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Maguzu et al. stress that it is not only the basket of options that characterizes RIPAT, but also the conscious effort made to build on local resources, knowledge, and farmers’ summary and ConCluding remarks 135 own capacity to ‘take charge of their own development’. They point to how this, together with a long list of other activities, is necessary to ensure full local ownership, relevance, sustainability, and further spread of the technologies introduced into the local communities. The list of other activities includes careful sensitization and mobilization of farmers to promote their active participation; bringing local governmental authorities on board from the outset to assist in the implementation process and the group formation; built-in diffusion mechanisms, appointing the more skilled farmers as superfarmers with the responsibility for acting as local resource people in their technology of expertise; and, not least, setting up farmer groups with effective group leadership and clear work requirements using a common group field for the project’s implementation, visibility, and sustainability.
As the brief summary of Chapter 2 shows, the RIPAT intervention is complex and entails many different elements. It was therefore decided that it needed to be analysed and evaluated from different perspectives. As described in Chapter 3, this resulted in three separate studies; an impact study, an implementation study, and a context and adoption study. These studies differ not only in terms of content, but also in terms of their evaluation methodologies. As no baseline data were collected prior to the start of the implementation of RIPAT, making evaluation of its effects more difficult, the various evaluation studies also served to check each other’s findings.
The methodological crossover in the use of both quantitative and qualitative data has proved fruitful in informing the analysis and broadening the understanding and interpretation of the findings, providing insights above and beyond what each of the three evaluation approaches could have generated in isolation. The combination of evaluation methods that address the results – ‘what came out of it?’ – with methods that address the process and the context – ‘how and why did it happen?’ – gave additional depth and perspective to the analyses and helped to shape and highlight the overall conclusions presented at the end of this chapter.
Part II: The evaluation studies In Chapter 4, Gausset, Jöhncke, Pedersen and Whyte – all anthropologists, and part of the context and adoption study team – point to the importance of knowing the historical, demographic, and political contexts when designing, and therefore also when evaluating and analysing, an intervention such as RIPAT. They describe the local historical development of agriculture and the role of livestock and certain crops, especially banana, and point to the ever-present need for farmers to be responsive and adaptive to the changing political and climatic conditions that they face.
The authors emphasize how the accomplishments of the RIPAT intervention may be a result of the pragmatic handling and flexible integration of the top-down and bottom-up approaches to agricultural extension, together with the provision of a carefully composed basket of technology options, as ‘it acknowledged that the local farmers were active agents who would select what fitted in best with their perceived needs and local constraints’.
The provision and composition of the basket of options based on the local historical, demographic, and political contexts introduced flexibility and the ability to adapt to and engage with local conditions and realities, leaving the farmer with a genuine element of choice despite RIPAT deliberately not being a fully participatory extension approach.
136 Farmers’ ChoiCe In Chapter 5, Larsen and Lilleør analyse the highly structured large-scale quantitative data containing information on virtually all households that were members of either a RIPAT 1 or RIPAT 3 group at any point in time and on a large number of comparison households. They draw three main conclusions.
First, that there has been a high degree of adoption of various technologies among the individual participating farmers, but with considerable variation between households in what they adopted, suggesting that the farmers did indeed use the element of choice built into the basket of options to adopt technologies according to their individual needs and resources.
Second, that there have been positive impacts from RIPAT on different measures of food security among the RIPAT 1 participating households. The authors found that households were 25 percentage points more likely not to have experienced hunger during the ‘lean’ season than their comparison households; that they were almost 20 percentage points more likely to have eaten meat in the week prior to the survey;
and that some children under the age of five in certain villages were considerably less likely to be stunted (i.e. to have poor height-for-age measures). Stunted growth is closely related to having experienced malnutrition in early childhood. These are substantial effects on food security in an area where three in five households report having experienced hunger in the past year.
Third, that despite the positive impacts on the food security outcome measures, no statistically significant impact could be found on any of the poverty indicators used in the study. Different possible explanations are advanced for this apparently contradictory result. The RIPAT project has provided the means to address the seasonal variation in the household’s agricultural production, and thus their food production. By adopting perennial crops and improved livestock breeds, the participating households have almost automatically achieved better food consumption smoothing over the year. This may have been strengthened further by the increased membership of savings and loan associations. In addition, there are indications that RIPAT households have changed their use of labour towards investing in their own farm activities rather than supplying casual labour to others, despite this being a rather remunerative source of income. This suggests that any additional resources that may have resulted from RIPAT have primarily been used to improve the food security and farm investments of the participating households.
Importantly, this was the result of the individual farmer’s decisions, indicating that low food security was considered by far the most severe problem.
In Chapter 6, as part of the implementation study, the findings on the remaining OECD DAC principles (relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability of an intervention) for development evaluations are described. Aben, Duveskog, and Friis-Hansen conclude that RIPAT has been a relevant project in terms of both the technologies offered and the way in which they were offered, through the innovative use of a basket of options as a pragmatic ‘mixture of a traditional extension approach and an FFS approach’, allowing the ‘highly qualified team of staff’ at RECODA to introduce unfamiliar technologies. They explain how the intervention may have succeeded in closing the technology gap in the sense that they judge that the technologies introduced will have reduced the risk of agricultural failure during drought and increased the agricultural production during years of adequate rains, although this still remains to be seen in practice. The authors compare the method of learning in RIPAT groups with that of FFS and conclude summary and ConCluding remarks 137 that, because the learning contains a larger element of training, it is ‘a much faster way of spreading proven techniques’.
Overall, the authors assess RIPAT to be effective, drawing special attention to the use of built-in diffusion mechanisms and of biologically based inputs (which can be produced locally) as efficient ways of ensuring sustainability and promoting further spread of the technologies introduced. However, the authors also point to some of the potential weaknesses of RIPAT compared with FFS, their main concerns being a lower level of sustainability of the groups due to the lack of long-term user rights over group fields and relatively weak organizational capacity within groups to address common challenges, such as implementation of joint marketing.
In Chapter 7, Mogensen and Pedersen, who were part of the context and adoption study team, focus on intra-household dynamics and the everyday lives of women in some of the RIPAT 1 villages. They explain how farming and small-scale trading are integral elements of the women’s lives and a means of fulfilling their responsibility to provide food for the family; how men and women continuously negotiate over the resources in the household; and how some crops are under the man’s authority, often the cash crops, whereas other crops are under the woman’s control, e.g. traditionally the banana.
With the introduction of new crops through RIPAT and the new social relationships arising from the RIPAT groups, traditional roles and rights over crops and other resources are challenged; new negotiations take place within homes, often with RIPAT women becoming more empowered because they now have the ‘backing of the project’ in their new productive activities and because they have engaged in more formalized social relationships with other project participants in the home villages of their husbands.
The authors point to how the women’s traditional authority over banana cultivation is being challenged, because the improved banana variety is becoming such a valuable crop – a crop that can be used both for food and for cash. On the other hand, one of the women interviewed by the authors explains how a man is restricted in his authority over the banana: ‘It is very difficult for him to refuse a child school fees, or refuse to help a child who is sick, as long as the bananas are out there in his garden.’ If there are only beans or maize to sell once a year, the man has to save the money and the woman has no control over it, even when food supplies are low.
In Chapter 8, Lilleør and Pedersen step outside the household and consider the role and characteristics of the RIPAT groups, as they constitute a crucial component of the intervention. The authors conclude that the main selection criteria for becoming a group member have generally been fulfilled, although some RIPAT farmers own more land than the maximum of 5 acres. The ‘lower middle-class farmer’ target group seems to have been a good choice, as most of these farmers remain group members even after the intervention period comes to an end, more than is the case for the wealthier farmers who may have been included in the project. Although most of the dropouts report having left the RIPAT groups because they found the group work too demanding, some of the farmers report dropping out from RIPAT 1 due to poor leadership, which resulted in RECODA increasingly addressing capacity building and group leadership in the subsequent RIPAT (2, 3, and 4) projects. Even so, the authors found that around 70 per cent of the original participants stated that they were still group members, and 13 out of the original 16 RIPAT 1 groups were still active in the sense that they were continuing to make joint agricultural investments in January 2011, four-and-a-half years after their formation;
many of them had also developed into savings groups. Thus, although the authors of 138 Farmers’ ChoiCe Chapter 6 express concern over the institutional sustainability of the RIPAT groups as compared with FFS groups, the findings in Chapter 8 suggest that the existing groups do exhibit a degree of sustainability, and also that many of them have come to play important roles in advocating for improved conditions for their members’ interests in their local communities.
Gausset in Chapter 9 goes one step further and considers the extent to which the social technology promoted by the use of groups and the agricultural technologies promoted through the basket of options have been adopted by the participants, the permanence of this adoption, and whether non-participants have also adopted the social and agricultural technologies promoted, suggesting that these three levels of adoption represent three different indicators of the success of RIPAT 1.
Gausset concludes that the social technology has been well adopted, as most participants have stayed in the groups and many of the groups have evolved into savings or investment groups, which are likely to achieve a high degree of permanence or sustainability. However, he also concludes that farmer groups as a social technology are unlikely to be adopted by non-RIPAT participants because there is a ‘discrepancy between the collective nature of RIPAT farming groups and the individual or household nature of farming as it is practised on a day-to-day basis’. The social technology of farming groups is not a prerequisite for farming per se. On the other hand, in many villages the only means to save cash and access credit on reasonable terms is through savings and loan groups, where the social technology thereby becomes a necessity for those who want to save or to access loans. Farmers’ groups that also act as savings groups are therefore likely to be more sustainable because the joint savings and loan activities require the group structure, while farming does not.