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The Federative Republic of Brazil: Sustainable development project for agrarian reform settlementsin the Semi-Arid North-East (Dom Hélder Câmara Project)

30 June 2011

Core learning partnership and users of the evaluation

The IFAD Office of Evaluation (IOE) undertook an interim evaluation of the IFAD-financed Sustainable Development Project for the Agrarian Reform Settlements in the Semi-Arid North East – the Dom Hélder Câmara Project (DHCP) – in Brazil. The objectives of this evaluation were: (i) to assess the results and impact of the project; and (ii) to generate findings and recommendations that will inform a possible next phase of the project.

In line with the IFAD evaluation policy, a core learning partnership (CLP) was formed to ensure the engagement of stakeholders in a fruitful collaboration throughout the process and to facilitate discussion and adoption of the recommendations of the evaluation. The CLP included: (i) representatives of the Ministry of Agrarian Development and of the Territorial Development Secretariat; (ii) representatives of the Ministry of Planning, Budget and Management; (iii) the DHCP project management unit (PMU) coordinator and relevant staff; (iv) representatives of state governments; (v) members of the territorial committee composed of representatives of beneficiary families, churches, trade unions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local supervision units; and (vi) the IFAD Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) division.

On 22 and 23 November 2010, CLP members and other stakeholders convened in Recife, where the DHCP PMU is based, for the final learning workshop on the evaluation. This Agreement at Completion Point summarizes the findings and recommendations in the evaluation report and reflects the discussions of the main issues at the learning workshop.

The ACP has been reached between IFAD Management (represented by the Programme Management Department) and the Government of Brazil (represented by the Ministry of Planning Budget and Management, as well as the Ministry of Agrarian Development). It reflects their understanding of the main findings from the evaluation (see Section B) as well as their commitment to adopt and implement the recommendations contained in Section C of the ACP, within the specified timeframes.

Main evaluation findings

DHCP was one of the answers to the lack of technical assistance and opportunities for social development and income generation for newly settled farmer families and communities under the agrarian reform process in Brazil. The underlying strategy of DHCP was to enhance beneficiaries' individual and collective capabilities with a view to promoting the full exercise of citizenship, improving the quality of life, and creating the conditions needed to develop autonomous organizations for accessing technical assistance services and government development policies. DHCP established a self-regulating cooperation among: (i) beneficiaries and their organizations; (ii) rural trade unions; and (iii) technical assistance providers. At the same time, the project supported differentiation among the functions carried out by rural trade unions and NGOs with a view to promoting specialization and supporting the growth of technical skills.

With regard to relevance, DHCP succeeded in working with different segments of society in a differentiated manner. It adopted a pragmatic approach to the empowerment of rural women by identifying their needs and capacities and gathering them in interest groups focused on production or income-generating activities. DHCP went beyond a simple alignment with government policies in that it saw itself as an articulator and facilitator of public policies focusing on poor farming families. Notwithstanding the positive overall relevance of DHCP, some of the difficulties faced during implementation can be related to specific features of project design: the inclusion of six states, although justifiable in view of project objectives, increased the complexity of implementation, supervision and monitoring in that it required additional planning and negotiation with state governments and civil society partners. The administration of the DHCP loan at the federal level, however, largely freed DHCP from bureaucratic restrictions and allowed it to engage in a range of partnerships and to experiment with new mechanisms for supporting family farmers. The negative aspect was that the strategic orientation from the federal government level was not strong, and at times the implementation of DHCP activities was negatively affected by the insufficient and delayed allocation of counterpart funds.

The DHCP was characterized by satisfactory performance in terms of effectiveness. The evaluation showed the positive effects in terms of the capacity of family farmers to organize themselves into autonomous associations. DHCP invented a compelling and easily communicable concept – Conviver com o semi-árido – to promote the idea that it is possible for family farmers to establish a sustainable relationship with the environment of the semi-arid North-East and at the same time develop their technical and entrepreneurial skills. Another great merit of DHCP was its contribution to easing one of the main constraints to agricultural development in the semi-arid North-East – access to water. The adult literacy campaigns produced good results as a result of an innovative learning method inspired by one of the NGO partners that gave effective incentives for teachers to deliver results. Leadership training for young women and men led to employment opportunities and improved the management of associations and rural institutions. The project also attempted to promote market-oriented, bottom-up financial services suitable for the rural poor. Given the objectives of the project, however, a major knowledge-sharing initiative would be required to promote DHCP as a model for future development policies.

With regard to efficiency, DHCP was characterized by a 24-month delay in becoming effective, and required extension by three and a half years to compensate for the late start and the initial disbursement delays. Such prolonged duration inevitably brought about an increase in IFAD and government expenditure on management and supervision, which reduced efficiency. The operating cost of DHCP was primarily a result of the wide geographical coverage established in its design, but this was essential to achieve the objective of applying the proposed model in a range of contexts. The resources available were efficiently administered. With regard to the cost of the technical assistance model piloted by DHCP, the average cost per family targeted was in line with national standards but the approach offered a wider set of services.

The impact of the project on rural poverty was satisfactory. Most significantly, the project had a strong impact on empowerment and self-esteem among the target groups, including women and rural young people. This resulted from factors such as the direct management of financial resources for development activities by grassroots associations, the increased participation in local markets and in decision-making processes.

With regard to women, DHCP enabled an extension of women's functions by promoting their participation in productive and income-generating activities, in combination with activities to promote their education and citizenship rights.

The evaluation found evidence of increased income, agricultural productivity and diversification of farm production in the targeted territories. The partnership established with Petrobras Fome Zero – Molhar a Terra, Syngenta Foundation and the ELO project improved already existing market orientation of DHCP and favoured the establishment of agro-processing units and agro-ecological fairs. Positive results were achieved in terms of promoting environmentally friendly technologies and inputs. The principle of Conviver com o semi-árido was an essential element of DHCP human, social and economic development strategies. The project nurtured in family farmers a new way of thinking: considering the environment and natural resources as partners for long-term development that require care and comprehension. The partnership with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) contributed to strengthen DHCP impact on natural resources. In terms of impact on policy and institutional development, DHCP helped to enhance the capabilities of rural private-sector institutions such as NGOs and rural trade unions and participation by the poor in local policy-making processes. 

With regard to sustainability, the performance of DHCP was rated "moderately satisfactory". The social and economic effects of DHCP at the family farm level have a good chance of being sustained. The subsidized purchases by state companies and the protection provided by the solidarity principles in agricultural fairs currently can be considered affirmative actions undertaken for protecting the competitiveness of family farmers and favour the gradual development of their production capacity. In future, a necessary condition for continuation of the benefits would be further consolidation of the production capacities of family farmers and upgrading of the quality of farm produce. DHCP adopted a timeline for ensuring sustainable results that went beyond the planned lifetime of the project. In 2006, new areas and territories were included, even though sustainable changes could not be generated before the closing date. The lack of an explicit strategy of disengagement from targeted territories inevitably affected the assessment of project sustainability. Indeed, the strategy of DHCP was to create the conditions for a second phase of the project that would lead to sustainability. This is, however, a risky strategy because an unexpected political change could halt the process.

The design of the project was characterized by various innovations that were successfully applied: these included the adoption of a territorial development strategy and a multi-dimensional approach to poverty reduction, and involvement of a wider range of partners such as social organizations and rural trade unions. This evaluation identified two additional important innovations: (i) the clear differentiation between the roles of social mobilizers and technical assistance providers, which fostered specialization and the capacity to reach the rural poor; and (ii) the concept of the project as an instrument to enable the rural poor to access opportunities available under government development policies. The evaluation also acknowledges various small-scale innovations applied at the local and community levels through the partnerships with NGOs. With regard to replication and scaling up, DHCP was used as a reference for the design of a territorial development policy in 2003.

The DHCP approach can be replicated and scaled up in the North-East and other poor semi-arid areas of Brazil, but this would require adaptation to the new contexts. A strong social entrepreneurship function with sufficient means to combine different actors and public policies would be required, particularly in territories with weak institutional environments.

All DHCP partners performed satisfactorily. The project was under IFAD direct supervision. IFAD was a responsive partner in terms of clarifying aspects of project design and facilitating the adaptation of project approaches to the changing development context. IFAD also responded promptly when supervision requirements increased. The Government of Brazil played an important role in providing a favourable economic and public policy framework for rural poverty reduction. The outstanding performance of the PMU contributed significantly to DHCP achievements: the evaluation recognized in particular the capacity of the PMU to mobilize domestic and international resources and to establish partnerships with a range of stakeholders. The PMU also ensured that financial management and accounting were sound.

Recommendations agreed by all partners

In view of the positive achievements of DHCP, this evaluation recommends to IFAD and the Government of Brazil the financing of a second phase of the project. The evaluation recommends IFAD and the Government of Brazil to take note of the main lessons learned of this evaluation, especially with regard to the project geographical coverage, the strategy for sustainability and the emphasis on knowledge sharing.

Recommendation 1

Institutional set up. The RB-COSOP prepared by IFAD in close consultation with the Government of Brazil in 2008 establishes that "the state governments will be the partners of preference to carry out investment projects" and that "new loans will be agreed between IFAD and the state governments with the guarantee of the Federal Government". Considering the positive results of the DHCP and being this a multi-state project with IFAD loan managed at federal level, a second phase of the project would require IFAD and the Government of Brazil to reach a clear agreement on the institutional organization of DHCP-II and the level of administration of project loan. This would include an agreement with the Government of Brazil to carry out, jointly with IFAD, the project design and the procedures for negotiations and signature of the loan agreement. In the new project, opportunities to reduce administrative and management costs by making use of decentralized structures should be identified. Likewise, in line with the rationale of the RB-COSOP, opportunities for cooperation and involvement of state-level governments should be included in order to maximise the potential influence of the DHCP-II at state-level.

Responsibility for follow-up: IFAD and the Government of Brazil.
Instrument for follow-up: policy dialogue among partners, project design.
Timing for follow-up: immediate, ideally after the appointment of the new government.

Recommendation 2

Policy linkages. Define the links between DHCP-II and public policies for rural development at the federal, state and municipal levels for a more effective channelling of resources to family farming and poverty reduction.

Responsibility for follow-up: IFAD and the Government of Brazil.
Instrument for follow-up: analysis and dialogue during DHCP-II design; supervision.
Timing for follow-up: DHCP-II design period, and thereafter.

Recommendation 3

Knowledge generation and dissemination. Incorporate in project design a strategy for knowledge generation and dissemination. This requires a results-oriented M&E system that will enable the project to measure the progress in implementing the proposed approach and the results achieved at various levels (gender, ethnicity, age, households and institutions, empowerment, citizenship, environmental sustainability). The new phase should incorporate instruments for extracting information about the DHCP experience with a view to disseminating knowledge in national and international fora. In this context, IFAD should increase and facilitate opportunities to transfer DHCP experience at the regional level and in forthcoming initiatives for South-South cooperation.

Responsibility for follow-up: IFAD and the programme management unit.
Instrument for follow-up: DHCP-II design, supervision and knowledge-management events.

Timing for follow-up: DHCP-II design period, and thereafter.

Recommendation 4

Support for rural income generation. The project should include strategies for income generation through agricultural and non-agricultural activities. With regard to agricultural activities, support should be provided for upgrading products with high value-added and facilitating linkages of family farmers with value chain and markets. These activities should be implemented in line with the principle of environmental conservation that was a distinguishing feature of DHCP. The project should also identify instruments and strategies for the expansion of non-farm employment opportunities, especially for young people. In both contexts, the project should continue its support to initiatives aimed at facilitating access of beneficiaries to bottom-up financial and non-financial business development services oriented to grassroots associations.

Responsibility for follow-up: IFAD, the Government of Brazil and the programme management unit.
Instrument for follow-up: DHCP-II design.
Timing for follow-up: DHCP-II design period.

Recommendation 5

Managing for sustainability. Define at the outset the strategy for engagement with settlements and communities, and its duration. This includes the type and length of support and the indicators triggering the termination of project support – the exit strategy. The design should specify the institutional features and conditions expected at the time of project completion to ensure the continuation of benefits after the end of project financing.

Responsibility for follow-up: IFAD, the Government of Brazil and the programme management unit.
Instrument for follow-up: DHCP-II design.
Timing for follow-up: DHCP-II design period.

Recommendation 6

Maximize synergies with the IFAD country programme. Where applicable, look for complementarities among DHCP actions and experience with IFAD programmes operating in the same states and territories.

Responsibility for follow-up: IFAD
Instrument for follow-up: DHCP-II design, design and supervision of other projects, and knowledge-management events.
Timing for follow-up: Continuous.

 

No publications
Brazil: A multi-dimensional approach to rural poverty reduction (Issue #77 - 2011)
Brazil: System-building and leveraging state policies for the development of family agriculture (Issue #17 - 2011)

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