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Implementation Completion Report (ICR) Review - National Agricultural Technology

1. Project Data:   
ICR Review Date Posted:
Project Name:
National Agricultural Technology
Project Costs(US $M)
 239.7  183.3
Loan/Credit (US $M)
 196.8  150.0
Sector, Major Sect.:
Agricultural extension and research,
Agriculture fishing and forestry
Cofinancing (US $M)
L/C Number:
C3048; L4296      
Board Approval (FY)
Partners involved
Closing Date
12/31/2003 06/30/2005
Evaluator: Panel Reviewer: Division Manager: Division:  
Christopher D. Gerrard
Nalini B. Kumar Alain A. Barbu IEGSG

2. Project Objectives and Components:

a. Objectives
The project had three main objectives which together were intended to foster a major redirection of India's agricultural research and extension system:

(1) To improve the efficiency of the organization and management (O&M) systems of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
(2) To enhance the performance and effectiveness of priority research programs, and of scientists in responding to technological needs of farmers
(3) To develop models that improve the effectiveness and financial sustainability of the technology dissemination system with greater accountability to, and participation by, the farming communities.
The objectives were not revised during implementation.

b. Components (or Key Conditions in the case of Adjustment Loans):
The project had three components and nine sub-components:

(1) Development of ICAR’s O&M Systems (US$ 57.4 million at appraisal, $33.7 million actual):

    (a) Support for ICAR O&M Reforms: Strengthening ICAR’s O&M systems by improving staff selection and performance assessment, improving the operational capacity of ICAR’s headquarters, institutionalizing research priority setting, improving monitoring and evaluation (M&E) arrangements and supporting the expansion of ICAR’s earnings from products and services
    (b) Human Resource Development for Research Management: Enhancing this through study tours and training
    (c) Information Systems Development: Developing information systems by expanding information networks between and among units of ICAR, State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) and other agencies participating in the project, upgrading libraries of ICAR and SAUs, and developing ICAR’s agricultural management information system
    (d) Project Implementation Unit (PIU): Strengthening the PIU, Agro-Ecosystem Directorates and project implementation capabilities, including monitoring and evaluation (M&E).

(2) Support for Agro-Ecosystems Research (US$ 139.5 million at appraisal, $117.6 actual):
    (a) Sponsored Research: Introducing and financing a Sponsored Research Program to carry out production systems research, including technology assessment and refinement activities, cross-cutting research in mission mode, and strategic research through teams and centers of excellence in areas crucial to achieving the objectives of food security, sustainability, economic growth and rural welfare
    (b) Competitive Grants Program: Establishing a Competitive Grants Program (CGP) to finance public and private institutions for undertaking agricultural research for improvement of productivity and sustainability of production systems and pre-commercial technology development
    (c) Human Resources Development for Agro-Ecosystems Research: Supporting this through study tours, workshops and training of scientists of ICAR and the other implementing agencies.

(3) Innovations in Technology Dissemination (US$42.8 million at appraisal, $32.0 million actual):
    To provide support to the State Departments of Agriculture (DOA) through:
    (a) Strengthening national level technology dissemination agencies
    (b) Supporting a state level pilot program for technology dissemination.

c. Comments on Project Cost, Financing, Borrower Contribution, and Dates
The Bank's contribution consisted of an IDA credit of $100 million (SDR 73.8 million) and an IBRD loan of $96.8 million. Actual project expenditures were 98% of appraisal estimates in Indian rupees, but only 76% of appraisal estimates in U.S. dollars, due to the depreciation of the rupee during the project. About US$ 27.8 million (SDR 23.2 million) of the IDA credit was reallocated in March 2001 to emergency earthquake reconstruction activities in Gujarat, and $18 million of the IBRD loan was cancelled in June 2004.

The project was extended by 12 months in August 2003 and another 6 months in December 2004 to permit consolidation of the ICAR O&M reforms and completion of research projects, to provide sufficient time for the development of the 3rd and 4th phase Agricultural Technology Management Agencies (ATMAs) under component 3, and to allow ICAR and the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC) time to obtain Government of India (GOI) funding to sustain the initiatives started through the project. It is also the case that the initiation of the project was delayed by 10 months due to the unexpected delay by GOI in approving the project, and start-up was slow due to weak financial management, staffing shortages, and delays in procurement.

3. Relevance of Objectives & Design:

The project was highly relevant. It was consistent with both the GOI's agricultural strategy and the Bank's CAS to accelerate agricultural growth and rural incomes, while also addressing rural poverty and the sustainable use of natural resources. The project also incorporated a number of the innovative approaches to agricultural research and extension found in the Bank's most recent rural sector strategy.

The second objective (and component) supported major innovations in research planning and implementation aimed at increasing the flow of improved agricultural technology to farmers; at focusing research resources on less developed rain-fed and marginal areas, and on sustainable management of land and water resources; and at increasing the role of the private sector through public/private partnerships and competitive grants open to the private sector.
The third objective (and component) piloted a new decentralized, demand-driven, farmer-centered technology dissemination (agricultural extension) system aimed at increasing the participation of farming communities in the design and execution of technology development and dissemination.
The first objective (and component) supported the above two thrusts by supporting institutional reforms and capacity building aimed at improving the efficiency of public research management systems.

However, the design of the project was very complex and ambitious, which exposed it to substantial risks with respect to (a) implementing policy and institutional reforms, and (b) coordinating activities widely dispersed geographically and through a large number of implementing agencies. The design did not clearly articulate how the research and extension components would be linked, or how research would be linked with the other mechanisms for technology transfer, in particular the state line departments of extension (ICR. p. 4). The design should have placed greater emphasis on linking components 2 and 3 in order to foster stronger research-extension-farmer linkages (ICR, p. 17).

4. Achievement of Objectives (Efficacy) :

Objective (1): Institutional Reform -- substantially achieved.

The project has initiated wide-ranging institutional reforms in the large Indian agricultural research system to make it more efficient and responsive to the country’s agricultural technological needs. These include (a) new and more efficient personnel management policies; (b) decentralized administrative rules and regulations; (c) more efficient communication and information systems; (d) priority setting in research; (e) competitive funding of research; and (f) a research project M&E system.

Objective (2): Research -- substantially achieved.
The project has increased the availability and adoption of appropriate technologies. It has facilitated the development of 271 new technologies and their adoption by farmers, as well as the development of 402 new research tools, methodologies and intermediate products.
The project has improved prospects for further growth in agricultural productivity by promoting a farming-system approach rather than a commodity-specific approach to technology development and dissemination, by strengthening applied research on user- and location-specific needs, and by increasing human capital through the training of scientists, extension workers and farmers in the new approaches. Research programs are being reoriented towards (a) 14 high priority farming systems in the disadvantaged rain-fed, coastal, hill and mountain regions of the country where poverty levels are high; and (2) sustainable use of natural resources, especially land and water.
Less progress has been made in forging public-private partnerships in research and development.

Objective (3): Extension -- substantially achieved.
The extension component successfully piloted institutional reforms for a decentralized farmer-centered market-driven extension system, which is now being replicated on a wider scale throughout the country due to its success and low recurrent public cost. The centerpiece of these reforms has been the establishment of Agricultural Technology Management Agencies (ATMAs) in each project district for the coordination and management of technology dissemination to farmers. In the project districts covered by the ATMA program, there has been an increase in crop productivity (14%), diversification to high value crops/enterprises, and an increase in household income (21%).
The pilot testing of the ATMA model was a complex and challenging task involving a number of radical institutional changes in a highly bureaucratic system:

  • Having stakeholder representatives on the ATMA Governing Board and the block-level Farmer Advisory Committee shape and then approve extension programs.
  • Integrating the separate extension activities of the different line departments into a single integrated system at the district and block levels.
  • Organizing farmers into commodity or common interest groups -- rather than working through village extensions workers -- and then disseminating pertinent information and technologies directly to these groups.
  • Using farmer-to-farmer extension methods, such as exposure visits, to help farmers learn from each other, particularly in undertaking new enterprises and diversifying into high-value crops/products.

Little progress was made in fostering strong linkages between the research and extension components. While the extension system is making new "client oriented" demands on the research system, ICAR has not modified its "supply-driven" linkages with the state departments, to reflect this emerging “demand-driven” extension system (ICR, p. 20). There is a pressing need to create new institutional agreements, linkage mechanisms and operational procedures that will fully integrate this emerging research-extension system.

5. Efficiency:

The ICR re-estimated the overall project ERR at 29% compared to 35% at appraisal. This is based on an estimated ERR of 34% for the second (research) component and of 23% for the third (extension) component.

The ERR for the research component was based on the analysis of three research programs -- namely, zero tillage in wheat, integrated pest management (IPM), and household food and nutrition security -- which are representative of the technologies developed through NATP. The ERR for the extension component was based on M&E data and farmer impact assessment interviews in both ATMA and non-ATMA districts. An ERR for the first (institutional reform) component was not estimated since it will take time for the O&M reforms to filter through the ICAR system. The National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP) estimates that the O&M reforms could reduce administrative support costs by as much as 25%.

6. M&E Design, Implementation, & Utilization:

The ICR does not provide a good overall assessment of the quality of M&E under the project. Improving M&E was a project objective under the first (institutional reform) component. The design of the project provided for independent agencies to assist in M&E and in impact assessment, but such outsourcing only occurred under the third component, for which the Agricultural Management Center of the Indian Institute of Management in Lucknow carried out baseline and impact surveys of randomly selected farmers in both project and non-project districts and developed a management information system for continuing M&E of extension activities. By contrast, M&E of the first two components suffered from weak M&E capacity in the responsible public sector agencies. As a result, while the project supported an enormous number of research activities across many fields, and while most were concluded successfully, the bigger picture of what was achieved is not so clear (ICR, p. 20).
7. Other (Safeguards, Fiduciary, Unintended Impacts--Positive & Negative):

None. The project was rated a category C project since it was expected to have a positive impact on the sustainability of India's farming systems and on the environment by improving the efficiency with which farmers manage the resources available to them. The project has generated considerable environmental benefits through the development and dissemination of eco-friendly technologies such as IPM, integrated nutrient management, green manuring, vermiculture, composting, zero tillage, raised bed planting, ground water recharge, etc., which are having a substantial impact on the sustainability of land and water use, reducing the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and lowering pesticide residues in crops.

Financial management oversight and control by the implementing agencies was deficient during the early years of the project. Financial management was rated unsatisfactory from June 2001 to February 2003, disbursements were suspended from February to September 2001, and again from March to May 2002, due to the delays in submitting audit reports.

8. Ratings:
ICR Review
Reason for Disagreement/Comments
Institutional Dev.: 
Bank Perf.: 
Borrower Perf.: 
SatisfactorySatisfactoryThis was satisfactory overall. But, contrary to expectations in the PAD (p. 5), the project was implemented almost exclusively by the public sector, with little involvement of farmers and agribusiness (ICR, p. 15).
Quality of ICR: 

- When insufficient information is provided by the Bank for IEG to arrive at a clear rating, IEG will downgrade the relevant ratings as warranted beginning July 1, 2006.
- ICR rating values flagged with ' * ' don't comply with OP/BP 13.55, but are listed for completeness.

9. Lessons:

The ICR has extracted a number of useful lessons from the experience with this project.
  1. Decentralizing control in a research organization can increase efficiency if it is accompanied by systems of accountability. Exchanging the principle of hierarchical control for the principle of accountability has unleashed an enormous amount of energy and creativity in an organization with large intellectual capacity.
  2. A clear communications strategy is needed to successfully implement organizational and management changes. A better communications strategy on the overall change process throughout the organization would have enabled staff to understand and respond to the changes in a better way.
  3. Fostering public-private partnerships in research and development requires not only an enabling environment, but also private sector participation in project design and implementation, and broad dissemination of success stories. Only a few such partnerships were established due to (a) inadequate investment in partnership building, and (b) lack of attention to the potential benefits of public-private partnerships.
  4. Cost recovery of extension services not only reduces the cost to government but also demonstrates to farmers that extension services have economic value. In the case of the extension programs organized under the ATMAs, most material technologies and services were sold to farmers on a cost-recovery basis, and farmers paid part of the cost of training programs. In the traditional system in non-project districts, the distribution of free inputs and services to farmers continues to create a dependency relationship on government so that many farmers look to extension for a “hand-out” rather than as a reliable source of technology and information.

10. Assessment Recommended?  Yes

          Why?  This was a highly complex project that supported a major redirection of one of the largest agricultural research and extension systems in the developing world in innovative ways that the Bank's current sector strategy is promoting. It is important to confirm the ratings and to learn lessons for the benefit of IEG's major upcoming evaluation of the Bank's agricultural and rural development work.

11. Comments on Quality of ICR:

The ICR covers all the bases and is well-written, particularly for such a complex project. However, it failed to rate the achievements of component 2c on human resources development for agro-ecosystems research. And it did not provide a good overall assessment of the quality of M&E, even though improving M&E was an important project objective.

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