve two effects:

• a reduction in the risk of agricultural production failure during drought; and

• an increase in productivity during seasons with adequate rainfall.

Several techniques have been promoted to secure a reduction in the risk of production failure as a result of drought. Cultivation of improved varieties of bananas, planted in large holes filled with a mixture of cow manure and topsoil, generally ensures much better water infiltration and retention than the crop cultivation it replaces (e.g. cultivation of maize).

This significantly reduces the effect of drought spells, especially when it is combined with other elements from the basket of options, e.g. intercropping with improved varieties of cover crops (particularly lablab), which reduces evaporation, and construction of tied ridges in combination with water harvesting, which reduces loss of rainwater. Other technologies in the basket that reduce the risk of poor harvests in drought conditions include conservation agriculture for maize and improved varieties of cassava and sweet potatoes (the full list of technologies is provided in Box 2.2 in Chapter 2). The negative consequences of drought can also be reduced by shifting from crop cultivation to small livestock husbandry, with the adoption of improved breeds of poultry, sheep, goats, and pigs.

A farmer from the Garmi RIPAT group in RIPAT 3 stated: ‘Short-season maize combined with conservation agriculture has increased the period during which the maize can survive without adequate rainfall. I can see that my neighbours’ [traditionally planted] maize fields are much more affected by drought.’ With regard to increasing productivity, the combination of improved husbandry techniques and access to improved varieties of crops and small livestock seemed to be effective. A subsistence farmer who may often be faced with food deficit would consider a successful technology to be one that produces an acceptable yield in the worst year 68 Farmers’ ChoiCe The options that have been offered in the different RIPAT projects have varied in number and in the combinations available, with each new project learning lessons from the previous one. The intention has been to vary the mix in the basket of options so that it is as relevant as possible to the recipient group, taking into account both previous experience and the needs of farmers in different environments and cultures.

Organization into groups RIPAT projects organize farmers into groups, and RECODA uses these groups as the units for providing support. The groups are encouraged to play an active role in choosing which of the technology options they are interested in, thus empowering them from the outset.

Learning in RIPAT groups follows a season/cycle-based process, similar to the classic FFS method, where a given technique is followed through all its stages. This ensures that the timing of learning is appropriate. The system emphasizes the principles of ‘learning by doing’ and using the field as the primary learning environment. Project participants meet in the field and have hands-on involvement in every step of the process of establishing demonstration plots for the implementation of the technologies. However, unlike the FFS approach, which emphasizes broad understanding of the ecosystem and basic scientific concepts, RIPAT focuses on an understanding of specific, predetermined technologies. RIPAT therefore applies a mixture of a traditional extension approach and an FFS approach. In RIPAT, the introduction of a basket of options of unfamiliar technologies has required the combined use of a demonstration approach (top down) and experimentation, reflection, and analysis, as applied in the classic FFS approach (bottom up).

For example, the new banana varieties and cultivation methods were unknown in most of the RIPAT 1–4 villages – and therefore the role of the RECODA staff member sometimes became more that of a teacher rather than a facilitator. Nevertheless, experimentation was a crucial and integral part of the technology transfer. Groups experimented with and evaluated the four or five varieties tested in each group, different manure application rates, and so on.

Perhaps because of the emphasis on demonstrating the basket of options, the evaluation team’s visits to the RIPAT group fields left them with an impression of demonstration plots and production sites, rather than experimental plots of the type used by FFS. However, interaction with RECODA staff revealed that, while the technology options are established for demonstration purposes, they are also tested and compared with traditional methods, and the outcomes are evaluated by the RIPAT group members themselves. This evaluation process involves RIPAT farmers in defining the experiments, in reflecting critically on the results, and in reaching consensus after group discussions.

There are instances where this process has resulted in innovations and adjustments to elements in the basket of options.

One example provided by RECODA staff concerned farmers in Majimoto village. They designed an experiment where they applied 10 20-litre containers of manure to each banana hole instead of the demonstrated seven containers. The experiment showed that 10 tins of manure gave remarkably better yields. The farmer group and RECODA staff discussed the results critically and agreed to modify the recommendation for banana cultivation in the village, and RECODA has changed its recommendations for other areas with similar growing conditions.

evaluation oF the riPat ConCePt The advantage of FFS over the RIPAT learning approach is that farmers learn in FFS to analyse their own situation in a very systematic way and to understand the underlying scientific principles of the chosen technology options, while RIPAT group members’ experimentation is less systematic, leading the groups sometimes to simply replicate what they have been taught.

The advantage of the RIPAT learning approach is that it is a much faster way of spreading proven techniques. The combination of a relevant basket of technology options and a modified FFS approach seems highly relevant for the rapid agricultural improvement needed during the relatively short RIPAT projects.

In RIPAT, the intensive instruction and assistance by RECODA staff ends after the initial 18 months, and learning sessions become less frequent over the following 18 months. Continued teaching is gradually taken over by one or more farmers within the group. These ‘super-farmers’ receive supplementary training from RECODA staff, or are offered the opportunity to attend training elsewhere through the RECODA Academy (see Chapter 11). One of the tasks of the super-farmers is to provide their groups with expertise relevant to the techniques that they have chosen to implement, and to organize group activities relating to the projects. The super-farmers also contribute to the spread of RIPAT technologies to the wider community (see chapters 9, 10 and 11).

6.4 Effectiveness Our analysis of RIPAT’s effectiveness focuses on RIPAT 1, but also draws on the implementation processes of subsequent RIPAT projects and on an assessment of RECODA as the implementing organization. The overall assessment produced by our analysis is that, to a large extent, RIPAT has achieved its objectives. The high level of effectiveness has been achieved through both the relevance and efficiency of the project and, perhaps most importantly, through the absence of any major design failings or implementation failures.

Assessment of RECODA RECODA is a Tanzanian non-governmental organization. It was established in 2000 with the aim of bridging the technology gap among small-scale farmers through research, consultancy, capacity-building, and facilitation of community-based projects. During its first five years it had no major source of income and employed only a few staff, who attracted assignments based on their individual professional credentials. Its core staff members had previously been employed as agricultural researchers at government research stations. From 2006 onwards, RECODA has been closely linked with the Rockwool Foundation. RECODA has grown to its current size of 15 permanent employees through its implementation of RIPAT projects, and it has received flexible and responsive support from the Rockwool Foundation in this work. This has given RECODA the breathing space needed to concentrate on its work and spend less time chasing funding or worrying about how to pay the bills.

At the time the RIPAT project began, RECODA had already carried out development and consultancy work in the districts that were targeted in the RIPAT projects. RECODA therefore had comprehensive practical and background knowledge from the outset about the local settings, including the potential for and restrictions on agricultural 70 Farmers’ ChoiCe development. RECODA also had practical experience of spreading new, useful knowledge and technologies to farmers and of how to optimize technology adoption.

In the opinion of the evaluation team, RECODA stands out among the numerous Tanzanian NGOs. RECODA staff are well known and respected among local government politicians and technical staff in the districts where RIPAT is implemented; they are widely viewed as being serious in their work and as acting in a spirit of partnership with local government staff. This high regard is due not only to the high degree of technical competence of their agricultural support, but also to how they work as an organization.

RECODA has a highly qualified team of staff, including a charismatic executive director and an extremely competent programme director, committed project managers for each of the ongoing RIPAT 2, 3, and 4 projects who are assisted by a number of well-informed and active field staff, and a small administrative department. The DIIS evaluation team interacted with most of the RECODA staff, who all came across as being very dedicated and well qualified for their jobs. The educational profile of the staff is biased towards technical agriculture, with limited formal social sciences background.

Senior staff seemed genuinely interested in learning through critically examining the experience gained from RIPAT project implementation, with a view to understanding how they could improve their efficiency as an organization. RECODA also seems concerned with cost effectiveness: for example, the organization has rented a rural house in Korogwe District that both provides accommodation and serves as an office during the staff’s frequent visits to farmers in the RIPAT 4 project. While many Tanzanian NGOs seek to maximize personal benefits for staff, RECODA as an organization seems to act to minimize the use of funds for unnecessary hotel expenses.

Basket of agricultural technology options The most obvious factor contributing to the effectiveness of RIPAT is that the technologies offered generate the outcomes demanded by farmers. We found many indications that farmers’ adoption of technologies from the basket of options has improved the resilience of farming to drought in the project villages. An appropriate combination of improved crop cultivation for banana, conservation agriculture, water harvesting, and the introduction of genetically improved varieties of poultry and goats have all contributed to decreasing farmers’ dependency on rainfall. While there is a clear relationship between access to water and yields, RIPAT group members all seem to be able to harvest at least something during drought years, while most other farmers in their communities experience crop or livestock failure. While agricultural production over the past three seasons has been generally depressed by drought, the farmers interviewed all agreed that the RIPAT technology options will be able to increase productivity significantly if there

is adequate rainfall. As one farmer from the Upendo RIPAT group under RIPAT 4 put it:

‘Give us one good rainfall season and we will stop working as casual labourers for other farmers and become household food secure.’ Efforts by RECODA to make the technologies easily accessible to poor farmers also contribute to RIPAT’s effectiveness. Poor farmers lack the money to access the external technology inputs needed to improve agricultural productivity and increase income.

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