PIN helps Zambia’s civil society engage with large government projects

PIN helps Zambia’s civil society engage with large government projects

Apr 26, 2021

Since 2019, People in Need (PIN) has been implementing the “Strengthening citizen action to improve democratic governance in Luapula and Western Provinces” project, a European Union and Czech Development agency funded initiative aimed at strengthening civil society in Zambia’s Western Province. In the course of this work, the on-going, 55.5 million USD Cashew Infrastructure Development Project (CIDP) funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and implemented by Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture came to PIN’s attention. Multi-million-dollar projects aimed at poverty reduction often come with high expectations from all of the stakeholders – funders, implementers, civil society, and the public – which can lead to disappointment and miscommunication.

As part of the PIN project, our team sought to engage with local civil society organisations (CSOs) from the Western Province to help improve the delivery of CIDP. To answer questions about the challenges of the programme and how PIN’s engagement, together with local CSOs, helped get things back on track, we talked to three of the key stakeholders: Mrs. Ngula Ikafa Mubonda from CIDP, Mr. Mubyana Kakenenwa from Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR), a local poverty reduction advocacy NGO, and Mrs. Brenda Mwanamwalye Kashumba, a project beneficiary from the Cashew Growers Association of Zambia (CGAZ) and proprietor of Tiisezo Enterprises, a cashew processor.

Challenging beginnings

Mrs. Mubonda (CIDP): “CIDP aims to revive the government programme focusing on cashew production, which began in Zambia in the 1980s. Its focus is on recuperating or creating new infrastructure within the cashew value chain. The project, which began in 2017, is scheduled to last five years and aims to support up to 60,000 farmers and entrepreneurs, and plant approximately 5.5 million cashew trees. It includes activities such as the rehabilitation of agriculture training centres, feeder roads, the establishment of cashew tree nurseries and plantations, and the creation of processing centres.”

Mr. Kakenenwa (CSPR): “When the project started, there was a lot of talk about how it was going to reduce poverty and create employment for women and youth in the Western Province. Our organisation´s mandate is to engage stakeholders running huge projects aimed at reducing poverty, which is why we became interested in CIDP. However, in 2019, three years after the project inception, we were not seeing decreases in poverty levels. We started to ask what the problem was, as we felt that some results should have been visible by 2019.”

Mrs. Kashumba (beneficiary): “I applied to the project in 2018, when they started advertising support for cashew farmers and processors. The project was offering matching grants and after my own contribution, I received funds to build a processing factory. I am a cashew processor and thanks to the grant, I am in the process of upgrading my enterprise and building a modern cashew processing factory.”

Initial miscommunications and delays

Mrs. Kashumba (beneficiary): “In the beginning, we were told to make cashew nurseries, which would produce cashew seedlings. These would then be purchased by CIDP. I made significant investments, along with many other farmers, but much of the investments were lost, as the variety of the seedlings was not sufficient and CIDP did not buy them from us.”

Mrs. Mubonda (CIDP): “The project start was delayed and some things didn’t go well, especially the sensitisation and mobilisation of the communities on the ground. We had challenges in reaching the farmers due to the remoteness of the area, as well as a shortage of communication agents, who were from the Ministry of Agriculture. That is why we ended up bringing on the Export Trading Group (ETG) as a partner to engage communities. The initial sensitisation done over the radio didn’t reach many people, resulting in another misunderstanding. The farmers understood that CIDP would be about raising and selling cashew seedlings. They promptly started multiplication sites, but over one third of the seedlings were not suitable for high quality propagation. Therefore, we had to purchase seedlings from Tanzania, prompting an outcry from our farmers in the Western Province. This was a very big communication issue.”

Mr. Kakenenwa (CSPR): “The matching grant component of CIDP is run by the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC). Unfortunately, this granting facility was not very friendly, especially to female farmers living in rural areas. This was an issue, especially since the project aims to have females comprise at least 50 percent of the beneficiaries. We also heard from prospective beneficiaries that the application procedure was too complicated and they were struggling to raise their own funds to match the grant.”

The first steps towards improvements in project delivery

Mr. Kakenenwa (CSPR): “CSPR and other local CSOs thought it was important to engage CIDP and the Ministry of Agriculture, and PIN offered to support the engagement. Based on feedback from civil society, CIDP asked the AfDB to change the grant matching strategy. Now, any asset such as land or cattle can be used as a matching fund, as opposed to only cash. This is a step in the right direction.”

Mrs. Mubonda (CIDP): “Our interaction with PIN showed us that there were gaps in our outreach services, with many people misunderstanding the project purpose. PIN and other CSOs called for the first stakeholder meeting in 2019, which brought together CIDP, CSOs, extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture, representatives of the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) - the traditional leadership of Western Province, and farmers, and was aired live on the radio. Many representatives from the CSOs were angry during this meeting.

It was a tricky situation, but it was very productive. People were concerned that the large amounts of money going towards the project were not having an impact in their communities. During the meeting, people were informed that CIDP is an infrastructure project, with most of the funding dedicated to improving roads, buildings, and equipment, and that CIDP has many partners who are implementing different aspects of the project. Each stakeholder explained how they are using the project funds, and the CSOs were able to ask questions. As a result of the discussion, CIDP learned where we need to improve our communication with the public.”

Mrs. Kashumba (beneficiary): “I attended the meeting and it was very useful. It showed us how the different stakeholders should work together. As a member of CGAZ, I can see many positive changes on the ground. CSOs are now working hand in hand with CIDP and farmers, communicating much more information than before. It has really made a big difference.”

Positive changes and the way forward

Mr. Kakenenwa (CSPR): “The newfound cooperation among the stakeholders started to improve the situation on the ground. One of the results from the first meeting was the impetus to start working together, especially on the sensitisation of farmers and local entrepreneurs who would like to venture into business. They have been sensitised on how they can access CIDP grants and which cashew seedlings are recommended, and we have even aired joint radio programmes. The second meeting, jointly sponsored by PIN and CIDP, lasted two days. The first day was dedicated to the project and its progress. The second day was about discussing the challenges and finding solutions.”

Mrs. Mubonda (CIDP): “The communication improved considerably and the sensitisation is now much better. We are airing radio programmes in all 10 districts where CIDP operates, and BRE is on the ground supporting the project, helping women access land so they can receive support in the form of cashew seedlings and trainings. The score card programme, a tool used by PIN and its partners to collect information and feedback from the communities, is a good feedback tool in development.”

Mr. Kakenenwa (CSPR): “To assess the overall success of our engagement and the impact of the meetings will take time, as some CIDP beneficiaries are still in the process of receiving the seedlings. Others have crops in the infancy stage, and they have yet to start bearing nuts. However, I can say that we have really seen improved collaboration between CIDP, the government, and CSOs. We (CSOs) are no longer seen as ‘talkative fault finders’, but rather as partners who want to work together towards a common goal.

At CSPR, we are currently developing a new strategic plan and we are also key stakeholders in the formulation of the country’s Eighth National Development Plan. Our aim is to provide a platform for CSOs to monitor national development programmes such as CIDP. We will continue to keep an eye on the implementation of these programmes; some of them are financed through loans that our children will be repaying. Therefore, it is our duty to see to it that these programmes bring real benefits.”

Mrs. Kashumba (beneficiary): “CIDP should not end this year as scheduled, because of the initial delays. And PIN should also remain engaged after its project ends this year."

Mrs. Mubonda (CIDP): “Yes, in fact, we are now in discussions about extending the project by one year to 2022; we hope the extension will be granted.”

Mr. Kakenenwa (CSPR): “We as CSOs (including PIN) need to continue our engagement with CIDP and future cashew projects, in order to leverage and sustain the gains we have achieved to date. I hope we can organise another stakeholder meeting this year.”

Thank you very much for the interview!

PIN Zambia continues to be engaged with CIDP and its partner CSOs. Plans for further activities after the project’s conclusion will be discussed with stakeholders during the formulation of the project exit plan.

The activities supported by PIN Zambia and referred to in this interview were part of the “Strengthening citizen action to improve democratic governance in Luapula and Western Provinces” project, funded by the European Union and Czech Development Agency.

Author: Zuzana Mukumayi Filipová, PIN Zambia Communication Officer