Project Selection and Implementation
Once the agribusiness development team (ADT) establishes a working relationship with the Afghan agribusiness community, determining specific projects commences. With assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); the Afghan provincial Director of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock; and possibly nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the next step is to identify, develop, and implement a comprehensive and sustainable agribusiness development strategy with clear measures of effectiveness (MOEs) focused on improving the agriculture economy of the province. Projects should:
Method for Developing a Project that Works
The crucial first step in identifying a project is the one that is normally missed by almost all development agencies. Before beginning any project, take time to learn and understand the problems from the point of view of the Afghans who will be affected. Things to consider include the following:
As you get to know the Afghan farmer, ask him questions in the following areas:
As you interview the farmer, mentally draw circles around his family and around the village. What comes in? What goes out?
Real World Example from an Agribusiness Development Team
The ADT once approached an Afghan village with the idea of establishing a business to sell micro-drip irrigation systems. The ADT had recent success with this program in another location and knew what worked. However, while establishing relationships with the local villagers and following the process described above, the ADT learned the real problem affecting these villagers had to do with raising pigs. The women of the village were responsible for raising the piglets they purchased from the "lowlanders." Many of the piglets had died, which was a great source of shame and social turmoil and was also economically devastating to the village.
The ADT discovered the lowlanders were selling sick and weak piglets to the villagers. Instead of proceeding with its plan to establish a business to sell micro-drip irrigation systems, the ADT launched into a program to purchase and raise healthy pigs. It spent $100 to bring in a vet and encouraged the farmers to change the pigs' diet (they were feeding good protein to their dogs and not to the pigs).
The ADT taught the villagers to raise their own pigs, and they eventually sold these pigs to the lowlanders. It was both an economic and social success. The point is, if the ADT had decided to go with its initial plan, it never would have engaged the local Afghans properly and discovered what help they actually needed. The ADT cannot emphasize enough how important it is to take time to learn and understand the problems from the point of view of the Afghans who will be affected before identifying potential projects.
As you consider the dynamics of a potential project, look at its place in the agrifood chain process. Where does it fit? What will be the benefit of the project? What are the impacts of that project on the other parts of the agrifood chain process? For example, inputs and production are the start points, but are the processing and distribution parts of the chain in place to support at the right time and place? In most cases the consumption is there, but if the products cannot reach the consumer, the project may be the wrong project. However, if local consumption is available and minimal processing and distribution are required, maybe the project on a smaller scale is the right approach as the means to developing for future expansion while the other links in the agrifood chain are developed to enable distribution beyond the local community.
Measures of Agribusiness Development Team Project Effectiveness
Measurements of project effectiveness are important because they enable:
Measurements should be:
Measurements should not:
Agribusiness Development Team Project Data Collection and Reporting Techniques
Justification of project
This builds on the principle of "talk to as many people as you can before beginning any project." It should be a concise, one-paragraph or one-page explanation of the problem and the expected benefits of the project.
One of the simplest and most powerful tools is the before-and-after picture. If a desert area is transformed to a lush pasture, what more needs to be said? Pictures can be used for public relations articles and briefings and as sales pitches to farmers for new ADT projects.
Cost to U.S. government
This standardized measurement should already be part of every project. Just include the total cost of the project in the project folder. Additional costs may be helpful and instructive (i.e., Islamic Republic of Afghanistan [IROA], farmer contributions, NGOs, donations, etc.), but these will be difficult to compare across projects. If these figures are available, include them as well. They may be used later but are not critical now.
Start date and end date
This is another basic measurement. The amount of time spent on any particular project is easy to compare to other projects. In addition, since many projects cannot be completed in one rotation, projects without an end date will not be compared against projects that have already been completed.
Estimate of the number of people impacted
As the heading states, this is an estimate only. It is much more difficult to calculate and requires a thorough understanding of the concept of agriculture food chains. If a grape trellising program helps 10 farmers but also includes 2 villagers who started a trellising company, then the project has affected 12 people. If a resulting grape surplus leads to the development of a new raisin business and a man is hired to transport the raisins to market, these people need to be factored in as well. This is a difficult estimate, but it lies at the very heart of what agribusiness teams are designed to accomplish. While there is an element of subjectivity to this estimate, especially if the project is very successful, the resulting numerical value will be quantitative and enable comparisons to be made across projects. A brief justification letter (no more than one page) should accompany the estimate of the number of people impacted to allow for flexibility and consideration of the project in context with the local situation.
Net change in average annual income
This number is also an estimate and is perhaps the single most important measurement of effectiveness, but it takes some prior planning. As a project is in its development stage and the ADT is meeting regularly with local farmers and agribusiness leaders, be sure to ask them how much money they made last year. After the project is completed, ask them again how much money they made. This is not a taboo subject if rapport has been established, usually after a few cups of tea. Be respectful; timing is important. Ask just enough people to get a good idea of how much money people are really making. However, you do have to plan to get the data. For standardization purposes, the data is expressed in terms of annual income. The delta of dollars per year averaged among the people impacted by the project is the number you want. When asking this question, it is important to remember that the recognized standard for global poverty is less than one dollar per day or $365 per year. If you can demonstrate that a project helped a local Afghan earn more than $365 per year, you can say that you have "lifted him out of poverty." This is a true statement and an extremely powerful one to make.
Benefit to community
The number of people affected multiplied by the net change in annual income equals the benefit to the community. This should be a dollar figure. For example, if 1,000 villagers increase their annual income by $200 per year, then we can say, "This particular project benefitted this community by $200,000 per year." This is by no means a perfect measurement, but it is standard, useful, and simple to determine. It is also intuitively satisfying and, therefore, useful for press releases, information briefs, and presentations of all kinds.
After action review (AAR)
This is one of the most powerful diagnostic tools the Army possesses. It enables lessons to be learned and passed on. It is flexible and provides context, and everyone has been trained how to do it. One key feature of the ADT AAR is that it should address the initial justification of the project: Did the project solve the identified problem? Did it meet the expected benefits of the project? Why or why not?
ADT Project Analysis
The following project examples illustrate one kind of analysis from data collected. These numbers have been completely fabricated and are not based on actual data. The intent is to show how this information could be used.
ADT projects must be integrated into value chains (what is the full value [primary and secondary] added) and be aligned with and support the following:
Project selection is based on the following:
The key tasks for project determination include the following:
The following chart depicts flow of an idea for a project into a completed project:
Figure 7-1. ADT project flow chart
Once a project is selected, there are two types of projects for tracking: those projects for which Commander's Emergency Response Program funding has been approved and those projects that are unfunded.
Figure 7-2. Sample funded project tracking matrix
Figure 7-3. Sample unfunded project tracking matrix
The following are two examples of project selection and implementation:
Figure 7-4. The water cycle
Figure 7-5. Check dam with gabion baskets
Figure 7-6. Check dam with pooling
Other projects include the following:
Figure 7-7. Afghanistan watersheds
Market surveys are extremely important in determining supply and demand and other areas such as market conditions and security. The surveys should be done with vendors and their suppliers and with the people who shop in the markets. Farm extension agents should have sample surveys for the ADTs to use in developing their own surveys. It is important this information be available to assist when conducting key leader engagements with Afghan government and provincial government officials, agriculture educators, agribusiness leaders, and farmers. Figure 7-9 is an example of a market survey.
Figure 7-8. ADT demonstration farm diagram
Figure 7-9. Example of a market survey
What do the Afghan farmers and agribusinesses need? If you can successfully assist them in filling those needs, can they sustain them?
Always keep in mind this question: Is the project sustainable by the farmer after the ADT departs?