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> The record shows -- and correct me if I am wrong -- that where ag
>development projects go into an area focusing on dams, fertilizer and
>pesticides and high yiled varieities the results have proven
>disappointing for a complex mix of social and biological reasons.
Evaluating the success of development projects in developing countries has
to be one of the most difficult tasks there is. With that in mind, I just
wanted to share my impressions of a World Bank funded project in Northern
Cameroon, an area where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer for a few years. I
did not work with this project, but viewed it from a distance of 80 km.
The project was the rice production plant on the river along the border
with Tchad. I apologize, I was there 8 years ago and the names are
escaping me. The project built a dam, built a rice processing plant, built
several villages, relocated a population, planted trees throughout the
area, built roads for shipping supplies in and rice out, sent students to
national and international colleges for technical training, and supplied
seed, fertilizer and pesticides to farmers on the "company store" system
(farmers had to purchase from them).
The relocated population had been fishermen/women on Lake Tchad as well as
nomadic herders (actually, these are two separate populations/tribes). The
populations had been caught in civil wars within Tchad and Nigeria, settled
in Cameroon, and were suffering from starvation and malnutrition. After a
year of learning how to farm rice, many of these individuals farmed their
own paddy(ies). When the dam and rice paddies became fully active, the
shores of Lake Tchad receded several miles (I am not clear on exact
numbers). However, the newly formed lake (formed by the constructed dam)
became a new fishing source. The project became the major supplier of rice
to the region. Rice is a highly desirable food in the area, and there is
much demand for it.
There are many trade-offs in the world of development and agricultural
production. From a lay-womans perspective I felt the World Bank rice
project made great strides to provide work for a local,in-need population,
as well as food for an under-nurished region of the world. Is it
appropriate to change an entire population's cultural way of life - fishers
and nomads to farmers? A person can justify any side of the argument, but
when I look at the immediate benefits, food on the table and a settled,
safe environment, I feel the action was appropriate and the project
I am not naive enough to think that Cameroon does not have to pay for the
project - World Bank is, after all, a bank. And "success" is a moving
target. Many mistakes have been made in the project, and many lessons have
been learnt. The challenge is to recognize what can be changed and how
best to approach those changes.
Carol A. Miles, Ph.D.
Washington State University
Extension Agricultural Systems
360 NW North Street
Chehalis, WA 98532
PHONE 360-740-1295 FAX 360-740-1475