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The purpose of this report is to summarize the findings of an evaluation of the Community-Based Integrated Rural Development/Nang Rong - Phase II project (CBIRD-II) in Thailand. The evaluation assesses the results and key success factors of the project in terms of its impact on the basic human needs (BHN) in the project area. Fieldwork for this evaluation was carried out in late June and July 1997; data for the evaluation were collected through document review, key-person interviews, focus group meetings and field-site visits. Overall, nine key persons in Canada and 135 key persons in Thailand were contacted for the study.
CBIRD-II was operated under an agreement between CIDA and the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) from April 1990 to March 1997 in Nang Rong District, Buriram Province, Northeast Thailand. Phase I of the CBIRD Nang Rong project (1984-1990) focused on supporting village- level activities and establishing and strengthening community-based groups and networks in 48 villages in the district. Phase I also involved the construction of the Nang Rong Centre. An end-of-project evaluation conducted in 1992 was very positive about the achievements of the project.
CBIRD-II proposed to build on these achievements and expand project coverage to a further 40 villages. A significant difference in Phase II was a shift in primary focus toward the introduction and development of rural industries and enterprises, and the strengthening of 13 local cooperatives that had been established at the sub-district level in the last year of Phase I. This work was to be supported by additional staff and a credit facility, the Rural Industries Development Fund (RIDF). Phase II started in April 1990, with approximately $4.5 million in financial support from CIDA, of which $1.9 million was to capitalize the credit facility. The project consisted of four components: cooperative development, rural industries development, the RIDF and community development.
The primary purpose of Phase II was to strengthen cooperatives and promote rural enterprises, and, as such, is more accurately classified, according to CIDA's definitions, as a Private Sector Development (Local Enterprises) project rather than a Basic Human Needs (BHN) project.
Thailand ranks 52nd on the Human Development Index among all countries in the world. Key indicators in the basic human needs area include the following: 91.4% adult literacy rate for women vs. 95.9% for men; an under 5 mortality rate of 32 per 1000 births; and an 89% rate for access to safe water.
The Thai economy experienced double digit growth during the late 1980s, and continued to expand at around 8% until 1995. This economic growth resulted in rapid average income growth and lifted many people out of poverty. National poverty incidence figures show a decrease from 30% in 1975/76 to 13.1% in 1992. However, this national average hides considerable regional disparities.
In 1992, the poverty incidence in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region stood at 1%, while the Northeast, the poorest region of the country, stood at 22%. The gap between the two regions, expressed as the ratio of average incomes, grew from 2.4 to 4.4 during the same period. World Bank data give Thailand a Gini coefficient of economic inequality of 51.1, the worst figure among Asian countries. High economic growth rates have also resulted in environmental degradation, and the rural population, whose principal livelihood relies on natural resources, has been negatively affected.
Since the early 1960s, the Thai government has formulated five-year plans as the frameworks for national development. In practice, these plans are little more than broad guidelines, and, in certain areas, such as income distribution, results have been disappointing.
Recently, the Thai government has encouraged private-sector investment in rural industrialization as one way of reducing income disparities. However, the role of the private sector in the more remote areas of the country has been limited, focusing on the tourist industry and agri-business, with little investment in manufacturing. During the 1970s and 1980s, the role of the Thai NGO community was significant in grassroots community work and in addressing various social issues. The 1990s have seen NGOs shift to supporting people's organizations in policy advocacy and building broad-based alliances and networks to advocate sustainable development alternatives. Because the NGO community has been highly dependent on foreign funds, it faces a difficult period, as it turns to greater reliance on Thai government funds together with local fund-raising and income-generating activities. PDA is the largest NGO in Thailand, and in the 1990s actively promoted cooperation with the private sector in addressing Thailand's rural development challenges.
CIDA's programming framework in Thailand emphasized rural and community development in the 1980s, but shifted to support of private sector development, natural resources development and human resource development in the 1990s. This shift took place at the same time as CIDA was projecting a steady reduction in disbursements from $26.6 million in 1992/93 to $3.2 million in 1997/98. Thailand's largest donors, such as Japan, the Asia Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank, have also shifted their support to Thailand in the 1990s by moving away from infrastructure and towards a focus on technical assistance and policy advice. Of the three, however, only the ADB has projected a reduction of its support in the 1990s.
The project achieved significant results between 1991 and 1996. Among these are:
This project produced results that were most prominent at the meso, or institutional, level. Rural industries were introduced into an area where no such industries had existed, providing a year-round occupation and income to over 600 villagers. These industries are now thriving. The corporate sector and the government are looking to expand the number of such plants in the area, using the model that has been piloted by the project. The rural industries are being managed by tambon (administrative sub-unit of a district) cooperatives which were prepared for the task by the project. The management of these industries by local cooperatives has meant that the primary beneficiaries are the local communities. Villagers, rather than town people, have secured employment. Increased economic wealth is accruing to the cooperatives and their members. The increased capital and management skills of cooperatives that are managing industries has made them more effective in the delivery of the more traditional services, such as credit, fertilizer procurement and the marketing of farm produce. The increased availability of cash in the area has resulted in improved agricultural activity and a lowering of the local informal credit rate.
The Community Development component was less impressive: project outcomes and impacts were more limited, and the activities that were supported had limited impact in terms of broadening the base of the cooperatives.
An analysis of the Thai government's Basic Minimum Needs (BMN) data for the villages in the project area show significant improvements between 1992 and 1996 with regard to weight of newborns, incidence of malnutrition, usage of family planning services, sanitation, access to drinking water, and enrollment and completion rates of primary education, to name but a few. The composite village development index based on 37 BMN indicators shows that of the 42 villages in the project area, 33 villages met or exceeded the basic standard in 1996 (up from 13, in 1992). Since a number of other government agencies were active in the project area, not all of the improvement can be attributed to the project, though it is clear from this evaluation that the project contribution was significant.
Among the key development success factors facilitating the project's achievements, the most notable are the project's relevance, appropriateness and cost effectiveness. Sustainability was also a significant factor but somewhat less significant than the other three.
CBIRD-II was the second phase of an earlier intervention and built on PDA's in-depth understanding of the project area and established relationships with the local communities. The project was responding to a strongly expressed need for year-round income by the local population which had led to increasing seasonal migration. The shift of emphasis from community development work to the strengthening of cooperatives and the introduction of rural industries was both timely and consistent with CIDA's reassessment of its programme strategy for Thailand.
All stakeholders noted a high degree of satisfaction with the approach adopted and the results achieved by the project, especially with regard to the cooperative development and the rural industries development components of the project. The labour-intensive, low-skilled rural industries and enterprises that were introduced were appropriate to local conditions, and they succeeded in demonstrating to national corporations that relocation to rural areas can provide significant gains in productivity. Furthermore, involving the tambon cooperatives as key stakeholders in the introduction of rural industries was a novel way of giving the local population ownership and control over these new initiatives. At the outset, project personnel recognized they were venturing into uncharted territory. They maintained an open attitude and reflected regularly on the progress or failures of activities and adjusted their approach accordingly. CIDA, in its relationship with PDA, demonstrated the same approach of openness and partners-in-learning.
CBIRD's approach to the introduction of rural industries and enterprises into the project area is considered by many stakeholders to have been more cost-effective than had it been attempted directly by government or the private sector. The key to PDA's approach was its privileged relationship with the local communities, which allowed it to act as a broker between the private sector, government agencies and tambon cooperatives.
Among the key management success factors facilitating the project's achievements, the project is most noteworthy for its innovation and creativity, and its informed and timely action. Its work in partnership with multiple stakeholders was also very significant with regard to the cooperative- development and rural-industries components. Partnership and meaningful participation were less evident with regard to the community-development component. Prudence and probity, and appropriate human resource utilization, were also significant factors but less so than the first two factors noted above.
The capacity of PDA and its project staff for innovation and creative responses to the challenges they faced is undoubtedly one the most significant factors in the success of the CBIRD-II project. The project was particularly innovative in the new models and approaches it successfully introduced and demonstrated. These include: the establishment of tambon-level cooperatives as community-based economic organizations; the introduction of rural industries into an area where no such industries had existed, through the involvement of the private sector in concert with NGOs and community-based organizations; the involvement of cooperatives in the management of these rural industries; and the demonstration of the critical role of a local NGO as an enabler and facilitator between community groups, the private sector and government, in brokering new ventures in rural areas.
Throughout the project, PDA and project staff demonstrated their ability to monitor and assess project status and take remedial action that was consistent with the project goal and objectives. The decision to modify the Rural Industries Development Fund (RIDF) portfolio to allow for fewer larger loans to the cooperatives was typical: the findings in the evaluation confirmed that such loans yielded greater results in term of numbers of jobs created and economic impact on the communities than a number of smaller loans to small entrepreneurs and family businesses.
The CBIRD-II project involved many stakeholders working at many different levels: local communities and tambon cooperatives, local government officials, national government bodies dealing with policy issues, and private-sector corporations. The project was very successful in facilitating cooperation among these various parties. This was critical to the successful introduction of rural industries both using an approach, and in an area where, it had never been attempted. Partnership and meaningful participation were less evident in community-development activities. Here, villager participation was essentially reactive.
CBIRD-II demonstrates the importance of revenue-generating and alternative-income activities to ensure that poverty issues are being addressed in a sustained fashion and that improvements in the BHN area are being maintained. The experience of the project underlines the need to think in terms of a two-pronged approach to poverty-alleviation strategies: one that addresses BHN concerns directly; and a complementary endeavour to help create, within poorer communities, the economic conditions that will allow gains made in the BHN area to be sustained. The project has also contributed significantly to local capacity-building and the strengthening of groups in need in a way that is contributing to appropriate good-governance and democratic-development practices at the local level. Finally, the project has contributed significantly to the achievement of international BHN targets in the Nang Rong area of Buriram province.
1. The CBIRD-II project has been classified as a BHN project when, according to CIDA's own definitions of programming categories, it clearly corresponds to the Cooperative Development, Micro-Credit, and Rural Industries sub-category of the Private Sector Development category. This illustrates the need for clarity and precision in project classification and coding.
2. The CBIRD-II project represented a crucial investment on the productive side. The project demonstrates that programs that stimulate the generation of local income and the strengthening of local economic activity, through capacity-building of community-based economic organizations can contribute significantly to poverty reduction and impact positively on BHN conditions. Furthermore, this contribution could prove essential in ensuring that such gains are sustained in the longer term.
3. An important factor in CBIRD-II's success is the fact that it was building on the base of the work, and the relationships of trust, established during CBIRD-I, both with local communities and with CIDA. This base was even more critical to the project's success, given that it was venturing into uncharted programming territory. It is considered by some CIDA officials and consultants as the most successful Private-Sector Development project undertaken by CIDA, in Thailand, in the 1990s. CBIRD-II also re-affirms a conclusion of many development practitioners: that sustainable rural and community development requires a long-term commitment of 15 years or more.
4. The Thai village-level Basic Minimum Needs data provided a critical source of information to assess how conditions have changed in the project area. These data also served as key reference points or benchmarks in the planning of the Thai government ministries involved in rural development.
5. Although the focus of CBIRD-II was not 'good governance and democratic development', the project's work with the tambon cooperatives is establishing important practices and standards with respect to leadership, decision-making, transparency and results at the local level. This will undoubtedly impact on other institutional practices in the project area and contribute significantly to the strengthening of local civil society.
6. The old adage that "it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease" (i.e. management by exception) was clearly at work with the CBIRD-II project. The project was perceived by CIDA personnel to be on track. The project even became somewhat of a showcase, receiving many visits from senior Canadian officials. However, during its lifetime, the project did not receive much in-depth attention in terms of what the Agency could learn from the experience. The current BHN evaluation is the first time the project has been examined in terms of the factors that contributed to its success.