Evaluation of the impact of Agricultural projects on rural development: The case of the National program for roots and Tubers development-Minkoa Lobo Basin, Yaounde
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This study sought to examine the impact of the agricultural projects on rural development: the case of the National Programme for Roots and Tubers Development (NPRTD) – Minkoa, Lobo basin. To achieve this, the study determined the impact of NPRTD Project management on production and income of concerned groups, assessed the strategies used by NPRTD Project and its impact on the communities, and finally suggested measures to improve on the effectiveness of NPRTD Project so as to enhance rural development in Lobo division. 106 farmers benefitting from the NPRTD were sampled and the primary sources of data were obtained from the questionnaires. This was also complemented by secondary sources of data obtained from libraries, textbooks, journals, articles, and reports. Descriptive statistics techniques were employed to analyze the information collected through questionnaires. The results showed that NPRTD support has led to an increase in rural farmer’s project activities by at least 50 percent. Furthermore, a positive impact of NPRTD was observed on farmers in the light of increases in production, income, family investments, and savings. Although the scheme has registered success in reducing poverty through an increase in project activities and incomes realized, the scheme is marred by challenges such as the absence of farm-to-market roads, high cost of transport for foods, and limited funds. Recommendations were proposed to NPRTD, the farmers and the ministries involved so as to enhance their contributions towards poverty alleviation for the rural development in Lobo Division.
Keywords: rural development, impact, agricultural development, project and roots, and tubers.
Agriculture plays a prominent role in the socio-economic development of most sub-Saharan African countries. African governments put agriculture at the top of their development priorities, given the fact that secondary and tertiary industry is limited and not fully developed. Notwithstanding this interest in the agricultural sector, agriculture is still widely seen as underperforming and practiced with the use of rudimentary tools (World Bank, 2007; Inter Academy Council, 2004). A complete reorientation of economic policy is essential in these countries to promote economic growth, to generate income, and to reduce poverty (Godoy and Dewbre, 2010).
Understanding agriculture’s role has important implications for policymaking. Dutt and Ros (2008) posit that one extreme view, commonplace in the development literature of the 1950s, is that the agricultural sector is simply a reservoir of unemployed or underemployed labor. As a result, low incomes and living standards, from which people must eventually be moved by economic growth in the non-agricultural economy. The extreme alternative view is that the agricultural sector itself must generate the growth that will eventually release labor and other resources (Dutt and Ros, ibid). The farm sector has likely of being the industrial and economic springboard from where a country’s development can take off (Ogen, 2007). Indeed, more often than not, agricultural activities have usually been concentrated in the less-developed rural areas where there is a critical need for rural transformation, redistribution, poverty alleviation, and socio-economic development (Stewart,2000).
Apart from Northern Africa, which is somewhat richer than the rest of the continent and Southern Africa where mining and other industries play a significant role, the rest of the continent’s population and workforce are heavily agricultural, with approximately 60% of the labour force involved in agriculture (Diao, 2006). This perhaps, explains why the World Development Report (2008) introduced the “agriculture for development agenda” which stresses the crucial role of farming in the development of societies, especially those of the developing world. Throughout history, increases in agricultural sector productivity have contributed greatly to economic and social growth and poverty alleviation. As a result, any serious discussion of growth in Africa needs to begin with a look at the role played by agricultural development via proper agricultural project management.
According to a paper jointly published in 2007 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER), and that of Fishery, Livestock and Animal Husbandry (MINEPIA), in recent years, food production did not follow the rapid demographic increase, especially in the urban areas (Encyclopedia of the Nation » Africa » Cameroon). For these ministries, food security has to be assured by an increase in the production of foodstuff and other crops to substitute importation. The Government, faced with the effects of the financial crisis, has taken steps to boost the production of commodities such as maize, rice, cassava, potato, oil palm, and plantain. For food crops, these measures aim at improving the commercialization of products through the construction of warehouses for conservation.
In 2009, the agricultural sector accounted for approximately 75.6% of the primary industry with 68.8% for food crops and 6.8% for export crops. This sub-sector was increased by 8.3% compared to 2008, contributing 0.7% to growth actual primary sector (Institut National de la Statistique– Annuaire Statistique du Cameroun 2010). Still, in 2009, the Government through the MINADER implemented an emergency plan to increase agricultural production. This sought to subsidize pesticides and fertilizers from 20% to 50%, grant loans at low-interest rates, create five pools of farm machinery support up to 15%, acquire about a hundred tractors and increase the capacity of processing, storage and packaging all in a bid to improve agricultural production.
Schultz (1980) observed that until communities and countries made scientific and institutional advances meet reliably their subsistence food needs through improved production, processing, and trade, few could begin the process of modern economic growth. Cognizant of the crucial role agricultural projects could play in the socio-economic growth process of Cameroon, the government has embarked on a series of agricultural development intervention packages, some of which include facilitating access to credit for farmers through the establishment of a partnership arrangement between producer organizations and microfinance institutions, according to grants or subventions, donating tractors and other farm equipment, providing training to enhance the capacity of farmers and provide farmers with fertilizers and pesticides. These packages were geared towards improving agricultural productivity and production.
However, the management of these agricultural projects has a major stake as far as the expected outcomes are concerned. The case of the Lobo Division of the South Region is of the essence where some of these projects have been introduced. Most of these agricultural projects target rural areas where agro potentials exist. This is evident with projects such as the National Program for Roots and Tubers Development (NPRTD), the Agricultural Competitiveness Project (PACA), the Grass field Participatory and Decentralized Rural Development Project (GP-DERUDEP), Program for the Improvement of Competitiveness of Family Agro-Pastoral Farms (ACEFA), the Northwest Development Authority (MIDENO) and the (PADMIR) Projet d’Appui au Developpement de la Microfinance Rural. These projects have been introduced in a bid to enhance the improvement of the livelihood of the rural poor, ensure food security and sufficiency in these rural areas of Cameroon.
Though most of these projects may take different approaches, they are all geared towards improving upon the livelihood of the rural poor in these regions. Agricultural projects are generally understood as investment activities in which financial resources are expended to create capital assets that produce benefits over an extended period. In some projects, however, costs are incurred for production expenses or maintenance from which benefits can normally be expected quickly, usually within about a year. An enormous variety of agricultural activities may usefully be cast in project form. The World Bank itself lends for agricultural projects as different as irrigation, livestock, rural credit, land settlement, tree crops, agricultural machinery, and agricultural education, as well as for multi-sectoral rural development projects with a major agricultural component. The case of the National Program for Roots and Tubers Development (NPRTD) is of the essence of this research work.
1.2 problem statement
At the dawn of the 21st Century, agriculture remains to be a fundamental instrument for sustainable development and the consequent reduction of poverty especially in developing economies that are largely dependent on it (WDR, 2008). Promoting agriculture is imperative for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals of reducing poverty and hunger. A case in point is the government of Cameroon’s policy of integrated rural development which gives premium to agriculture, through various innovative strategies. Agriculture has a major role to play in Cameroon’s Vision 2035 of becoming an Emerging Economy, but yet, this role is still to be justified. The management system of agricultural projects is the driving force of growth and development. It should be noted that the management of NPRTD has a bearing on production and consequently on rural development.
Although the general goal of the project is to improve food security and increase rural income by developing the R&T sector, the effectiveness of the management strategies (coordination, planning, monitoring and control, capacity building, and providing access to market) of these projects shows significant variations; this leads to variations in the level of rural development (production, employment, income, capacity building, investment, saving and consumption, expansion of farms, etc.).
Furthermore, these agro-projects are plagued with so many problems such as lack of a common framework of action and coordination of activities, unclear delineation of responsibilities between government institutions and the other stakeholders, dissipation of the limited financial resources for environmental concerns, poor infrastructural development, limited motivation, and subventions to encourage the smooth running of the projects, little or no follow-up and poor feedback mechanism (field observations,2015).
As a result, the effectiveness of the management of agricultural projects in the Lobo Division varies from one project to another. Such variations also lead to differences in agricultural outputs, employment, and income and their respective contributions to rural development in Lobo Division. Various measures, though limited, have been and are being put in place by different actors to enhance the management of agricultural projects (field observations, 2015). This could be viewed in the light of the maintenance of old roads and the construction of new ones. The government, on her part, has been encouraging the formation of agricultural associations and farmers groups.
The NPRTD is not out only to improve food security, production and increase income in poor rural areas by developing the R&T sector but also to provide subsidies to its beneficiaries to assist them to come up with projects that will enable them to raise their income levels and thus, ameliorating the living standards of rural households. By doing so, the NPRTD program has made it possible for the beneficiaries to sustain projects that will help them to achieve success and to provide for their core and essential needs. That way, they are indirectly trying to reduce household poverty. Despite these initiatives to reduce rural poverty, NPRTD is still gripped by a series of challenges: inadequate capacity development of farmers, poor farming/cultivation techniques, poor farm practices that are a breeding ground for pest, lack of financial means, non-mastery of conservation techniques and processing that lead to preservation and transformation difficulties, lack of transport, lack of markets organization group sales thus leading to difficulties in the evacuation of harvested products to the market as such leading to a decrease in marketing (field observation,2015). All of these make accessibility difficult for those considered as the unable poor and as such the able poor are left to benefit more from the agricultural project. With all these measures we can see that contributions to rural development in Lobo Division remain low. Therefore, the problem must be sought in areas other than lack of resources but underscoring the need to investigate the quality of management within such innovative projects. Cognizant of the role agriculture plays in Lobo Division; this study seeks to evaluate the impact of the National Program for Roots and Tubers Development (NPRTD) on rural development.
Main Objective: The primary purpose of this study is to evaluate the impact of NPRTD agricultural project management on rural development.
Specifically, the study seeks to:
- Determine the impact of NPRTD Project management on the production and income of concerned groups in the Lobo Division.
- Assess the strategies used by NPRTD Project and their implications for the community
- Suggest measures to improve the effectiveness of NPRTD Project so as to enhance rural development in Lobodivision.
- What impact does the NPRTD project have on the production and income of concerned groups in Lobo division?
- What are the strategies used by NPRTD to achieve its objectives and what impact does it have on the community?
- What measures can be used to improve on the effectiveness of agricultural Project management so as to enhance rural development?