Posted February 1998
Namibia provides a series of lessons regarding linkages, some of which demonstrate the positive effect of placing the project within the planning apparatus rather than in a "women's unit". The project was especially well placed to develop links throughout Namibia's centralised planning system because the National Project Coordinator (NPC) was the Deputy Director of the Division of Rural Development Planning. The NPC had played a pivotal role in integrating gender issues into the National Agricultural Policy (NAP) and was clearly supportive. On the other hand, a lack of support from middle management, especially the supervisors of the extension field staff participating in the PRA/GA training and exercises, during the early phase of the project created problems for effective implementation of the PRA training. The project gradually overcame these problems by organising workshops to introduce middle management to the project's objectives and methods and to emphasise their link with the gender policies in the NAP.
The information produced by the PRAs and the University case studies was fed into a Gender Action Plan, which itself was later integrated into the National Agricultural Strategy. In its last phase, the project conducted a two-day workshop for senior MOA staff led by the two FAO training consultants who had designed the project's training of trainers. The objective was to produce a clear endorsement of gender analysis and participatory approaches to gender-sensitive agricultural planning, and in this it was strikingly successful. Key to this success was the project's ability to use facts from the field to demonstrate how PRA/GA produces information relevant to the gender-responsive agricultural planning the Ministry was being mandated to conduct. The "Flow Chart of Linkages" from the Namibia case study, reproduced on the following page, illustrates the projects links to national policy making processes.
1. Project staff participate in consultative processes for formulation of the NAP and NAS.
2. Publication of the NAP creates an enabling environment for implementation of the projects.
3. The Gender Action Plan is discussed with Directorates.
4. Project outputs improve the capacity of MARWD to implement the NAP and the NAS.
The Nepal project created institutional linkages in the form of steering committees composed of the heads of agricultural departments and other agencies at both national and district levels. These committees were not effective for reasons that provide important lessons for other projects. The project's Central Steering Committee, which included the National Planning Commission and the Agricultural Development Bank of Nepal as well as the directors of the MOA's planning division and major departments (an impressive set of policy making and planning agencies), was not used as a forum in which to discuss project strategies or to make major project decisions. As a result, it did not generate serious interest in the project on the part of top management. The District Steering Committees, in contrast, were poorly designed. They should not have been separate entities because the decentralisation process in Nepal already included District Coordination Committees as mechanisms for district level planning. When the project introduced a separate committee, district staff perceived the project as something outside their regular programme of work rather than as a supportive mechanisms for integrating gender-sensitive planning techniques into their normal planning processes.
The Ethiopia client-oriented extension training project created linkages with planners and stakeholders at a variety of levels. Communication between rural clients and the district (woreda) extension staff was promoted through awareness raising workshops. Regional and national workshops established vertical links between extension planners and policy makers at national, regional, and local levels, and with other organisations like Rural Women's Affairs. Links with aid agencies were especially strong: those working in project areas sometimes assisted with the project's PRA training. It should also be noted, however, that donors and NGOs could not be counted on to assist villagers with their Community Action Plans. Each agency had its own program, and none was flexible enough to respond to villagers' "bottom-up" assistance requests. (This echoes the classic difficulty of regional or district planning in reconciling plans from the top with new demands from the base with "bottom-up" planning.) The project also had links with research stations, but was not successful in promoting a strong link between research and farmers-another classic problem for programs trying to promote farmer participatory research.
The project used an innovative approach to dealing with these stubborn obstacles to bottom-up development. It forged links with politicians such as district and local council members. These links were very important, because when district council members were aware of the need to address village level constraints, they could put pressure on government line agencies and local NGOs to assist. Finally, it is interesting to note that project staff felt that the project benefited from not being located in the rural women's affairs department where it might have been taken less seriously by the extension department and other agencies.
The India project was located in the Animal Health and Veterinary Services Department but it also drew the Forest Department and the Rural Development Department field staff into its PRA/GA activities. Using largely informal methods and workshops to constantly raise the issue of the implications of the PRA results for departmental programming and inter-departmental cooperation, the project fostered, apparently for the first time, collaboration at the senior, middle management, and field extension levels across all three departments.
The women focused projects in Honduras participated in three important national bodies: i) the Committee for the Integration of the Rural Woman in the Agrarian Reform, ii) the Commission of Coordination and Development for the Rural Woman, that linked Peasant Organisations, NGOs and government institutions, and iii) the Inter-Institutional Technical Committee that worked to assure a more equal place for rural women in the commercial agricultural sector. The projects' close relationship with the land reform agency, INA, helped ensure that the reform of land tenancy regulations would favour women. Links with government line agencies and rural financial institutions were aimed at ensuring that women would be incorporated in new programmes.
The Costa Rica project promoted an extensive participatory process with the different institutions and organizations involved in rural development: official institutions, NGOs, farmer's and rural women's organizations. Support for rural women project created links with national and sub-sector policy makers by involving them in seminars, consultations, courses, and group work as well as in the formulation of the project's own methods for identifying problems, objectives, and actions. As part of this process, complementary institutional mechanisms for dealing with gender issues were identified by policy makers and senior managers. The project also worked to establish inter-institutional links with the University, NGOs, farmer organisations, and rural labour unions. It assisted women's organisations to form regional federations.
The Tunisia project, created to define a strategy and plan of action for integrating rural women in the 9th Five Year Plan, brought the results of its participatory planning methods to the attention of decision-makers and planners by seeking their opinions about the technical, economic, and institutional feasibility of men's and women's proposals for supporting women's economic activities. Results of the PRAs were also presented to the top leadership of the Department of Forestry and the NGO, ATLAS, in a day long workshop in which both men and women farmers participated.
In Senegal the elaboration of an Area Development and Management Plan (Plan d'Amenagement et de Gestion de Terroir) currently being sponsored by the PREVINOBA reafforestation project expects to involve local development agents from various agencies in a joint planning exercise in the near future. In Afghanistan, the disintegration of former government agencies during the civil war as well as the current climate of political uncertainty has limited linkages outside the two FAO projects to NGOs and United Nations agencies with whom project results were shared. In Pakistan the lack of functioning government agencies in the project area and women's highly constrained mobility inhibited the establishment of links between rural women and government agencies, NGOs and even women in neighbouring communities.
Summary on linkagesForging links with policy-making and planning processes at national and regional levels has been a great challenge for most projects. Only the Namibia, Honduras and Costa Rican projects seem to have had a significant impact at the highest levels of policy making. This is also the aspiration of the on-going Tunisia project. Nepal had planned strong linkages with district planners, but the severe reduction of the project's life span due to delays in recruiting staff and the cancellation of the planned district workshops meant that these links were only initiated, not consolidated. Projects with short implementation periods had far more difficulty forging significant national linkages than longer projects. Most of the sub-sector projects (i.e. those in livestock, extension, and agroforestry) promoted linkages with policy-makers and managers by organising sensitisation and/or results workshops for senior management at regional and national levels.
Many projects also developed horizontal linkages with other line agencies at the district level by involving their field agents in PRA/GA training and implementation and by inviting their senior staff to regional or national workshops. Ethiopia went furthest in developing linkages with non-governmental agencies, especially with aid agencies and local NGOs. These links, while useful for mobilising support for PRA training, did not succeed in convincing donor agencies or NGOs to assist communities with their local plans.