East Africa Dairy Development Project: Some lessons learned
East Africa Dairy Development Project:
Some lessons learned
ABOUT THE PROJECT
The vision of the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project is to double dairy income for 179,000 farmers in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda over a 10-year
period. The project is led by Heifer International in partnership with American Breeders Service–Total Cattle Management (ABS-TCM), ILRI, TechnoServe and
the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). The four-year project started in 2008.
ILRI is the “knowledge partner” and is in charge of the following activities:
1. Conducting the baseline surveys
2. Informing design of improved feeding strategies (in partnership with ICRAF)
3. Conducting breeding assessment study
4. Informing the design of the “traditional hubs” (hub without chilling plant)
5. Leading the impact assessment modelling (direct and indirect effects)
6. Drawing strategic lessons for future project up scaling
7. Providing regular recommendations on project activities based on research
About two years since the project started, what lessons have we learned regarding the process of setting up large development projects and how best can
ILRI play her role of knowledge partner? We focus on two lessons on project implementation and two lessons on project activities.
PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION SELECTED PROJECT ACTIVITIES
CHALLENGE 1: IMPLEMENTING A PROJECT WITH A DIFFERENT SITE SELECTION
APPROACH FROM PAST ONES; PARTNERS ARE TEMPTED TO DO Development projects fail for various reasons. One of the
“BUSINESS AS USUAL” reasons relates to the inappropriate location of the project
EADD follows a somewhat different approach from usual development projects as it activities; the intervention does not meet farmers or site
facilitates the creation or strengthening of local business (business development conditions. This would mean setting up a chilling plant in
services approach), from farmers’ training to setup of business like agro vet shops or an area where farm-gate milk prices are relatively high due
chilling plants. No (or few) free goodies. to an existing market for milk. There are different geographic
levels of site selection, starting at country and district levels
Some facts to increasingly lower levels. Different tools and approaches
• No rigorous site selection followed in the first year. were used for the various levels.
• Initial activities adopted methods used in previous projects, with
little attention to the proposal that detailed another approach. Lessons learned
Lessons learned • Put in place a process to follow and stick to it. The first site selection exercise was
• Invest first in people, not activities. People need to understand not structured and led to conflict within the consortium. We then set up a clear
project approach before implementing it. Train people. process that proved to be useful and time saving, as well as an avenue for
• Allow preparatory phase of six months. consensus building. It was suggested by partners that such a process should be
• Provide guidelines, or steps, to simplify approach as laid out in adopted for other EADD activities, for instance, farmers’ mobilization.
project document. • It is the single most important decision in the project, so include all partners and
• If existing staff are used in this project, pay special attention to make it fact-based, using a checklist that is agreed by all partners.
training and change of mindset. • Acknowledge political interferences and have a plan to deal with them.
GUIDING PROJECT INTERVENTIONS USING BASELINE SURVEY
CHALLENGE 2: ILRI OUT OF HER IVORY TOWER
EADD is a pilot project aimed at generating lessons for up and out scaling. Is ILRI up
One of the objectives of conducting a baseline survey is to guide project interventions
to the challenge of (1) providing relevant and timely inputs to adjust project activities
by identifying bottlenecks that the project can remove (e.g. lack of market access) and
and (2) working with partners to document and synthesise lessons learned?
opportunities that the project can maximise on. Results need to be shared with the
Some facts development partners in an appropriate format and timely manner.
• Baseline survey results insufficiently used to adjust project activities, partly due to late
delivery of baseline reports. It took 12 months to start and implement the survey and Lessons learned
six to publish the report. Meanwhile, development partners are busy training farmers or • Despite past experiences in designing and implementing baseline surveys, it took
setting up chilling plants. about 18 months from start of design to delivery of reports. How this process can be
• Difficult to provide site-specific recommendations, yet we know that the “one-size-fits- shortened, without compromising on quality and rigour, needs more thinking. Attempt
all-approach” does not work. to use personal digital assistants to save time on data entry and cleaning was not
Lessons learned successful.
• Streamline baseline data collection and analysis to save on time and improve quality • Reports, although useful, are rarely read by development partners and few
of analysis (see below for more details) recommendations are taken on board using such dissemination method. Direct and
• Keeping a research focus: how to balance development partners’ needs (e.g. continuous engagement with partners is needed. In EADD, we are able to guide feed
assisting in monitoring and evaluation) and research focus (e.g. document lessons interventions effectively since a full time feed scientist is attached to the project.
The good news is … And the not so good news is …
EADD project baseline reports 1 to 7. ILRI Nairobi, 2009.
Photos: EADD project