Reaching the poorest of the poor in Nigerian Agriculture

Today I had a heated Net-Map session with a group of Nigerian visitors to IFPRI, who are all involved in the Fadama II project (funded by World Bank), that aims at improving the lives of the poorest of the poor in Nigeria, living and farming in the low lying fadama flood-plains. My colleague Ephraim Nkonya invited me to introduce Net-Map to them.

He is part of a group of researchers at IFPRI who have conducted an evaluation of this project, that subsequently won the African Award for Excellence from the World Bank in September 2007. Now everyone is looking at phase III, and that is where Net-Map might be helpful.

One of the crucial – and most difficult – issues in projects like this, is the targeting: How can you make sure, that it is really the poorest of the poor who benefit, that money and assets don’t leak into the pockets of the elites, that project activities don’t solely focus on people that you could call the “middle-income-poor”?

“Who can influence, whether the project really impacts on the poorest of the poor?” was the leading question of today’s session. As the participants had been involved in the implementation of the project, they had a wealth of good and bad examples to share. What I found especially note-worthy is their ambiguity about the goals of actors. As we were looking at things from a rather high level perspective, a lot of the stumbling blocks were hidden in the big picture. In Ghana they claim that one monkey spoils all the monkeys. So, when I tried to find out which one of the institutional actors would be most prone to prevent pro-poor outcomes, the participants had to put this straight: All of the organizations involved follow pro-poor goals AND in all of these organizations you have good monkeys and bad monkeys.

What I have learned from this, is that it is crucial to choose the appropriate level of analysis. So if you are looking at a problem that seems like a power-play between different organizations, the bigger picture approach makes sense. Now if we want to understand how concrete Fadama implementation units can deal with the proponents who support or prevent benefits for the poor, we have to use a magnifying glass and go down to the level where the problem actually occurs.

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