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Raising incomes and productivity of Philippine farmers and fishers

21/05/2018

Innovative tools and a dynamic monitoring and evaluation system are helping the Philippine Government support small-scale farmers and fishers to increase their marketable surpluses and access markets.

The six-year, country-wide initiative – known as the Philippine Rural Development Project or PRDP – is run by the Department of Agriculture and jointly funded by the World Bank and the national and local governments.

The project, which began in 2014, aims to raise incomes, productivity and competitiveness through a combination of improved infrastructure, economic activities, technology and information.

It also seeks to strengthen governance, transparency and accountability, said Jim Hancock, an FAO natural resources management officer who is supporting the project’s monitoring and evaluation team, as well as its Global Environment Facility component.

“It’s a huge programme, with projects in every province and big differences in terms of crops and geography – with mountains, lowlands, coastal regions. Our role is to help the Government spend its money more effectively and efficiently,” he said.

A planning mechanism, which is being institutionalized, has enabled the national and local governments to identify and agree on priorities in each province.  

“Together they are mapping out the poorest, most vulnerable areas, the gaps in infrastructure, the most viable commodities and production areas, local producer groups, what they are producing, barriers they face and so on. This information, supported by remote sensing data, is summarized in a provincial commodity investment plan, which becomes like a contract between central and local government,” Hancock said. 

“That document leaves little wiggle room because you know exactly what you’re planning and where you’re putting your resources,” he added. 

Improving transparency

Building climate-resilient infrastructure –  better farm to market roads, bridges, post-harvest facilities – along priority value chains is one major project component.  

Another is developing and strengthening viable agriculture- and fishery-based enterprises. Thanks to various science-based tools, the project’s monitoring and evaluation team is able to track progress along each planning and implementation stage.  

One such tool is geotagging, which uses photos and videos embedded with geographical data to map infrastructure and livelihood and agri-fishery facilities.

When building a road, for example, photos are taken at different points, tagged with the location and date to prevent tampering and uploaded to a website for anyone to see. This has helped improve transparency and reduce waste, Hancock said.

“Geotagging has allowed for more checks and balances along the different planning stages. The Department of Agriculture has managed to save millions of dollars by dropping or moving some projects where, for example, a planned road was not far from a main road,” he said.

The monitoring and evaluation team has developed an automated weekly reporting system that pulls out and emails data to stakeholders on the latest progress.

Community monitoring of infrastructure projects and participatory rapid assessments also provide direct feedback to local stakeholders, raising credibility. FAO continues to work with the team to refine methods and manage and present the data in a meaningful and visually striking way for more accurate analysis and reporting.

Capturing results

According to the team’s mid-term review in November 2017, the project is already making a difference.

New roads and bridges are making it easier for farmers to transport their goods to local markets. And getting high-value crops such as coffee, banana and other fruits to market in good condition can increase their asking price.

Some producers have begun to diversify their income sources, growing other crops or opening small shops. And better roads have meant better access to schools and health care facilities.

Rapid assessments of emerging benefits enable the monitoring team not only to analyse impacts along the way, but also to address issues like road maintenance and road security.

“The team is not just capturing and regurgitating data, but really asking the ‘so what’ as they go along. They’re innovating all the time,” Hancock said.

“We’re also seeing more subtle changes in how institutions such as the Department of Agriculture are behaving,” he said. “There’s more interest in mainstreaming the processes, as credible successes help justify the allocation of scarce government resources.”

Jourvin Barrera, the monitoring and evaluation unit head, added that the technical guidance from the World Bank task team has helped the monitoring and evaluation system “evolve and become a global good practice.”

Next up

The project has made great strides, but more work needs to be done, especially on enterprises.

In a country vulnerable to climate risks like the Philippines, strengthening the ability of enterprises to cope with or quickly rebuild assets after the next typhoon or flood is crucial.

Complementing the PRDP, FAO is working with the Philippine Department of Agriculture to develop a Green Climate Fund project that will look at ways to mainstream climate change adaptation and mitigation into government programmes.

 

Photo credit: Annielyn I. Baleza, DA-PRDP.