What ails our projects?

Published On: February 8, 2018 12:31 AM NPT By: Bhairab Raj Kaini

The project model of agriculture development is in practice in Nepal since 1956. This model is generally preferred by development partners and has been primary instruments for grant, loan and technical aid to Nepal by international development agencies. Projects are the means of mobilizing resources and allocating them to production of agricultural goods. The volume of lending and number of projects has increased sharply over the past decades. Despite more than a half a century of intensive experience with project implementation, Nepal still has serious problems in project execution. 

One problem is mismatch between projects and long term plans. Projects should translate plans into action. Since 1956, one long-term plan, nine five-year plans, four three-year plans and many donor funded projects have been implemented. Donor funded projects are not strongly linked to national plans and programs. Ministry of Agriculture has also failed to track aid money being channeled through INGOs in agriculture.

Donor supports in agriculture are mainly focused on software part. It is because development partners are more interested in quick outcome interventions rather than engagement in the long term projects. But the country’s need is to divert foreign aid in infrastructures which may take longer time to give outputs.

Flaws at design 
Several problems impede even project design. Long periods in processing and approval of projects, failure to use adequate baseline data and developmental indicators during project design, inadequate interaction between project planners and ultimate users, and clients and beneficiaries during design, lack of clearly defined objectives and expected outputs, inadequate analysis of local situation, ineffective methods of budgeting and  failure to account adequately in financial plans for inflation are some of them The government’s involvement in the project preparation is very nominal. Due to little homework, Nepal stands at weak position during negotiations.

And then there are hurdles in implementation as well. Corruption, inter-ministerial rivalries, lack of cooperation in allocating and disbursing resources required for project start-up, failure to make arrangement of  necessary institutions, administrative structures and human resources, cost over-runs due to delay in project implementation, political meddling and frequent transfer of project officials, inability to procure required resources, materials and supplies, conflict among project staffs, insufficient supporting facilities and services, delays in receiving disbursement from donor agencies, political interference in operation of project, failure to use local  management practices come in the way of making projects successful. And then there is increasing trend of irregularity in the government organizations. 

Due to political instability and frequent changes of project managers, most projects are implemented weakly. More than 60 percent of projects are not running in agreed schedules. Once we bring the project, we need to work sincerely. But this is not happening. Sometimes, development partners lacked clear commitments on their planned support, and they were also not accountable to their own commitments.

Massive corruption, unaccountable and nontransparent government mechanisms are the major constraints that often hinder the effectiveness of foreign aided projects in agriculture. Accountability is very important to ensure aid effectiveness. The best way to ensure accountability is to ensure transparency in the way aid is managed and used.

Long delays in submitting project completion reports, inadequate or ineffective project post-evaluation methods and procedures, discontinuation of project activities or inadequate utilization of complete projects, failure to adapt appropriate project outputs and techniques to other developmental activities are some of the main post-project issues that fail or make the projects unsuccessful.

Both donors and government are equally responsible for the poor performance of the project. In order to insure its effectiveness, donors should be transparent on providing their assistance, eliminating unnecessary conditionality to the recipient government. However, conditionality on cross-cutting issues such as governance, inclusion, accountability, transparency, political stability is positive aspect of project execution. They should be welcomed by the government as well.
There is also a mismatch of priorities between the donors and government in program planning and implementation. For example, commercialization of agriculture through intensive use of production inputs was the priority of the government to formulate 10th plan but development partners gave emphasis on poverty reduction issue. Because of this, the 10th plan totally deviated from the guidelines of Agriculture Perspective Plan (APP) which ultimately resulted in poor performance of APP. Donors are more interested to provide funds for projects of their priority rather than projects of national interest.

Weak execution 
Not only donor funded projects, government’s projects are also weakly executed. Let us take the example of the recently implemented Prime-minister Agriculture Modernization Project (PMAMP) under the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) which was started across the country this fiscal. This project has proposed 2,100 pockets, 150 blocks, 30 zones and seven super zones across the country in the first year.  Around 10 hectares of land are required for one pocket, 100 hectares for a block, 500 hectares for a zone and 1,000 hectares for a super zone. The government has made a commitment of running the project for the next 10 years, under which the ministry will expand the blocks, zones and super zone gradually every year for the next 10 years. The ministry is to develop 21 super zones across the country by the end of the project period.

The ministry has started to execute the project but there is no momentum in implementation. The mistakes of the past are being repeated. Human resources are not planned as per the need of the project. The issue of frequent changes of the key position holders in the project still prevails. Weak or ineffective coordination among implementing agencies is also hindering project progress. The concerted effort from various institutions for project execution is lacking.

It seems we won’t be able to meet the objective of increasing agriculture production and productivity to make the country self-reliant in food production within a decade through the implementation of this project. Our national goal to be self-reliant in rice and potato in two years, in maize and wheat in three years, in fish and vegetables in two years and in fruits in seven years won’t be met if we go about project implementation this way.


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