4.1 Role of FAO

4.1.1 Project Management Concept

58. The SPFS Coordination and Monitoring Service (TCOS) is in the Field Operations Division at FAO Headquarters. Details on the evolution of the organizational set up and management arrangements are given elsewhere in the report (see Section 3.1.1). In fact, the SPFS has now become more integrated into the mainstream of FAO's field programme development work with the following support and management system:

59. The way in which the last three activities listed above take place has undergone significant changes in recent years as a result of the FAO decentralisation policy. For example, the TCO activities were decentralised to the Regional Offices in 1996-97, and decentralisation of operational responsibilities further to the country level with the FAO Representatives, is now being completed. The technical divisions of FAO also have decentralised teams in the Regional and Sub-Regional Offices.

60. In addition to the monitoring by TCOS and the Core Team, there are two other monitoring/review related activities:

    1. Reviews undertaken by a Field Inspector. Currently there is a team of senior regional consultants (usually four) employed on a part time basis who visit a sample of country programmes each year. Their reports are provided to the Director-General and the Oversight Panel, and to the FAOR, national SPFS teams, FAO technical divisions, SPFS core team members, etc.; and
    2. Participating SPFS countries regularly report on progress in implementation via standardised quarterly reports, so-called Information Sheets. In addition, some countries produce other more detailed reports, such as bi-monthly reports. At the FAO HQ level, a three-monthly progress report, based on the Information Sheets, is produced containing an update on the progress in implementation at the global level. Short narrative status reports on each country are also prepared for management and monitoring purposes. Assessment of Achievements

61. All the case study countries were exposed to monitoring and technical backstopping missions from FAO Headquarters, regional and/or sub-regional based staff, although the actual mix and the degree and intensity varied somewhat between countries. Attitudes in the field varied about the effectiveness and value of the monitoring and technical backstopping missions, although in most cases the local teams appreciated them.

62. The Evaluation Team would like to stress that although the Information Sheets are used as a monitoring device and are given to members of the Core Team, no systematic feedback is given to the country SPFS programmes. In fact, the Evaluation Team is somewhat concerned that more attention is not actually placed on monitoring and especially on evaluation in the SPFS programmes in general. This concern involves two aspects:

    1. There is generally insufficient economic/financial analysis on the technologies and enterprises being promoted under the SPFS (see Section 5.4); and
    2. There are no quantifiable estimates of the degree of uptake and diffusion of the initiatives. In the field, the Evaluation Team was singularly unsuccessful in eliciting any reliable data in this area and had to be content with anecdotal information (see Section 5.5);

Annual end-of-season national assessment workshops sometimes address these issues but not always in a systematic quantitative manner.

63. Field Inspector missions are a useful tool for identifying problems and proposing potentially relevant solutions. Eight of the countries visited by the Evaluation Team have been exposed to such missions. Niger and Senegal were each visited five times, Mauritania four times and the others once or twice. These visits by a consultant or sometimes by an FAO staff member were particularly frequent during the 1997-99 period. While the reports are fairly informative they tend to focus on operational issues rather than results. Since FAO is developing a Results Oriented Programme Planning and Management approach there would be considerable merit for future Field Inspector missions to contribute to assessing results in a systematic way in addition to flagging operational issues. Only two reviews and three evaluation missions have been undertaken in all 66 SPFS countries. These have attempted to assess results/impact. Given the importance of results/impact assessment as far as the Evaluation Team is concerned, which has been emphasized in other parts of the report, it is recommended that copies of such reviews and evaluations are given to the Oversight Panel. SPFS management should report to the Oversight Panel as to decisions and actions taken with respect to the recommendations made in such reviews/evaluations and to those made by the Oversight Panel itself. This should improve the potential for enhancing monitoring, transparency and accountability with respect to such recommendations.

64. The Evaluation Team is also concerned that currently knowledge concerning the experiences from implementing the SPFS in more than 60 countries is dispersed among a considerable number of FAO staff (i.e. at Headquarters, Regional/Sub-regional, and Country Offices, as well as among SSC and national programme collaborators). Unquestionably, there would be considerable utility in sharing lessons learned, both successful and unsuccessful, to help avoid replicating mistakes, and reduce the learning cycles. While the Evaluation Team recognises that arranging interaction to address the above concern would involve resources, it believes that the payoff from some sort of initiative with respect to this could be great. The Evaluation Team was informed that SPFS management has recognised the potential utility of this and is planning some initiatives with respect to this.

65. Finally, the Evaluation Team wishes to note one other concern. Although there is obviously considerable merit, all other things being equal, for devolution of responsibility to the FAOR level, as far as requesting monitoring, reviewing and technical backstopping activities are concerned, it has a downside. `Outside' FAO staff (i.e. at sub-regional, regional and headquarters level) may have less independent opportunity to make contributions. In the Regional Offices, there was a general complaint of inadequate human and financial resources (e.g. for travel), to allow adequate backstopping of SPFS field activities. It is also apparent that some technical staff do not feel a close affinity to the SPFS. Given that FAO's comparative advantage lies in its technical agriculture expertise, this apparent deficiency is unfortunate and is likely to impact negatively on the efficacy of the SPFS. The Evaluation Team believes that some way needs to be found to bridge this gap and bring about greater congruency between the SPFS and other technical initiatives/programmes in FAO.

4.1.2 Administrative and Financial Management Concept

66. Administration of the overall SPFS is done through the SPFS Coordination and Monitoring Service (TCOS) while day-to-day administration of specific country SPFS programmes is done within the countries. Resources for SPFS programmes come from countries' national resources, FAO's budget, various donors (i.e. principally the bilateral agencies) and International Financing Institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank, and through the contribution of personnel under SSC arrangements. Assessment of Achievements

67. In most of the case study countries, apart from finance-related issues, administration of the SPFS programmes appeared to be proceeding satisfactorily and the Evaluation Team encountered no major problems or complaints.

68. There were issues relating in one way or another to finances discussed below. Two specific ones found were:

    1. In Haiti, the salaries of agricultural ministry staff were initially supplemented through the SPFS, but later this was withdrawn. The cancellation of these subsidies had a demotivating effect on those concerned. This problem also generated frequent changes of personnel and difficulties in recruiting qualified technicians although this problem was later partially solved with the assistance of FAO and French Cooperation; and
    2. The major and most pervasive issue pertained to uncertainty over FAO funding, which in the case of Cambodia was termed the `limping project syndrome.' Other case study countries where this was raised as a specific issue included Bolivia, China and Ecuador. This issue particularly relates to the allocation and disbursement procedures of FAO's regular budget for the SPFS. Apparently, specific SPFS country programmes not knowing in advance what they will receive, are left in a state of uncertainty leading to short duration contracts and commitments with frequent gaps between contracts or activities, resulting in low staff morale.

69. The Evaluation Team is very concerned about the apparent uncertainty over funding which obviously creates problems in the field relating to both expectations and implementation. Such uncertainties become compounded, given the anticipated short duration of Phase I (i.e. originally envisioned only to be two years). The Evaluation Team believes it is critically important for FAO to address such problems since they can have a very negative impact on the reputation of the Organization.

70. The Evaluation Team is pleased to note that FAO has been innovative in using funds from various sources to support SPFS-related initiatives. For example, funds from Telefood and the FAO Staff One Percent For Development have been used to support diversification related activities (e.g. group supply/marketing stores in Tanzania, small livestock and poultry in Eritrea and value added processing/marketing activities in Ecuador), even if they are of very small dimensions. Also in recent years, with the expansion of the SPFS to more countries, substantial use has been made of TCP and TCDC funding to initiate and implement specific SPFS-related activities in many countries.

71. In terms of using these other types of funding sources, it is the feeling of the Evaluation Team that some clarification would be desirable as to the conditions for their use in the field. For example:

4.1.3 Guidelines Concept

72. The plan was for FAO Headquarters to produce guidelines that could be distributed to people in the field that gave an overview, rationale and management procedures for the SPFS, and provided guidance both for its formulation and for implementing the various technical components. Specialists from different divisions at FAO Headquarters were to be called upon to help in preparing the guidelines and a Technical Review Committee was to review them prior to publication. Divisions providing staff were to be reimbursed for their time in developing the guidelines. Assessment of Achievements

73. A number of guidelines have been produced most of which are available in English, French and Spanish, and to some extent in Arabic. These guidelines are divided into three groups as follows:

74. These papers are available in hard copy form and on the web. While the Evaluation Team visited the case study countries, explicit efforts were made to ascertain the attitudes about and the degree to which the various guidelines were used. Three major comments can be summarized as follows:

75. The Evaluation Team was somewhat surprised that greater use did not appear to be made of the guidelines in the case study countries, especially because a great deal of effort and time appears to have been devoted to developing them. However, it is not difficult to agree with the reasons given for their under-utilisation elicited in the country visits. Although there appeared to be guidelines for water management and irrigation development approved as far back as March 1996, it appears that guidelines for the other three components did not become available until 1997 and later. It would be interesting to know whether, in fact, the guidelines are used more intensively in SPFS programmes that have started in the last couple of years when they have been more available. Also, the Evaluation Team agrees that the guidelines are quite detailed and complicated in places. The CA guidelines, in particular, have a rather "catch all" set up. On the other hand, in terms of adapting the guidelines to the local situation it is apparent that this cannot easily be done at the Headquarters level. Rather, this has to be done at the field level, preferably by knowledgeable local people helped by FAO staff (e.g. core team members, FAO sub-regional, regional, or Headquarters-based staff). On the positive side, it is pleasing to note that recognition has recently been given to what has long been recognised elsewhere, namely that credit, input supply and marketing issues (i.e. meso level issues) need addressing even in Phase I, rather than being delayed to the Expanded Phase I or Phase II. As a result, in the last year or two guidelines under the rubric of agricultural services have been developed to address these areas, although as indicated in the preceding paragraph, it is not clear how widely these have been distributed.

76. The Evaluation Team wishes to make two other points about the status of the guidelines at the present time:

    1. It appears that there are potentially important guidelines that are not present that could be useful in the field situation. One obvious example is that the guidelines for reporting, review and evaluation are still under preparation, somewhat mystifying given that SPFS dates back six years and the potential importance of evaluation and impact assessment as a factor in determining donor interest in providing future support. The pilot nature of the activities indeed require, by definition, timely evaluation exercises. Also, it is odd that aquaculture and small ruminants appear as potential diversification activities in the standard format document for the diversification component, but no more detailed guidelines exist for these, as they do for poultry and forestry/agroforestry; and
    2. Although the guidelines are on the web, they are often not particularly user-friendly, either in terms of accessibility, in terms of content/layout, or in terms of complementing or relating to each other.

77. It is difficult not to avoid the conclusion that the approach to developing the guidelines has been somewhat ad hoc, not only with respect to coverage of subject areas but also in terms of timeliness and planning. Although Technical Review Committees were convened to approve the contents of individual guidelines, each guideline appears to have been treated as a discrete and unique stand-alone entity.

78. The Evaluation Team is convinced that the SPFS could potentially benefit from taking a closer look at the whole approach to producing, organising and streamlining the guidelines. The Evaluation Team recommends that a Guideline Technical Committee is set up for the SPFS with the responsibility of rationalising the approach to planning, producing, and updating the guidelines as a whole, as well as developing a clear and efficient communication strategy.

79. In conclusion, the Evaluation Team wishes to caution against too much documentation. It believes a degree of rationalisation in the present system is critically important in terms of improving the potential utility of the guidelines. Another cautionary note is in order. Guidelines should be viewed as `guidelines' and nothing more. Slavish adherence to them could be counter productive and inhibit creativity in designing/adapting the methodologies to local situations.

4.2 Organization and Management Structures

4.2.1 Concept

80. It was envisioned that a National Programme Coordinator/Team leader, normally employed full time by FAO under the allotted budget, would be responsible for day-to-day management, and a senior government official would normally be appointed as National Coordinator to provide overall guidance.

81. In addition, according to the framework proposed for implementing the SPFS, countries were expected to establish a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary national steering committee. Later, in 1997, the DG of FAO, because of apparent weaknesses in national coordination and priority given to the SPFS, directed that existing or new committees should pay specific attention to the SPFS at the following levels:

To the extent possible, it was anticipated that the committees should build from existing food security, and agricultural and rural developmental institutional arrangements.

4.2.2 Assessment of Achievements

82. National Programme Coordinators/Team Leaders of SPFS programmes have been, and are currently still present, in most of the countries visited. The National Programme Coordinators met were relatively senior and experienced and technically qualified in agriculture, often with extension/governmental backgrounds. In general, as a result, at least in the case study countries, the National Programme Coordinator often appeared in practice to act as the National Coordinator of SPFS. However, in at least one country, there has only been a National Coordinator (i.e. Eritrea), while in two countries (Haiti and Senegal), the National Programme Coordinators have been partly or fully funded by the government.

83. The Evaluation Team came to the conclusion that four factors important in determining how effective the National Programme Coordinators have been in guiding/nurturing the SPFS programmes within their countries, are as follows:

84. However, concerning integration with the national agricultural system or, in essence, the degree to which government accepts ownership of the SPFS, the issues obviously go beyond the office location of the National Programme Coordinator to include those relating to the extent to which SPFS:

85. In general, central or regional government financed agricultural extension staff have implemented SPFS activities. In one case study country, other sources of funds have been used to hire most of the extension agents for implementing SPFS-related activities (i.e. in the Ambuqui Andean area of Ecuador with funds from the Fondo Equatoriano-Canadiense de Desarrollo (FECD) which is a Canadian-funded national NGO). In another case (Senegal), agents of Farmers' Organizations and SSC technicians implement most of the activities. Obviously, all other things being equal, it is preferable for government extension agents and Farmers' Organizations to be used since it builds on resident expertise and directly transfers SPFS experience to the national programme. However, financial, morale, and even technical competence/orientation limitations, often associated with national extension services, undoubtedly have sometimes inhibited their effectiveness in implementing SPFS-related activities. Thus, remedial measures have often had to be implemented by the SPFS to increase the incentive for implementing SPFS-related initiatives. These have included daily allowances for field work, running costs for vehicles, and even sometimes salary supplementation and provision of vehicles.

86. In terms of SPFS guiding/monitoring committees, the situation on the ground, at least with respect to the case study countries, appears very mixed. In general, the situation appears to be better at the local relative to the national levels. Even when the committees exist on paper at all levels, the degree to which they are active appears to be greater at the local level, perhaps not surprising given the `micro' focus envisioned in Phase I of the SPFS. Three factors appear to be important in influencing the degree to which these committees function and how effective they are. These are as follows:

87. Another issue relating to the organization and management of SPFS is what happens at the village/farm level. With respect to this, the SPFS makes good use of farm groups, or even as in the case of Senegal, of farmers' organizations (see Section 5.4.2).

88. Although as indicated above, a number of ingredients are required to ensure that there is a smooth interactive continuum in SPFS, between the national, regional and farm levels, the Evaluation Team believes that a critically important ingredient is having a well-qualified, capable, innovative and influential SPFS National Programme Coordinator, who is widely respected both within and outside the SPFS. Without this and the support of the National Coordinator, it is likely that the linkages and integration with respect to the SPFS will not be optimised both in terms of efficiency and of impact.

4.3 Effectiveness of National Inputs

4.3.1 Concept

89. Sustainability and growth of the SPFS is predicated on national ownership, which can only be achieved through national responsibility for its development and, to the extent possible, commitment of national skills and resources. This does, however, mean that, to some extent national knowledge, experience, capacity, and resources may limit the programme. Nevertheless, it was considered essential that the SPFS be mainstreamed from an early stage into ongoing governmental and non-governmental national programmes.

90. FAO in its Guidelines for the Formulation of Phase I of the SPFS requires national governments to make some commitment to the design and implementation of the SPFS, as well as making commitments in four specific areas, namely to:

    1. Provide staff;
    2. Make financial contributions;
    3. Integrate the SPFS into the national agricultural programmes; and
    4. Provide a monitoring, review and oversight function.

4.3.2 Assessment of Achievements4

91. The starting point of an SPFS within specific countries has been the requirement that the potential host country requests support from FAO for its initiation. The fact that over 80 countries have to date requested such programmes is testament to the interest shown. Achievements with respect to the national commitments listed above are evaluated in other parts of the report. Only summaries of these are given in this section.

92. Participation in SPFS design. As indicated earlier, for a number of reasons, national governments have most commonly, at least in the case study countries, played a rather passive role in the design of SPFS activities.

93. Provision of staff. In general, national governments have fulfilled commitments in terms of staffing (i.e. specifically extension staff), although support/running costs in terms of transport and living allowances in the field, and even salary supplementation payments have sometimes been deemed necessary to enable/facilitate fieldwork and to provide the requisite motivation. Training programmes in techniques (i.e. both technical and analytical) have often also been desirable/required.

94. Financial contributions. It is not possible to give actual figures on financial contributions by governments especially since much of these are included in regular government subventions in supporting the SPFS, such as provision and upkeep of office accommodation, meeting support staff stipends, providing vehicles and related running costs, allowances, etc. In general, it appears that governments, within the limitations of their individual situations, have honoured financial commitments in terms of in-kind contributions. However, as indicated in the previous paragraph, because of the financial difficulties faced by many of the countries hosting the SPFS, these commitments sometimes required direct supplementation from outside sources, particularly with respect to South-South Cooperation.

95. The mobilization of financial resources to support SPFS implementation is an indicator of commitment, and thus, as such, deserves careful examination. Specifically:

96. Integration of the SPFS into the national agricultural programme. In one sense this has been done in that institutionally it is usually located in extension-related departments. However, in another sense, that is in terms of SPFS type initiatives permeating and influencing other national agricultural programmes, the evidence is much more limited, although there are exceptions (e.g., in the case of Ecuador and Senegal).

97. Provide a monitoring, review and oversight function. To facilitate countries providing a monitoring, review and oversight function, the Guidelines for the Formulation of Phase I of the SPFS specified that committees should be set up at the national level and also at the regional level where SPFS activities were being implemented. In actual fact, for various reasons discussed earlier, this appears rarely to have been done (Section 4.2).

98. In terms of government commitment, another point deserving mention, are initiatives to set up Unilateral Trust Funds (UTFs) using their own resources for use with FAO in SPFS associated initiatives (e.g. Mexico, Nigeria and Venezuela). The Evaluation Team welcomes this development, especially if the countries have enough flexibility to design programmes along the lines suggested in Chapter 7 of this report.

99. In conclusion, the Evaluation Team believes that the case study countries have made genuine attempts to fulfil their expected contributions to the SPFS. However, the effectiveness of their contributions and the degree to which they are likely to be assertive in committing or seeking further support, appears to be very heavily influenced by how much they have assumed ownership of the programme itself. This appears likely to be partly determined by how much they were involved in its design, and very much by the impact the programme has had in terms of results on the ground, as well as in terms of raising national consciousness about the importance of food security related issues and the appropriateness of the SPFS approach in addressing them. Another section in the report (see Section 6.1) addresses the degree to which SPFS has influenced national commitment to food security policies in the case study countries.

4.4 The Contribution of South-South Cooperation (SSC)

4.4.1 Concept

100. The South-South Cooperation (SSC) initiative was launched in 1996 within the SPFS framework. Its objective is to enhance solidarity among developing countries and to enable the delivery of technical assistance (TA) from more advanced developing countries to countries implementing the SPFS. The SSC is aimed at supporting the four programme components and being an integral part of the SPFS. According to FAO, the initiative is providing a new impetus to developing country collaboration. It is a tri- or quadripartite programme funded by three or four partners, which include a cooperating country, a receiving country, FAO and optionally a donor.

101. The approach of the SSC is to provide for two to three years a small team of senior experts posted at the Programme/Programme Management Office (PMO) level, and a substantial number of field technicians with strong practical experience, who will work directly with farmers in rural communities. A significant number of experts and technicians are intended to be fielded to each participating country in order to create a critical mass to maximise impact. It is expected that the teams will not only introduce improved ways of bringing about sustainable and replicable agricultural development, but also through their commitment and example, serve as an important stimulus for change within the communities to which they are assigned. The SSC is to be implemented in phases where gradually the number of cooperants would increase, ultimately up to 100, as the need dictates.

102. The cooperating country provides the TA personnel, continues to pay the salaries, social insurance and other allowances to which cooperants are entitled at home, and any travel cost within the cooperating country.

103. The host country approves the TA personnel, provides counterparts, pays cooperants a monthly subsidy of US$ 300 in local currency, pays associated local and regional travel costs, makes adequate accommodation available including utilities, and monitors and reports on performance.

104. FAO ensures screening of candidates, prepares a Special Services Agreement (SSA) for each TA, meets the costs of international travel, provides technical backstopping, supervision and monitoring, pays a one-time installation grant of US$ 300, and a monthly allowance of US$ 700 for experts and US$ 300 for technicians, to the first group of experts and technicians for a few months in order to launch the project. Then FAO negotiates the payment of these allowances through bilateral or multilateral support.

105. As with much of the SPFS, the SSC has evolved over time and has been a learning process for all partners. In July 2000, the SSC guidelines were updated by including the following new, major elements, which were originally absent:

106. A formulation mission report, which is prepared for each collaboration initiative, forms the basis for SSC between the concerned partners, contains the detailed design of the programme and governs implementation.

4.4.2 Assessment of Achievements

107. By the end of August 2001, twenty-two agreements had been signed between cooperating and host countries (see Table 4). In addition, 16 SSC projects had been formulated but had not yet been signed, while 27 other countries had indicated an interest in receiving cooperants. About 242 SSC staff are already posted within the host countries and another 94 are expected soon.


Table 4: Status of SSC in Countries with Signed Agreements (as at August 31, 2001)a

Date of Signature

Recipient Country

Cooperating Country

Number Experts Planned

Experts/Staff in the Field

Technicians Expected 


























Burkina Faso


























































Eq. Guinea












Cape Verde

































1 244




Source of Information: TCOS.

a. The Evaluation Team visited recipient countries shown in bold letters.

b. Experts/technicians under this column are awaiting administrative action such as issuance of travel documents, medical clearance etc.

c. The Evaluation Team has learnt that Cooperants are being withdrawn. SSC: A Welcome Initiative in a Globalising World

108. FAO's SSC initiative is an interesting and welcome initiative in a globalising world. Many LIFDCs lack adequate technical staff for the introduction of appropriate, economically sound and innovative technologies in a participatory manner to small-scale farmers. The SSC initiative potentially allows developing countries to forge long-term interaction at an operational level, and to share scarce technical expertise among each other at much lower costs than those associated with regular technical assistance programmes. It potentially allows recipient countries to access critically required additional expertise while simultaneously exploiting other ways and means of building up the capacities of their own staff and institutions. It is very evident to the Evaluation Team that there is strong high-level political support for the initiative among many cooperating and recipient countries.

109. The Evaluation Team found that SSC staff have made significant contributions in a number of the countries visited. These include assistance in water management, design of irrigation structures, improvement of on-farm-irrigation systems including demonstrations in canal rehabilitation, and training in pump maintenance, as well as introduction of technologies for small livestock (poultry, pigs), home gardens, horticulture and hybrid rice breeding. They have also contributed to training activities including Farmers' Field Schools (FFSs), and demonstrations in useful rice nursery and transplanting techniques, rural finance and marketing. Inadequate Needs Assessment and Project Formulation

110. The concept of SSC calls for a request to be made by the recipient country followed by an offer by the contributing country. This presupposes that the subsequent project will be jointly formulated to meet the needs of the receiving country and will exploit the comparative advantage of the contributing country. In practice, the Evaluation Team has observed that needs are often not well identified and despite the screening of CVs of candidates, the qualifications of staff sent by contributing countries do not always match the priority needs of the recipient countries. This is because CVs do not necessarily capture the range of capabilities required which personal interviews of short listed candidates could do to a large extent.

111. In SSC project formulation the Evaluation Team is of the view that FAO has adopted too much of a top-down approach. Initial contacts are often at a very high political level. Once commitments are made at that level project designers often feel obliged to recommend SSC projects `at almost any cost'. This has sometimes resulted in agreements not being signed until long after project proposals have been prepared, and/or reluctance and minor support for the initiative at ministerial level in some countries. In some cases, the consequence has been that SSC personnel have been proposed, and have arrived out of phase with the implementation of SPFS field activities. The somewhat top-down approach contradicts the participatory approach, which is the principle underlying all aspects of the SPFS, including SSC.

112. The Evaluation Team found that, in a number of countries visited, SSC cooperants are replacing rather than adding to local human resources. Where locally trained technicians are unemployed, SSC cooperants have been brought in to perform duties which local technicians could be employed and trained to perform, with positive implications for sustainability of technical advice to farmers. Even where the necessary technicians are not available, the Evaluation Team feels that SSC designers have often not adequately explored the cheaper and more sustainable alternative - from the host country perspective - of having small numbers of cooperants train or retrain and mentor local technicians who could be employed for much less than even the US$ 300 paid by the host country for each SSC technician. Qualifications and Experience of Cooperants

113. The Evaluation Team observed that the formal educational qualifications of SSC personnel generally correspond to the requirements of their jobs. Relatively successful recruitment has taken place in the case of Chinese cooperants assigned to Bangladesh, and Vietnamese assigned to Senegal. However, the cooperants in many cases have a narrow specialised research and/or academic background instead of broad practical experience, as is often required by the host countries, and are usually not very familiar with participatory approaches or methods. This has sometimes made it difficult for experts and technicians to perform adequately in their field assignments, despite their long working careers at home. To give some examples, the poultry specialist assigned in one country was obviously highly competent in advising large-scale poultry farms but lacked experience with reference to backyard poultry projects, the norm in the host country. In another case, irrigation specialists were mainly drawn from national-level irrigation institutions specialising in large-scale schemes rather than on-farm irrigation small-scale irrigation schemes, which need to be designed with a minimum of sophisticated tools. At the technician level, relatively mature people have often been selected who find it difficult to live in the housing often available to field technicians in host countries. They are also reluctant or unable to travel extensively by motorbike.

114. Often the minimal understanding by cooperants of the socio-economic conditions of the host country has limited effective project implementation. In most cases, induction courses to help overcome these difficulties have not been organised for new cooperants. Furthermore, cooperants lack local or even official language and communication skills that are central to interacting with technicians and rural communities. The language problem has caused severe restrictions to the effectiveness of cooperants in some countries, to the degree that interpreters have had to be engaged. SPFS should ensure that cooperants have the necessary language capability to perform their duties. The Evaluation Team believes that it would be much more cost-effective to have a small number of technicians with adequate language skills than large numbers who require use of interpreters to perform their duties. Implementation Issues

115. Inadequate resources: SSC projects usually assume that the host country will be able to shoulder the resource commitments detailed in the agreement. Although, as indicated above, the salary costs are usually much lower than those for normal technical assistance programmes, the numbers involved usually mean a heavy burden on government treasuries. It is already evident that the single largest problem faced in the implementation of the SSC is with respect to the difficulties faced by host countries in honouring their resource commitments. This is expected to be exacerbated in future as the number of cooperants increase.

116. Gender issues: Attention to the gender dimension of the programme, for example, in terms of recruiting both men and women experts and technicians, did not appear to the Evaluation Team to be of much concern in the SSC. The Evaluation Team found little evidence of such concern either in the documentation, or during discussions with FAO staff in the field or at Headquarters. The Evaluation Team encountered female technicians in only one country visited. However, the Evaluation Team learned from TCOS that some cooperants in other countries are female, although the statistics do not disaggregate SSC staff by gender.

117. Lack of provision for home leave: In most of the SSC agreements there is no provision for home leave for cooperants who are expected to spend two to three years without seeing their families, who do not join staff members in the host country. The Evaluation Team finds that surprising in view of the expectation that cooperants should have substantial experience, and therefore are most likely to be mid-career technicians with families. The lack of home leave provision is proving to be a problem for most SSC staff interviewed by the Evaluation Team, especially the more senior `experts,' as well as for the SPFS Coordination and Monitoring Service in Rome. FAO will need to find a solution to this problem, or change the profile of expected cooperants to young, unmarried staff that are likely not to feel so much pressure to return home during a 2-3 year assignment overseas.

118. Lack of synchronisation with other field activities: Cooperants have not been available in some countries at the critical time of pilot phase implementation due to a time-consuming recruitment process and/or the SSC agreement coming later. In Bangladesh, Eritrea, Niger and Tanzania, cooperants arrived when the pilot phase was at an advanced stage, with reduced funding and/or follow-up funding not yet effective. It goes without saying that operating with limited funding has had an impact on the motivation of SSC staff, which is reflected in the ultimate results. Implementing the SSC out of step with the SPFS components has hampered impact maximisation.

119. SSC as a learning process: The SSC is considered by FAO to be a learning process, but does not appear to be fully using the lessons from similar programmes. Many types of TA programmes have existed in the past. Several countries have volunteer programmes, NGOs send various categories of staff to developing countries, and the UN itself has the United Nations Volunteer (UNV) programme. There is much experience that the SSC could benefit from (e.g. the need for field level technicians to have adequate knowledge of local languages and to go through a rigorous orientation exercise). Other SSC related problems, which could have been anticipated based on the experience of others, include the fact that a personal contract is required for each cooperant, annual leave arrangements need to be made in one way or other, and medical issues such as a pre-service check-up, and cost responsibilities need to be well-defined.

4.4.3 Overall Assessment

120. The Evaluation Team observes that the results of the SSC initiative are in general valuable. They are, however, relatively modest when related to the considerable efforts made by FAO to build SSC programmes, the time invested by all parties concerned, as well as the costs involved. The latter might have given higher returns and produced more sustainable effects if spent on nationals, often unemployed and willing to work at grassroots level. It should be pointed out that the vast majority of techniques demonstrated by SSC technicians are not particularly innovative and are generally well known by national researchers in the recipient countries. However, the Evaluation Team is of the view that SSC should not be assessed solely by its economic cost/benefit ratio, but also by its contribution to strengthening of South-South relationships, an issue outside the scope of this evaluation.

121. Given the high political support the programme enjoys it needs to be continued. However, FAO should take steps to correct the shortcomings indicated above. The Evaluation Team recommends that there should be a tripartite review of the programme in each country. The focus should be on carefully assessing the true needs of each host country to determine the level of expertise needed (i.e. low, medium or high), and matching those needs with the available technical and human resources of contributing countries. The Evaluation Team is of the view that in most cases it would be more cost-effective to use small numbers of cooperants with adequate language skills, to train and mentor local experts and technicians, rather than the current approach of trying to deploy large numbers of cooperants to directly work with farmers.

4.5 Role of Other International Agencies and Donors

4.5.1 Concept

122. In terms of funding, FAO envisions its financial role as primarily catalytic in helping to initiate SPFS activities in the different LIFDC countries. Following demonstrated success, it would then be in a position to attract donor funds for an expanded Phase I when SPFS-related activities could be expanded to all agro-ecological areas of the country and then later to Phase II when macro policy-related issues relevant to food security could be addressed. However, donor related contributions have also been welcomed, when feasible, even at the initiation of SPFS activities.

4.5.2 Assessment of Achievements

123. The roles of other international agencies and donors with reference to SPFS activities in the case study countries can be divided into three periods, at initiation, during implementation, and prospects for the future:

    1. At initiation. In general, other international agencies and donors do not appear to have been involved much at the beginning of SPFS activities in the case study countries. Apart from Italian support for SPFS activities in Eritrea and Senegal (Expanded Phase 1), there are no other examples of planned donor contributions at the initiation of SPFS activities in the case study countries (see Section 3.1.3);
    2. During implementation. A number of international agencies contributed to the SPFS, directly and indirectly, for instance UNDP (Zambia), WFP (Senegal), IFAD (Zambia), the World Bank (Bangladesh), the French Cooperation (Haiti and Senegal), the Italian Cooperation (Senegal), DFID (Bangladesh), the Japanese government/cooperation (Tanzania/Niger), DANIDA (Eritrea), as well as NGOs such as a Canadian-funded national NGO in Ecuador, AFRICARE and World Vision in Zambia, and the WIN projects in Cambodia and Zambia. Most of these contributions are, however, of a modest amount (see Section 6.2), one of the largest being the Italian grant to SPFS in Senegal (US$ 1.58 million); and
    3. Future prospects. These are dealt with in Section 6.2.

124. Although the Evaluation Team noted that there has been some cooperation with other international agencies and donors in a number of case study countries, it senses there have been missed opportunities. It is apparent to the Evaluation Team that in some countries initiatives of other donors have been complementary to those of the SPFS. However, rather than being systematically/explicitly sought and nurtured/exploited these appear to have happened by chance. The Evaluation Team believes there would be merit in systematically examining, and where feasible, establishing practical working relationships/linkages with other international agencies (i.e. including NGOs), right at the outset of SPFS planning. This would not only improve the multiplier impact of SPFS, but would also improve the possibility of identifying funding for continuing SPFS.

125. The Evaluation Team believes that there is little value in starting the SPFS in a country if there is little prospect of a continuation. Discussions with TCOS revealed that FAO has signed or is in the process of negotiating Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with a number of international agencies (e.g. World Bank, ADB, IDB, IsDB, IFAD, WFP, UNDP, BOAD and the ECOWAS Fund) to support SPFS type initiatives in a number of countries. Although this appears to be a promising development in improving the sustainability of funding of the SPFS, the Evaluation Team believes it may help funding prospects even more if, rather than asking donors to subscribe to/provide support for, SPFS initiatives already on the ground, they were instead requested to indicate where FAO funding for SPFS could best be inserted into their own programmes in the recipient country. That would encourage donor support for food security type initiatives proposed by FAO. Obviously, care would need to be used in applying such an approach, in the sense that it should also reflect the interests of the recipient country which would need to be involved in approving and implementing such arrangements. However, FAO is primarily a technical not a donor agency, and such a posture more in keeping with its mandate/expertise might be advantageous. As indicated earlier, the Evaluation Team is convinced that evaluation and impact assessment are critically important in determining whether donors are likely to be interested in funding future SPFS-related initiatives.

126. There are two other points the Evaluation Team wishes to make with reference to FAO funding and funds channelled through FAO:

    1. FAO funds can play a potentially important role in leveraging local (i.e. national) funds. In the Tarija Prefecture of Bolivia, the Evaluation Team was told that if FAO would continue providing some funding, it would send a positive signal to the Prefecture that the SPFS initiatives were worthy of continued support and hence increase the chances of continued funding from the Prefecture; and
    2. Some international agencies are becoming increasingly reluctant to pay the 13 percent overhead attached to channelling funds through FAO. The Evaluation Team was informed in Ecuador that funding of a further phase of the SPFS by FECD may be in jeopardy because of insistence on this overhead.



4 Issues relating to South-South Cooperation are not discussed here since they are considered in detail elsewhere in the report (see Section 4.4).



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