It is weak management that hampers agricultural development
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Setsoafia, Mawuega. 1997. It is weak management that hampers agricultural development. Spore 69. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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When agricultural projects fail to achieve desired results in sub-Saharan Africa, managerial deficiencies are hardly ever mentioned as one of the major causes of failure. Instead, the cause is often traced to inappropriate technologies. But...
When agricultural projects fail to achieve desired results in sub-Saharan Africa, managerial deficiencies are hardly ever mentioned as one of the major causes of failure. Instead, the cause is often traced to inappropriate technologies. But technologies only make production and productivity 'possible'; it is people who actually achieve production and productivity. The effective and efficient management of people is, therefore, the key to success in agricultural development. Like any other activity, agricultural development everywhere has to be managed effectively and efficiently if its objectives are to be achieved. However, agricultural development in sub-Saharan African countries is a relatively recent enterprise and is yet to be fully understood. This poses serious constraints to the effective and efficient management of agricultural development because, if we do not have a good idea of what we are supposed to be managing, how can we decide in what way to do it better? The removal of these managerial constraints to successful development has sometimes been made difficult through the appointment of specialists or technologists, who all too often lacked adequate training in management, to lead institutions involved in agricultural development. This has often resulted in the development of technological interventions at the expense of managerial interventions. Yet, twenty years ago, it was made clear that 'The problem of increased food production is no longer primarily technological, but shows a pervasive managerial deficiency at all levels in assuring the delivery of services to the small farmer, who must make the critical decisions required to increase productivity,' (International Programme for Agricultural Knowledge Systems). However, little heed appears to have been paid to this observation. For example, only one out of a network of eighteen International Agricultural Research Centres specializes in research on how to improve policy and management for agricultural research in developing countries; and many workshops, seminars and symposia aimed at disseminating information to increase agricultural productivity continue to be dominated by technological interventions. This writer is also aware that there are only two institutes in sub-Saharan Africa the Mananga Management Centre (formerly the Mananga Agricultural Management Centre) in Swaziland and the Agricultural and Rural Training Institute in Illorin, Nigeria - whose training programmes are dominated by courses aimed at improving agricultural management. But it is people, not technological interventions, that make production and productivity actually happen. These people have to be managed effectively and efficiently. According to Professor R W Revans, formerly of Manchester University, '....the manager comes first and the technologist afterwards; the manager decides what to do and the technologist provides the materials and the tools to do it; the manager poses the questions and the technologist answers them. It is said that it is easier to answer questions than to ask them; and it is necessary to ask not just any questions, but the right ones. This makes management more difficult than developing technologies and calls for the appointment of specialists to positions of management only after they have acquired and shown the necessary managerial competence. Only then will the right questions be asked and the right decisions be taken. This is crucial in sub-Saharan Africa where success continues to elude agricultural development and where appointments or promotions to managerial positions continue to be based on past performance, long service and sometimes political inclinations. This has often resulted in manifestations of Dr Peter's principle whereby 'people get promoted to their level of incompetence since they are promoted on the basis of performance in the job below, rather than on the basis of their potential for the job above.' Thus, someone who has been around longest or performs most creditably in his specialized field is not necessarily the one who must be promoted to become the manager of an agricultural establishment. Seniority and research accomplishment are rarely the sole attributes of a successful research manager, especially if the person lacks the experience and training in research management, as is noted by Mr Amir Muhammed, Chairman, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council in his foreword to the book Research management for development by Dr John Nickel, former Director General of the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT). In summary, we can say that training and systematic preparation in management are essential for all those who are to manage agricultural development. There is wide recognition that the major cause of business failure is incompetent management and it must be accepted that this applies equally to failure of rural development projects. For agricultural development to proceed satisfactorily in Africa, and perhaps in other ACE countries, changes in perception followed by changes in selection and training of managers must be pre-requisites. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CTA
- CTA Spore (English)