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4. EVALUATION OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The essence of the whole evaluation exercise is its capacity to make relevant observations on salient results of the crop pack programme. These results form the basis for the recommendations on the future of the programme, presenting proposals on the way forward.
4.1 Main Observations
The main observations of this evaluation can be divided into three broad categories, namely: those on the major implementation problems, those on the general impact of the programme on the
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smallholder farming sector, and those on current government thinking about the future of the crop pack programme.
a) The Major Implementation Problems
The evaluation has identified about ten major problems besetting the implementation of the crop pack programme. Most of these problems have been discussed under findings above. Using a simple percentage score ranking it is possible to classify the ten major problems as shown on Table 4.1.
Table 4.1: Ranking of Major Problems
SOURCE: Evaluation data, 1997
Untimely delivery of the inputs to the districts for distribution to the farmer beneficiaries is cited as the main problem. This problem was echoed by both farmer interviewees and the ward distribution committees. Some of the inputs did not arrive at the
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distribution points, even those of the 1996/97 season, until late January and/or early February 1997. The inputs which arrive so late become almost useless for that particular cropping season. This problem was also corroborated by the Ministry of Agriculture when they noted "delays..... in the provision of financial resources, and delays in the transportation of inputs to distribution points" as some of the major problems affecting the implementation of the crop pack programme. Some of the respondents pertinently commented that such delays do not help the farmer's plight of lack of inputs because he cannot utilise the opportunity for early planting.
The twin problems of long distance to distribution points and the attendant high costs of transporting the inputs to the beneficiaries' farm gate, were identified as some of the major problems of the programme. Some farmers have to travel over 50 kilometres to collect their packs of inputs by scotch-carts if they have any. But in most cases they are expected to raise sufficient cash to hire transport, for the collection of those inputs; yet they are assisted with the free inputs because they are drought-stricken and have no cash for that purpose. These problems lead to more problems of delays in the collection of the allocated packs, which itself has some adverse effects on the farmer's operational timing and eventual performance.
The distribution committees and the farmers also reported that one of the major problems is the delivery of insufficient crop packs. This problem has both economic and social ramifications. Some farmers will have budgeted their programme with the Government free packs in mind; when they fail to come or come in insufficient quantities this disrupts the farmer's operational programme, and hence affects his/her performance. Socially, the distribution committees are put in an embarrassing position when they cannot deliver the inputs to all the prospective recipients. The latter would resent it and, even sometimes hate the committee members, for not allocating the inputs to everyone selected. In one of the wards interviewed for this evaluation, the Agritex staff was murdered ostensibly by some disgruntled farmers who had not been allocated their fair share. In such instances the crop pack programme has hampered the technical delivery of advisory services by government technical institutions.
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The selling of allocated inputs by some recipients is one of the problems encountered by this evaluation. The practice, though not widespread among the distribution points visited, is however, disturbing. Some of the reasons for selling of inputs include the need for money to purchase certain essentials for life, such as food, and the inappropriateness of inputs for local conditions. Some farmers went as far as even refusing to collect the inputs for the second reason. Refusal to collect the inputs was also explained in terms of lack of affordable transport and the sizes of the packs which were regarded as too small for the farmers' requirements and hence worthless. Some distribution committees reported that the majority of the farmers who sold their inputs were the bad ones whose farming operations are largely subsistence. Whatever the explanations for these two problems at the end of the day the farmers lose out. They cannot access free modern inputs which could improve their productivity.
One of the problems which some distribution committees have faced throughout the programme is the consumption of crop pack seeds. It was reported that some farmers collected their seeds, washed them and consumed them. The major reason given was shortage of food. Shortage of food should have been catered for by the grain loan scheme. That the scheme did not take care of this problem raises the question of the effectiveness of the grain loan scheme, which unfortunately is not part of the assignment of this evaluation, and also raises the whole question of the coordination of government programmes.
The problems of storage and security of the crop packs at distribution points before and during allocation to nominated recipients and the identification of recipients rank the same level as the consumption of seeds. The issue of the security raises the question of the involvement of the beneficiaries in the whole programme. If the beneficiaries genuinely and fully participated in deciding what inputs to be ordered, in the selection of recipients, in the allocation of the packs, and in the delivery of the inputs to individual beneficiaries the question of security would not arise because they would be identifying themselves with the whole programme and would therefore provide security themselves. But if they are not involved in the major decisions
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and activities of the programme, as what was reported, then they would identify the programme with the Government and so would expect government or its representative to provide security. Two observations arise from the question of identifying recipients. First, it seems that the programme did not set tight and clear selection criteria for recipients. Second, the composition of selecting teams, as was found out by this evaluation, was not properly and systematically thought out at the programme formulation phase. This calls to question the transparency of the allocation and disbursement of the inputs in the crop pack programme. The question may then be asked "is the programme benefiting the intended beneficiaries?".
b) The General Impact of the Programme
It has already been noted from the evaluation results that the majority (68%) of the 96.5 percent who received the crop packs under the Government drought relief programme are people who have no other occupation except farming. Only 10.3 percent of the respondents are in full time formal employment. Within this group are some of the 3 percent who have not received the crop packs from the Government programme. It therefore means over half of the full -time employees have received the crop packs to augment their input procurement capacity. This deprives the needy farmers of the opportunity to benefit from the Government free crop packs. From the general profile of the programme beneficiaries it seems that the majority of the respondents have access to adequate basic resources - land (over 90%), draft power (62%), farm implements, tools and equipment - necessary for the implementation of a viable farming operation and/or programme. This means that the majority of crop pack beneficiaries are not necessarily resource poor farmers. The programme seems to have benefited everyone. The reason for opening up the programme to everybody is that different distribution committees use a diverse array of selection criteria. Table 4.2 summarises the main criteria applied in the selection of crop pack recipients. There is no doubt that the major cause for lack of tight focus in the targeting of needy input beneficiaries is political interference at both the national and local levels. This interference has become so highly concentrated and very effective in influencing input allocations towards provincial equity
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irrespective of the agro-ecological disparities in productive potential. It is doubtful whether Government's original intention was to benefit both resource poor and resource rich farmers. The efficiency of the programme in terms of its input targeting, management and distribution seems to require some readjustment and recasting if it has to continue.
TABLE 4.2: Criteria for Selection Recipients (N = 20)
SOURCE: Evaluation data, 1997
Despite all its problems in its conceptualisation and implementation the crop pack programme seems to have made some strides in the achievement of some of its objectives, particularly those related with crop productivity and technological adoption.
The areal expansion in the cultivation of most of the crops in the Government programme is an encouraging sign in the recovery of
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the smallholder agriculture from the devastating drought of the early 1990s, but especially that of the 1991/92 season. The increased yields, sales and retention which have been observed seem to indicate that the crop pack programme has contributed significantly towards small holder agricultural productivity. The retention statistics per family of the staple food crops - maize (2.0 tonnes), sorghum (0.34 tonnes), and millet (0.4 tonnes) - appear to assure a sustainable food security situation among the smallholder sector farmers. The Government crop pack programme has certainly played a role in this recovery which has in turn raised the standard of living in rural areas through increased cash incomes from the sale of surplus produce, enhanced food security, and improved nutritional status of rural households.
Although the majority of the smallholder farmers knew the use of fertilisers (77.4%) and improved crop varieties (88%) before the introduction of the crop pack programme it seems evident that the programme has helped in improving the farmers' general knowledge on the importance of using fertilisers and improved seed varieties. In their response 57 percent of the smallholder farmers indicated that the programme has improved their appreciation and enhanced their knowledge of the importance of fertilisers and some 68 percent confirmed the importance of using improved seed varieties in increasing agricultural productivity. Slightly over 53 percent reported that they are now using inputs which they never used before the introduction of the Government crop pack programme. Some of the farmers specified the following inputs: maize (21.5%), sorghum (7.0%), fertilisers (24.8%), sunflower, groundnuts, etc. Some 59 percent of the farmers indicated that they have now adopted new seed varieties as a result of their exposure to the Government crop pack programme. Table 4.3 summarises some of the seed varieties which were cited as some of the technologies adopted.
It has also already been observed that all the farmers allocated with the inputs, at more than 75 percent of the distribution points interviewed, were keenly interested in collecting and utilising their inputs. All these observations seem to show that
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the crop pack programme has effectively induced the adoption of technological innovations by the majority of smallholder farmers.
c) Current Government thinking on the Programme
The levels of the quantities of inputs disbursed to the smallholder farming sector are phenomenal. It has already been noted that this feat has been achieved at an equally impressive cost to the fiscus. It was no surprise therefore when the Ministry of Agriculture, on behalf of the Government, reported that it was government's intention to gradually phase out the supply of free inputs to smallholder farmers. Besides the cost of the programme, the Government feels that free crop packs should be phased out in order to forestall the creation of the dependency syndrome among the smallholder farmers. However, it is understood from the Ministry of Agriculture that government will continue to concentrate its efforts on the provision of transport infrastructure and other services required for reliable and timeous delivery of farm inputs from the main suppliers to accessible distribution points. More government efforts will also be directed towards the expansion of the calf-heifer scheme in order to rebuild the smallholder sector livestock which were also depleted by the recurrent droughts of the early 1990s. This will enhance the smallholder draft power capacity.
The Ministry of Agriculture also stated that the Government will assist in organising the farmers into groups for collective input procurement. However, the Ministry has not specified the nature, form, level and processes the proposed assistance will take. Nonetheless, it is gratefying to note that the Government has realised that the programme cannot be continued ad infinitum in its present form. It is pertinent to comment that any planned future programme should avoid the pitfalls and short-comings of the current programme.
4.2 The Major Recommendations
It seems true to state that the crop pack programme has generally assisted the smallholder farmers to recover from the adverse effects of
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the drought, and has enhanced food security and self sufficiency within the small scale farming sector. From the evidence already discussed above, it has also been shown that the programme has encouraged smallholder farmers to increase their productivity through the adoption of improved seed, fertilizer and appropriate tillage services. But it is not readily obvious whether the programme has achieved its third objective because the boosting of the economic activity through the agricultural sector's forward linkages with the rest of the economy cannot easily be appraised in the short run. As the programme was not predicated in any time frame, its implementation may continue until all its objectives are achieved, or until it is deemed that they cannot be achieved. The frequency of droughts in Zimbabwe has also necessitated continuous assistance to the smallholder farmers to ensure food self sufficiency and ultimate security. This situation raises two questions. First, how long must it take the programme to achieve all its objectives? Second, can the present input targeting management and distribution facilitate the achievement of the set objectives?
Table 4.3: Adoption of New Seed Technologies (N=602)
SOURCE: Research data, 1997.
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The evaluation has qualified reservation towards the continuation and the implementation of the programme in its current form. The following three broad recommendations seem therefore appropriate and pertinent not
only in order to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the crop pack programme but also to promote the productivity of the whole smallholder farming sector, and hence achieve sustainable development.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Januar 2002