Missed opportunity for innovation in The Gambia - IOE
Rome, 18 October 2022 – The National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project (Nema) introduced a matching grants scheme under the Capital Investment Stimulation Fund. For The Gambia, this was a new and innovative concept. The opportunity was not seized, however, as the scheme was not appropriately designed and targeted to achieve the expected outreach and impact. This, accordingly to the Nema Project Performance Evaluation (PPE) report published by the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE).
Nema was implemented in The Gambia between 2012 and 2020. The project’s development objective was to increase income through improved productivity based on sustainable land and water-management practices. This was to be achieved through watershed development; agricultural commercialization; and project facilitation. To evaluate the project, IOE adopted a mixed modality approach, which included a desk review of project documents, remote interviews with key project stakeholders, and in-person interviews in the project communities, given the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nema’s matching grants aimed to promote investment and access to productive farm machinery, equipment and infrastructure to enhance productivity. The PPE found that while these were innovative and new to IFAD in The Gambia, they were not sufficiently oriented towards market businesses, IFAD target groups - women and youth -, and only partly linked with Nema’s infrastructure development. In the end, the total number of grants delivered was relatively small. This was a result of failure by applicants to fulfil all conditions such as down payments, lack of collateral and bankable business plans.
These shortcomings aside, arguably Nema’s greatest challenge can be found in the project’s rice infrastructure development approaches. These were constrained by gaps in design, quality of construction, and operations and maintenance. Furthermore, the social, environmental, economic and gender aspects of rice production in the different ecologies in The Gambia were not always sufficiently considered, especially for tidal irrigation. In final analysis, constructed infrastructure often did not have the technical quality to make rice production profitable and sustainable, or even permit farmers to use it.
Other shortcomings included the limited attention given to climate-smart infrastructure and production technologies at project design, as integration of climate change adaptation and natural resource management in mini-watershed development and infrastructure planning was not sufficiently considered. In addition, the projects also established fewer linkages to private sector market demand than envisaged at design. This was in part because many of the activities came at a late stage.
On the upside, the PPE found that vegetable gardens had strong achievements, in terms of productivity and sustainability, including beyond the Nema project. This was largely because the gardens followed a standard design with clear specifications for materials. Evidence of success was mostly observed in the women- and youth-managed vegetable gardens, which were found to be profitable and economically empowering. Nonetheless, investments in women and youth vegetable gardens will only be sustainable in the long run if they are firmly embedded in strong market and demand linkages.
In response to the challenges observed, IOE’s report advances a series of recommendations, including the need to support the development of a new strategy and national master plan for rice development in, ensuring that they are informed by watershed analyses. Furthermore, the PPE also suggests moving ongoing and future vegetable schemes consistently towards market, demand and private sector orientation, and advises to address the root causes of gender inequality and discrimination, using contextually appropriate upstream and downstream strategies.
The Nema project followed a long line of IFAD projects in The Gambia that were dedicated to lowland rice production and targeting women farmers. Nema (2012-2019) overlapped and converged with the Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project (2006-2014), whose lessons were applied in Nema.
Access the 'National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project' PPE report [here]
For further information, please contact Alexander Voccia [here]