VIETNAM - Successful participatory planning and implementation of small-scale infrastructure in Cao Bang
The project VIE/036 Wise Use of Water and Agriculture is working in Cao Bang province, situated in the North of Vietnam bordered with China. Cao Bang, has a population of around 500 000 people and about 85% of them live in the rural areas making a living through agricultural production. Although the province is one of the poorest in Vietnam it has a huge potential for agricultural development.
One of the challenges for farmers in Cao Bang is accessibility to production areas/markets and dilapidated irrigation systems. Many inter-village connections are still only mud tracks making it difficult to transport products and goods to and from farms while many irrigation schemes were constructed many years ago.
In mid-2016, the project VIE/036 started to work in four communes with the Commune Peoples Committee (CPCs) applying a Community Development Fund (CDF) approach. One of the key strengths in the work done by the local authorities is the participatory approach in identifying and prioritising the small-scale roads and irrigation systems that require improvements, responding to actual peoples’ needs.
An equally high level of transparency is reached in survey, design, making “Bill of Quantities” and procurement of materials for road construction. The approach has led to a very high level of community participation in the construction of the roads, making this way of implementation is the most cost-effective manner as compared to government invested roads.
Based on the success of the CDF, the four CPCs started early 2017 to improve irrigation schemes (mainly canals) as well. Similarly a participatory prioritisation method was applied as to compare irrigation schemes and using economic indicators or cost-benefit analysis as to visualise where best to invest. The subsequent steps for developing designs, procurement of materials etc. are similar to the CDF component.
The Mid-term review, held in early 2018, confirmed the efficiency and effectiveness of the CPCs lead activities for small-scale infrastructure and recommended an increase in the number of communes. The direct responding to peoples need and short decision making processes are in contrast to the provincial level lead irrigation works. Delays in the decision making and procurement processes at provincial level facilitated the availability of extra funds for the CPCs for small-scale infrastructure. Hence, the project is able to provide 18 communes in Cao Bang funds for 2019 for both small-scale roads and irrigation development. This is providing a challenge for the District Offices who are to support the new communes in all the steps from prioritisation to implementation.
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