Posted May 1996
FAO established PPP in 1980 based on the recommendations of the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development that called for greater participation of the rural poor in their own development. PPP established pilot projects as a method of incorporating people's participation into larger rural development programmes. These pilot projects were intended to promote the formation of small, self-help groups that would allow members to develop income-generating activities, receive services from other development agencies, and serve as a voice for dealing with local authorities.
The PPP pilot project in Ghana began in 1982, and has subsequently progressed through four phases (Phase I, Phase II, the Transition Phase, and Phase III). While FAO involvement in the project ended with the termination of the Transition Phase in 1992, the project continues into Phase III directly managed and funded by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Phase III project activities are presently scheduled to last four years and end in 1996.
PPP-Ghana was implemented in two separate action areas (AAs): the Wenchi AA in Brong Ahafo region and the Begoro AA in Eastern Region. In both AAs, the process of group formation began in late 1983 and continued through 1988. During this period, the project facilitated the formation of 237 groups in Begoro AA and 211 groups in Wenchi AA. Only a fraction of these, however, were functioning at any particular time. For example, during Phase II, only 126 and 123 groups existed in Begoro AA and Wenchi AA respectively.
A variety of factors made implementing PPP-Ghana especially difficult. Among the most important were the difficult political and economic conditions in Ghana in the 1980s, the innovative nature of PPP, reduced FAO supervision, and limited funding available to the project. These factors often worsened the mistakes made during the project's implementation. While FAO and project staff were able to overcome many of these mistakes, some persisted and limited the project's success throughout its lifetime.
When development professionals list the benefits provided by the project, they typically include many benefits not expressed by project participants. Such benefits include participants' introduction to formal systems of credit and savings, linkages to government and NGO line agencies, non-traditional income-generating activities, and increased organizational skills. Development officials also list benefits not included among the original project objectives. These include training of project staff, former staff's continued work in development and the public sector, the benefit to government agencies and NGOs from using PPP groups in their development projects, improvements in other PPP projects because of lessons learned from PPP-Ghana, and the use of project loans for non-PPP related activities.
When PPP group members list the benefits they received from participating in the project, they typically begin with "sika sem", the Tri equivalent for "money matters". The benefits made possible by project credit, however, proved unsustainable and ended with the last loans provided by the project. The second benefit stated by project participants was an increased spirit of cooperation and unity among group members. In contrast to project credit, this benefit often continued beyond the collapse of PPP groups. These two benefits were mentioned by almost all PPP group members met during field research.
Another important benefit listed by PPP group members was increased agricultural production made possible by project training in improved agricultural technologies. The success of these technologies often motivated other community members to adopt them as well. In this way, PPP-Ghana facilitated the adoption of appropriate agricultural technologies on a community wide basis. While it was impossible to identify all the communities that benefitted from project training in this way, it appears to have been a significant percentage of the communities that had PPP groups. Finally, many PPP groups still active in the sumemr of 1993 identified substantial benefits from their ongoing group income-generating activities.
As with project benefits, the costs of PPP-Ghana are different whether defined by development professionals or by project participants. Development officials measured project costs in terms of project funding. The Dutch government provided nearly $555,000 or Phases I and II (remaining Phase II funds were used to fund the Transition Phase). FAO funding for backstopping missions was estimated at $50,000 and the percentage of Associate Professional Officer's salaries dedicated to PPP-Ghana at an additional $120,000. Financial support provided by the government of Ghana and local NGOs was considered negligible. Therefore, the best estimate of total project costs for the first, second and transition phase amounts to $720,000.
PPP group members, on the other hand, often defined the cost of their participation in the project in terms of problems related to the credit component. Lack of credit and problems with credit provision and repayment were the most typical responses. Finally, the collapse of PPP groups after the end of project credit indicates that participating in a PPP group (e.g.attending group meetings and participating in group activities) was a cost that members were willing to pay only as long as they continued to receive benefits from their participation.
The divergence between development professionals and project participants when calculating costs and benefits indicates that the two groups had different motives for participating in the project. If FAO officials and project staff had allowed project participants to identify their felt needs and develop plans to address them, there would have been greater agreement over project objectives and methodologies. The lack of such agreement indicates that PPP-Ghana did not fully implement its participatory methodology for rural development.
|Failed groups||Active groups|
|- no regular meetings||- regular group meetings|
|- no current group activity||- a current group activity|
While classifying groups into the two broad categories of "failed" or "active" oversimplifies many of the important variations among PPP groups, there are a number of reasons why these categories are accurate and useful. First, since this study is primarily concerned with group sustainability, it is accurate to describe groups that have not been able to sustain their group meetings and activities as having failed. Second, although it is possible that some of these failed groups could become active again in the future, in most cases, this will not be possible without outside intervention. Applying terms such as "dormant" to these groups implies that they will awake on their own, which is an inaccurate description of most of these PPP groups. Third, while the classification of "active" includes a broad range of groups including very active as well as semi-active groups, insufficient data collected by the project and limited field research made developing more differentiated categories impossible. The following table provides a picture of the status of PPP groups in the two active areas in mid-1993:
|Phase/Cluster||Total Groups||Failed Groups||Active Groups|
|Phase 1||232||229 (99%)||3 (1%)|
Ph. 1 groups)
|249||203 (82%)||46 (18%)|
Ph. 2 groups
|138||189 (64%)||49 (36%)|
|All Groups||448||399 (89%)||49 (11%)|
In both AAs, the collapse of most PPP groups stems from problems associated with the project's credit component. The PPP group's early focus on credit and inputs and the manner in which credit was made available (late disbursal, no screening of production plans, low loan amounts, short repayment periods, and no new loans provided until 70 percent had been recovered) often led to group collapse. Misappropriation of loan money and the enormous amount of time project staff spent administering credit delivery and recovery also contributed to group collapse. A conservative estimate is that credit-related problems caused at least three quarters of PPP group failures.
The problems with the credit component stemmed from an initial lack of effort to identify existing methods of savings mobilziation and credit supply and adapt them to PPP-Ghana. Dr. Ellen Bortei-Doku of the University of Ghana that could have been used as models for the project's credit and savings component. It appears, however, that by the time the People's Participation Programme was introduced to Ghana, most of the design of its credit component had been finalized. Efforts were limited to searching for institutions in Ghana to administer the credit component instead of learning from already existing and successful programmes.
In addition to the problems of the credit component, other factors contributed to group failure. Early mistakes in group formation and development and the promotion of inappropriate group IGAs contributed to the general unsustainability of PPP groups. Subsequent efforts by FAO officials and project staff corrected many of these mistakes and increased the sustainability of groups formed later in the project. These efforts, however, proved largely unsuccessful at increasing the sustainability of PPP groups formed early in the project.
In general, PPP groups in Begoro AA proved more sustainable than groups in Wenchi AA. A variety of factors contributed to this difference. The Presbyterian Church of Ghana started Phase II by selecting its own staff and forming almost all new groups. The Catholic Diocese of Sunyani, on the other hand, maintained the Phase I project staff and many Phase I groups continued into Phase II. Therefore, the Begoro action area got a fresh start at the beginning of Phase II while Wenchi AA carried many of the Phase I problems into the second phase.
Additionally, the continuity and quality of project staff in Begoro AA appears to have been greater than in Wenchi AA. The original national project coordinator became the action area PC in Begoro and five of the eight Phase II GPs continued into the Transition Phase. In Wenchi AA, a new PC was appointed mid way through Phase I and only three of the nine Phase II GPs continued into the Transition Phase. Also, the Phase II PC in Beforo AA has been considered very effective while the PC in Wenchi proved unable to provide the necessary leadership and manage project staff. While the PICs in both action areas were never very active, the Begoro PIC functioned for longer and had greater responsibility than the Wenchi PIC.
A final difference between the two AAS is how loan money was managed. In Begoro AA, allegations of misappropriation were never made against GPs, and only against one farmer representative. In Wenchi AA, however, it appears that some GPs were actively involved in loan misapppropriation. This undermined project credibility and contributed to the greater rate of group collapse in Wenchi AA. Also, while in Begoro AA there was only one Phase II loan, in Wenchi AA there were two. The higher number of loans in Wenchi AA added to PPP group's dependence on credit and subsequently to a greater rate of group collapse when project credit ended.
The different rates of success in the two action areas help illustrate additional factors that improved group sustainability. These include decentralizing decision making to the action areas, increasing project staff accountability, de-emphasizing credit, allowing NGOs to select their own project staff, decreasing staff turnover, and providing loans two years after groups are formed.
In Phase III, new PPP groups have been formed in both action areas and project staff in Begoro AA continues to work with a number of Transition Phase groups. Both Phase III projects have begun to employ a credit union approach to credit and savings and have placed greater emphasis on income-generating activities. Their success will be determined by the extent to which they can develop the self-reliance of PPP groups as well as the necessary local institutions to support these groups after Phase III ends.
The lack of data also makes impossible a quantified comparison of the PPP development approach with other development approaches in Ghana. What is clear is that many other development projects in Ghana faced similar problems as PPP-Ghana. For example, the Global 2000 project also had very low rates of group sustainability and the Ghana Commercial Bank's own credit facility to small farmers had a higher rate of loan default than PPP-Ghana. Although PPP-Ghana may have been as successful as other participatory projects implemented in Ghana, the general perception that it was not cost effective was the single largest factor limiting its institutionalization and replication.
Various aspects of project implementation also limited its institutionalization and replication. Some of the early problems encountered during project implementation stem from the difficult economic and political conditions of Ghana in the early 1980s. FAO could have decided, however, that Ghana in the early 1980s was an inappropriate selection for one of its first PPP pilot projects. Unfortunately, once discussions began with the government of Ghana and project documents were signed, it appears that FAO was very reluctant to consider delaying or abandoning implementation.
Additionally, confused institutional arrangements and the continued heavy involvement of FAO made it difficult for the implementing NGOs to take responsibility for project implementation. The resulting lack of ownership limited the ability of the NGOs to delegate responsibility to project staff and the local Project Implementing Committees. Subsequently, control of the project often remained outside of the action areas (in Sunyani, Accra and Rome) and the PICs never played an important role in project implementation. Therefore, the project's institutional arrangements hindered its institutionalization within the local communities.
Finally, project staff and FAO officials did not begin planning for project replication early enough and did not allocate enough time and resources for project replication. Also, the government of Ghana's limited role in project implementation and administration severely decreased its ability and motivation to replicate the PPP development approach. While there has been a limited degree of local and NGO institutionalization and some informal replication of various aspects of the PPP development approach, the PPP pilot project in Ghana largely failed to achieve its objectives with respect to replication and institutionalization.
The specific problems of PPP-Ghana, however, make it difficult to draw broad conclusions about the ability of NGOs to act as the implementing agencies for PPP projects. First, the PCG and the CDS were brought into the project long after work in the action areas had begun. Second, throughout the first phase, these NGOs had no control over selecting project staff, and only in Begoro AA were they able to hire their own staff at the beginning of the second phase. Third, the local NGOs had limited control over the decision making or funding process. Fourth, the two NGOs were not truly local NGOs based and headquartered in the two action areas. This limited their knowledged and experience at the community level in the AAs. All of these factors combined to make PPP-Ghana an unfair test of whether NGOs could successfully implement and institutionalize a PPP type project.
As outlined above, development professionals and project participants often had very different views of the project's costs and benefits. This divergence added to the project's relative inability to provide locally recognized benefits beyond project credit and inputs. Therefore, the PPP development approach needs to be refocused away from what development professionals think is important to what the project beneficiaries themselves think is important. Ultimately, it is each project participant's calculation of its costs and benefits that determines whether the project will have a sustainable impact.
The process of group formation also needs to be reconsidered. By entering a community and introducing a new form of organization, PPP did not take advantage of local formal and informal forms of organization. For example, nnoboa groups could have been the basis for developing more structured and formal self-help organizations. Such a process would also allow informal eladers within the nnoboa groups to step into formal leadership positions in PPP groups. Although many development professional may consider traditional organizations to be relatively non-participatory and hierarchical, their usefulness in participatory rural development projects should not be underestimated. Including traditional organizations in project implementation would increase local participation while minimizing the complications from introducing new forms of organization.
In the PPP development approach, group promoters play a pivotal role. GPs are responsible for implementing all aspects of the project concerning the PPP groups, from formation to self-reliance. For this reason, the success or failure of PPP groups often depends more on the quality of the GPs than on the quality of the people participating in the project. For this reason, increased GP training has often been recommended to improve the performance of PPP projects.
Underlying the heavy involvement of GPs in group formation and development is the assumption that community members are unable to organize themselves, create systems of accountability, solve problems, choose leaders, or generate income. Almost all traditional communities, however, have methods of managing these issues. If community members are given greater control over forming, organizing, managing and investing in their groups, the success of the project would be less dependent upon the quality of the GPs and more dependent upon the participants themselves.
Although FAO established the Letter of Agreement to manage its relations with other organizations, it was unable to develop an effective system of accountability and PMOE between itself and the implementing NGOs. Further, without functioning PICs, there was little or no accountability between the implementing NGOs and project participants. An example of this lack of accountability was the continued misuse of project credit in Wenchi AA. Such misuse should have had serious ramifications for the implementing NGOs and project staff involved. Instead, neither has been held accountable by FAO and project beneficiaries have had no recourse for these abuses. This lack of accountability allowed serious problems to persist for years and severely undermined project credibility in the action areas.
Finally, the short life-span of PPP pilot projects created problems as well. Only three years to meet ambitious goals inevitably forced project staff to concentrate on the less important numerical objectives of group formation and loans supplied. To be more serious at developing self-reliant and sustainable groups, PPP must plan to invest more time in each pilot project.
While the PPP development approach needs modifications, it should not be abandoned by FAO. Participation is central to sustainably improving small-scale agricultural production, and should be incorporated more widely into FAO's work world-wide. However, participation should not be the sole goal of a particular programme. Instead, FAO should increase the participation of beneficiaries in its existing projects and develop new projects that promote participation as a means for small-scale farmers to take greater control of their community's development. Encouraging greater participation in all its projects would require FAO to shift away from targeting large-scale producers toward small-scale agricultural production.