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Colombia—Rural Development Investment Program (Loan 3250-CO)

The Colombia Rural Development Investment Program (RDIP), supported by Loan 3250-CO for US$75 million, was approved in FY90, and was closed fully disbursed on December 31, 1996, one year later than planned. Cofinancing of US$75 million was provided by the Inter-American Development Bank. The Implementation Completion Report (ICR) was prepared by the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office. A summary of the borrower’s evaluation and comments from the borrower and the cofinancier are included in the ICR.

The project’s objectives were to: (i) increase the incomes of about 280,000 poor farmers and fishermen; (ii) improve the living standards of rural communities through provision of basic infrastructure; (iii) promote grassroots involvement of rural communities in the identification of investment needs and subsequent maintenance; (iv) strengthen the capability of the national integrated rural development program (DRI) to prepare, appraise and supervise projects and (v) help the municipalities to administer and co-finance development projects to support decentralization. Program coverage was limited to about 60 percent of total municipalities, based on criteria which included agricultural potential and socioeconomic conditions. Poverty targeting was to be achieved by poorer municipalities receiving both greater help to prepare subprojects and higher levels of cofinancing. The project had a participatory planning approach and municipalities and communities could choose investments for financing according to an agreed set of criteria and procedures. The loan financed two types of expenditures: matching grants for investment projects to be carried out by municipalities and communities, and activities carried out directly by DRI, including institutional strengthening.

The project exceeded its physical targets, but institutional objectives were not fully achieved. The population benefiting and the level of investments far exceeded expectations, despite implementation problems during a period of rapid political and institutional change. The project made a substantial contribution to the improvement of infrastructure in rural areas through investments in roads, water and sanitation systems and rural electrification. The program played a central role in the introduction of the decentralized provision of agricultural extension services for small farmers which tripled the number of farmers served. Efforts to help fishermen, one of the most impoverished groups, appear to have failed, and expansion of the program’s coverage to the whole country, during implementation, tended to dilute its poverty focus. Initially the project made good progress towards achieving institutional objectives, but those efforts were undermined by onerous procedures and the excessive time between subproject identification and implementation. Also the project design had underestimated the amount of support required by communities. Considerable efforts were made to strengthen DRI’s capacity in the early years of the project, but the effectiveness of these efforts was reduced by institutional problems following government’s decision to change arrangements for implementing the program. DRI was overloaded with responsibilities and became too reliant on other government agencies. Consequently, DRI paid less attention to helping municipalities. The ERR for the project at appraisal was 16 percent for the productive subprojects. The ERR was not recalculated in the ICR. Beneficiaries and municipalities have indicated a high level of satisfaction with the program’s results.

The Operations Evaluation Department (OED) endorses the ICR’s rating of project outcome as satisfactory, institutional development as modest, sustainability as uncertain, and Bank performance as satisfactory despite shortcomings at appraisal.

The ICR presents well drawn lessons, of which two key ones are that: (i) a participatory and decentralized operation, which is to finance many small subprojects in a large number of widely dispersed areas, cannot work well if it is overburdened by centralized bureaucracy. Decentralized decision making and the support of village level organizations are essential prerequisites for the success of such activities; and (ii) the design of this type of operation should be highly participatory, drawing on the experience of local communities and local governments to define parameters which are consistent with local capacity and resources, while ensuring an adequate level of transparency and accountability in the use of public funds. Sufficient time to establish such participation, and to allow it to function, needs to be built into the project implementation schedule.

The quality of the ICR is satisfactory as—with the exception of the omission of a re-estimate of the ERR—all major issues are reviewed adequately and there is a particularly good presentation of the lessons learned from the project.

An audit is planned.




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