Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Doing more, potentially, with less: Piloting Partnerships for Agricultural Development in Papua New Guinea

Title of the CD Knowledge Product: Doing more, potentially, with less: Piloting Partnerships for Agricultural Development in Papua New Guinea
Submitted to UNDP Capacity Development Office Thailand as part of a contribution to CD practice
Name of Contributor:   Barry Greville-Eyres
Former Organization: UniQuest Pty Limited (International Projects)
Country: Papua New Guinea

Core Issues: implementation challenges, strategic partnerships, donor harmonization and aid effectiveness

This product charts cautious then bolder steps at narrowing development paradigms between disparate, donor assisted projects operating within a critical but often contested space. It acknowledges and reconciles countless differences in the interests of a broader, ‘for the greater good’ outcome.  It provides insights into divided loyalties and the leadership/management conundrum experienced by a recipient agency when overwhelmed with offers of support, particularly in the form of counterpart funding.  Embryonic capacity at multiple levels and its implications for sustainable strategic donor partnerships and ultimately, aid effectiveness is also considered.  Active measures aimed at nurturing capacity; and generating broader and common understanding across respective donor supported initiatives, at strategic and operational levels, through fundamental communication are discussed.

The Story

Papua New Guinea’s Medium Term Development Strategy (MTDS 2005 – 2010) recognizes the importance of the primary productive sector, comprising agriculture, forestry and fisheries, as the key catalyst for broad-based economic growth. The Government’s intentions for the agricultural sector are enshrined in a suite of legislation including the National Agricultural Development Strategy, Horizon 2002 – 2012, and the National Agricultural Development Plan (NADP 2007 – 2016). Agriculture’s importance, in improving incoming generating opportunities for PNG’s rural population, is universally acknowledged. The sector sustains the livelihoods of 85% of the country’s 6.6 million people, contributing to approximately 27% of GDP. The issue of food and nutrition security has also been catapulted to the fore as climate change impacts become more marked.

Considered by harsh critics to be far from enabling, the NADP caters for a system of National Agricultural Research (NARS) institutions or commodity boards covering the entire agricultural spectrum (horticulture and various tree crops – cocoa, coffee, oil palm). Of the 6 NARS institutions two feature prominently namely the National Agricultural Research Institution (NARI) and the Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA). Underpinning the entire policy environment and institutional framework is a fragile and often quoted, publicly, ineffectual National Department of Agriculture and Livestock.   

FPDA is a semi autonomous public entity entrusted with ‘maximizing the efficiencies of PNG farmers (including players in the value chain) thus promoting expansion of a viable and sustainable horticulture industry.’ It has received ongoing development assistance from the Government of New Zealand since 1989 and more recently was granted further support through a dedicated Institutional Strengthening Project (ISP). Funded to the tune of NZ$4.8m, the ISP commenced in 2007 and is nearing completion in 2010. Its purpose is to strengthen the FPDA to develop and implement the organisation’s current and future strategic objectives. The ultimate result will be improved PNG rural livelihoods through a commercially viable fruit and vegetable industry. Three project outcomes addressed are:
1.    Management performance is improved;
2.    Governance within FPDA is strengthened; and
3.    FPDA’s service delivery capability, to the fruit and vegetable industry, is strengthened.

Considerable, yet parallel development assistance is provided to the agricultural sector through the Agricultural Research for Development Facility (ARDSF) funded by the Australian Government (AusAID). It is a five year, AU$35m facility designed to be an innovative and flexible funding mechanism aimed at strengthening the capacity of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) to deliver improved services to their rural stakeholders.  An expressed outcome of the ARDSF is ‘improvements in the management and operational effectiveness of NARS’ which duplicates and encroaches directly on ISP listed outcomes. Features of the respective donor supported initiatives are detailed in Table 1.

Table 1: Typical implementation challenges faced in a contested development terrain

ARDSF – Facility Features 
ISP – Project Features
Facility design with substantial resource allocation intended to be flexible & dynamic in nature – responsive to TA and counterpart funding requests. Responsiveness constrained by multiple stakeholder/committee approval process. Macro level planning - process protracted & subjected to same approvals process (January – December).
Project design less flexible - resource allocation specific – no provision made for counterpart funding or other TA. Project proved more flexible than anticipated responding to changing environment. ISP initiated contact and collaboration with ARDSF.  Shared detailed annual work plans (July – June) with ARDSF.
Duration 5 years.
Duration 3 years - possibility of 2nd phase.
Macro level – sector wide support to all NARS including FPDA (area of potential conflict/duplication). Reduced proximity with ARDSF located in POM and NARS organizations located country wide.
Micro level – targeted support to FPDA based on an established FPDA-NZAID donor assistance since 1989. Greater proximity – ISP located in FPDA HQ in Goroka.
AR4D research-based development paradigm.
Institutional strengthening – capacity development approach.
Fly-in, fly-out facilitated workshop support - primarily in corporate, program and project planning.
Embedded, one-on-one workplace support – greater insights into absorptive capacity of agency.

Key Lessons Learned

Despite apparent differences and areas for potential conflict between the respective development initiatives, significant inroads have been made towards greater collaboration at both operational (ISP, FPDA  & ARDSF) and donor agency level (NZAID & AusAID). Harmonization efficacy, through strategic development partnerships, is largely dependent upon:

  • Frequent communication and meetings – ISP communicates fortnightly with ARDSF in addition of regular email contact around operational activities. Quarterly meetings, of respective ISP, FPDA  & ARDSF management teams, have proved to be beneficial especially at synchronizing and integrating operational activities;
  • Proximity or the lack thereof (as in the case of ARDSF in relation to its 6 NARS organisations) severely limits capacity development and institutional strengthening efforts;
  • Different donor agency philosophies and modalities - designs, planning and budgeting cycles restrict broad-based collaboration and resource sharing and pre-design should take this into consideration;
  • Fragile and ineffectual state institutions often impede vibrant partnerships and a sector wide approach;
  • Great potential exists that a recipient agency will leverage and play donor partners off against one another in the absence of specific governing measures;
  • Trust, openness and transparency particularly in relation to joint planning and sharing of information are vital.

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