Posted November 1997
Participation in practice / 6
Project implementing agencies
PPP PROJECTS are implemented with the active involvement of supporting government
institutions - such as line departments, banks, training and research centres
and women and youth councils - as well as NGOs, including church-related
development agencies, national NGO federations and small development-oriented
Choosing the implementing agency
A local NGO or a government agency, or a partnership of both, can implement
the project. Where the political climate is favourable, government agencies
are preferred. In other cases, NGOs with experience at the grassroot level
might be more suitable: experience indicates that NGOs usually have closer
ties with grassroots rural people, are less hierarchical and bureaucratic
and provide services more efficiently.
The selection of an implementing agency will also depend on the type of project concerned and the capabilities and willingness of agencies to provide the participatory groups with the services and facilities they need.
Project planners should also consider whether prospective implementing agencies
are prepared to second field workers, such as extensionists and social workers,
to serve as project group promoters. In the case of training or socio-economic
research centres, the project should ascertain whether these institutions
have genuine concern for the rural poor and whether they can provide the
expertise needed for participatory training, action research and evaluation.
Regardless of which agency is eventually chosen to implement the project,
overall government support should be guaranteed from the outset.
The project coordinator
The project coordinator is employed by the implementing agency and is specifically
charged with supporting, coordinating and supervising all operations concerned
with the rural poor's participation.
"On the side of the poor"Sudath de Abrew was an extension agent before becoming coordinator of the Sri Lanka PPP project. "In a line agency, you are expected to produce results," he said. "The shortest cut is to work with the middle-level and rich farmers who have the means of implementing your advice. I was not reaching the small farmers and was not aware of their problems." His attitude has changed with PPP: "When you work with the poor, you are reoriented so much that within 18 months you are on their side. I am happy that I found the right place for me." The Zambia project coordinator, Lydia Ndulu, agreed. "A coordinator must be committed to the people and to the cause of the people because she will always be in contact with them," Ms. Ndulu said. "I know now that when a group is formed, it should be up to them to do everything and perceive everything in their own way. I am there to help them or find someone who can help them better than I can."
The essential qualifications of a project coordinator include close acquaintance
with the problems of the rural poor and the motivation to assist them, experience
in working with field agents such as extensionists and social workers, familiarity
with government and international development bodies at various levels,
and experience in organizing training activities. The coordinator should
also have an academic degree or equivalent in economics, social or agricultural
science, and a good knowledge of the local language in the project area.
Coordination of project support
The success of a participatory project depends on firm political backing
and the allocation of sufficient development resources to meet participants'
needs. The project should, therefore, establish coordination mechanisms
that guide agencies involved in project implementation and support, monitor
progress, avoid duplication of efforts and disseminate information about
project activities. These coordination mechanisms are of two types:
Local coordination committee in the project area. This committee should be composed of group delegates, project staff, representatives of local delivery agencies and, where opportune, local leaders. The committee's task is to provide local-level support for the project by promoting people's participation and solving implementation problems, especially in the delivery of services and facilities to the groups.
It does this by helping to recruit and train project staff, especially group promoters, providing project staff with guidelines for the planning, implementation and evaluation of the rural poor's participation, and promoting effective two-way communication between low-income groups in the project areas and government and NGO officials at various levels.
Reducing frictions, and speeding up bank loansIn Ghana, where many PPP participants were landless, the project coordination committee proved useful in reducing frictions with local landowners. The committee consisted of elected cluster leaders, the local bank manager, and representatives of the implementing NGO and the landowning traditional council. One issue addressed by the committee was the rent levied on tenant farmers. Through the committee, PPP groups negotiated a new three-year contract with the traditional council.
National coordinating committees are in a position to solve bottlenecks affecting the delivery of project inputs. In Sri Lanka, the Central Coordinating Committee was made up of high-ranking officials from several Government ministries and FAO. At one of its monthly meetings, the project coordinator reported that groups had not received their seasonal loans on time. The committee decided that before the next season the lending bank should scrutinize and approve loan applications in one day. The committee's instruction was transmitted through the bank's head office to its branch managers.
In areas where a task force for a larger project already exists, the coordinating committee could be constituted as a participation sub-committee of the task force. Within this body, small technical committees could also be created for training, approval of group loans and monitoring and evaluation.
National coordinating committee. While coordination of project support services should be undertaken mainly at local level, encouragement and support from national level is essential. In the case of large projects, support might be organized through a special national coordinating committee or task force, or an existing national committee established for similar development programmes. National committees might also appoint a sub-committee or special task force to deal with general policies, personnel, finance and other matters affecting participatory development.
Although the coordination mechanisms described above are desirable, flexibility is also needed. Arrangements will vary according to local conditions and the type of coordination bodies already existing in a country or project area. In addition, a project involving mainly government agencies may require a coordination mechanism different to that needed for a project implemented by an NGO.
For the latter type of project, it may be appropriate to set up one or more small task forces at national and at lower levels that include representatives of the NGOs concerned and possibly of the supporting government agencies.