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Irish Development Assistance to Sudan
1974 to 1998
Submitted by: Rob Kevlihan
Origins of Irish Assistance to Sudan The Irish government began its bilateral aid programme shortly after accession to the EEC in 1973. Previously Irish development aid was relatively small scale, confined to mandatory contributions to multilateral agencies and some emergency assistance. Despite a growing body of opinion that Ireland was obliged to move towards contributing the UN target of 0.7% of GNP in development aid to developing states (Sutton, 1977, 11-13), it would appear that there would have been no Irish bilateral aid programme but for EEC accession. 1973 was described as a watershed by one commentator (Sutton, 1977, 13), with the change of government and accession to the EEC having a significant effect on official thinking and action in the sphere of development co-operation. The consequence was that in 1974 both APSO and the Development Co-operation division of the DFA were established. Initially, five countries were selected as priority countries for Irish overseas development – Sudan, Lesotho, Zambia, Tanzania and India.
Officially, criteria cited as used in selecting these five countries included the relative poverty of the countries, their need for external assistance, their ability to use external assistance effectively, the existence of a suitable administrative system and structures, historical links with Ireland and the possibility of using English as a working language (O Fainin, 1988). Informally, initial country selection would appear to have been a more opportunistic process, with the reasons given above smacking of ex-post rationalisation. Sutton (1977, 62), for example, comments that no official explanation was offered some 4 years after the initiation of the bilateral aid programme for the choice of priority countries or for deciding that five was the optimum number.
The selection of Sudan as a priority country was described by one commentator as ‘obscure good luck’ (El Tom, 1991), though the possibilities for agricultural assistance may have been a contributory factor (see below). This reflects Irish government policy in relation to ODA at the time. In 1973 DEVCO was established in response to a proposal by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that the Government's development assistance programme should particularly include fields where Ireland had a special interest or competence. DEVCO comprised an association of 23 Irish state sponsored companies and five state supported Institutes engaged in the provision of technical assistance to countries in the Third World. Its functions were to co-ordinate the activities of its members in developing countries and to
promote co-operation by these bodies in joint projects. It was believed that these Irish semi-state bodies were particularly well placed to provide technical assistance to Third World countries facing development problems which Ireland itself had had to face in the recent past (Sutton, 1977, 61).
This emphasis on the provision of assistance through Irish organisations clearly cannot be considered entirely altruistic, something confirmed by O Brien (1980, 64). In his review of Irish development assistance, he notes that Government statements at the time made clear that the bilateral aid programme was seen officially as having three basic roles. Firstly to benefit developing countries, secondly to benefit Ireland and thirdly to give, in the long run, Irish companies the kind of experience necessary for successful tendering for the generally much larger contracts of the multilateral agencies.
Sudan Programmes Irish Aid projects in Sudan may be divided into first, second and third generation project categories. First generation projects reflect the early emphasis in Irish bilateral aid in favour of activities that involved Irish technical expertise, and as a result, Irish personnel. In Sudan, the main (though not exclusive) focus of such first generation aid was in the area of agriculture, and in particular in the implementation of the Gezeira Dairy Co-operative project. One can clearly see the influence that modernisation theory had in these early days, with the emphasis of aid programming being the development of high level expertise and manufacturing techniques.
Second generation projects reflect a move away from a modernisation led approach, and the demise of these projects. The newer projects developed – village water supply, community forestry and primary healthcare reflect a new emphasis on basic needs, combined with longer term, environmental concerns (in the case of the forestry project).
Finally, the implementation of the locally managed NGO co-financing scheme may be classified as an embryonic third generation project, reflecting a trend towards direct financial support for local community initiatives in the fields of education and healthcare, on a cost sharing basis with these communities. This third generation initiative ran in parallel with ongoing second generation projects.
Early Irish Bilateral Aid and Staffing Policies The early years of the bilateral aid programme were dominated by Lesotho. Of the Ir£975,000 allocated for bilateral aid in 1977, for example, over half was designated for Lesotho. In the period 1978-79, it was noted that ‘after a slow start’, the bilateral aid programme in Sudan was beginning to gather momentum (DFA, 1979, 15). Bilateral assistance to all countries in these early years was small, totalling Ir£1.120m over the four year period from 1973 to 1976. As Sutton (1977, 58) notes, overall between 1973 and 1976, only Ir£1.5m in total was spent in additional discretionary ODA, comprising bilateral aid and the cost of APSO, the rest of the increase in overall ODA being attributable to obligatory payments by the Irish government to organisations such as the EEC and the UN.
Initial project implementation in Sudan reflected the Government's early emphasis on the provision of technical assistance through DEVCO. While activities commenced in Sudan in 1975 (DFA, 1985, 23), detailed information is not available until the publication of the first Irish Aid annual report for 1978. Given the small levels of expenditure outside of Lesotho in this period, activities are unlikely to have been significant in the period 1975-1978. In 1978 four separately identified activities were funded; a technical schools survey implemented by private Irish consultants, a librarian course run by TCD and NIHE, agricultural fellowships administered by An Foras Taluntais and preliminary work with regard to the establishment of a dairying co-operative. Total expenditure in Sudan in 1978 amounted to Ir£68,795, with the Irish private consultants costing some Ir£41,000 for their endeavours. Expenditure on the Sudan programme accounted for only 6% of total bilateral aid to all countries in 1978, leaving Sudan 4th among the five priority countries. Lesotho maintained its dominant position as the primary recipient of aid receiving over 50% of funds disbursed, followed by Tanzania and Zambia (17% each), with India accounting for an insignificant 1%.
This early emphasis on Irish consultants and organisations is unsurprising, given that of the Ir£1.98m that made up the bilateral fund in 1978, almost Ir£1m was spent in Ireland itself and a further Ir£800,000 was channelled through Irish firms (O’Brien, 1980, 65). It would appear that early bilateral assistance was more concerned with developing the Irish economy than that of partner priority countries.
Initial First Generation Projects Post 1979, Irish development activities to Sudan began to take off, with an early emphasis being placed on agricultural assistance. These first generation projects - the Gezeira Dairy Co-operative, research at Shukaba and the National Institute of Animal Production and the Khartoum Polytechnic are considered below.
Gezeira Dairy Co-operative Based on the initial surveys conducted in 1978, the Gezeira Dairy Co-operative was initiated to provide assistance to tenant farmers operating within the Gezeira irrigation scheme. The project was established in the provincial town of Wad Medani, located to the south east of Khartoum, in the heart of the irrigated area. The Gezeira irrigation scheme had been developed during British/Egyptian condominium rule after completion of the Sennar dam in 1925. It effectively transformed hundreds of thousands of acres between the Blue Nile and White Nile south of Khartoum into good arable land, suitable for cotton, cereals and fodder and accommodates over 100,000 tenant farmers, operating in partnership with the Sudan Gezeira Board, a public corporation (DFA, 1983, 28). Irish Aid programme involved less than 1,000 of these farmers (Bourke, 1988, 4).
The main objectives of the project were to introduce modern methods of dairy and animal production, to improve standards of living and to protect farmers from exploitative merchants (El Tom, 1991, 7). The project was managed by An Foras Taluntais (The Agricultural Institute) (DFA, 1983, 51). As a result of its size, the project quickly became the flagship of Irish Aid activities in Sudan. It involved an initial construction phase, which was completed by 1981 (DFA, 1982, 18), followed by an operational phase run by Irish Aid project managers. A milk processing plant was commissioned in 1982 (DFA, 1982, 18), and in the next year, following a full review of the project, emphasis was placed on milk production and quality control (DFA, 1983, 28). Assistance to the project then became focussed mainly on the provision of expert management personnel and technical assistance. It was nonetheless anticipated in 1984 that assistance to the project would be required for ‘some time’, though at reducing levels as the co-operative became self sufficient from its own generated profits and as local staff developed the appropriate experience and expertise (DFA, 1984, 22).
In reality, assistance to the co-operative actually increased from Ir£245,926 in 1984 to Ir£324,651 in 1985, an increase of over 30%, despite claims in the annual report of 1985 that the scale of Irish assistance was being gradually reduced (DFA, 1985, 24). Assistance to the co-operative did eventually fall to Ir£157,793 in 1986, Ir£71,463 in 1987 but then rose to Ir£128,528 in the final year of funding, 1988. The increase between 1984 and 1985 may reflect the fact that a technical co-operation agreement between Ireland and Sudan was finally signed in early 1985 (DFA, 1985, 23). This formalised the aid relationship in place between the two countries, and perhaps resulted in pressure for a tangible increase in overall assistance to Sudan. In 1986, the number of Irish staff assigned to the project was reduced to one, the project manager (DFA, 1986, 24), reflecting progress in reducing Irish involvement. This remaining Irish expert was withdrawn in 1987 (DFA, 1987, 13). Despite this apparently successful phase out of involvement, difficulties regarding the sustainability of the project were noted in the 1987 annual report, in particular, lack of foreign exchange (due to wider economic difficulties within the Sudanese economy at that time). In order to assist with this difficulty, a shipment of spare parts and plastic for packaging was organised in 1988, funded by Irish Aid, which it was envisaged would reduce the need for future imports. Impediments to the future sustainability of the co-operative were not referred to in the 1987 report. Rather, it was noted that the project "is considered very successful and has established a track record and relatively high profile for Irish Aid in Sudan" (DFA, 1987, 13).
By 1988, the co-operative had over a thousand members, was operating at a profit and had a modern milk processing plant. However, despite the 1988 shipment of plastic and spare parts, it was still experiencing some difficulties in securing access to foreign exchange necessary to purchase further spare parts and plastic packaging (DFA, 1988, 15).
In total, Irish Aid assisted this project for ten years from initial assessments in 1978 until 1988, spending approximately Ir£2.5m over that time. El Tom, a Sudanese academic working in Ireland, critically examined the Gezeira Dairy Co-operative project, based on research conducted in 1989 (El Tom,1991). His official report was commissioned by the ACDC and is referred to in their review of Irish ODA (ACDC, 1991).
In his critique, he set out a number of conditions which an aid project must meet if it is to be considered a successful model capable of contributing to development. These included; a focus on the poor, aimed at reducing their powerlessness and improving their lives; the use of technology which can be understood, maintained and reproduced without much further outside help; the generation of internal support for the project; replicability on a self reliant basis; the fostering of popular participation and moves towards reducing oppression and discrimination against underprivileged groups (including women); the use of positive elements in the local culture and that the project must be environmentally sound.
Considering first the location of the project, El Tom notes that the scheme was established in the heart of the Gezeira scheme, two miles from Wad Medani, resulting in members of the co-operative coming from the most affluent sector of Sudanese farmers. In his official report, El Tom described the selection of the Central Zone by Irish Aid as ‘ill conceived’ (ACDC, 1991, 136). This criticism echoes the comments of Bourke (1988), a former GOAL volunteer who worked in Sudan, who questioned the original selection of the Central region as the main area of operations for the Irish bilateral aid programme, given its relative prosperity and development. Indeed, in connection with the Integrated Livestock study funded by Irish Aid (see below), the annual report of 1986 explicitly acknowledged that ‘the Central Region is relatively prosperous in comparison with other areas of the country’ (DFA, 1986, 24). The only basis for the concentration of operations in the region at the time of the cooperative project given in annual reports is the large size of Sudan and ‘administrative and practical reasons’ (DFA, 1988, 14). It would appear that the choice of the Central region as the area of Irish Aid operations may have been driven by similar factors to the choice of Sudan itself – the perceived scope for Irish (DEVCO driven) expertise to be used in Irish funded projects and the resultant possibilities for this expertise then being available for other contract work from multilateral donors. El Tom cites the relative accessibility of Wad Medani, on the main Khartoum / Port Sudan highway, as another possible reason1.
As regards the identification of the Gezeira Dairy co-operative as an appropriate project, it appears possible that a similar rationale applied. Officially, ‘it is not clear how the project was identified’
Per interview with El Tom, 18 June 1999.
(ACDC, 1983). The initial feasibility study was subsequently (some five years later) described to be inadequate with respect to costs, management arrangements, transfer of ownership, farming activities and income of participants, benefits to the economy and potential for replicability (ACDC, 1983).
It is clear that the project was not poverty focussed. The project emphasised livestock and livestock development. The very fact that most rural poor are not engaged in livestock development and that the high cost protein thus produced (in this case milk) benefits higher income groups (ACDC, 1983), immediately undermines any claims to poverty alleviation for the project. This is confirmed when the local economy in which the co-operative sought to compete was reviewed by El Tom. He pointed to a positive bias in the project against poorer sections of the milk producing class. Merchants only supplied an estimated 4 to 8% of Wad Medani’s milk needs. The bulk of the milk supplied to the city was by so called ‘donkey-men’, small scale cow keepers living in close proximity to the city who call from door to door selling their produce from containers they carry on their donkeys. Had the co-operative been successful in expanding its market share beyond its estimated 10% in the city, it would have been at the expense of these smaller, poorer producers (El Tom, 1991). The project patently did not, therefore, focus on the poorest in local society. Even when the position of the farmer-members themselves was examined, the co-op was hardly improving their situation. Considering the relative position of these farmers within the scheme versus ‘exploitative’ merchants, El Tom notes that the project was unsuccessful in displacing the merchants, as, at the time of compiling the data used in his article, the merchants were paying prices 30% higher than the co-operative. The result was that members were selling most of their output to merchants while contributing smaller amounts to the co-op to retain their membership and access to a closed shop set up by the co-operative to sell consumer goods.
Examining the question of sustainability, the co-operative was set up and sustained by Irish assistance to a position where it was making a local currency profit. However, on-going operations depended upon imported plastic bags for packaging and powdered milk, ostensibly to reduce the fat content of the milk to WHO recommended levels. El Tom claims that the decision to rely on powdered milk was a deliberate one in order to allow the operation to stay afloat – the implication apparently being that, in the absence of adequate milk supplies from co-operative members (due perhaps to the price differential with merchants), powdered milk made up the deficit and allowed the co-operative to maintain its 10%
market share. El Tom notes that an Irish based study estimated that, had it not been for the use of powdered milk for recombination of its products, the co-operative would have sustained an annual loss of Ir£100,000. His conclusion is that the co-operative was economically unsustainable, and that replication in Sudan could only be done with outside financial assistance (El Tom, 1991, 7).
One can conclude from the above critique that the flagship project implemented by Irish Aid in Sudan for 10 years and that accounted for at least 35% (per approximate calculation based on available financial information) of bilateral aid to Sudan over that period, was a failure. This was described by El Tom as a ‘dis-investment’ by the Irish Government (ACDC, 1991, 129). Initial planning was poor and implementation hampered by deteriorating economic and political conditions. The Gezeira Dairy Cooperative could perhaps be used as a case study in how not to design and implement an aid project. Clearly, Irish Aid made considerable efforts to capacitate local staff and hand over an operational cooperative. However, the whole emphasis of the project was biased towards wealthier sections of local society and based on technology that required overseas training to use and foreign currency to maintain. Not alone that, but in day to day operations, the plant became dependent on two inputs to the production process that also had to be imported – plastic and incredibly, powdered milk. The result was a high tech plant that depended on crucial imported inputs. When government restrictions made access to foreign currency exceedingly difficult, the result was, in the absence of any capacity to export product (thus earning hard currency), that the scheme could not continue in operation.
While the co-operative did continue operations at reduced levels until around 1994 (despite the difficult economic and political conditions), ultimately the co-operative could not continue to produce and its buildings now lie dormant2.
To conclude, the Gezeira Diary Co-operative reflects a trend in Irish Aid projects implemented in the agricultural sector throughout Africa in the early 1980s that were not particularly well planned, ultimately not sustainable and certainly not poverty focussed (Chisholm, 1995, 88).
Based on sources formerly with Irish Aid consulted as part of the research for this thesis, June 1999.
Other Agricultural Projects Running in parallel with the actual co-operative itself, and as a complement to it, Irish Aid also implemented a series of technical assistance programmes in the field of agriculture. These included technical assistance to the National Dairy Research Centre at Shukaba and the National Institute of Animal Production from 1983 (DFA, 1983, 28).
The Shukaba centre conducted research into various aspects of the dairy industry, with the objective of improving the strain of dairy herds, improving efficiency and increasing milk production. It was managed by HEDCO and An Foras Taluntais (DFA, 1983, 51). Irish Aid funded the purchase of animals and equipment, training of staff and the construction of buildings. In 1986, a full time Irish forage expert was assigned to the centre (DFA, 1986, 24). Located near Wad Medani, the Shukaba project was linked into the Gezeira project by virtue of Irish Aid involvement in both. This link ended with the cessation of Irish involvement. The project has been faulted for being overly academic in its orientation, with researchers and staff being confined to the laboratory. Potential improvements that could be gained by farmers though advances made were not disseminated using outreach schemes from the centre3.
The National Institute received funding for a Dairy Science Lecturer and the supply of materials, books and equipment in 1985 (DFA, 1985,24). This project was managed by HEDCO (DFA, 1983, 51). Assistance to the National Institute largely ended in 1987, though some limited financing of equipment was provided in 1988 (DFA, 1987, 13).
Additionally, an integrated livestock study commenced in 1985, carried out by DEVCO in conjunction with the WB funded Gezeira Rehabilitation project (DFA, 1985, 24), an example of the Irish programme being used as a basis for the attraction of further funds from other donors. Interim findings produced in 1986 proposed the implementation of a project to intensify livestock production within the Gezeira scheme. The 1986 annual report notes that funding from donors to implement the proposed project would be sought, with the possibility of Irish Aid funding some component thereof (DFA,
Based on sources formerly with Irish Aid consulted as part of the research for this thesis.
1986, 24). The 1987 annual report notes that the report was handed over to the Sudanese authorities, and no further mention is made of further work in this area (DFA, 1987, 13).
As with the Gezeira scheme itself, these programmes clearly focussed on livestock and dairying, areas of benefit to wealthier farmers.
Other first generation projects In addition to the initial technical assistance and consultancy projects noted above, a programme of assistance to the Khartoum Polytechnic library also commenced in 1982. This project was designed to assist the Polytechnic to develop its library by strengthening its existing facilities through the provision of some basic technical texts and assistance in establishing suitable cataloguing and retrieval systems, with an Irish librarian attached to the project (DFA, 1982, 18). It was administered by HEDCO (DFA, 1983, 51). This assistance was extended in 1985 by the assignment, on a temporary basis, of a second Irish library expert (DFA, 1985, 24). The project was completed in 1987, with the library under Sudanese management after the withdrawal of the two librarians, cataloguing and internal improvements having been completed (DFA, 1986, 25). Again, this project corresponds to the first generation template – an emphasis on Irish technical assistance, in the form of Irish personnel and no poverty alleviation focus. This project was even more elite focussed, given that Sudanese colleges and universities are a luxury for a small minority. Indeed, one could question the urgency of organising and categorising books in a country that in the period 1984/85 had suffered severe famine in its Western provinces. The allocation of two expatriates for such a task over a five year period would also seem excessive.
Growth in diplomatic relations The period 1985/86 saw growing diplomatic and aid relationships between Ireland and Sudan. The signing of a technical co-operation agreement in 1985 was followed by formal diplomatic accreditation in 1986, with the Irish Ambassador based in Cairo presenting his credentials in Khartoum in February of that year. This was followed by the opening of the DCO in October 1986 clearly signalling a commitment to the expansion of the Sudan programme.
Sudan was the last of the now four priority countries (priority status for India having been terminated) to set up a DCO. Other DCOs were opened as follows: Lesotho, 1978; Tanzania, 1979; Zambia, 1980 (O’Brien, 1980, 36). The opening of DCOs in the latter countries was described by Michael O’Kennedy (who was Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time) as a ‘new form of overseas representation for Ireland’. DCOs were set up in priority countries in order to respond to the demands of fast developing programmes and to the need for a close and effective dialogue at all stages of the programme with the host government (DFA, 1979, 5). DCOs represent more than a development office, however. With the closure of the embassy in Nairobi in 1988, the remaining DCOs in Lesotho, Tanzania and Zambia provided the only direct link which the DFA had with East and Southern Africa (ACDC, 1991, 63).
The opening of a DCO in Sudan was therefore significant as it was to provide a basis for increased programming, finally allowing the Irish/Sudan bilateral aid programme attain parity with the other three priority countries and represented a quasi-diplomatic presence in the country. In 1978 and the period 1980 to 1984 (no breakdown of expenditure is available for 1979), Sudan (with the exception of 1981, where unusually high once off expenditure was incurred in construction work on the Gezeira Cooperative Project), received the lowest allocation of bilateral assistance of the four priority countries. Not alone was it the lowest, but it failed to receive in excess of 10% of total bilateral assistance in any of those years (other than 1981). The increased diplomatic interest heralded an increase in bilateral assistance, with assistance to Sudan breaking the 10% barrier in 1985 and maintaining assistance above 10% through to 1988. Of note however, is that Sudan remained the smallest priority recipient of bilateral aid, as Tanzania, Zambia and Sudan benefited disproportionately from both a growing bilateral aid budget and a decline in assistance to Lesotho. The result was increasing expenditure in the former three countries, with Sudan remaining in fourth place.
The closure of the DCO in early 1988 due to budgetary cutbacks was followed by a devastating drop in funding to Sudan in 1989. In absolute terms, assistance declined from Ir£925,531 in 1988 to Ir£345,202 in 1989. This represented only 5% of total bilateral assistance to all countries in 1989. By contrast, other priority countries maintained (or in the case of Tanzania actually increased) their share of assistance in 1989 in absolute and relative terms. The conclusion that can be drawn is that the Sudan
programme took the brunt of enforced cutbacks to bilateral aid. It was unfortunate from Sudan’s perspective that the cutbacks coincided with their phase out of support for the Gezeira Co-operative, without any large scale projects in place to replace it. Of course, the very function of the DCO was to manage a growing aid relationship – in other words identify new projects. In the absence of the DCO from early 1988 Sudan was clearly the most vulnerable country when it came to enforced cutbacks.
Expenditure to Sudan began to recover somewhat from 1990 through to 1992, but subsequently flattened out from 1993 with the application of political conditionality on development assistance. From 1993 onwards, a cap was placed on Sudan programme expenditures because of governmental concerns with regard to the human rights situation in Sudan. This reflected the position of most EU governments at the time.
Second Generation Projects From tentative beginnings in 1984 in the field of health (see below), through the implementation of the water, health and forestry projects in 1985/86, the Irish Aid programme began to change the emphasis of its activities decisively away from modernisation led agriculture to a focus on basic needs. These projects reflected a change in emphasis towards poorer and more vulnerable sections of society within the Irish bilateral assistance programme.
Village Water Supply Project 1985 saw the initiation of a water supply project (DFA, 1985, 23). This project, while unevenly implemented over the next number of years, accounted for by far the largest line item expenditure (at 27.5%) over the period 1985-1994 (no detailed line item analysis of expenditure in Sudan is available for 1995 to 1998). The initial target for the water programme was the provision of 16 water yards (a simple water delivery system consisting of a diesel engine, pump, storage tank, water taps and troughs for animals) to selected villages in the central region. The programme of water yard construction was implemented by the Rural Water Administration, with Irish Aid assistance in the form of equipment, vehicles and a resident water engineer (DFA, 1985, 24). By 1988, the programme had completed 34 water yards, each water yard serving approximately 3,000 people. The programme was officially
‘completed’ in that year, with future support to be in the form of spare parts and equipment to ensure proper maintenance of the system (DFA, 1988, 15).
The use of the term ‘completed’ is somewhat misleading, however. The cumulative targeted number of water yards to be constructed as set out in annual reports over the period 1985 to 1988 amounted to 25. The actual number of water yards constructed over the same period was 34. This indicates a certain degree of flexibility in the number that could be constructed. Lack of further funding appears to have been the criteria for ‘completion’ rather than a planned wind down of the programme. Furthermore, despite this officially stated ‘completion’ in 1988, a further six water yards were actually constructed in 1989, this time in White Nile Province, rather than Central state, together with funding for spare parts (DFA, 1989, 12). The move away from the Gezeira scheme area is significant in this respect, as at least some assistance was now being given in slightly poorer (though admittedly not the absolute poorest) areas within Sudan.
Detailed information on the continuation of this project is not available from subsequent annual reports, though expenditure did continue to 1991 on a large scale (1989: IR£69,467, 1990:Ir£216,167, 1991: Ir£206,854), with reduced expenditure in 1992 (to Ir£96,781). No expenditure was incurred on water projects in 1993, indicating a halt in these activities for that year. Funding recommenced in 1994. The emphasis of the project changed from 1990 onwards from the construction of new water yards to the rehabilitation of existing water stations through the overhaul or replacement of engines, pumps and water storage tanks and the provision of spare parts and tools. The 1997 report notes that in total 47 previously defunct water stations were rehabilitated from 1990 (DFA, 1997, 25).
An internal DFID review of its NGO funded water projects in adjacent Kordofan state considered the question of sustainability for such projects in Sudan 4. A water yard project considered sustainable by the reviewer was designed so that the local community set up their own payment systems to fund the ongoing operation of the yard, while maintaining a commitment to the provision of water to those who could not pay. A less sustainable project reviewed did not have such a structure in place, with the government, rather than the local community, being involved in the collection of user fees. The result
Based on Dfid documentation in the possession of the author. This review was conducted in 1997.
was that these latter yards were perceived by the local community as government owned and hence the responsibility of the government to maintain and thus less sustainable given the Government's chronic funding difficulties.
Sustainability of such water projects thus revolves around community ownership of the project. The Irish Aid programme, while operated in conjunction with the Rural Water Authority, did take account of this need over time. Though comments in Irish Aid annual reports for the late 1980s emphasise the need for spare parts, ultimately moves by the Sudanese government itself towards decentralisation of responsibility for such projects led to increased community ownership of water yards. Local communities capacity to maintain such yards was further strengthened by the availability of spare parts in the local market from the mid 1990s. Previously all spare parts had to be imported, requiring scarce foreign currency5.
Community Forestry The Community Forestry project commenced in 1986 and comprised of three constituent activities planting in state forests, community forestry and stoves production. It was implemented in co-operation with the Sudanese Forestry Administration and was designed to help limit soil erosion and desertification while providing wood that could be used as fuel.
The forestry project was up and running by 1987, with the renovation of a nursery, the planting of 80,000 seedlings, a new seed store erected and the establishment of a number of village nurseries and shelter belts (DFA, 1987, 13). Forestry activities were maintained throughout the latter years of Irish Aid operations in Sudan until shut down in 1998, with expenditure on forestry accounting for 16% of total expenditure in Sudan over the period 1986 to 1994. The state planting programme accounted for the bulk of expenditure on this project, though it was relatively straightforward in implementation. Approximately 1/3 of the cost of planting was absorbed by the Sudanese state. Community access to state forests was governed by Forest Laws developed in the 1980s, allowing use of the available resources by the communities6. Approximately 10,000 acres were planted per annum (DFA, 1997,33).
Based on sources formerly with Irish Aid consulted as part of the research for this thesis. Based on sources formerly with Irish Aid consulted as part of the research for this thesis.
Community forestry, while significantly smaller in terms of scale (for example 314 acres were planted with community forests in 1997 (DFA, 1997, 33)), took considerably longer in terms of man-hours and effort. Under new Sudanese Forest laws, local communities were allowed to register ownership of local forests, with the assistance of the forestry department. The Irish Aid programme assisted communities through the provision of seedlings and advice, allowing community plots to be planted.
Finally, the stove programme involved Irish support for a producer of various types of fuel efficient stoves. 2,655 fuel efficient charcoal stoves were distributed by Irish Aid in 1996 (DFA, 1996, 25). The stoves proved so popular (due to high fuel savings resulting in a quick payback to the user) that the producer continued manufacturing the stoves to order commercially after Irish assistance ended. This aspect of the programme was described as the most sustainable of any Irish Aid activity in Sudan 7.
The forestry programme therefore maintained a community based orientation. State plantations could be accessed by local communities. Local plots could be registered as community owned and the stoves proved effective in reducing the cost of fuel for users and the drain on scarce timber resources. When the programme ceased with all other Irish Aid operations in Sudan at the end of 1998, it left a sustainable legacy – extensive community and state forests and a commercially viable producer of fuel efficient stoves.
Healthcare A pilot survey on the feasibility of an Irish project in the area of primary healthcare was also carried out in late 1985 and was expected to lead to a substantive project to be implemented in 1986 (DFA, 1985, 24). Ultimately, Irish Aid funded a UNICEF driven EPI programme in the Central Region in 1986/87. EPI aims to reduce high mortality rates among children by immunising them against common diseases. Irish Aid funded the purchase of equipment, drugs and vehicles, together with a full time Irish immunisation technician/logistics officer (DFA, 1986, 25). During this time, significant progress was achieved in child immunisation rates in Central state, with immunised children increased to 70-80% of the child population (DFA, 1990, 11).
Based on sources formerly with Irish Aid consulted as part of the research for this thesis.
Subsequently, Irish Aid funded a pilot health area management programme focused on the establishment of a decentralised healthcare system. Ultimately the system of management developed in the University of Gezeira in Wad Medani with Irish Aid funding was implemented nationwide 8.
Despite the termination of assistance in the healthcare area in 1994, the benefits of Irish Aid health interventions, such as the vaccination of children and assistance in the establishment of a decentralised healthcare management system outlived the period of Irish Aid assistance.
Village Infrastructure Project The village infrastructure project commenced in 1992, involving the giving of grants to village committees for the repair of schools, clinics and teachers' accommodation. Up to 1996, Irish Aid funded 618 such projects (DFA, 1996, 25), with an additional 212 classrooms, 77 school offices and 33 rooms at health clinics constructed in 1997 (DFA, 1997, 33). The programme was implemented on a cost sharing basis with the local communities providing 50% of the finance required. Communities, upon constructing classrooms, received funding from the government for a teacher 9. In many respects, this project was close in form to the third generation NGO co-financing scheme noted below, though with possibly closer management of project progress and completion by Irish Aid personnel.
Other comments Irish Aid second generation activities taken as a whole could be described as integrated rural development. Water, health, education and local environmental concerns were all addressed. Synergies occurred within the programme, as communities sought assistance in other sectors after the successful implementation of a first project. For example water yards were often followed by classrooms and community forestry10. Benefits from each activity accrued beyond the duration of Irish Aid involvement. The programmes were implemented at a community based level, to a large degree outside
Based on sources formerly with Irish Aid consulted as part of the research for this thesis. Based on sources formerly with Irish Aid consulted as part of the research for this thesis. Based on sources formerly with Irish Aid consulted as part of the research for this thesis.
the ambit of central government. The benefits of the programme certainly accrued to local communities.
Third Generation – Local NGO Co-financing While the DFA had funded an NGO Co-financing scheme from the earliest days of their development assistance programmes, the scheme was managed in Dublin and funding was available to Irish NGOs only. This Dublin based scheme provides co-financing up to a maximum of 75% of total project funds, with the matching 25% to be provided by the applicant NGO (DFA, 1990, 13). The upper limit for support for such projects was Ir£50,000 in 1993 (DFA, 1993, 28), but has since been increased to Ir£75,000 (DFA, 1994, 24). A block grant scheme was also introduced in 1994, making large fixed grants available to four Irish NGOs (Concern, Trocaire, GOAL and Christian Aid) to allow greater flexibility in their DFA funded operations (DFA, 1994, 24).
In 1993, financing for a locally managed NGO Co-financing scheme became available in Sudan. The local co-financing scheme also funded up to a maximum of 75% of project funds. Funding limits for the scheme were significantly lower than the Dublin managed programme. Maximum funding eventually reaching IR£20,000 per project in 1997. Official correspondence dated 1997 indicates that priority was to be given to applications for projects meeting basic needs in a number of sectors, including: water/sanitation, primary healthcare, rural development, urban community development and training. The scheme was designed for once off interventions in small scale projects or smaller components of larger projects. Priority was to be given to poverty alleviation, meeting basic needs, income generation and leadership training at the community level. While initially eligible expenditure was restricted to the purchase of equipment, materials and training, this was expanded in 1997 to include local staff costs and on-going running expenses. Ineligible expenditure included expatriate costs and international travel. The local funding arrangement was designed to allow support for indigenous NGOs, with agencies in receipt of Block grants from Irish Aid ineligible for funding. 11
While Irish Aid annual reports do not separately identify locally co-financed projects from those managed in Dublin, it is possible to separate them by virtue of the size of grants disbursed and the
partner agency to whom the grants are disbursed. An examination of this information in Irish Aid reports clearly shows a high level of variability in funding of co-financed projects in the period prior to the introduction of the locally managed scheme (i.e. up to 1992). Funding for projects in Sudan ranged from a high of Ir£213,641 in 1986 to nothing in 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1992. This reflects variability in total funds available for co-financing worldwide, which also showed considerable volatility over the period. It also reflects the structure of the Dublin managed NGO co-financing scheme, where project proposals from all countries are judged on their merits against each other and funded on that basis, without regard to the amount of funding allocated to a particular country in any given period 12.
The introduction of the locally managed co-financing scheme, while initially (for the period 19931995) on a relatively small scale, nonetheless increased the number of projects funded, and amounts of co-financing assistance allocated to Sudan. The period 1996/97 saw a substantial increase in locally cofinanced projects, with locally co-financed projects exceeding Dublin co-financed projects in absolute terms in 1997 and 1998. Individual locally financed projects were on average smaller than the Dublin managed scheme, reflecting the differing monetary limits for grants and the differing nature of the projects funded. Many locally co-financed projects were with village education or health committees, together with other projects in conjunction with missionary groups and even an Irish NGO (GOAL), working in partnership with local groups. The nature of projects undertaken included classroom and health centre construction and provision of equipment.
While there appears to have been some overlap in activities financed under the village infrastructure programme and the local managed NGO co-financing scheme, the latter is significant as it represented an important devolution of power to Sudan field operations. Discretion at field level applied in the selection of activities to be funded. Third generation projects also re-emphasised overall programme emphasis on basic needs and further developed local grassroots involvement in the initiation and implementation of projects.
Per review of internal correspondence dated Feb 1997 concerning the local co-financing scheme provided to the author by a DFA official. 12 Based on sources in the DFA consulted as part of the research for this thesis (Nov 1998).
Fellowship Scheme Finally, mention should be made of the fellowship scheme, which falls outside the scope of the categorisation above, and ran concurrent with all three generations of activities. The fellowship scheme provided funding for training and further studies in Ireland and where appropriate in developing countries. Funding was generally offered for long term Diploma and Degree courses at post-graduate level in Irish third level institutions. Students make a commitment that on completion of training they will return home to resume work and put their acquired skills into practice (DFA, 1997, 39). An analysis of fellowships granted in Sudan by subject area has shown firstly that, similar to the allocation of aid in general, the numbers of fellows from Sudan relative to total fellowships granted was relatively low, peaking at just over 10% in 1995. Interestingly, however, the fellowship programme reflects a stronger long term emphasis on the provision of training in areas of basic need - hydrology and rural development/development studies representing two of the largest areas of sponsorship. Hydrology in particular has occupied a consistently prominent position - hardly surprising in a country conspicuously short of water, but showing nonetheless, an early orientation on basic needs sectors.
Conclusions Irish assistance to Sudan developed from an initial emphasis on modernisation led development, which was to a large degree unsuccessful, to a basic needs approach in the mid 1980s. Lessons were learned with regard to sustainability and the Irish Aid programme in Sudan developed, despite funding restrictions due to budget cutbacks in 1989 and the application of political conditionality in 1993, into an integrated rural development programme.
The later years of the programme saw a further positive development – the initiation of a locally managed co-financing scheme, designed to assist local, community based development. Such a development was significant because it signified a move towards the capacitation of local communities to help themselves – significant discretion as to the type of activities funded resided with the field site and funding decisions were based on proposals received from community based groups and local NGOs. A more bottom up than top down approach to development on the part of Irish Aid.
To conclude, it would appear that the Irish Aid programme to Sudan evolved from an initially misguided modernisation led approach to development to one more focussed on the needs of the poorest. Moves towards the financing of local NGOs, while remaining on a relatively small scale, represented a positive effort at assisting local communities according to their priorities for development.
In December 1998 the programme was finally closed down, due to the Irisn Government’s continued dis-satisifaction with the human rights situation in Sudan. It can only be hoped that this decision will be reviewed at a future date if the human rights situation improves. Recent political changes in Sudan and the EU’s ongoing dialogue with the Sudanese government may be hopeful signs of an improving situation in this respect.
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