Project risk management in Uganda’s modernization of Agriculture

The Northern Uganda and West Nile regions have suffered from insurgency for the last 18years. This has lead to the emergency of internally displaced persons with heavy reliance on donor and government support. The growing over dependency and increasing poverty levels in this region has raised concern. This pilot project therefore seeks to improve household food security and incomes of internally displaced persons and demobilized communities.
The Project Objectives were identified in line with the Uganda Government’s plan for modernization of Agriculture [PMA] and the poverty eradication action plan with further aims of access to extend services to the rural smallholder farmers and improving their skills for sustainable management of natural and agricultural resources. Scope defines the range of activities that are necessary for the delivery of the defined products and services. In this project, there is a risk associated with the identification of a broad geographical area.
The project document states that their operations will stretch from West Nile through Lango and Acholi sub region. The districts included are Arua, Adjumani,Nebbi, Yumbe, Moyo, Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Apac and Lira. This area covers approximately 6. 5 million people. The project document also states that this is a pilot study, with a view of learning from the interventions and seeking opportunities to scale it to other areas. Considering the size of the geographical area, this is too broad an area to be used as a pilot.

As this project involves different areas that have varying levels of insecurity, the lessons learnt in one area cannot be easily extrapolated in another area. This calls for increased innovation among the implementing agencies. Another risk identified is that the project seeks to satisfy everybody, it tries to be everything to everyone. This is displayed in the project document, the various activities to be undertaken include: gender mainstreaming, income generating activities, environmental conservation initiatives and HIV related issues.
This broadens the range of activities to be undertaken, thus may result into failure to meet everyone’s expectations. Non-recognition of time and resources limitations is another risk area. Every project has a particular set of constraints usually centered on time and resource. This project has not recognized the resource constraints, considering that there is a broad geographical area, which holds about 35% of the country’s population, to be covered. The time constraint has also been ignored. Limitations and constraints of marketing
There are numerous activities which include, both project and pre-implementation activities, that are set to be carried out in two years. Also the set date, April 2004 for which the project was to start has already past, while it is still in the planning phase of the project lifecycle. The project promoters should reveal as much information as possible to the stakeholders so that they are aware about their constraints. This will enable the stakeholders to understand and appreciate these constraints thus they able to limit their expectations.
The project promoters should seek and gather information pertaining to similar projects /interventions being done in the same geographical area. This will improve their knowledge base of the various activities being undertaken by these other projects, thus are able to limit their activities. Also this information will avail learning tools and experiences of similar projects. The concept of this project is to improve lives of IDPs in camps and demobilized communities in Northern Uganda and equip them with skills that they can use after the camp life.
Risk involved is exclusion of key stakeholders in the selection of the concept. In this project, key stakeholders that have been excluded include, among others, the security organs. The security agencies are important, as the project location is one that has been over run with insecurity, thus security is paramount for the success of this project. For the IDPs to successfully be involved in agricultural and other income generating activities, there has to be adequate security. This project promotes the creation of groups of villagers and farmers so as to access services which include credit and extension among others.
However in times of intense insecurity, the various security organs prohibit any meeting that has at least four members. Opinion leaders and Religious leaders have been ignored in the concept selection. These are important in that the local people follow their guidance and listen to their opinions. For the success of this project, it is important that they are involved in the concept selection. Another risk that has not been recognized is that of inappropriate concept given the circumstances and constraints.
Particular activities of this project necessitate that the beneficiaries are in groups so as to access saving and credit services. It may be difficult for these IDPs to form and sustain these groups, as they are strangers to each other. Also during times of intense insecurity, the security organs prohibit meetings that have more than four members, because these times are random and unpredictable, this will hinder the success of the project. One of the ways the project intends to improve the household food security is to provide extension services to farmers.
The constraint here is that majority of the NGOs working in the IDP camps have a limited radius within which they can work, so as to ensure their own security. This limitation may greatly affect the success of the project, as a core objective may not be achieved. The activities that the IDPs are to do are labor intensive, in times of intense insecurity; such activities may be abandoned, thus bringing the project to a halt. For example, during the harvesting season, this activity may is halted by rebel activities.
Choice of a non-optimum concept given other options is another risk in the sub phase of concept selection. However this has been recognized in the definition of this project. Mitigates to risks in the concept definition sub-phase * Inclusion of key stakeholders to brainstorm on ideas. All the key stakeholders should be involved and encouraged to brainstorm on possible solutions to the problem, for example, the security organs may avail ideas on how the group activities can be held with minimum interference, while keeping the peace of the area.

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