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Annex 8

Summaries of the major case studies discussed at the Forum


INTERFISH is a series of three projects that spanned the 1990s and reflect the changes in development thinking that have taken place over that decade. What started as a project building on successful experiences with Integrated Pest Management (IPM)-related technologies - notably rice-fish cultivation - to enhance and diversify rural incomes, has become a vehicle for the empowerment and strengthening of village-level institutions.

To this day, the project is still refining its field approach in order to:

In doing so, the project continues to use its established and credible package of institutional and technological interventions, under the name of IPM field schools, as its entry point.

The study provides an interesting documentation of how the project has evolved. It has moved from being structured to deliver efficiently its outputs in achieving implicit but often indirect benefits to communities, to fostering community participation and ownership, in order to steer each project intervention towards the needs of the individual communities. The project management does not claim to have perfected these mechanisms yet, but the shift in focus is one that mirrors the shift in focus of DFID-funded projects towards the livelihoods of the very poor. The challenges that management has experienced in implementing it also mirror many of the challenges facing sustainable livelihood approaches in general.

Four critical moments

The monitoring system. This looks at the decision made to move away from a monitoring system that measured the delivery of project outputs without tracking their benefits or their impact on beneficiaries livelihoods, to one based on participatory monitoring and evaluation. The participatory model is still being developed, but it has placed far more decision-making power in the hands of the community, as well as captured more indirect benefits.

A more holistic focus. When new management took over in 1997, they saw their prime role as enabling the project to respond to the needs of farmers. Of all the changes this brought to the project, perhaps most significant was the recognition that the success of the project should be defined not by the adoption of technology but by the households' confidence and ability to address broader issues (accessing resources, reducing credit, etc.)

The poverty focus. The 1998 Output to Purpose Review of the INTERFISH project looked at the appropriateness of the project interventions to the very poor. It questioned whether a different emphasis on the project's technical components was needed to improve its adoption by the marginal and landless, or whether the project should be explicitly targeted at the vulnerable as opposed to the very poor. The implementing agents' response to this was to improve the project's penetration to the very poor but by way of its traditional entry point.

The linkages to higher-level institutions. The project is implemented by CARE, and conforms more closely to CARE's SL framework than to others that place a greater emphasis on the influence of higher-level institutions. If we take the benefits of INTERFISH as a given, the project is a useful vehicle for asking whether project resources could be better used if they aggressively addressed the institutional dimensions of Bangladesh's poverty in concert with its other interventions.


FAO Italy's Interregional Project for Participatory Upland Conservation and Development (GCP/INT/542/ITA) - otherwise known as the PUCD project - originated from the interest, shared by FAO, UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme) and other international and bilateral agencies in testing new approaches and methods for sustainable mountain development (SMD) and participatory and integrated watershed management (PIWM).

This interregional project has aimed at (1) establishing a cluster of five pilot field experiences in SMD and PIWM in selected upland areas of different regions of the world; (2) incorporating lessons learned from these field experiences into local planning systems and national policies; and (3) disseminating at the global level information on the methods, techniques and tools validated through field experience. The project included five field components in Bolivia, Burundi, Nepal, Pakistan and Tunisia, and a small coordination unit based at FAO headquarters in Rome. It developed along three phases: 1992-1993, 1994-1997 and 1998-2000. The third and final phase will be completed in July 2000.

This case study deals with the PUCD project's field component in Bolivia and, in particular, the experience gained between 1993 and 1999 in developing a PIWM process in the upper watershed of the Piraí River (Department of Santa Cruz, Municipality of Samaipata). The case study is meant to illustrate how a participatory and integrated approach to natural resource management has progressively led the project to incorporate sustainable livelihoods issues in its implementation strategy (even though "formal" SLA concepts became part of project methodological background only at a very late stage).

The case study is organized into seven modules. In module 1, background information is provided on the national, regional and local setting in which the project has been implemented. The socio-economic and environmental situation of Bolivia is outlined, highlighting the pivotal role that colonization of the "virgin" areas of the Santa Cruz Department has played in national rural development processes. Ongoing changes during the 1990s in Bolivian development policies and governance structure are also presented to introduce the institutional context in which the project developed. Finally, the situation existing at the beginning of the 1990s in the project area is sketched out, with particular reference to the environmental and social dynamics related to the areas' colonization by settlers coming from other regions of the country.

Module 2 deals with project design. The rationale of PUCD Bolivia is presented according to findings of FAO/Italy's identification mission and the specific interest of the national counterpart (the Piraí River watershed authority) for testing the PIWM approach. Project documents' objectives, outputs and activities are also presented, highlighting the evolution that has been taking place along the project's three phases. Main features of project design are then described, including its participatory, action-learning and process-oriented approach and its threefold strategy based on the integration of conservation and development thrusts, the strengthening of collaborative links among local communities and institutions and the incorporation of watershed management issues into local governance. Eventually, information is provided on the project's implementation arrangements and budget.

According to the project's open-ended design, the diagnostic of the environmental, economic and social situation of the Upper Piraí watershed took the shape of a continuing learning process that paralleled the project's implementation. Diagnostic studies included RRA and PRA exercises, participatory research on farming systems and social stratification, case studies focusing on specific communities and participatory evaluation exercises. In module 3, the main findings of this action research process are reviewed according to a formal SLA framework. The review starts by identifying the assets on which local livelihoods are based and the factors that affect their sustainability (i.e. the vulnerability context). Then, the local social structure is outlined. On this basis, access to the above assets and resilience capacity of different social strata are analysed. This allows for the identification and brief description of the livelihoods strategies practised by different groups of Upper Piraí settlers. This analysis is complemented by a review of the processes of change ongoing in the area and of their influence on people's livelihoods.

In module 4, the project's implementation process is reviewed from a historical prospective, with the aim of showing how action learning and interaction with local partners have supported the progressive fine-tuning of project approach and strategy. To this end, based on in-depth qualitative interviews with project management and staff, a number of critical moments in the history of PUCD Bolivia are identified and briefly discussed. The contribution of the related problem-solving process to the adaptation of PIWM to the local conditions is also analysed.

Module 5 focuses on the project's outcomes. Although no full-fledged evaluation of project impact has been carried out so far, findings of the project's internal evaluation system and of a recent tripartite evaluation mission are used to outline how and with what particular effects the project has interacted with the major changes taking place in the Upper Piraí (as identified at the end of module 3). To this end, the project's role in supporting micro-capitalization, controlling environmental degradation, fighting rural poverty and social inequalities (including gender inequalities), and promoting people's awareness of and participation in local governance is reviewed.

Actions aimed at incorporating participatory and integrated watershed management in the local governance system and national policies have paralleled fieldwork throughout project implementation. This aspect of project experience is briefly reported in module 6. The main topics dealt with in this part of the case study include: implementation of replication tests (with limited project support); development of human resources for PIWM; incorporation of PIWM in local governance; and provision of assistance in policy-making at the national and departmental levels.

Finally, a number of major lessons learned from the experience of PUCD Bolivia are presented in module 7.

Each of the above modules is complemented by a number of selected readings, excerpted from project documentation.


The story of the WFP-assisted project Ethiopia 2488, "Rehabilitation of forest, grazing and agricultural lands" is about learning by doing. It traces the evolution of soil and water conservation over the past twenty years, amid political upheavals, crises - natural disasters and conflict - governmental and institutional changes and, most important, the pressing needs of poor communities, depending on increasingly degraded lands for survival.

The project began under the firm control of the Ethiopian Government. Work quotas, devised centrally, were handed down to the regions for area treatments of up to 1 500 ha. Buoyed by the 1984 Ethiopian Highlands Reclamation Study, supported by the World Bank, UNDP and FAO, Ethiopia 2488 became an important component of the Ministry of Agriculture's conservation-led development strategy that stressed technical capacity-building and broad-based participation.

Yet, with the famine disaster of 1984-1986 and ensuing civil conflict, the urgent need to make food available to communities overshadowed the technical design of works and the amount of participation in planning. By 1990, in many areas, farmers' attitudes towards the project and the assets created were moving from suspicion to hostility, especially where poor-quality or inappropriate measures were implemented without consultation.

After the fall of the Mengistu regime in 1991, communities fought to gain control over decisions that affected their livelihoods. Earlier attempts to increase participation in the project were revitalized, resulting in the formulation and piloting of the local-level participatory planning approach (LLPPA). Through LLPPA, grassroots communities in target areas could be involved at every stage of planning and implementation of the various project activities.

Now, the project is firmly under the control of the implementing communities. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and WFP have worked consistently over the last five years to build technical capacity both in field staff and in farming communities. Through the project, communities and MOA staff work together to test new approaches to sustainable land use. Learning is shared between communities and awareness is raised beyond the project's boundaries. Communities and civil administrations that do not participate in Ethiopia project 2488 can see the effects of soil and water conservation at neighbouring project sites and the benefits of a participatory planning approach.

Two critical issues have remained dominant in the project's life. The first has been the problem of combining the technical demands of soil and water conservation with the equally pressing needs of farming communities whose asset base has been depleted by successive periods of drought and conflict. The second issue relates to the practicality of implementing a participatory approach encompassing more than 200 000 households living in scattered mountain communities with limited institutional capacity. The project's response to these issues is a key aspect of its learning process and will determine its contribution to supporting sustainable livelihoods for the poor farming communities in the Ethiopian highlands.


Honduras is one of the poorest countries of Latin America. A majority of its population still living in the rural areas where poverty predominates because of the low incomes that reflect a subsistence economy of slash-and-burn agriculture and extensive cattle ranching, which is generating an ever-increasing deterioration of the environment. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch only underlined the fragility of this social system and the urgent need for a change from current development strategies to ones that aimed to incorporate the rural poor into a process that would not only benefit them but also ensure sustainable management of the country's natural resources.

South Lempira covers more than 2 000 km2 and has a population of more than 100 000 inhabitants. This mountainous region is one of the remotest and poorest areas of Honduras, with 90 percent of the population dependent on small-scale ranching and subsistence farming. A drought in 1987/1988 underlined the vulnerability of this hillside economy, with the crops failing and water sources drying out. The region was seen as being so remote, poor and insecure - i.e. a zone of guerilla influence due to its closeness to El Salvador - that only FAO indicated a willingness to work there. Thus began the project Lempira Sur.

In the project's pilot phase, FAO experimented with a series of hillside technologies, and by 1995, the start of the first phase of the project, the Organization initiated a programme of extension to 74 communities. A demand-driven approach was adopted at that time. This involved the extensive training of a team of extensionists, who were organized to attend some of the remotest communities. Over time, this demand-driven approach has become institutionalized in the project, taking up to 20 percent of the project's time, and the project's cycle follows the area's agricultural cycle.

An analysis of key players in the region (no stakeholder analysis existed) and their interests has also generated a series of initiatives that respond to their needs, but with a sustainable development focus. Thus the project has evolved components and complementary projects that centre on education, the municipalities, the provision of a technology package for ranchers, and others.

The logical framework and operational priorities of the project have evolved through this ongoing process of interchange with the benefiting communities and municipalities. External review and technical missions have served to refine this process but not change it; thus the formal documentation and strategies of the project have always followed change and not led it.

The major impact of the first phase of the project was the large-scale adoption of new hillside technologies and a resulting change in the situation of basic grains. Where before the area was a net importer of grains, now it has become a net exporter (beans, maize and sorghum), even during drought (El Niño) and floods (Hurricane Mitch). These new technologies were geared to sustainable land use, and research shows that they are improving soil quality, retaining water and leading to reforestation. This large-scale adoption of technologies reflects a policy of close coordination and training for other projects and NGOs in the area as well as the effect of seeing farmers with these adopted technologies harvesting during drought while those who had not adopted the new technologies lost their crops.

This change in productivity plus the building of local organizational capacity only increases the demands on the project, and adds new ones. Above all, the demand for education has grown; community banks have become widespread; savings and loan cooperatives have been created; the regions' mayors now have their own organization; and diversification, marketing and the creation of small businesses are now priorities in those communities that have adopted the new production systems and are faced with surplus grains. This has also led to a strategy of grain storage in the homestead and low grain prices, in part because of excessive imports the year after the hurricane.

The project is obliged to review its own priorities annually and adjust even the way it is managed and operates to take into account the growing articulation of more and more sophisticated demands from the communities. This, coupled with extensive interest in these processes generating multiple visits and demands on project personnel to participate in workshops and presentations creates increasing pressure on the project and raises the issue of how to ensure continuity after the project's end. How does the project create the institutional structures capable of following up on the increasingly diversified demands and needs of a population that has so avidly responded to the opportunities of change and development (e.g. the Central American hillside farmers who have shown their willingness to adopt new technologies and manage their resources wisely)? The major obstacles to sustainable development lie elsewhere, with national policy-makers, donors and projects. The issue is: what can we do to ensure the sustainability of the livelihood systems that we are interfering with?


The development of the Malawi Sustainable Livelihoods Programme is strongly linked to its first country cooperation framework (CCF). Based on the lessons from the fifth country programme, the Government's overarching goal of poverty alleviation and UNDP's mandate to promote sustainable human development through capacity-building, the first CCF was formulated to address concerns in two thematic areas: sustainable livelihoods and governance, and development management.

The objective in the sustainable livelihoods thematic area is to ensure that the very insecure poor, especially women, in rural and urban areas are identified and assisted to establish adequate capacities, structures, means and incomes to satisfy their basic livelihood requirements while ensuring the sustainable management of resources in an environmentally sound manner. The governance and development management thematic area aims to empower Malawian society to organize itself more effectively to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Thus, from the outset, conceptually the area of governance was seen as a major component of the sustainable livelihoods approach.

The Sustainable Livelihoods Programme has been articulated as the major strategy for grappling with the poverty challenge. Three programmes were conceived as the pillars of sustainable livelihoods in Malawi: Sustainable Livelihoods and Food Security; Enterprise Development and Employment Generation; and Environmental/Natural Resources Management Programmes. Because of concerns of obscuring the building blocks of SLA within the food security programme, a separate programme was developed covering cross-cutting elements: coordination; poverty policy analysis and programming; participation for sustainable livelihoods; multitrack communications; and science and technology for sustainable livelihoods.

Development and testing of the participatory analysis and planning for sustainable livelihoods (PAPSL) manual became the main activity for implementing the SLA at the community level. PAPSL draws upon the tools of PRA for assessment and infuses the approach of adult learning and empowerment, such as training for transformation, to facilitate dialogue and problem-solving. Its assessment and planning exercises focus on local knowledge systems, adaptive strategies and assets in order to build on the positive aspects.

Interesting results are being observed in Mchinji District following implementation of some of the interventions outlined in the community action plans. On the one hand, these reflect people's priorities and their commitment to and involvement in improving their livelihoods. On the other hand, they represent demand-driven delivery of support services by the extension machinery.

On issues of institutionalization, great strides are being made at the district and community levels. This has been achieved by the infusing of SLA and concepts in the participatory analysis and planning methodologies by the main government arm responsible for district and rural development and by the three largest city assemblies in the country. At the policy and sectoral level, there is no convincing evidence of institutionalization's taking place.

In terms of lessons on the application of the SLA so far, it has been learned that although SLA is appealing to many, it is important that its principles and concepts are adequately grasped before agencies embark on a planning and implementation process. The work in Malawi points to the need to distinguish between an SL programme and an SL approach. Contemporary thinking is that it is more meaningful to focus on promoting and implementing an SLA.


The Segou Village Development Fund Programme (VDFP) was IFAD's longest-standing intervention in Mali (Phase I, 1984-1990; Phase II, 1990-1999). It has been followed up by a new large-scale programme to be implemented in the period 2000-2010. For many years, it was viewed by IFAD as a "reference project" in western Africa. Several features of its design and approach have been replicated elsewhere: its geographic focus; targeting a relatively poor, rainfed food crop area; the objective of self-management of the rural development process by village associations; the central role of credit in developing agricultural output and marketing, functional literacy and training to take over and self-manage community actions; and, finally, the village development funds, which represent village-association capital cofinanced by participating farmers and the project.

The overall objective of VDFP was to improve the living standards of the rural poor by increasing their food production and farm incomes. This was to be achieved mainly through (1) the promotion of viable, self-managing farmer organizations capable of providing essential services to its members such as marketing and storage, management of equipment, extension, basic education, and public health and (2) the establishment of a self-supporting credit-and-savings system to serve local communities. Phase II gave more attention to institutionalization of credit groups and service providers beyond the lifetime of the project.

As of early 1999, programme activities had been conducted by 7 200 production units in 207 villages, representing approximately 85 percent of the expected beneficiary population and roughly one-third of the Ségou District's rural population. Compared with the 1980s, production, income levels and living conditions have improved in virtually all programme villages. In many of the participating villages, the key improvement mentioned by residents was the "broader mentality", which was a combined effect of literacy training; the spirit of organizing and working together; dialogue with project agents and other stakeholders; the promotion of trade relations; and intervillage meetings. The involvement of farmer organizations in marketing activities allowed for substantial benefits to be reaped and provided marketing training to hundreds of farmers who took part in the procurement teams.

The development of village infrastructure for communications, health, training, and drinking-water helped improve residents' living conditions. These investments have had a significant impact on diminishing women's workloads. While women feel that actions to improve their situation have been slow in coming and remain limited in scope, they have been able to assert their rights as full participants in village life.

Functional literacy training and technical training have led to the emergence of a village élite that is capable of helping the community in its development actions and in negotiations with external partners. The creation of umbrella intervillage structures has allowed farmer organizations to build real capacity for representation and negotiation and thus act as interlocutors with partner structures at the district and regional levels. More important, intervillage organizations contribute to exchanges of experience and knowledge among farmer organizations.

Programme experience in terms of rural organization, local skills-building, marketing operations and the establishment of village development funds has shown that it is possible to launch a local development process with effective community participation in a Sahelian region that practises rainfed food crop cultivation. However, it took the programme more than 15 years to attain this objective. Still, if additional outside support is not forthcoming, there is no guarantee that the organizations will be successful in their mission, although the ongoing activities of the local organizations look promising.


The rapid changes emanating from the collapse of the country's command economy and its transition to a market economy at the end of the 1980s resulted in the emergence of poverty, which had hitherto been unknown to Mongolia. With livestock ownership so widespread among poor rural households, the livestock sector was seen as the key to the reduction of rural poverty. The privatization of livestock and the urban-rural relocation of families that had lost their employment and taken up herding have resulted in the emergence of households with insufficient animals to provide an adequate means of livelihood. In addition, high levels of poverty have emerged among households in the provincial and district centres due to the loss of employment.


The overall objective of the project is to reduce poverty through the redistribution of livestock to poor and very poor herding households and the development of vegetable production and income-generating activities by other poor households. The project has the following specific objectives:

To achieve these objectives, the project has the following four components:

Project area and target group

The project areas initially comprised Arhangai Province. Following the mid-term review, project activities were extended to a second province, Huvsgul. As Arhangai is a rural area with no major urban areas, the target group comprises all poor and very poor households in the province (10 730 households in Arhangai in 1996).

Project period and costs

The project is to be implemented over a seven-year period. It became effective in November 1996 and will close at the end of 2003. Total project costs are about US$5.5 million, of which about 5 million are financed by an IFAD loan and the reminder by counterpart funds from the Government of Mongolia.

This study describes the project implementation process and highlights the critical issues the project faced since its start-up. The mid-term review, which was carried out in 1998, found that the implementation of the livestock redistribution had progressed remarkably well. Beneficiary households had been selected in a participatory and transparent manner, and the immediate impact on the participants' income and nutrition was impressive. The changes introduced to the livestock component affected the eligibility criteria, leading to a shift towards the slightly better off in terms of livestock ownership, and leaving out the poorest households. Also, the loan size had been increased, which was basically a reaction to the increasing poverty line and worsening terms of trade for the livestock sector, requiring a larger herd to sustain a family. The vegetable production component has shown to effectively reach and benefit poor urban households. The project support to income-generating activities has not been initiated yet. Project activities meant to support the livestock component and reduce herders' risk still need to be taken up.


In April 1997, FAO, in collaboration with the Government of Zambia, and with funding by the Belgian Survival Fund, began implementation of an integrated five-year project focusing on household food security and nutrition. The project aims to improve year-round access to a balanced diet that is adequate in energy, vitamin A, iron and other macro- and micronutrients.

The project was based on the outcome of a six-month preparatory project during which an appraisal was carried out by a multidisciplinary team of national and international experts. An in-depth analysis of the food and nutrition situation in the Luapula Valley revealed that many households were food insecure and over 50 percent of children under five years of age were suffering from chronic malnutrition. The affected households were found to have inadequate access to adequate food, to live in unsanitary environments without access to adequate health care and sufficient and clean water, and to lack access to appropriate education and information. In order to find and implement lasting solutions to these problems, the project emphasizes the importance of intersectoral action involving the agriculture, health, community development and education sectors, and encourages the empowerment of communities with the aim of increasing people's capacities to develop and implement their own development actions.

The Luapula Valley project has now been operational for three years. A mid-term beneficiary assessment and external evaluation were undertaken in mid-1999 and concluded that the project had made remarkable progress with regard to community development and agricultural production. However, nutrition and health activities were lagging behind. Following the evaluation's recommendations, and in line with the original project document, renewed emphasis is being given to direct nutrition activities and their integration with other sectoral activities as an important step towards achieving project impact. Better integration will be attained through strengthening intersectoral coordination and collaboration at regional and district levels through the district and provincial development coordinating committees. Continuing emphasis will placed on building capacity within the communities through strengthening groups and group associations to ensure that the communities can stand on their own feet after the termination of the project.

As part of the case study, thirteen critical issues have been identified and are being discussed in chronological order along the time line of the project. One of the issues concerns the technical and operational implications of project design for the implementation of integrated and participatory approaches. The case study reviews the constraints and opportunities that arise in efforts to institutionalize these approaches within community and public-sector organizations. The difficulties in targeting the most vulnerable households and finding ways that will enable them to derive benefits from the project are also discussed. The paper concludes with a summary of lessons learned and calls for a review of current thinking on project design and implementation (namely, logical framework, quantification, objectively verifiable indicators, etc.) in the context of contributing towards improving people's livelihoods on a sustainable basis.

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