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This approach builds on what people already do, and then tries to widen the range of options available to them as well as to help them overcome local constraints. It is therefore accepted that things cannot be adopted evenly, and even a partial adoption of the products from a basket of options will be seen as a success, and taken as a sign that the developers have introduced some of the right products or techniques, given the local context, and have done more good than harm.
42 Farmers’ ChoiCe It is worth noting, however, that the bottom-up approach is in itself a policy defined from the top down, in that it specifies the role and contribution of local participants within projects and programmes, and individual projects continue to be required to adhere to general political priorities and targets. Therefore, the continuing challenge for social and economic development initiatives is to answer the question of how to combine the intentions and resources of donor and development agencies with local interests, preferences, and conditions as they are seen from the participant/recipient point of view. As we shall see, this aspect of the difference of approach is particularly pertinent in the discussion of the role of RIPAT within the villages and groups involved in the project.
4.6 The RIPAT answer to the challenge In the light of our account in Section 4.3 of the historical development of the area, with its emphasis on constant changes to the local agriculture and economy, the bottom-up approach to agricultural development appears more realistic and practical.
Actual changes have always occurred on the basis of farmers’ assessments of the choices available and of the practicality and the advantages and disadvantages of these choices.
That is certainly not the same as saying, however, that farmers have always been able to overcome all problems and limitations, and that there is no need for external input into farmers’ practices, or no need for the general improvement of structural conditions (such as access to markets, land, and training) – and some of these problems can be addressed only by centrally implemented, political actions. As we see it, RECODA’s work is an expression of this understanding.
In fact, we have detected elements of both the top-down and the bottom-up approaches in the RIPAT project. The farmers were not involved in defining their main problems or the solutions to their problems prior to the project implementation, as a fully participatory extension approach would imply. There was therefore very little local participation in the process of project design in RIPAT 1, as it was RECODA and the Rockwool Foundation that decided to focus on agriculture in general and on the specific farming techniques selected. In this respect it can be argued that RIPAT was a top-down approach.
However, the RECODA staff introduced a range of crops and technologies to the farmers based on thorough knowledge of farming, local conditions, and marketing opportunities, and they gave the farmers the option to choose what suited their individual needs best.
RECODA and the Rockwool Foundation established the framework for the development approach, but within that framework they allowed the farmers themselves to define their own best ways forward, thereby recognizing that farmers are different from one another in many respects and have different needs.
On the one hand, the project has a top-down approach with the aim of ‘bridging the technology gap’ (which is the slogan of RECODA), changing the mindset of farmers (shifting from subsistence to commercial farming, maximizing productivity and income), and introducing packages of good practices (such as conservation agriculture or zero grazing). These elements of RIPAT were determined at the organizational level, and it was expected that they would be implemented to some degree by the farmers. From such a top-down point of view alone, however, RIPAT does not seem to have had a very significant effect. Even though farmers were eager to learn and the top-down teaching and transfer of knowledge were greatly appreciated, few of the old ways of practising The ConTexT For riPaT farming have been eliminated, and there has not been a radical change of ‘mindset’ from subsistence agriculture to cash cropping. First, the traditional strategies already integrated a good deal of cash cropping and marketing. Second, subsistence agriculture remains important, as risking too much on cash crops is a difficult and insecure strategy.
On the other hand, however, the project also has a bottom-up approach that provides baskets of options trialled on demonstration plots, lets farmers select what is best for them (regardless of what the agency would prefer to see them do), and works very closely with farmers through farmer groups to overcome the constraints on their endeavours (see Chapter 2). In this way, by emphasizing choice and flexibility, RIPAT manages to create the conditions for a variety of farmer innovations. The success observed therefore reflects a continuous process of adjusting what the project has to offer in order to come closer to what the targeted farmers need and want. This process of choice and flexibility is not only a matter of having the right project design. It also requires a constant attention to farmers’ shifting predicaments and situations which can be achieved only through close, hands-on work with the farmers – something of which RECODA is very well aware.
Another important factor in this regard is the close collaboration between RECODA as the implementing institution and the Rockwool Foundation as the project donor.
Both RECODA and the Rockwool Foundation are, in top-down/bottom-up rhetorical terms, the power holders in the project, although their roles are different. These different roles could potentially be a source of conflict and misunderstanding, because of different and possibly competing interests. However, through constant communication and consultation from the start of the first RIPAT project, the two parties have achieved a mutual respect and understanding which has allowed flexibility and change according to farmers’ needs. This has enabled the project to strike a balance between participatory and directive approaches, and still satisfy the requirements of the donor. New technology (which may not actually be so very new to the farmers) and new crops and animals were presented to farmers as part of the RIPAT packages, but there was always an element of choice. Local farmers received a range of possibilities and, working in groups, explored those possibilities to find those that fitted best with their own immediate assessment of needs and markets.
In the RIPAT project, the top-down approach to agricultural development has been transformed into a process that is very open. There are many options for farmers to choose from, and most of these options are improved variants of known practices, crops, and livestock. Furthermore, RECODA’s implementation has more often than not managed to maintain a dialogue with farmers and to continuously incorporate the experiences of RIPAT farmers into the project design. There has been a real, and often successful, attempt to give farmers not just new ‘things’, but also new choices.
RECODA has worked with farmers on an equal footing, considering them as experts, and has invested time and resources in working with them in their fields. RECODA originally promoted a particular vision of modern farming and modern life, summed up in a picture of the ideal family home, a modern building surrounded by a goat shed, a poultry house, well-organized home fields, and outfields with crops in marshalled lines (see image, ‘The model super-household’). But the reality was different. Farmers chose in terms of what they could manage with available labour and land, and also in terms of their perceptions of their own best interests. Some of the RIPAT technologies found a niche, but had different impacts on different farmers.
44 Farmers’ ChoiCe The model ‘super-household’ The ConTexT For riPaT The provision of a carefully composed basket of options was therefore the development strategy that proved most helpful, as it acknowledged that the local farmers were active agents who would select what fitted in best with their perceived needs and local constraints. New knowledge and experience were acquired, even if the entire package was not adopted, and other projects will be able to build on this in the future.
1. When RIPAT began in 2006, the area in which it was implemented was called Arumeru District. Arumeru District has subsequently been divided into Meru District and Arusha District. Some of the RIPAT 1 villages are located in Arusha District and some are in Meru District.
2. According to the impact study, 82 per cent of the heads of households in Marurani (one of the RIPAT 1 villages) refer to themselves as WaArusha, 8 per cent WaMaasai and only 3 per cent WaMeru. The village of Kwa Uguru is primarily WaMeru, with 81 per cent of the heads of household WaMeru, 13 per cent WaArusha and less than 1 per cent WaMaasai.
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Assmo, Per (1999) Livelihood Strategies and Land Degradation: Perceptions Among Small-scale Farmers in Ng’iresi Village, Tanzania, Series B, No. 96, Department of Geography, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg.
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Cooksey, B. (2003) ‘Marketing reform? The rise and fall of agricultural liberalisation in Tanzania’, Development Policy Review 21(19): 67–91.
Ellis, F. and Biggs, S. (2001) ‘Evolving themes in rural development 1950s–2000s’, Development Policy Review 19: 437–48. Available from: www.glopp.ch/B1/en/ multimedia/B1_1_pdf3.pdf [accessed 18 July 2012].
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CHAPTER 5 The impact of RIPAT on food security and poverty Anna Folke Larsen, Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen, and Helene Bie Lilleør, Rockwool Foundation Research Unit 48 Farmers’ ChoiCe The main findings of the impact study, which built on the highly structured large-scale quantitative household data, are described in this chapter. There are three main findings.
First, there has been a high degree of adoption of various technologies from the basket of options among the individual participating farmers. Second, there are large, positive, and sustainable impacts from RIPAT on different measures of food security, including a reduction of hunger during the lean season, and an increase in the consumption of animal proteins. Third, there are no measurable effects on poverty, but rather an indication of a shift in the sources and use of farm income among the RIPAT households towards savings or agricultural investments.
5.1 Introduction In evaluating interventions, the first question that springs to mind tends to relate to the size of the impact: to what extent did this intervention influence the lives of the participants in the areas that it was designed to improve? As we see from many of the other chapters in this book, a whole range of outcomes may be brought about by an intervention, but in this chapter we focus on the two main areas that the RIPAT projects were designed to improve, namely food security and the poverty situation among the participating households. We use data from a large-scale household and village survey specifically designed to determine the quantitative impact of RIPAT on food security and poverty alleviation among its participating households: the EDI-RF data. These data and the associated survey methodology are described in more detail in Chapter 3, Section 3.4.
A prerequisite for discovering the impact of a project on its development objectives is, first, that it has been adopted by the target group, in this case the participating RIPAT farmers. We found that there has indeed been a high degree of take-up of project activities among the participating RIPAT farmers, and that, although improved banana cultivation has been in particularly great demand, many of the different options in the RIPAT basket have had good adoption rates, indicating that the project appeals to a wide range of different farmers with different demands and needs. (Box 2.2 in Chapter 2 gives details of the contents of the basket of options.) In our assessment of the impact of RIPAT on the levels of food security and poverty among the participating farmers, we took advantage of the time lag between RIPAT 1 and RIPAT 3, which allowed us to compare the two groups of households involved, provided that we took the district-level differences into account. We found that there have been substantial effects on food security; on average RIPAT 1 households are now 25 percentage points less likely to experience hunger in the lean periods of the year, and have significantly improved the nutritional quality of their diets. For some households this improvement in food security seems to have translated into a considerable reduction in malnutrition among children under five years old.