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Algeria: Irrigation Engineering Project (Loan 2978-AL)

The Algeria Irrigation Engineering project, supported by Loan 2978-AL for US$14.0 million, was approved in FY89. The project was closed in FY94, two years later than planned, and the undisbursed balance of US$9.18 million was canceled. Security conditions deteriorated rapidly during the life of the project and were a major factor in the unsatisfactory results obtained, despite the efforts of the Algerian authorities. The Implementation Completion Report (ICR) was prepared by the FAO/World Bank Cooperative Program and was restricted to a desk review, as security problems prevented a field mission. No comments were received from the borrower.

The overall objective of this four-year technical assistance loan was to help the borrower prepare a long-term plan for the irrigation sector in order to increase agricultural output and raise rural incomes. The main components of the project were: (i) engineering studies for the development of small- and large-scale irrigation schemes; and (ii) preparation of a ten-year strategic plan for irrigation development. The loan also provided financing for technical assistance and equipment for public institutions supporting the irrigation sector.

The project's objectives were not achieved, and although the project design was consistent with the borrower's development strategy for irrigation, it was not well supported by the borrower and was dependent on external technical assistance for its implementation. Security problems throughout the implementation of the project caused difficulties with the recruitment of technical specialists and contributed to generally unsatisfactory project results. The long-term plan was completed very late and was of dubious quality and only a few of the engineering studies were completed. Major institutional changes during the implementation of the project constrained procurement, disbursement, and the strengthening of institutional capacity. Although the parastatal agency, Agence national de r‚alisation et de Gestion des Infrastructures hydrauliques pour l'Irrigation et le Drainage (AGID), responsible for irrigation and drainage did not benefit directly from on-the-job training as intended, it did acquire some skills in the preparation of irrigation development plans and its Studies Department was strengthened. However, the small numbers of AGID staff who benefited from the project have since departed for other jobs. Unfortunately, all the risks identified at appraisal materialized, including untimely provision of counterpart funds, poor quality consulting services and inadequate coordination and supervision.

The Operations Evaluation Department (OED) agrees with the ICR in rating the outcome of the project as unsatisfactory and institutional development as negligible. OED rates sustainability of the technical assistance component as unlikely. In accord with the ICR, OED rates Bank performance as satisfactory.

Lessons that can be drawn from this project are: (i) project ownership and borrower commitment are essential for the preparation of useful long-term development plans; and (ii) planning large and complex irrigation projects should be based on regional land use and water resource plans.

The ICR is satisfactory, despite the fact that no field visit was possible because of the emergency situation. According to the ICR, the borrower intends to complete some of the unfinished studies and plans, and two of the eleven studies have led to investment projects, one by the Bank. No audit is planned.

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