02 / 1999
The English NGO Living Earth has been involved since 1989 in environmental education actions in Cameroon. The target group is mainly made up of teachers working with primary and secondary school pupils and traditional local authorities.
Since 1996, the project has benefited from the support of STABEX to extend its activities. Three provinces out of ten have been selected for the pilot phase. The signing of the protocol and the contract took place on 21st October, 1996. According to the contract provisions, this phase was supposed to be completed after eighteen months of activities.
In implementing the project, the operating schedule of activities underwent considerable changes. Indeed, unplanned halts in activities occurred as a result of the school calendar. Those in charge of implementing the project were faced with situations that no longer corresponded to the provisions of the contract. In order to cope with their contractual obligations, the project leaders could have evaded certain activities. Of course, this would have made them credible to the providers of funds who are anxious to see that contract provisions are complied with, but the credibility sought by the project executing agency would have been achieved at the expense of the essential point of the project: the interests of its beneficiaries. Fortunately, in this case, those in charge of carrying out the project did not give in to the temptation to compromise the interests of the beneficiaries..
They found an alternative in the form of obtaining exemptions on project completion deadlines. The planned project completion date was 15th May, 1998. Due to unforeseen delays, the pilot phase was not completed until 11th November, 1998.
Another aspect of the problem relating to time in these projects lies in the question of the post-project period. In the present case, a time limit for starting up the next phase and its extension was not defined. In addition, there are no guarantees as to the continuity of project activities. An assessment of the first phase was carried out and optimistic conclusions were drawn from it. The beneficiaries wanted to see the project be followed up and extended throughout the country, given its very positive impact during the pilot phase. But alas, there seems to be no sense of urgency on the side of the other financial partners. Meanwhile, the project activities have come to a halt in the field. Post-project follow-up was not defined in the contract provisions. The executing agency for the project is not officially responsible for it, but it must be acknowledged that this phase has the same paramount importance as the implementation of the activities.
Obviously, future scheduling of activities relating to a project must be done very strictly to allow evaluation and objective control of the project. However, a certain degree of flexibility should be introduced in the contract provisions with regard to complying with operating calendar commitments. It is dangerous to hold those carrying out the project to very strict compliance with a provisional calendar, since the concern for achieving an optimal result will give way to fear of losing credibility. Contract provisions must be sufficiently flexible to allow the project executing agency to work in an atmosphere of trust and serenity.
Theoretically, the task of post-project management is left far more to the beneficiaries who must make the project their own. The observation that is generally made in all education projects is that the project intervenes in a specific way, producing only sporadic effects that are not followed up. It is therefore important to provide for post-project follow-up in the contract for a reasonable period of time so that the endogenous movement may truly appropriate the project by becoming an emanating point from which project results are propagated. A sudden end without any follow-up or consulting assistance compromises the lasting character of the results already obtained in the case of education projects in the field of social and economic development of a community. So, has any system been set up to enable co-operation project results to be appropriated and replicated?
Translated from French (see corresponding title).
Interview with a project head
[Written for the public debate "Actors and processes of the cooperation", which could feed the next Lome Convention (European Union/ACP countries relations). This debate, animated by the FPH, has been started by the Cooperation and Development Commission of the European Parliament and is supported by the European Commission.]