Friday, July 30, 2010

Successes: Ghana's Community-Based Rural Development Project

Ghana's Community-Based Rural Development Project has been in place for six years now with a specific mandate to work on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It was set up as part of Ghana's Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP). What has it done?
  • Build infrastructure: "With the construction of five dams, one dugout, 188 feeder roads [1125 km], 20 market structures and 12 slaughterhouses in rural communities across the country, many otherwise disillusioned rural folk can now make something meaningful out of life. ... on-going projects on two wind pumps, eight dams, two dugouts, irrigation facilities, 214 feeder roads, 45 market structures and 15 slaughterhouses, which are expected to bridge the urban-rural development gap." "Most of these are now about 70 percent complete" with another 100km of roads being procured. "Roads that used to be impassable for an average of 173 days now have the duration reduced to 14 days. Communities that had access to only three vehicles on market days now see up to ten vehicles after the roads were improved." "The Construction of slaughterhouses has also provided hygienic and sanitary environment for handling and storage of meat, thus promoting good healthy conditions for the people."
  • Capacity building in local government: "provided training for all 138 district assemblies and 454 selected district councils in decentralisation policy and regulations, procurement, financial management, planning, and monitoring and evaluation. ... Also, the entire accounting system for the district assemblies has been reformed"
  • Capacity building in private sector: "1,606 trainees have acquired various valuable vocational skills from the Learning Centres found in various parts of the country. Out of these, 1,209 beneficiaries have been given funds to start their own businesses. Nine hundred and fifty-seven (950) of them have actually set up and are doing very well. ... This has resulted in increased employment opportunities with increased income levels and rural livelihood as a whole."
More info here and here. So how are we measuring success?

1 - Not by inputs. Wonderful. Huzzah.
2 - Not by economic growth, poverty reduction, employment, or any of the MDG yardsticks, though there is some attention to increased incomes as a result.
3 - Output of "intermediary" inputs to development.
4 - Not by efficiency of the production of "intermediary" inputs.

The good thing about this is that they are measuring the direct outputs which are readily measurable and accountable. We built these countable roads; we trained these countable people; we gave finance to these countable businesses. It's clear. It's transparent. It's readily measurable and people can verify it.

If the only thing we care about is rural economic growth, this is a problem. It may be reasonably supposed that these inputs produce economic growth, but it's not assured. Given that improved training of government workers only affects growth through improved governance and the governance-growth link is not the most robust empirical finding in the literature, proving that CBRDP has produced growth  to the satisfaction of a reasonably critical audience would be fairly difficult.

But we may care about these inputs in and of themselves. More roads may make life easier and happier even if we can't statistically provide that it produces income. Training government and business leaders can have positive impacts for years down the road. What do we mean by development?

The other issue this doesn't address is if it might have been possible to accomplish the same goals using fewer resources. Is there a private sector or non-profit organization that could have accomplished more, faster, or cheaper? That's another important question, but it shouldn't overshadow the progress that has been made.

Meanwhile, Easterly concludes that Ghana's tourist areas are well set up for the hardier traveling stock, but they probably shouldn't aim for creating another Cancun.

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