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Implementation Completion Report (ICR) Review - Agricultural Technology & Rural Technical Education Project

1. Project Data:   
ICR Review Date Posted:
Project Name:
Agricultural Technology & Rural Technical Education Project
Project Costs(US $M)
 38.2  41.8
Loan/Credit (US $M)
 23.6  24.04
Sector, Major Sect.:
Agricultural extension and research, Central government administration, General industry and trade sector,
Agriculture fishing and forestry; Law and justice and public administration; Industry and trade
Cofinancing (US $M)
 9.04  10.29
L/C Number:
Board Approval (FY)
Partners involved
IFAD, COSUDE, Netherlands 
Closing Date
09/30/2004 06/30/2005
Evaluator: Panel Reviewer: Division Manager: Division:  
John C. English
Ridley Nelson Alain A. Barbu IEGSG

2. Project Objectives and Components:

a. Objectives
The project was designed to be the first phase of a 16 year Agricultural Technology Program which had as its purpose to increase agricultural productivity and family incomes of 110,000 small and medium-scale farms (SMFs) through the generation of an efficient, demand-driven agricultural technology, knowledge and innovation system. The project's specific objective was to establish this system. By the end of the implementation period it was expected that:

  • the main agricultural technology institutions would be providing effective, coordinated sector policy guidance and client-responsive services:
  • the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and the educational institutions would be participating significantly in providing agricultural services to client farmers;
  • the public sector would be pro-actively undertaking strategic and basic research and providing advisory services that generate positive externalities;
  • a national agricultural technical education training strategy would have been defined and a pilot begun; and
  • timely, high quality agricultural and market information would be available to technicians and farmers.

b. Components (or Key Conditions in the case of Adjustment Loans):
The project comprised five components: Development of Institutional Capacity: (Appraisal: US$ 9.5 million; Actual US$ 20.74 million). The government was to reform and strengthen the public institutions of strategic importance to the sector as well as to encourage the involvement of both public and private institutions in agricultural technology and agricultural technical education and training.
Establishment of a Competitive Fund for Agricultural Services: (Appraisal: US$ 8.3 million; Actual US$ 4.28 million) This component was to promote grant facilities to fund agricultural services from public and private entities responsive to client demands. The aim was to test the competitive fund's grant capabilities on a reduced scale. Then, if the approach proved effective, it would be scaled up in subsequent tranches of the APL.
Strengthening the operations of the National Institute for Training (INTA): (Appraisal: US$ 16.7 million; Actual US$ 13.88 million ). The component was to support six sub-components: (i) agricultural research and development; (ii) technology transfer; (iii) seed production; (iv) in-service training of front line technical assistance staff and diffusion of information; (v) post harvest technology and market development with farmers' associations; and (vi) planning and supervision of activities and agricultural technology transfer responding to SMF needs.
Establishment and Piloting of an Education and Training System: (Appraisal: US$ 2.7 million; Actual US$ 1.79 million). This component was to develop a cost-effective, demand-driven model of technical agricultural training and education.
Establishment and Piloting of an Agricultural Information System: (Appraisal: US$ 1.2 million; Actual US$ 1.11 million). To support the establishment of a national Agricultural Information System in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAG-FOR)

c. Comments on Project Cost, Financing, Borrower Contribution, and Dates
The total cost at completion was US$ 41.8 million, an overrun of almost 10 percent. The major element of this overrun was the decison to expand Component 1 to provide funding for the National Seeds Program (PNLL) (see below) on which US$ 5.1 million was spent. The Closing Date was extended by 9 months because of the initial delay in effectiveness.

3. Relevance of Objectives & Design:

Following the period of Sandanista government through the 1980s, the goal of the succeeding administration was to reverse the policy of massive state intervention into agriculture and other sectors. During the 1970s and 80s, agricultural research and extension activities had stagnated and, by the 90s, most of the limited public agricultural research effort had insufficient relevance to the ongoing needs of the agricultural sector, as the links between researchers and farmers etc. had atrophied during the previous decades. Given the still limited public resources available in the late 90s, there was a clear need to attempt to focus research efforts sharply onto the priorities of producers, particularly SMFs who had no capacity to finance research on their own, and to strengthen the links between agricultural training and research. The project was designed to meet these goals and was highly relevant to the country's needs through the generation/enhancement of an efficient demand-driven agricultural technology and extension system.

4. Achievement of Objectives (Efficacy) :

Main objectives

Increase productivity and family income of SMFs. (Moderately achieved).
Over the project period yields of basic staples (maize, beans and rice - where production is concentrated in SMFs) rose in Nicaragua by 23%, the largest increase within the six Central American countries. An economic evaluation carried out for the ICR showed that, in a sample of farms, incomes increased between 25 and 84 percent, substantially exceeding the 25 percent target. In addition, improvements in cereal seeds and related productivity measures improved food security for low-income households.
A significant element in the production improvement was the provision and use of certified seed through the National Seed Program supported by the project.
Development of an efficient, demand driven agricultural technology system. (substantially achieved - see sub-objectives below)

Provision of effective client-responsive services. (Moderately achieved)
By the end of the project it was estimated that one-third of the SMFs were in direct contact with extension services, that 70 to 90 percent of them were satisfied with the services they received and that a similar figure had adopted one or more of the improved technologies being recommended by the various extension agents.
Involvement of non-ministerial entities in research and extension. (Substantially achieved)
Through the competitive grant funds, major steps had been taken to involve a wide range of entities in agricultural research and services. On the service side, nearly 300 grants were made (involving 240 entities, NGOs, producers groups and others). Under the research program, 75 grants were made to more than 50 institutions (NGOs, producer groups and universities) which received grants for investigative efforts relevant to the agricultural sector.
Pro-active public sector approach. (Moderately achieved )
It became clear during the early stages of the project that there was a significant farmer demand for certified seed and the project agreed to provide funds (which amounted to US$5.1 million) for the National Seeds Program (PNLL).
National agricultural technical education strategy. (Substantially achieved)
Through INTA and INATEC (the National Institute for Technical Training) a wide ranging program of courses for farmers groups, extension agents and others was developed and implemented. Local councils were developed to liaise between the agencies and producers groups to develop and manage the operation of these courses. It is not clear, however, that the ministry (MAG-FOR) has entirely taken this activity on board, so that continuing support is not guaranteed.
Agricultural and market information system. (Modestly achieved)
A national agricultural information system was established within MAG-FOR. It is primarily disseminated to ministry officers and the public over the internet, and links to current market information and national data bases. This is far from satisfactory for SMFs in rural Nicaragua. An attempt was made to establish local information centers at the municipal level, including support of local radio programs but this has reportedly not been fully satisfactory.

5. Efficiency:

The focus of the project was largely institutional, to improve the quality of agricultural research and of the services provided to agricultural producers, especially the SMFs. Thus the benefits will be seen indirectly, i.e. did productivity and incomes of SMFs improve and can this improvement (if any) be linked to the activities of the project? The SAR estimated that benefits would sufficiently exceed costs to result in a 29.5 percent return on the capital invested in the project. The evidence presented in the ICR does show significant benefits that can be linked to project activities, and re-estimates the rate of return at 25 percent.
6. M&E Design, Implementation, & Utilization:

During the project the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) was rerplaced with a ministry-wide Co-ordination Committee (CC). The CC structure was expanded to include all externally funded operations under the remit of MAGFOR. As a part of this reorganization, the project M&E effort, run by the PIU was folded into a new ministry M&E framework. While in the long-term this should lead to better monitoring of projects and coordination between them, in the short run it caused a significant hiatus and M&E for the project was never fully effective. For example, systematic data on activities such as the Seeds Program and the Rapid Results Initiatives was not collected.
7. Other (Safeguards, Fiduciary, Unintended Impacts--Positive & Negative):

The project introduced the concept of competitive grants for research and extension related activity to Nicaragua. Although project design was based on the belief that there would be a satisfactory response from non-ministerial entities, there was considerable uncertainty at the outset. In the event, the response has been significant, to the extent that the contributed from the third parties to the research and extension programs was three times that estimated at appraisal. The project has clearly drawn underutilized capacity into agricultural research and strengthened the links between MAG-FOR, other groups such as universities and producers' groups, private and NGO entities, and farmers themselves.

8. Ratings:
ICR Review
Reason for Disagreement/Comments
Institutional Dev.: 
ModestSubstantialData presented in the report is, overall, consistent with the assessment that the project made a significant contribution to the country's ability to effectively use human, financial and natural resources, rather than a limited extent.
Bank Perf.: 
SatisfactorySatisfactoryThe ICR, however, does report some shortcomings in the Bank performance, particularly that it might have done more to encourage MAG-FOR to establish a project M&E system from the beginning (see section 6), rather than relying on each agency to undertake the task.
Borrower Perf.: 
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:

1. There is a need to think strategically about the institutional arrangements for managing competitive funds. If an independent organization is to be established to manage the competitive process and the funds, there needs to be a reasonable assurance that future funds will be available after the initial injection (providing the use of the competitive grants is judged successful) in order to justify the initial costs of establishing the separate entity.

2. If a fund is part of an effort that is to give specific attention to disadvantaged groups (such as indigenous populations), then some special earmarking within the fund will be necessary to ensure that these groups gain access to some of the funds, given their lack of experience in preparing grant applications etc..
3. Especially if the program is to focus particularly on disadvantaged groups or regions steps should be taken to ensure that adequate resources are provided to provide support to these groups in project preparation and review.

10. Assessment Recommended?  Yes

          Why?  Several projects of this type, establishing competitive grant funding for research and extension have recently been completed or are nearing completion in LAC. A review of overall experience of the approach may be in order.

11. Comments on Quality of ICR:

The ICR is satisfactory and provides a detailed review of the implementation and outcome of the project. In particular, it should be noted that the statement of objectives is unusually clear and realistic, with a clear distinction between short, and long-term elements.

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