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3. PMA’s vision, principles, strategies and assumptions

When the PMA was implemented in 2001, it was a unique attempt to address pro-poor growth in the productive sector in the context of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, PRSP. To this day many PRSPs focus on social sector activities, such as health and education, where the rationale for government involvement is clear, and where there is need for significant expenditure to address poverty in broad terms. It has been more difficult to address production issues in a way which combines the need for overall growth with poverty eradication9. The PMA fills that gap for the agriculture sector in Uganda.

The vision and its critics
The overarching goal of the PMA is the eradication of poverty. As mentioned in the Chapter 1, the vision is explicitly stated as “poverty eradication through a profitable, competitive, sustainable and dynamic agricultural and agro-industrial sector”. Rural poverty is seen to be best addressed through promoting the commercialisation of agriculture, and in particular providing a coordinating framework for support services and public goods in rural areas. The PMA core document states that achieving the vision would depend on transforming the subsistence farmer and transforming the agricultural sector in general.

Is the vision still valid? The role of agriculture in pro-poor growth has been a topic for hot debate in recent years, particularly in the context of PRSPs and achieving the MDGs. Many observers are sceptical about the ability of the agricultural sector in Africa today to deliver the kinds of benefits to the poor that arose from, for example, the Green Revolution in India. Much has been made of the importance of the non-farm rural sector in assisting people out of poverty10. However, a healthy and growing rural non-farm sector is dependent on growth in agriculture. Improved standards of living for most of the rural poor in Uganda will come either from improvements in their agricultural activities, or in their ability to use capital and savings accumulated from agriculture in the non-farm sector (or both).

Policy interventions for pro-poor growth. A recent World Bank Study11, based on 14 countries, including Uganda, identifies five key policy interventions that increase the participation of the poor, particularly the rural poor, in growth. Some of these areas have been addressed effectively within the PMA, others less so.

  • Improving market access and lowering transactions costs; 
  • Strengthening property rights for land; 
  • Creating an incentive framework that benefits all farmers; 
  • Expanding technology available to smallholder producers; 
  • Helping poorer and smaller producers to deal with risk.

The study emphasises the importance of the agricultural sector, and in particular the traditional crop sector, in reducing poverty levels in Africa. Over 80 percent of poverty reduction in Ghana and Uganda came from improvements within a sector, rather than the poor moving from one sector to another12. The study also identifies difficulties in increasing yields in food crops and poorer access of women to land, inputs and technologies as particular constraints to increased poverty reduction in Uganda.

The revised PEAP. As the revised PEAP points out, agriculture has a key role to play in both growth and poverty reduction. But can a framework which focuses on poverty reduction through agriculture also succeed in providing growth opportunities for the sector as a whole? Or should the focus be on pursuing growth and assuming that this will pull people out of poverty? The revised PEAP is not entirely clear on this. Pillar 2 of the PEAP promotes a focus on poor rural households, but also identifies the PMA as one of three main policy frameworks, along with the Medium Term Competitiveness Strategy, MTCS, and the Strategic Export Programme, SEP, to address demand and supply constraints to improving production, incomes and competitiveness. The SEP, in particular, addresses the need for export growth, rather than inclusion of poorer farmers13.

Is the PMA the agricultural sector strategy? There has been some criticism of the PMA as not providing an integrated plan for the agriculture sector14. The Evaluation’s view is that the PMA was not intended to address the agricultural sector as a whole, but should be seen as a strategic and operational framework for eradicating poverty through multisectoral interventions (including agriculture) for transformation of the agricultural sector. As such it targets poorer farmers rather than established commercial farmers. There is also need for an agricultural sector strategy. This sector strategy should be consistent with the PMA, in particular in its emphasis on poverty reduction, but should also address issues such as the role of commercial farmers, regulation and standards, support for export marketing, and other issues relevant to the agricultural sector as a whole. It is important that the agriculture sector development strategy and investment plan, currently being refined by MAAIF, achieves this balance.

The Evaluation also feels that, given the challenges facing the PMA in supporting those farmers who fall beneath the poverty line, the Government should remain focussed upon the PMA for the next five to ten years at least – i.e. on helping poor farmers to increase their output through: access to appropriate improved and more modern agricultural practices; improved access to markets and greater “commercialisation”; and enabling them to build up capital, either for reinvestment in agriculture, or for funding their move out of the sector. This will involve greater emphasis on traditional food crops, which are still the major crops grown by the poor15. If successful, this approach should also deliver on growth objectives, as food crops are extensively traded both within Uganda and within the region. The benefits from increasing productivity of these commodities both for farmers, and for the economy far outweigh those from limited adoption of non-traditional export crops.

Is the PMA vision well understood? This vision, of addressing poverty through supporting poor rural farmers, was not shared by all interviewed stakeholders. The most common reason appeared to be a feeling that the PMA approach was not working; that it was not providing results. The validity of this perception is addressed later in the report, but often reflects a confusion (discussed above) between PMA as a framework for addressing poverty through agriculture and PMA as the entire agricultural strategy. There is also a debate as to the specific groups that PMA should be targeting, discussed later in this chapter.

Considerable confusion has also arisen because of the name, PMA. As one stakeholder said to us, “PMA is not a plan, it is not about modernisation and it is not just about agriculture”. The PMA core document defines and uses several terms in a confusing way. It is not always clear as to what it means by ’commercialisation’, and even less so by ’modernisation’. The ’private sector’ is used to include farmers, whereas many Ugandans would take this to mean commercial businesses. The poorest level of farmers is referred to as ’subsistence’ farmers, yet most farmers within this group have strong, if intermittent, linkages with markets. ’Modernisation’ is not clearly defined, but seems to mean increased integration into markets, and the use of improved seeds and technologies. The Evaluation feels however, that if modernisation is to help the poor in a sustainable manner it must be about basic issues, such as improved techniques affordable by, and relevant to, resource poor and risk averse farmers. Yet the team came across perceptions that PMA should be about mechanisation, and quick transformation of poor farmers into business people focussed entirely on the market.

A multi-sectoral approach? There is also considerable scepticism about the multi-sectoral nature of PMA, both from parliamentarians and NGOs. Some of this may be fuelled by the inability, so far, for PMA to properly exploit the potential synergies from the different pillars16. There is also concern that important sub-sectors in agriculture, particularly livestock and fisheries, appear to have been neglected. This is not necessarily a correct perception; much depends on how both the NARS and NAADS provide research and extension services to those active in these subsectors. Nevertheless, it underlines the need for a wider agricultural strategy to address public goods such as disease control, and regulatory standards.

Have the constraints changed? There are five main areas of constraints faced by subsistence farmers identified at different points in the PMA core document:

  • natural environment aspects;
  • access to finance to address both food security issues and the financing of improved technological approaches;
  • physical infrastructure;
  • human capital, and;
  • weak social capital in the aspects of accountability and transparency, though strong in community elements.

Five years after the start of implementation these constraints still hold. In addition, two further constraints can be added: access to land, and vulnerability to market volatility. 

Access to and ownership of land is included under the natural environment constraint, but is of sufficient importance to justify inclusion as a separate item. It is identified by the poor themselves as one of their main constraints, and is increasingly recognised in the literature as a major constraint to pro-poor growth17. This is a particular issue for women who rarely inherit land in Uganda, but use land which belongs to men, or have to rent or buy land. The vulnerability of the rural poor to both internal and external market volatility is another constraint that has to be addressed in order to develop sustainable improvement in agricultural livelihoods.

The PMA principles, approaches and strategies
This section assesses the extent to which key approaches and strategies – differentiation of target beneficiaries, private and public sector roles, co-funding and a multi-sectoral approach – have been implemented and how effectively.

Principles. The basic principles of PMA, as interpreted by the Evaluation, have been laid out in the introduction to this report. They appear to be generally accepted by stakeholders, and this is perhaps one of the most important achievements of the framework: that these principles of privatisation, liberalisation, democratisation and gender sensitivity, are increasingly being incorporated into both government and donor activities. Even within the NSCG, where funds are often spent on toll goods18, rather than public goods, there are attempts to ensure that benefits are more generally spread than they would have been in the past.

The need for a differentiated approach. One of the weaknesses of the PMA is that insufficient attention has been paid to the differences between sections of the target population. The core document differentiates between the destitute, identified as needing safety net interventions, subsistence farmers, who will require literacy skills, greater involvement in development activities and, in some cases, access to land, semi-commercial farmers and commercial farmers. The PMA identifies subsistence farmers as its main target group. In practice, a different categorisation has been developed by NAADS as they have rolled out their programme. They are targeting the economically active poor, who, because of greater assets, are assumed to be able to adopt riskier enterprises that may be inappropriate for poorer farmers.

The PMA core document recognises that there are different categories within the poor, such as female-headed households, youths, households with high economic dependency ratios and those living with HIV/AIDS. Yet none of the pillars appear to have developed strategies based on the differential needs of these groups. Field interviews indicate that some NAADS enterprises are inappropriate for the farmer groups targeted, either because of labour requirements (HIV/AIDS groups), religious or cultural reasons, or insufficient resources of the group members. Yet the team also spoke to farmer groups who felt that they had benefited from very basic technological inputs, such as sowing in straight lines rather than broadcasting. There needs to be clearer analysis of, and differentiated strategies for, the needs of specific groups. In particular, more emphasis should be put on improving the yields of staple food crops for poorer farmers, rather than introducing newer crops, which may be more risky to grow or market. Access to land by different groups is also an issue. Agroforestry, which has high potential for poorer farmers, may be unsuitable for those without secure access to land to ensure their investment.

The Evaluation recognises that developing fully integrated strategies across all pillars for a number of different groups may be very resource intensive and challenging. However, PMA implementation in general would benefit from a clearer identification of the characteristics of two groups in particular: poorer farmers, and women farmers. This would involve an assessment of access to assets, attitude towards and ability to bear risk and livelihood strategies. Where the approaches taken under the different pillars are not addressing the needs of particular sections of the target population, this could be improved through greater participation of the poor and women in design and monitoring of activities.

The role of government. The PMA definitions of public and private sector roles within the different pillars are consistent with the government’s view, that its own role should be restricted to the provision of public goods, regulatory activities, and addressing market failure. Under this principle, delivery of public goods and services in areas such as agricultural research and advisory services are being opened up to private sector delivery, but remain publicly funded. Public funding and/or provision of private goods to individuals should be on a full-cost basis and government should avoid interventions that undermine legitimate private sector activities, whether through provision of goods at below cost, or through creation of uncertainty in the policy environment.

Private sector delivery of public goods. The approach taken by NAADS and some NSCG activities, namely government funding of private sector delivery, places high demands on contract management and monitoring. The short-run costs of implementing this approach may be high, and have probably been underestimated. However, provided the private sector can deliver effective services (see below) this is one way of introducing the possibility of greater client responsiveness and ownership for the services envisaged. This is particularly relevant for pillar 2, advisory services and elements of pillar 5, marketing. Other pillars have a clear need for a strong public sector role, because of the high level of externalities in, for example, education, basic research and natural resource management.

Not all stakeholders understand or accept the problems of government undermining private sector activities. A past history of subsidies, free inputs and government intervention has led to a sense of entitlement, both amongst beneficiaries and amongst the stakeholders who delivered these subsidised goods and services. However, programmes with free distribution of goods and services tend to undermine the general approach of encouraging farmers to use market channels for their inputs. Some recent policy initiatives are inconsistent with PMA principles on the role of government. For example, the SEP has distributed free inputs for certain key crops. In some cases, the private sector has been used to distribute these inputs, with a temporary boost to their activity, but free input distribution reinforces dependence on government by farmers, and has the potential to undermine the development of a private input market. The Evaluation is concerned that elements of the recent Rural Development Strategy, by distributing inputs through NAADS, could have a similar effect. This could be implemented through the private sector, but care will have to be taken about the mechanisms used if the strategy is not to undermine private sector activities and lead to a self-fulfilling prophesy that the private sector cannot deliver.

Co-funding. In principle, the services provided by PMA implementers should have an element of co-funding, to reduce dependence by beneficiaries, including local government and in some cases to provide a first step towards financial self-sufficiency. In practice the results of this are mixed. NAADS groups are supposed to contribute 2 percent towards the cost of services received (collected through the farm group subscriptions), and districts and sub-counties are supposed to provide 10 percent of the value of the NSCG towards the activities funded. The co-funding element in NAADS does appear to be working in some areas, but concern has been expressed by NGOs that the approach discourages poorer farmers. An issue here is whether the services provided are appropriate for the recipients. Evidence from a number of countries shows that even poor farmers are prepared to pay something towards services that provide real benefits, particularly increased incomes19.

There has been a move away from subsidising services, such as rural finance, with the closure of the Entadikwa scheme. District Agriculture Training and Information Centres, DATICs, are mandated to achieve financial self-sufficiency over time, through the sales of training services. However, the pilot Foodnet market information pilot scheme which closed in June, and is currently subject to evaluation, has raised concerns over the financial viability of this specific approach to information dissemination. These are not strictly examples of co-funding, but address some of the same concerns, of discouraging dependence, and identifying clients for services, rather than beneficiaries.

Co-funding at local government level is likely to become more difficult with the removal of graduated tax. The tax base varies considerably from district to district. Some districts with very limited resources may be tempted to increase taxes, such as market dues, which could have a detrimental effect on economic activity. Co-funding is an important step towards ownership and sustainability of the services provided, but unless new ways of financing local government are developed soon, it would make more sense to introduce it gradually as the services delivered under PMA start to produce more income at individual, and at district and sub-county level. It will be important to monitor the success of different approaches to increasing ownership and reducing financial dependency, in order to better understand what works, where and why.

A multi-sectoral approach. All multi-sectoral approaches can suffer low buy-in from the relevant ministries. This is compounded in the case of PMA by a feeling amongst many ministries, both at national, and to a lesser extent at district level, that PMA is a framework for agriculture, which gives little benefit to other ministries. Yet, in principle, there is considerable merit in coordinating support activities around such a key sector as agriculture to tackle rural poverty. However, it does require bringing together the different pillars and agencies of the PMA to reinforce each other.

The question is whether the approach is too ambitious and that therefore Uganda should return to a more traditional approach. On balance, the Evaluation feels that the potential benefits of a coordinated multi-sectoral approach are significant, particularly at district level. Funding and planning processes at district level are slowly changing to prove more scope for such an approach. The challenge is to ensure that this works to promote PMA principles.

The assumptions
The Evaluation was asked to assess the validity of two assumptions within the core document:

  • Poor farmers have the capacity to articulate their demand for services effectively, with adequate knowledge of market conditions and opportunities; 
  • The private sector has the capacity to respond to market openings as private sector providers.

To this the Evaluation has added a third:

  • Local Governments, LGs, have the requisite capacity in place to internalise, strategically plan for, and implement the PMA.

None of these assumptions have been validated entirely in the process of PMA implementation. However processes have been started, within NAADS and with the activities of Community Development Workers, CDWs, which can be modified to address problems of limited capacity and lack of adequate information of both farmers and the private sector.

Demand-driven services. Because of slow implementation of some pillars, the only real area where the capacity of poor farmers to articulate their demand for services can be assessed is in NAADS. Even here however, it is difficult to assess whether the enterprise selection process provides enterprises that are appropriate to their needs or to the market opportunities facing them. This is discussed in more detail in Chapter 4. The principle of demand-driven services appears to be well understood but ironically, the current restrictions on NAADS enterprises means that, in some cases, the traditional extension services are responding more flexibly to farmers’ demands than NAADS.

Bringing demand and supply together. There is no evidence that poor farmers are unable to define and express their demand. However, there are limitations on their ability to access information on market opportunities and the types of technologies being developed by national and local research stations. In addition, there are no mechanisms for allowing either the private sector or local agricultural research stations to give information to farmers about opportunities available in the local area. What is needed is a way to make this information available to farmers, and bring the demand side together with the supply side. One possibility would be to hold mini agricultural shows as part of the NAADS enterprise selection process, where researchers could present new varieties or private sector entrepreneurs could present market opportunities.

Private sector capacity. There do not appear to have been problems in identifying private sector providers, whether for NAADS, or for construction activities undertaken under NSCG, District Development Support Programme, DDSP, LGDP or Poverty Alleviation Fund, PAF. However, interviews in a number of districts indicate that the skills of service providers, particularly for new extension technologies such as apiary and vanilla, are very limited. One NAADS sub-county coordinator complained that there was not much choice amongst service providers because the overall numbers were small. Service providers are often underfinanced, and as a result there are delays in the provision of services, as they have to be pre-financed. Delayering has yet to occur at district level, limiting the movement of expertise from the traditional extension service into NAADS. Quality control processes are still at an early stage, and contractual processes require a more business-like approach, on both sides.

NAADS has funding to build capacity of private sector providers but as yet little of those funds have been used. There are examples of the private sector undertaking training itself. In Kiboga, for example, the Chamber of Commerce is developing a training programme for its members. There are also donor supported programmes which are working to develop private sector skills, notably the USAID funded SCOPE programme, but they tend to operate at national rather than district level. Some training is carried out by SIDAs (sub-county integrated development associations), particularly where the DDSP is operating.

Local Government capacity. The core document made three questionable assumptions concerning local government capacity:

  • That it was sufficiently developed to enable PMA principles to be internalised at district level; 
  • That the local government institutional and legal framework was sufficiently supportive to facilitate speedy PMA implementation; 
  • That planning processes were sufficiently developed to address the multi-sectoral and inclusive planning process set out for the NSCG.

Diverse interpretations of the PMA by local government officials, however, show that these assumptions do not hold. The PMA coordination role has been nested in various institutional settings but mostly in the agricultural sector. The lack of an explicit institution for strategic guidance and overall coordination of PMA implementation at local government level and the confusion over the appropriate institutional location for that role has not facilitated efficient execution. Moreover, in reality local government planning processes are still fairly weak and not completely inclusive and are also liable to influence by elected officials, leading to questionable investment decisions. The situation is not helped by the parallel planning process for the LGDP.

Public-private partnerships
PMA has developed a set of principles governing its relationship with civil society. No such document exists for the private sector, whether for farmers or the commercial business sector.

The private sector has limited input into national policy, or institutional and legal frameworks. Representatives of the private sector are invited to the annual reviews of the PMA, but much of the discussion appears arcane and abstract to them. Active participation is minimal. The same is true for farmer organisations. The PMA is perceived, by NGOs in particular, as being less participatory than the PEAP, and, other than the Joint Annual Reviews, consultation processes with the private sector are not well developed.

The situation is similar at the district level. In Kibaale, private sector participation has been invited in monthly planning meetings, but attendance has been minimal because these meetings focus mainly on operational aspects of departmental function. The Support District Partnership Programme in Kiboga, Kibaale and Kumi, funded by Development Cooperation of Ireland, DCI, promotes the strengthening of public-private partnerships, but there is little else at district level which actively targets public-sector partnerships. Farmers have some role in NAADS where farmer fora have an important role to play in the contracting process for service providers. Members of the Farmers’ Forum sit on the procurement committee and are also responsible for ensuring that the activities contracted are being carried out.

There is scope for better linkage between the different actors at district level. This could be focused around the concept of the value chain, the importance of which seems weakly understood by NAADS and others in the public sector. Enterprises are being encouraged without good understanding of their market potential. Better linkages between farmers, NAADS, and the private sector could increase the likelihood of successful investments.

Consideration should be given to developing a strategy for more effective interaction with the private sector at both national and district level. Although consultation at national level takes place with organisations such as Uganda National Farmers’ Federation, UNFFE, and specific commodity organisations, lack of effective farmers’ and private sector organisations at district level is a constraint. Building up organisational capacity at a higher level than the farmer group, and with small-scale traders and processors, would go some way to enabling this type of process. The Agricultural Productivity Enhancement Program, APEP, has made progress building farmer linkages with large-scale processors, using a top-down approach. Some thought should be given to developing a more grass roots, bottom-up equivalent with smaller scale actors.

The vision, principles, approach and strategies of the PMA are still valid after five years. However, implementation under the pillars has not always been in accordance with the approaches and strategies set out in the core document. Some of the constraints should be updated and expanded. The assumptions need to be revisited in the light of experience and strategies amended to take account of identified weaknesses. This is particularly true of NAADS and district level implementation.

The Evaluation feels that the time has come to develop a roadmap for the next five years, based on the principles laid out in the PMA core document, updated to reflect the experience of the last five years. The current document was ground breaking in its time, but in many ways it lacks sufficiently clear targets, milestones and timeframes, particularly given that the timeframe for achieving the objectives is 201720. The interventions matrix appended to the document is ambitious, and brings together a combination of new and ongoing activities, but is unrealistic in its timescale (five years on, some activities have still to be completed). Perhaps the most serious lack is any visioning of what success in the PMA might involve and what timeframe would be appropriate. This is a particular problem given the high expectations raised by the programme.

The Evaluation considered the option of re-launching PMA under a more appropriate name, but concluded that this would only create more confusion.

An updated roadmap should make clear the poverty focus of the PMA. It should be more specific about what PMA can deliver in terms of outcomes at the level of subsistence farmers. Indicators of success should be identified, with quantitative targets. Steps should also be taken to build capacity to interpret and implement these targets at district level in accordance with local circumstances. Progress towards these targets would be measured as part of the monitoring and evaluation system, through regular surveys. The roadmap should also address issues of private sector capacity building, increasing the scope for effective farmer participation in service provision and improving links between the private sector and the farmer. PMA implementing agencies should then ensure that their strategies are consistent with the specific targets identified.

9 There have been a number of critiques of the way in which PRSPs have addressed productive sectors, in particular the agricultural sector, e.g. Achieving the Hunger Millennium Development Goal: A review of Poverty Reduction Strategies, DFID Country Assistance Plans and their treatment of food security issues, Anne Thomson and Gareth Williams, July 2003.

10 This is particularly relevant in view of the findings of the Uganda Household Survey of 2003, that poverty had decreased most amongst the rural population who had diversified away from agriculture.

11 Pro-Poor Growth in the 1990s: Lessons and insights from 14 countries, World Bank, June 2005.

12 The study defined food crops and export crops as separate sectors.

13 A poverty and social impact assessment of the SEP, undertaken in 2002/2003, identified the lack of explicit targeting of women farmers as likely to undermine some SEP initiatives, because of the potential for gender conflict in poor farm households. (Booth et al., the Strategic Exports Initiative in Uganda).

14 Discussion paper on Economic Growth, Investment and Export Promotion, D. Bevan et al., PEAP Revision 2002/2003, June 2003.

15 There are no readily accessible national data on the numbers of farmers growing different crops. In the survey carried out as part of the evaluation, three quarters of farmers grew maize and beans, half or more grew groundnuts, sweet potatoes and cassava, and over a quarter grew matooke and sorghum, or raised chickens and goats. Although these have not been analysed by poverty category, there is no reason to believe that poorer farmers are atypical in this regard.

16 This is discussed further in chapter 4 of the report.

17 A recent World Bank study, Agricultural Growth for the Poor (2005), identifies four major conditions for agricultural growth to reduce poverty: agriculture must be important to the incomes of the poor; climate and soils allow significant potential for productivity and profitability to grow; land distribution is relatively equitable; and the poor consume nontraded food staples.

18 Toll goods, sometimes described as ’club’ goods, are like the privileges obtained from club membership. All members can mutually share the benefits but non-members can be excluded, or made to pay for the same services. Most services delivered to farmer groups would fall into this category.

19 This is based on personal experience of team members in Bangladesh and Nepal.

20 PMA core document, p 105.

This page forms part of the publication 'Uganda’s Plan for the Modernisation of Agriculture' as chapter 5 of 14

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