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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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Many technologies available in the shops, such as hybrid maize, fertilizers and pesticides, have high input costs and low farm-gate prices for the produce. RECODA has solved this constraint by eliminating or lowering input costs. The RIPAT projects supply biological evaluation oF the riPat ConCePt inputs to RIPAT groups, and in return the benefiting farmers are asked to help others in the community to gain the same capacity, in particular by passing on inputs that they produce themselves. In addition, RIPAT group members learn to produce the inputs needed for all the technologies in the basket of options (seed, manure, and improved strains of small livestock), thereby reducing their dependency on expensive and sometimes difficult-to-obtain external farm inputs. From being one of the major constraints to successful farming, inputs have become an asset for RIPAT group members, as the sale of inputs has come to contribute an increasing proportion of farm income.

Group organization and support However, offering relevant technology is not sufficient on its own. RECODA’s efforts to organize farmers into groups to enhance their social, organizational, and technological skills and capacity also contribute to RIPAT’s effectiveness. It is important that support for building organizational skills in the groups is provided in advance of each group’s introduction to the basket of technology options. By combining support for social empowerment and access to relevant technologies, RIPAT enables farmers to play an active role in their own development. This dual approach has been shown to be successful elsewhere in East Africa (Friis-Hansen and Duveskog, 2011).

The quality of the support provided by the implementing agency is another crucial component influencing effectiveness. All the people interviewed for the evaluation, whether farmers, village leaders, or local government staff, recognized that ‘RECODA is different from other NGOs’ in that RECODA keeps its promises and its engagement in the community is a long-term commitment. RECODA implements activities in close liaison with district and village government politicians and technical staff, thus ensuring strong feelings of ownership of the project among public officers as well as among group members and the wider community. RECODA’s support to farmer groups through RIPAT differs from that of other NGO projects and the government’s Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP); frequent follow-up visits are made during the first 18 months, during which time any unsolved problems or unexpected obstacles are dealt with. RECODA has also been efficient in synchronizing the delivery of advisory services with the provision of adequate volumes of appropriate and high-quality biological inputs. Our visits to the four RIPAT projects demonstrated to us that the local RECODA personnel were very knowledgeable and highly qualified for their jobs, and were well known to and respected by farmers and village officials.

However, in one specific aspect – the group field – RECODA is facing a serious threat to the long-term sustainability of those RIPAT groups that decide to continue their existence after the conclusion of the RECODA project. By choosing to rent land for the RIPAT groups from private farmers on five-year contracts, RECODA is copying the normal practice among farmers who need additional land for cultivation (see Box 2.1 in Chapter 2). Land is commonly rented among private farmers for one or two seasons for cultivation of annual crops such as maize or for traditional banana. However, there is a major difference between cultivating annual crops and the establishment of improved banana varieties using good crop husbandry (as taught in the RIPAT groups), which represents a considerable investment of labour. RIPAT groups are returning fields to their owners that are much more productive than when they first rented them, without getting any compensation for their accumulated efforts.

evaluation oF the riPat ConCePt Mechanism for spreading technologies The ‘solidarity chain’1 mechanism for the spread of new animal breeds within the groups is a very important component of the projects, and seems to work well. The chains are designed to ensure that all members of the group obtain access to costly improved breeds of small farm animals. One example is the solidarity chain for the improved breed of goat. Each RIPAT group adopting this technology (except in RIPAT 1) received between five and seven female and two male pure-bred goats. The female goats were given to individual group members, who then each passed on two female offspring to other RIPAT group members, after which the original goat they had received became their property.

The two male goats were used to breed with the new female goats as well as with goats of the local breed, owned both within the group and in the wider community.

The banana solidarity chain mechanism is intended to promote the flow of banana suckers from RIPAT group members to other people in their communities. RIPAT 1 farmers received 20 suckers from the project, and were supposed to pass on three times this number to other members of the community. Data from the household survey (EDI-RF APFS data, 2011) show that group members in RIPAT 1 on average have passed on 50 banana suckers to others in the community as agreed. The solidarity chain can therefore be viewed as successful. However, although the agreement made by RIPAT group members with RECODA to pass on technology inputs to other farmers in the community has generally been upheld, its impact has been limited. The spread of banana suckers from group members to the community on a commercial basis has become much more important.

This commercial trade involves more than just the banana suckers; it includes all types of improved biological inputs provided by the RIPAT project to farmers, including cassava and sweet potato cuttings, improved onion seed, improved pigeon pea seed, open-pollinated maize seed, and piglets of improved breed (RIPAT 3), as well as the mating of cockerels of improved breed with local chickens for a fee and the mating of male goats of improved breed with local female goats for a fee. Elephant grass and other fodder crops are inputs that have very high multiplication factors and do not require a lot of labour for their establishment compared with bananas and other crops; therefore they are often simply given to other farmers free of charge.

Other characteristics of project implementation affecting effectiveness Since the RIPAT project was developed on a trial-and-error basis through close cooperation between RECODA and the Rockwool Foundation, it required a relationship between the two parties built more on trust than on elaborate plans and written agreements, and this has enabled the RIPAT project to be implemented on a highly flexible and responsive basis.

This high level of flexibility was observed in the implementation of all four RIPAT projects. One example is RIPAT 1, where monitoring revealed problems for the solidarity chains within the groups that had adopted the improved breed of goat. The pace of diffusion was too slow, and not all the group members had had the use of a male goat for breeding by the time of project closure. This was adjusted in subsequent RIPAT projects, where more male and female goats of the improved breed were provided by RECODA to enhance the multiplication rate and allow all group members to receive a pair of goats of the improved variety within a reasonable timeframe. Another example is when RECODA 74 Farmers’ ChoiCe discovered that the drought in 2009 had resulted in up to half of all cattle dying in villages in the RIPAT 2 area. The project quickly shifted away from ox-drawn Magoye rippers, and replaced them with Zambian hoes (which perform a similar function using human labour).

6.5 Efficiency This section discusses the assessed cost and development outcomes of RIPAT with those achieved by Agricultural Sector Development Programmes (ASDPs) and in best-practice Farmer Field Schools run by agricultural Extension Officers. All three schemes operate with groups of approximately the same size, namely 30–35 farmers, and have comparable aims. We cannot compare cost and benefit of the three programmes directly because we do not have data for the programmes in comparable stages.

Our assessment shows that the cost of ASDP groups is relatively high: about US$140 per farmer per year over a period of three-and-a-half years. The best-practice FFS runs at lower cost. This reflects both the lower level of technology input support and a concerted effort over a number of years to reduce costs.

The four RIPAT programmes can be seen as developing a prototype, and a significant part of the RECODA activities associated with them have been invested in trying out different approaches in collaborating with farmers, interacting with other stakeholders, and engaging in systematic data collection. Nevertheless, RIPAT has run at a lower average cost than ASDP during this development phase, at about 85 per cent of that level, but still not at the same low cost level as the best-practice FFS. The level of overhead is likely to be significantly reduced in any future best-practice RIPAT or RIPAT-like projects.

Our assessments of development outcomes are based on the qualitative fieldwork undertaken by the DIIS team and on an impact study among Farmer Field Schools in East Africa (Friis-Hansen and Duveskog, 2011). Household food security outcomes are assessed to be high for both RIPAT and Farmer Field Schools. The food security outcome of ASDP is assessed to be low to medium, because the ASDP farmers are generally better off initially (they can afford 50 per cent co-funding) and thus mostly already food secure before receiving support.

We assess the technology development outcome to be highest for RIPAT. This is due to the high-quality ‘basket of technology options’ approach and the good synchronization between access to inputs and access to learning. The pace of technology development in FFS is slower, reflecting the greater emphasis on an in-depth understanding of scientific causes and effects, and a lower degree of emphasis on rapid adoption. Technology development in ASDP is assessed to be slow because of poor timing and coordination between advisory services and access to inputs, and because of the individualized technology input procurement system, which fails to ensure quality.

We judge that both RIPAT and FFS result in increased productivity, producing positive outcomes in the long term. The long-term effects of ASDP are assessed to be low and/ or uncertain, because of the unsustainable nature of the support for group formation.

FFS comes out as a slow but cheap road to poverty reduction. RIPAT produces results faster but might be more expensive in the short run. An accurate comparison of the two programmes’ virtues in the long run would require further studies at a time by which the younger RIPAT approach is in a more comparable state of development compared to the older best-practice FFS approach considered here.

evaluation oF the riPat ConCePt The cost of RIPAT groups could without doubt be reduced considerably if paraprofessionals were employed to a greater extent (see chapters 2 and 11 regarding the RECODA Academy training programme for such paraprofessionals) and if the technology inputs were acquired from established RIPAT groups rather than externally.

Our observations during our field visit suggest that the efficiency of project implementation has increased in RIPAT 4, which shows a high degree of learning from the previous projects.

6.6 Sustainability RIPAT has been successful in closing the technology gap by introducing new agricultural technologies. The use of these technologies seems likely to continue and expand, in particular among those farmers who have remained members of RIPAT groups. Most of these farmers are likely to continue their development in terms of agricultural practices and thus become more food secure than the rest of the community during years affected by drought, and able to accumulate resources during years with good rainfall. Farmers in the wider community are likely to continue to adopt RIPAT technologies by accessing biological inputs from RIPAT farmers on a commercial basis.

Technology development is likely to have a positive effect on community resources.

There has been a notable increase in the use of farmyard manure for banana growing;

indeed, this has happened to such an extent that manure has now become a commercial resource in many of the RIPAT localities. The use of the ripper for conservation agriculture has not only reduced the labour required for maize cultivation but has also conserved the land by reducing the soil erosion that usually results from water run-off.

The study team observed the positive effects of introducing better agronomic practices in connection with the intercropping of pigeon peas and maize. Although intercropping with maize and pigeon peas had been practised widely in the past, RIPAT introduced improved practices that included the growing of improved varieties and optimum plant spacing, thereby increasing yields and the efficiency of land use. Achieving high yields of bananas is closely linked to irrigation. In Kikwe village (RIPAT 1), the use of water for the irrigation of RIPAT group members’ banana crops was assessed by the evaluation team to be three times more efficient than using the same water to irrigate maize, as is done by most non-members of RIPAT.

Some of the outcomes achieved by the RIPAT intervention are likely to continue longer than others after the withdrawal of project support from RECODA and the Rockwool Foundation. The RIPAT project supports both the empowerment of farmer groups and agricultural technology development. Although the emphasis is on the latter, the fact that 13 out of 16 RIPAT groups were still fully operational 18 months after all support for the RIPAT 1 project was terminated is an indicator of sustainable organizational outcomes.

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