Water and Onions in Ekumdipe: A Field-Based Case Study of agricultural innovation in a poor African community1 Adam Kwajo Demuyakor
A thesis submitted to the Sociology Department in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honors
Harvard College Cambridge, Massachusetts March 10, 2011 1
Picture on Title Page is of a dry season onion farm in Ekumdipe, Ghana on 1/26/2011
Table of Contents Chapter 1:Introduction........................................................................................................3
Chapter 2:From Pumps and Pipes to Water and Onions …...............................................8
Chapter 3: Results……………………………………………………………………….39
Chapter 4: Analysis……………………………………………………………………...48
Chapter 5: Discussion and Literature Review…………………………………………..72
Chapter 6: Conclusion…………………………………………………………………..85
Chapter 1: Introduction Poverty remains a lasting global phenomenon today. Despite the increased attention being paid to poverty alleviation by organizations such as the World Bank and Oxfam International, a significant portion of the world’s population still remains impoverished. With a GDP of $58.228 trillion (as of 2009), the world is over 5 times richer than it was 30 years ago in 1980 ($10.964 trillion). However, there has only been a 27% reduction of poverty during approximately the same period (52% of the world’s population in 1981 to 25% in 2005). According to recent World Bank estimates, one in four people in the developing world are still poor by global standards (World Bank 2008). Therefore, it seems that income disparity continues to be a major issue despite the world’s accelerated accumulation of wealth. The issue of poverty, however, is more applicable to the continent of Africa than any other area of the world. Africa is the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped continent. Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly problematic. According to the World Bank (2008), approximately 80% of the Sub-Sarahan African population was living on less than $2.50 a day in 2005. At the same time, about half of the total Sub-Saharan African population lived below the poverty line of $1.25 as of 2005. What is particularly troubling about this issue is that external interventions against African poverty have been ineffective at times. Jeffrey Sachs (2005) is a prominent economist that has identified major reasons for why foreign aid has been unsuccessful against poverty, including neglect amongst sectors such as agriculture and the poor coordination of aid attempts. In addition, he has discussed the specific situation of African poverty:
The greatest need for more and better aid is in Africa. If the donors would help Africa to fight disease and to achieve a Green Revolution as occurred in Asia, we could get past these seemingly endless debates by enabling Africa finally to escape from the trap of extreme poverty. (Sachs 2005) Sub-Saharan Africa has a special significance to me since my nuclear family hails from the country of Ghana. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to try to possibly understand and begin to address the major issue of poverty in this region and how to combat it. Through my involvement with a Harvard student group called the African Development Initiative (ADI),2 I eventually got that chance. Project Rural Irrigation System for Ekumdipe, also known as Project RISE, is a two and a half year old endeavor that I created with the aim of forming a self-sustaining solution to combat poverty. Incorporating the simple concept of â€œhelping others help themselves,â€? I created an irrigation system that would help the poor people of Ekumdipe farm during the difficult dry-season. I reasoned that by doing so, these people would experience an increase in their annual incomes. However, the implementation of this project was much more difficult than I initially anticipated. And as a result, crop yields (the top measure of farm performance) did not improve significantly during the first dryseason when we introduced the new system. Nonetheless, I stuck with the initiative and sought out ways to turn it into a success. The process by which I did this permitted me to undertake an intensive field-based case study on innovation in development projects. After the initial launch of the project and in the face of extremely disappointing results, I evaluated the initial intervention and made adjustments to the program in an effort to improve the outcomes of the system. In order to do this, I had to increase my research for the project and even planned a return trip to Ekumdipe. During the trip, I 2
ADI is currently an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization
came up with definitive ways to change the system in the hopes of raising the crop yields during the next dry-season. By the time I left the village, I realized that I had inadvertently created an in vivo experiment by which to evaluate and compare two different approaches to technology diffusion. In this project, the various outcomes of the first attempt and my subsequent effort served as case studies that could be compared. Fortunately, using pre-determined metrics, I have been able to determine that the second iteration of Project RISE was more successful than the initial one. And in this process, I have identified three categories of adjustments that I believe were most relevant to the improvement of the project: the resources available to the farmers, knowledge the farmers had about dry season production, and the total implementation scheme of the project. I believe that my exploratory findings on these variables contribute to diffusion and development theory by combining two major concepts that have been commonly separated in existing literature: the nuances of agricultural innovation adoption and the specifics of innovation diffusion in the context of developing regions of third world nations. Project RISE has provided me with ample amounts of data for my research. Most research on projects such as mine are usually a priori in nature though, with extensive knowledge accumulation preceding real world application. However, my experiences have been different. Although I initially researched irrigation systems and how to utilize the physical components successfully, the majority of my research and literature review came after my two trips to Ghana (some after the first trip and even more so after the second attempt). That is why I have chosen to create a thesis structure that reflects my unique experience with Project RISE. I am fully aware that many sociological papers
have a literature review that precedes the methods and the analysis sections. However, I believe that it would be a bit misleading for me to illustrate my analyses and understanding of the relevant literature prior to explaining the steps I took from the inception of Project RISE up until now. In my involvement with the project I executed major steps prior to extensively researching relevant literature, so I undoubtedly learned along the way. Therefore, I believe it is most effective to organize a thesis in a manner that appropriately reflects that process. My thesis adopts a structure that aims to mirror the progress of Project RISE and my research related to it. First, in Chapter 2, I describe the inception of the intervention, the introduction of the technology to the farmers in Ekumdipe, and my subsequent experiences with the project. I explain how I selected the project and why I initially chose to structure the program in the way that I did. I then continue by elaborating on the shortcomings of my initial attempt (Phase 1) and the modifications I made prior to relaunching the program (Phase 2). In Chapter 3, the Results section, I demonstrate what I believe to have been the various results of the two attempts and why I currently believe Project RISE Phase 2 has been a legitimate success thus far, especially in comparison to Phase 1. In Chapter 4, Analysis, I explain what I believe are the major factors that have been responsible for this significant improvement and how I believe these variables can apply to other potential development projects elsewhere. Finally, in Chapter 5, Discussion and Literature Review, I provide a section in which I elaborate on existing innovation diffusion literature and on what I believe have been some of the most interesting and prominent potential findings from my research on the project.
Project RISE is a unique and somewhat isolated field-based case study. However, this is not an insurmountable limitation. I believe that the lessons learned from my experiences have the potential to be applicable to a wide range of future development projects besides irrigation systems in Ekumdipe. If this is the case, then the stakes are somewhat significant for my research. By effectively revealing the lessons I have learned in my two and a half year involvement with Project RISE, I intend to present hypotheses induced from the data in my field-based case that others can build upon in the realm of research on innovation and development projects. By revealing the lessons I learned from recognizing the underperformance of my first attempt and eventually turning Project RISE into a potentially successful innovation, this paper will create a precedent that at the very least will provide further context for those interested in pursuing additional research on third world development projects.
Chapter 2: From Pumps and Pipes to Water and Onions In the summer of 2008, I began exploring the particulars of creating an irrigation system in Ghana. I had been involved with a student group on campus called the African Development Initiative (ADI) and was interested in furthering my commitment. ADI was an organization focused on creating self-sustainable projects in Africa and other developing areas of the world. By the time I joined, the leaders of the organization had already created a clean water and sanitation project in Agyemanti, Ghana. I aided the project by helping to raise needed funds for the project. However, I was interested in starting a project of my own and was finally awarded the opportunity for my previous efforts. My Uncle, Bawa Demuyakor (from here on referred to as Professor Bawa to avoid confusion), was a professor at the University of Developmental Studies in Tamale, Ghana. I approached him before picking a course of action for my project, and he presented many potential projects for me to pursue, including a crop preservation system and a feeding program for babies deprived of proper nourishment, among others. However, one project idea stood out to me in particular. Because of the climate conditions and the proximity to large water sources, many areas in northern Ghana were ideal locations to install dry-season irrigation systems. The irrigation system idea centered on artificially providing access to enough needed water to be able to produce crops in the arid dry season. In Ghana there are two seasons, the rainy season and the dry season. The rainy season typically lasts from March to October and the dry season represents the remainder of the year. During the rainy season, precipitation is abundant and farmers are able to grow typical sub-Saharan
African crops such as corn (maize), millet, sorghum and rice. Farmers seasonally grow other vegetables as well, such as onions, tomatoes, okra, assorted bean types, peppers, cabbages, carrots, and many other local varieties. During the dry-season, however, rainfall decreases drastically and growing crops becomes nearly impossible. With no means to produce crops, many farmers remain idle for the duration of these 6 months (October to March). As a result, these farmers lack the option to farm throughout the dry season, and thusly help themselves out of poverty. An interesting aspect of the dry-season dilemma facing many farmers in rural Ghana is that crops can actually grow year-round in sub-Saharan climate conditions. Unlike other regions such as North America and Europe that have winters and specific periods of time where temperature conditions and other factors prevent crops from growing, few of these barriers to cultivation exist in Ghana. In other words, if an individual in this area of the world were fortunate enough to live near a small pond of water, he or she could simply use the water from the pond and successfully grow crops year round. This is the type of situation a dry-season irrigation system would try to emulate. Many individuals in rural Ghana do not have the luxury of living close enough to a body of water to conveniently access the necessary water to grow crops year-round on their own. However, a successful irrigation system could substantially minimize the importance of location. After weeks of corresponding with Professor Bawa, I realized that I could find a way to artificially provide the water that was lacking during the dryseason and subsequently help farmers in an area significantly increase their income levels. I found this particular type of project very appealing because it could potentially offer individuals an opportunity to help themselves rather than create a damaging effect
that misdirected foreign solutions to African poverty can sometimes create (Sachs 2005). After learning of this opportunity, I immediately set off to study irrigation systems. Once I decided to pursue an irrigation system project, I embarked on an in-depth study to understand how such systems worked and how I could build and implement one of my own. Through research I was able to identify various types of irrigation systems. My researched revealed that some of the most common irrigation systems used around the world today are: terraced irrigation, drip irrigation, sprinkler systems, and ditch irrigation systems. Since I anticipated a limited amount of resources to develop and implement my irrigation system, I concluded that the ditch irrigation system would be ideal as such systems are simplistic and not capital intensive (terraced irrigation systems, for example, are very labor intensive and require cutting whole hills of land into steps). Ditch Irrigation is a rather traditional method, where ditches are dug out and seedlings are planted in rows. The plantings are watered by placing canals or furrows in between the rows of plants. Siphon tubes are used to move the water from the main ditch to the canals. This system of irrigation was once very popular in the USA, but most have been replaced with modern systems. (Paversearch Irrigation Systems Page 2011) Although ditch irrigation systems are typically less â€œmodernâ€? than the other variations, they were ideal for what I was aiming to accomplish as I realized I would be working with a relatively low-tech area of the world. After selecting the type of irrigation system I wanted to use, I proceeded to identify major weaknesses in previously created irrigation systems. I learned that according to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, there are 7 major consequences of improper irrigation design: 1) Public Health 2) Waste of Natural Resources 3) Water Pollution 4) Operator Safety 5) Economic Factors Including
Cost of Irrigation 6) Economic Return from Irrigation 7) Irrigation System Life Expectancy (Smajstrla, Zazueta, and Hama 2002). Some of these factors did not apply to the ditch irrigation system I was planning. For example, due to the lack of anticipated chemical implementation, “Public Health” was not a major concern of mine. “Cost of Irrigation,” on the other hand, was a major priority of mine. To minimize the cost of irrigation, the designer must consider the total cost, which is the sum of the annual fixed and operating costs. Irrigation system cost is directly affected by the quality of design. In general, well-designed systems have greater initial costs than poorly-designed systems… An irrigation system designer must consider existing production practices, availability of labor and the convenience of the irrigator in each design. Proper consideration of these factors will help to minimize costs by the specification of irrigation systems which are readily-managed within a given production system and which use existing labor efficiently. (Smajstrla, Zazueta, and Hama 2002) Cost, of course, was a huge concern of mine because I anticipated a relatively low budget (By the fall of 2008 the U.S. was entering a recession and I knew funding would be extremely difficult). However, after looking into research on irrigation systems, including the report from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, I realized that if I sacrificed too much on initial costs I would eventually have to pay for it in later operating costs. After careful consideration, I decided to use an irrigation system that would utilize a pump and pipe network to transport the water. For the pumps, I would use Honda WB30XT pumps. Not only did I identify them to be reliable, but motors of that sort were commonly found in rural areas of Ghana at the time so familiarity would allow me to increase the “convenience of the irrigator” in my design. For the pipe system, I decided to use above ground rubber piping that could be attached and removed from the pump as needed, as this would result in less wear overtime than a pipe system that needed to be permanently exposed to the environment above or
underground. After extensive research, I finally had the majority of my irrigation system specifics pre-determined. What remained, however, was the crucial decision of where to implement the system. Determining where to implement the irrigation system was a challenge. I wanted to find a location that was identifiably impoverished and had an economy that was intensively agriculturally based. This would allow the benefits of my project to have the most impact. Aside from the demographics, I knew that I also needed to start the project in a location in which I could successfully implement it. This meant that I needed an area where I could locate reliable (able to be counted on to keep their commitments) individuals who would be willing to make personal sacrifices (at the time I was not expecting to hire help so I would need volunteers) in order to ensure the success of the project if needed. Given that I had never spent extensive time in Africa before, finding these types of contacts was very difficult. After days of exploration, I identified a small town named Ekumdipe (locally known as Kumdi). Ekumdipe has a total population of approximately 1,200 people and is approximately 2 miles from the Daka River, which flows year-round into the larger Volta River and Lake. The town was an ideal location for me for a variety of reasons. First of all, it is located in rural, northern Ghana, a region known for its levels of poverty and high mortality rates. Secondly, agriculture is at the center of the Ekumdipe economy. Many of the families in the community have their own farms and gather in the town center weekly to try and sell crops. Division of labor of is very limited in the area, and many of the individuals from the town that seek higher level professions choose to pursue higher education and job opportunities elsewhere (like in the nearby large city of Tamale for example).
In addition the overall features of the village, there were other significant reasons that I felt Ekumdipe was the best location to implement my irrigation project. Unlike in other potential project locations, I apparently had a few pre-existing ties in the area of Ekumdipe. Both my father and Professor Bawa grew up in a village in the area and I still had some familial ties in the community. Although I did not know any of these people at the time, I assumed that at the very least, our relative connection could potentially help me and the project in future times. I was initially hesitant to start a development project in a place that had people I was related to. After all, when I set out to start the project, I was interested in attempting to solve a specific problem in Africa. It was not my goal to provide benefits to relatives I did not know. However, I focused on the larger picture. I did not intend to create a project that would approach an isolated issue in an isolated location. Rather, my goal was to create a self-sustaining project which, if successful, would inspire similar projects in adjacent locations. In other words, I wanted to make a project that could potentially alter how poverty is approached in northern Ghana and in similar regions in sub-Saharan Africa. That being said, it was vital that the original attempt at the project would become a huge success. Therefore, I needed to utilize every potential advantage that I had. In this specific case, that meant implementing the project in a location to which I had the most access. By the end of the fall of 2008, I had finalized the type of project I wanted to launch, how I intended on launch it, and where I intended to implement it. It was not long before I finally came up with a name for the initiative: Project Rural Irrigation System for Ekumdipe, also known as Project RISE. Substantial progress had been made since the time I originally conceived the idea to start a development project, but I still had many
daunting steps to take before I would be anywhere close to project initiation. Firstly, I needed to raise the requisite funds for the project. Secondly, I needed to create a project plan for how I would actually go about launching the actual project in Ghana. I created my official project proposals and prospectuses and started applying for grants and approaching donors to fundraise for the project. Because the United States economy was still performing poorly by the beginning of 2009, raising the necessary funds for the project turned out to be a daunting task. It was not long before my fundraising woes presented a serious threat to the planned timing of the project launch (anticipated to be August 2009). However, somehow, I was able to raise the required funds in time to launch RISE. This financial success can be attributed in large part to my coordination with Professor Richard Freeman, the Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University and a member of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). In the spring of 2009, I was working closely with Professor Freeman as his research assistant at the NBER, so it was only natural for me to bring up my project to him. He was immediately interested and suggested looking into a potential NBER grant (focused on water projects) rather than offering a small personal donation. In exchange for the grant, I agreed to provide research material from my project on the effects of irrigation in a rural community. The involvement from Professor Freeman was dually beneficial as I now was able to procure a significant source of funding for the project and probably more importantly, I now had the support of a professional in academia. With Professor Freeman as my advisor, I started taking a very social scientific approach to my project. Rational Actor Theory was at the core of my planning. Based upon my apprehension of the theory, I assumed that any farmer would want to participate
in my irrigation project. My understanding was that humans are rational beings and inherently greedy when it comes to the accumulation of capital (wealth). In “Rational Decisions,” I.J. Good defines the principle of rational behavior as “The recommendation to always behave so as to maximize expected utility per time unit” (Good 1952:109). I proceeded under the assumption that the farmers would behave like “rational actors.” As such, I reasoned that they would instantly adopt the irrigation system and dry season farming, as they would be clear ways to maximize profit and utility. After all, economists and political scientists like Gary Becker and Jon Elster have used Rational Actor Theory to explain why self-interested individuals would participate in complex acts such racial discrimination and crime (Becker 1992) or even elucidate why a general would proceed to attack his enemy before obtaining perfect information on his opponent’s strategy (Elster 1989). If Rational Actor Theory could explain and predict such complex actions just by understanding that humans are self-interested beings that act in ways to maximize benefit for themselves, then I figured that the same theory could surely predict a behavior as simple as accepting dry-season farming to augment personal income. Although Rational Actor Theory suggests that the farmers would want to join an irrigation system to make more money, it also can predict that the participants would most likely only work to maximize their individual utility. I anticipated that selfish mentalities, however, could impede the progress of a project like RISE, as it would require group coordination and collective teamwork. In my assessment of hypothetical problems and solutions, I realized that Project RISE would require collective group cooperation if it was going to succeed. What would happen if a pump in the system broke? How would it be repaired? How would we raise
funds to eventually expand the system so that it would become self-sustaining? How could we know that all of the farmers would be willing to pull their own weight to aid the team? The answers to all of these questions relied on the participants’ willingness to work on the behalf of others. If a pump broke, the farmers would have to pool their capital to repair it. To expand the system, there would have to be some sort of tax system in place through which each farmer in the group would spend a portion of his or her profits to expand the system. Individuals would only “pull their own weight” if they interpreted the success of the group and the success of Ekumdipe to be a success of their own. I had no way of knowing if any of these concepts aligned with the mentalities (psyches) of the farmers in the village. After all, as rational beings, it was very plausible that they could be too self-interested and focused on maximizing personal utility to willfully commit to a tax system that would aid others. I concluded that it was crucial for me to determine the people’s mindsets if I was going to be able to successfully implement the project. I expressed my concern about group and teamwork mentalities to Professor Freeman, and he agreed that it was indeed an important factor to consider. I inquired as to how I might assess the people’s mentalities. He and I brainstormed and came up with some potential strategies. One option was using a type of “Dictator Game,” in which we would offer individuals a sum of money and ask them how much they wanted to keep for themselves and how much they wanted to offer to the irrigation project. The second potential option was a “Public-Goods” game. In this particular game, players are handed a number of tokens and given the option to either invest the tokens for the sake of the group or keep the tokens for their own well-being. Players that choose to keep their tokens benefit if the rest of the group invests. However, if every member of the group
invests, then all members end up significantly better off (similar to the assumed result of a successful irrigation system). Despite the great game options, we decided to take a more direct approach to determine farmer mentalities. In short, Professor Freeman and I decided that surveys would be the most effective method for two reasons. First, I could have the farmers explain their thought processes directly to us. Secondly, by directly asking the farmers questions on group unity and the benefit of it, I hoped to emphasize characteristics that I felt would be vital to the success of the overall project. Professor Freeman offered me a pro-social questionnaire from his colleague at Harvard Business School, who was starting an HIV-AIDs charity in Zambia that focused on promoting female condom use and needed to assess participants’ levels of altruism. The original survey seemed appropriate for our purpose, however I needed it to modify it to assess people’s willingness to participate in the irrigation system. For example, rather than the original question, “Do you agree or disagree that people here look out mainly for the welfare of their own families and they are not too concerned with their village/neighborhood welfare?” I decided to use a variant: “Do you agree or disagree that people here look out mainly for their own families and they are not as much concerned with all of Ekumdipe?” With the completed survey3, I was confident that we had a method of determining the mentalities of the members in the community. This would be vital in the future when trying to decide whether and how to implement tax or repair systems. The last major task before initiating the project was the selection of the actual ten farmers to lead the pilot project.
The modified survey is presented in Appendix 1 at the end of thesis
Based on estimations from Professor Bawa, we concluded that the four pumps and associated pipe system that we were purchasing would be sufficient to help 10 farmers create dry-season farms. With that in mind, we decided that we would have to utilize some sort of selection process to determine who would have the opportunity to use the system. The supply of potential farmers was unlimited, yet the number of spots for participants in the study was limited. I approached the process of selecting the farmers in a similar fashion to the way I approached selecting the initial location for the farm. As with location, there were many important factors to consider during the selection of the farmers. For example, in Ekumdipe, there are several ethnic groups in the community. Although the Nchumuru people are the majority, other groups (Kokomba, Basare, Chokosi) needed to be represented in the project or they would eventually feel slighted and could potentially resent the entire endeavor. Similarly, we wanted to pursue a gender balance for equalityâ€™s sake. However, most importantly, it was necessary for the farmers to be highly skilled, as they would be asked to undertake the difficult task of farming in the dry-season. It was assumed that farmers that performed the best during the rainyseason would have the greatest odds of succeeding in the dry-season as well. We relied on Professor Bawa to select the ten farmers who would participate in the study, as he was the most knowledgeable about farming reputations and ethnic dynamics. I told him that the priority was to assemble a group of the 10 â€œbestâ€? farmers, but I also understood that some sort of balance was important. Eventually, he presented me with a list of the original 10 farmers4. These 10 farmers then comprised the Project RISE pilot group. At this point, the equipment and selected individuals were in place to begin the dry-season,
The list of the 10 study participants appears in Appendix 3 at the end of the thesis
however, as the project lead, I thought that it was still important that I make a trip to the designated site before initiating RISE. By the summer of 2009 (approximately one year after I chose to start the project), I had made significant progress with Project RISE. What was once just an idea was now a real initiative that was significantly on its way. By that period, I had created a project plan, selected the location, raised funds for the project, purchased the necessary equipment, and assembled a pilot team to start the project. All that was really left was for me to physically travel to Ghana to witness the farm demonstration, talk to the group, and collect data from the area on individualsâ€™ mentalities. So on August 10, 2009, I embarked on my trip to initiate Phase 1 of Project RISE. There was quite a commotion that occurred upon my arrival in Ekumdipe. Firstly, I was a foreign visitor, which was rare for such a remote community. Secondly, many of the community members knew the purpose of my visit, as I was associated with the new pumps and pipes that were transported to the area. Given that I only had a short duration to work with (3 full days in the village), I had to create a plan that maximized the use of my time as much of possible. The very next day after I arrived in Ekumdipe, I arranged a town meeting in the morning to address the group of 10 farmers who would participate in the pilot study. The meeting consisted of me, Professor Bawa, the 10 farmers and an assistant from the University of Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana. During the meeting, Professor Bawa reiterated the specifications of the project and elaborated on expectations of the group. He explained that the group would be expected to handle all repairs and issues collectively. He also mentioned that the group would be eventually asked to give a portion of their profits back to a collective fund so that Ekumdipe could
expand the project. I also, got an opportunity to speak to the group (through a translator). In effort to keep things positive and spirits up, I briefly touched on how the funding for the irrigation system came from Americans who believed in them and that we all were confident that they could succeed. Immediately after the meeting, I went with a group of the farmers to witness an actual demonstration of the system. The people of Ekumdipe saw the pumps and the pipes that we had transported, however, most of the farmers still had not seen the system in action with their actual eyes. One of the reasons Ekumdipe was selected as an ideal location was the erection of a dam that occurred in the area a few years ago. The damn was created to reduce the flow of a nearby tributary of the large Daka River. As a result, a large reservoir was created just outside of Ekumdipe. This reservoir served as an ideal location on which to attach the irrigation system to, as it was a consistent, stationary water source with surrounding fertile lands. For the demonstration, our group traveled to an area around the water source where some locals had already been tilling the land for the demonstration. We placed the pump on a middle ground between the water and the farm and attached the necessary pipes to connect both sides. Once the setup was completed, we turned on the pump and watched as water was transferred from the reservoir and eventually flowed into the neat ridges of the demonstration farm (Appendix A). I was pleased to be able to capture the entire process on film, as the documentation could eventually be useful when pursuing future donors. It was verified â€“ the hardware component of Project RISE was complete. Before I left the community, however, it was important that I checked on the status of the human component of the project a bit as well.
The next day, I set out to begin the process of surveying the farmers of the community. During the meeting from the day before, we discussed my intent to do this so
(Appendix A: picture of water from the irrigation system flowing into an Ekumdipe farm)
people were expecting my visit. I recruited the assistance of Foster, a student from the University of Agricultural Studies in Tamale who had familiar ties in the village, to serve as my translator during the process. We went to each of the 10 farmersâ€™ households and interviewed each individual using our tweaked survey. In each survey, I asked a question, and Foster would translate and ask the farmer. The answer would then be given to me in reverse order. We repeated this process over the course of two days until we had responses from all farmers in the system. By the fifth day, it was time for me to leave the
village. In the short span of time I was there, we were able to assemble an effective group meeting, demonstrate the mechanics of the irrigation system, and survey every participant of the pilot farm system. Large steps were taken during the trip, but the efforts would have little significance unless the farmers were actually able to elicit some sort of successes in the subsequent dry-season. However, there was nothing more I could do at moment besides remain vigilant and wait. In the months following the launch of Phase 1 of Project RISE, I maintained consistent communication with Professor Bawa and waited for the next dry season to ensue. It turns out that the rainy season continued for an extended period in 2009 (into late March rather than early October), so the efforts of the dry-season farmers were delayed for some time. However, by December some progress had been made, so it was an ideal time to check on the project. Due to other scholastic commitments, I was not able to make the trip again at this time. A colleague of mine, Darryl Finkton (Co-Founder of ADI and a 2010 Rhodes Scholar), offered to make the trip on my behalf to look in on the project. Darryl was able to meet with Professor Bawa and eventually made a two-day journey to Ekumdipe on his own. Once in the community, Darryl was taken to the farm site to assess the status of the farms. His report indicated that progress had been made since my departure. At the farm site, there were sprouts from a variety of new vegetables extending from the ground. This was significant because crops had never been grown before on a large scale in Ekumdipe. Therefore, the people involved with the project were now witnessing something they had never witnessed before. With the great news from Darryl, I relaxed a bit as far as diligence on the project. “After all,” I thought to myself, “All we need to do now is just wait a few more months for the results. If the crops were
already sprouting, what could possibly happen to negatively change things between now and the harvest?â€? As I would soon come to find out, a plethora of things could (and would) happen. In the late Spring of 2010, I contacted my Professor Bawa for another status update on Phase 1 of the project. At this point, I was expecting to receive great reports about a full harvest and successful start to the project. However, my expectations were completely off of the mark. It turns out that the crop yields were dismal compared to our expected goals. Barely any vegetables grew at all, much less an amount that was large enough to sell for a significant profit. I was perplexed, to say the least, when I received these results. Just a few months earlier, my peer had seen the various sprouts growing and progressing with his own eyes. Since then, the situations had deteriorated. How did this happen and why did it happen? These are apparently very simple questions, but I would eventually spend the remainder of 2010 trying to find their answers. Initially, there were so many variables and factors at play that I did not even know where to start. Since he was the apparent expert on the ground, I went back to Professor Bawa. He immediately cited knowledge deficiency. His hypothesis was that the farmers of Ekumdipe were actually too ignorant about the task to successfully pull off dry-season farming for the first time. I pressed further and asked him how we could solve such a problem. He suggested that perhaps we could hire a farmer from an outside region where dry-season farming is common and recruit him or her to come and teach the people of Ekumdipe how to successfully do it on their own. This sounded like a good idea to me, so I asked him to look into the process of acquiring such an expert. However, this was no longer good enough for me. The cycle of asking my uncle for advice and then executing
my actions through him was no longer satisfactory for what I was trying to accomplish. I knew that Professor Bawa was very busy with teaching and other activities since I left Ghana in August 2009. As a result, he was not always in Ekumdipe and was not able to give me the frequent updates that I needed. Also, I noticed that his hypothesis on knowledge deficiency was something that he did not stress as much during my planning phases. It became apparent that he was looking at the results and evidence and coming to conclusions on his own. What I was trying to accomplish in Ekumdipe was a completely new endeavor that had never been accomplished in the area. From that standpoint, nobody was an â€œexpert.â€? He had a logical hypothesis, but at the end of the day it was still a guess. The project could have indeed failed due to knowledge deficiency, but it could also have failed for a variety of other reasons as well. I too could examine the evidence and results from Phase 1 and attempt to come up with my own conclusions. He was doing his absolute best to aid my efforts with the project, but I eventually realized that if Phase 2 was going to be more successful than Phase 1, I was going to have to significantly reduce my dependency on my uncle. There were two major things I needed to accomplish in order to bolster my involvement with the project in an effort to make it successful. First, I was going to have to become more of an expert on the task at hand. Although I was focused on going to Professor Bawa less often for answers, he did highlight an important concept to me with his hypothesis. By suggesting that a lack of knowledge could be the reason for the poor results, he emphasized the human component of the project in a way that I had not explored before. Before my 2009 trip, the majority of my research was focused on the intricacies of irrigation systems and the steps that it would take to successfully implement
one in an underdeveloped region like Ekumdipe. However, I did not study the human barriers to success as much as I studied the potential pitfalls of the physical system itself. Sure, I surveyed the participants under the assumption that they were rational human beings that would automatically want to participate in the system to make more money, but was that even a safe assumption to make? After all, during the dry-season, people are normally idle. Was it safe for me to assume that they did not enjoy this off period more than they would enjoy the fruits of additional labor? I approached Professor Freeman, as well as my new thesis advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Sociology, Professor David Ager, with my new concerns. Both of them encouraged me to bolster my research on the human component of development, and Professor Ager even specifically suggested that I start researching the subject of diffusion of innovations. The first book he suggested to me was Diffusion of Innovations by Everett M. Rogers. I started with that piece of literature and then proceeded to explore more literature on the subject (more on this is in the Chapter 5). The second task that I knew I needed to accomplish if I was going to reduce my dependency on Professor Bawa and ensure the success of Phase 2 of the project was revamping the method by which I communicated with the farmers in Ekumdipe. The fact that I received notice of the underperformance of the irrigation system in late Spring was unacceptable. Several months had passed between that time when Darryl left Ekumdipe and when I was notified of the underperformance of the irrigation system. Although there were plenty of opportunities for me to receive notice that things were not going well this information was never communicated to me. This was not Professor Bawaâ€™s fault, as he was not frequently around the village and did not know of many of the ongoing issues
himself. In order to make sure Phase 2 would have a significantly higher chance of success than Phase 1, I needed to change the way I received reports on the project. I would need a liaison on the ground that could give me real-time updates. I started contemplating what individual would be acceptable for this type of role. It was imperative that the individual actually live in the village year-round. This way, he or she could report emergencies or new developments more rapidly. It was also important that the person be a respected member of the community who knew enough about agriculture to give me informed reports on what was going on. The individual would be my representative on the ground and if he or she was not respected, the farmers could potentially not choose to respond to his or her (and my) requests. After days of contemplation, I finally settled on an individual from the community who fit the criteria and was willing to work on the behalf of Project RISE. Jacob (pseudonym) was a respected schoolteacher in his 30s from the community. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Jacob also engaged in subsistence farming. He also had a track record for dependability and the ability to execute important tasks (for example, he was usually the main point person for large funerals in the community). Finally, I was told that Jacob and I were related somehow and interpreted that to be a major reason for his high level of cooperation when I needed help with various tasks for Phase 1 of Project RISE5. All of the previously stated factors made Jacob an ideal candidate so I approached him to be my on-the-ground liaison for Project RISE.
More on the significance of family ties in Chapter 5: Discussion and Literature Review
Jacob eagerly accepted my offer and reassured me that I could count on him for updates whenever they were requested6. I still had no idea what the farmers actually thought about the failed attempt themselves, so my first request to Jacob was to help me with that. My communication with him at the time was limited due to long-distance phone calls via expensive calling cards (versus the email correspondence between Professor Bawa and myself). Given that constraint, I was not able to utilize a survey as elaborate as the one that I used for my first trip to Ghana. However, we did what we could. I asked Jacob to interview the farmers. Specifically, I asked him to pose three basic questions: 1) “What do you believe is the major reason for the underperformance of the first farms?” 2) “Would you rather spend another dry-season farming instead of finding other uses with your time?” 3) “Do you still think this project is a worthwhile endeavor?” The responses to the first question validated my hunch about searching for answers from other sources besides Professor Bawa. Some of the farmers cited ignorance about dry-season farming as the major reason for the low crop yields. However, others introduced new potential issues, like the lack of needed supplies such as of fertilizers, seeds, and weedicides. Others cited timing issues (there was a new land demarcation happening later that year and there was an impending large funeral for the newly deceased head chief of Ekumdipe). The information from the short interviews was insufficient for me to make informed decisions on how to completely revamp the irrigation system program. However, it was sufficient for me to know that there were
It is worth noting that at this point, Project RISE had incorporated the three major parties that Rogers (2003:27) highlights in diffusion schemes: change agents (me), opinion leaders (Jacob), and clients (the farmers).
other potential factors that could have negatively impacted the adoption of the system. Since a significant portion of the farmers did mention a lack of knowledge though, I proceeded with my search for an outside expert farmer to work amongst the Ekumdipe farmers. I checked back with Professor Bawa on the search for an outside farmer and he informed me that he had found a candidate for us from the Bawku region. Bawku is a region north of Ekumdipe. The area is somewhat arid and the land is not conducive to farming. As a result, the people of the area have learned how to farm in harsher conditions, including the dry-season. In addition the area is known for its political unrest and the violence that occurs in the region as a result of ethnic clashes. The combination of better farming conditions and a more stable political climate in Ekumdipe made it an attractive place to work for a Bawku farmer. Therefore, it was not too difficult for Professor Bawa to identify and recruit an individual to hire for the project. However, there was another extended rainy season in 2010, which created transportation complications. I had hoped that the expert could arrive in the village by mid-October, but it was not until late November that he made his arrival. It was in the fall of 2010 that I began finalizing plans to make a return trip to Ekumdipe for Phase 2 of the project. If I was to acquire the information I would need to be able to effectively determine what went wrong in Phase 1 and what changes to make in Phase 2, then I needed to actually be involved in the field myself. And this time, I would not limit my data to interviews to the 10 farmers involved. I would try to acquire data from everyone in the village who was willing to talk with me. I interpreted the potential issues from Phase 1 to be large problems and thought that I would need a
holistic picture of the entire community in order to properly address them. Darryl accompanied me on this second field-site visit. At this point, ADI had become an official 501(c)3 non-profit and he was the chairman of the organization (I was now the legal President). Since Project RISE was one of the two major ongoing projects in the organization, it was extremely important to us both that we would eventually be able to find a way to make significant improvements in Phase 2. Given the academic calendars of both Harvard and Oxford, we agreed that December would be the ideal time for us to make our return visit to the field. By December 16, 2011, Darryl and I were in Ghana and on our way back to Ekumdipe. Immediately, we began to converse and debate about what we felt our new approach for the project should be. From the organizational standpoint of ADI, we both agreed that we needed to change the financial model for the project. When I first proposed the concept of Project RISE to him and the rest of ADI, I described it as a selfsustainable project that would eventually pay for itself. This marked a clear change from the other ADI project we had that included providing clean water and sanitation for a town called Agyemanti. Whereas the potential recoup the funds from the clean water system was relatively nonexistent, I was confident that the pay back from the dry-season irrigation system could be achieved much more quickly as that ‘profits’ could be used to not only pay for the existing system but also to expand it. Darryl and I concluded that if the project could indeed pay for itself, then it made no sense to offer the ability to participate in it for free. And what if the people could not generate enough funds to pay ADI for the project? If that was the case, then the project would no longer be considered economically self-sustainable by ADI’s standards and we would need to think of another
project or perhaps launch the program in a community other than Ekumdipe. This conclusion marked a significant shift in how Project RISE would be approached moving forward. From this point onward, we were going to incorporate a loan system. â€œWhat would it take for you to take a loan from ADI to use the dry-season irrigation system?â€? This is the question we asked ourselves as we approached the village. Eventually, we came up with a list of criteria and conditions that would need to be met for us to hypothetically accept the loan as Ekumdipe farmers. The list included having a respectable person communicate the farm mechanics to us, a guarantee for needed training, a case study that persuaded us that the system worked, an acceptable loan structure with realistic interest rates, and general insurance if things did not go as well as we originally expected. Some of these structures were already being put in place (the expert and the case-study), however we were far from being able to arrive at a fair value of the loan (the cost of all the inputs for a dry season farm) or determining its structure. We would need to talk to the people of the community before trying to attempt this. At the time of our arrival in Ekumdipe, there was a large funeral taking place. The chief of the village (and the surrounding area) had passed away a year earlier so it was time for the community to have the final farewell celebration in his honor. As a result, nobody was interested in discussing the irrigation system or even visiting the farms, but this still provided an excellent opportunity for us to connect with the community and get a general idea for the way things worked in the area. We engaged in casual conversations with anyone who was willing to talk. Although these conversations were not necessarily with the individuals that were directly related to the project, the insights we gleaned from these discussions provided valuable information about issues such as community norms
that we could incorporate into the revised program. Following the funeral celebration, we proceeded to engage more actively with the actual project. Our first order of action was to talk to the Bawku farmer. Tamar and Matt (pseudonyms) are the names of the two farmers who traveled from the Bawku region for the purposes of helping Project RISE. Tamar was a man in his mid 30’s whom we hired and Matt was his teenage brother. Although we only contracted with Tamar, Matt agreed to accompany and work with his brother. We engaged in a conversation with Tamar (via translator) to determine what were the necessary inputs (e.g. seeds, chemicals, supplies) he felt he would need to grow a successful system and based upon his experience how much these “inputs” were expected to cost. This was important for two reasons. First, it helped us determine what the price of the loan could be, and second, it gave us enough information to figure out how much accurate knowledge Ekumdipe farmers actually had about dry-season farming. In order to verify this, however, we next needed to talk to the Phase 2 team. Next, we had our first conversation with a farmer from the new irrigation system group. He was a Kokomba (a minority ethnic group in the community) and also a schoolteacher like Jacob. He was also a new member of the team (four individuals dropped out from Phase I of the project; these farmers were replaced by new farmers). We asked him about the necessary inputs and costs just as we inquired of Tamar. The discrepancies in the answers he provided and those provided by Tamar were very telling!7 We also asked him what were the conditions he would need in order to take a loan to pay for his estimated farming costs. We also sought answers as to why he was 7
Discussed later in the Chapter 4: Analysis section
interested in the project and signed up, why he felt it failed in Phase I, and why he thought it would succeed this year. Finally, because the man was normally a yam farmer, we asked him about the specifics of yam farming, as well, to get a better understanding of price margins. At this point, we believed we had enough information to at least take steps towards having a group meeting. Darryl and I still intended to meet with the rest of the farmers. However for the sake of time efficiency, we wanted to proceed to have a meeting with the entire group to let them all know what our plan of attack was early on. The group meeting included 6 people overall (4 from the old system and 2 of the new farmers, the Bawku farmer, and Jacob to translate). We attempted to ask all of the farmers as a group about what they felt were the major reasons the project did not work as well as expected in Phase I. The group cited many reasons: starting too late, not having the needed seeds or weedicides, and even slackers not pulling their weight. We listened to their concerns and then notified them that we were intending on incorporating a loan system this year. We told them that in order to come up with the loan amount, we were going to have to attend the next market day (which met every Friday in Ekumdipe). Doing so would allow us to verify input costs against expected revenues to determine the overall â€˜expectedâ€™ profit. To our surprise, the group told us that they were going to create a constitution for us by the end of the week that would include clauses to reinforce accountability and how the profits would be shared. We agreed that we would also do our part by that time and have the necessary inputs to our model so that we could provide the group with the total price of the loan as well as the expected revenues. However, in order to do that, we needed to go to the market to verify the inputs and conclude the rest of our individual interviews.
Over the next few days, we continued to inquire the individual farmers of the system. There were several questions that we incorporated into every interview: 1) How did you find out about the system? 2) Why did you want to join the project in the first place? 3) Why did the project underperform last year? 4) Do you think the project will succeed this year and why? Although we used the same basic framework for every conversation, we also were flexible and let the conversation flow in the direction that the individual participant took it. By the time we concluded the remainder of the interviews, it was Friday and time for us to attend the market. At the market, we were able to both determine the costs of the necessary inputs for the project and the expected returns based on crop yield. For simplicity and per Tamar’s advice, we decided to have the farms produce only onions. We would provide Tamar with one 2-acre farm and we would give the group of farmers a 4-acre farm. In order to estimate crop yield for the group, we took Tamar’s prediction for crop outcomes, multiplied it by two to account for twice the acreage, and then reduced the expected yield by 20 percent to account for the farmers’ lack of expertise. Since we had an idea for the amount of bags of onions the group could produce in one dry season, we went to the various vendors and asked them what price they would pay for a bag of onions in March and April (the time periods of the expected future harvest). Not only did we ask about the prices during harvest time, but we also inquired about prices during September, the time that onion prices were apparently highest. After getting onion prices, we sought information about the costs of inputs for the farms (insecticides, weedicides, seedlings, etc). By the time we left the market, we had all of the information we required to complete our analysis and come up with the necessary figures for the contract.
The very next day, Jacob came by with a pleasant surprise for us. The ten farmers had convened as promised and formalized their group. This included selecting board members to lead the organization, drafting an official constitution, and even creating a group name. “Kano Egye Man,” (KEM) in Nkumuru means “Strength through group unity” and the group decided to adopt that as their official name. Overnight, we suddenly had an official constitution from Kano Egye Man (Appendices B and C) and a contract to provide them with. We immediately met with the group again and presented the contract to them (through translation). They stated the adjustments they would need in order to accept the contract (funds to pay for pump fuel and hire people to till the land). We went back to the laptop in our living quarters, added the new inputs to our model, and produced a new contract. That same evening, we provided the new contract that would signify the loan from ADI to KEM. The loan would require KEM to pay 40% of the loan after one year and the remaining 60% and 10 percent interest in the second year. Darryl, the Chairman, the Secretary, the Treasurer of KEM, and myself signed the contract. We then distributed the primary funds for the loan so KEM and the Bawku farmers could proceed as planned. Our work in Ekumdipe was complete. 8 The Kano Egye Man farm is expected to have its harvest in April. Therefore, it will be impossible to verify the absolute success of Phase 2 by the conclusion of my research. However, we have determined certain metrics that are indicative signs of success that was lacking in Phase 1 of the project. Through the research that I did in the field in both Phase 1 and Phase 2 and the subsequent proxies I installed since our final departure, I have discovered some very interesting findings.
The full Project RISE Timeline can be found at the end of the thesis in Appendix 2
(Appendix B: Page 1 Original Kano Egye Man Constitution)
(Appendix C: Page 2 Original Kano Egye Man Constitution)
These findings have given me strong, potential answers on what the potential major inhibitors to Phase 1 of Project RISE were. And subsequently, these answers have led me induce certain hypotheses about the nature and role of certain impediments (sociocultural as well as others) that exist in the diffusion and adoption of technological innovation in the context of international development. These hypotheses expand on current literature, as they explore the nuances of agricultural innovation diffusion within the context of a specific third world case study. In the next section, Chapter 3: Results, I explain how I have been able to compare the progress of Project RISE Phase 1 and Phase 2 and conclude on the success of the latter attempt.
(Appendix D: Copy of Original Contract between ADI Inc. and KEM)
Chapter 3: Results An interesting feature of my involvement with Project RISE is the creation of a real-world experiment. Initially, I was only concerned with the success of the project and creating a system that could help fight poverty in northern Ghana. I went the first time to start the system and later returned to improve upon it. However, in the process, I inadvertently created a base case and then a more recent case with adjusted variables. These variables could potentially be identified as necessary components of successful development projects in places like Ekumdipe in the future. However, before really exploring the independent variables of this experiment (the things I changed between Phase 1 and Phase 2) it was first necessary for me to explore the outcomes. Ideally, I would wait until the end of harvest season to measure the success of Phase 2. If the crop yields from this dry-season are significantly higher, then I could likely attribute much of the success to the factors I changed in-between the two phases. Given the limited timeframe of my study though (conclusion of the research by March 2011), I will not be able to wait for the end of the current dry-season before exploring the variables I have changed. However, there are ways to measure the progress of this project period before it reaches its conclusion. With this in mind, I created metrics before leaving Ekumdipe that I knew I could use in the future to measure the progress of Phase 2. When I left Ekumdipe the second time, I had developed two major approaches that I could use to determine the level of adoption for the dry-season irrigation system. The first was measuring community interest on the project. According to Rogers (2003), diffusion usually occurs through interpersonal relations and word of mouth. â€œMost people
depend mainly upon a subjective evaluation of an innovation that is conveyed to them from other individuals like themselves who have already adopted the innovationâ€? (Rogers 2003:18). In other words, diffusion was generally passed from person to person over time (Appendix D Rogers 2003:293). With that in mind, I brainstormed a way that I could capture and measure this process. If people make the decision of whether or not to initially adopt an innovation through their interactions with their peers, then how could I be aware when that decision takes place? Eventually I came up with a sign-up method that would do just that. As we were finishing up the final portions of Phase 2, we noticed that there seemed to be a growing buzz about the project and our involvement. By this time, most of the members of the community of Ekumdipe had heard about the project and many were interested. I was very interested in attempting to gauge this interest because it could be indicative of the potential to expand the project. After all, the new farmers of Kano Egye Man (the four individuals who were not involved in Phase 1 of the project) mostly cited recommendations from their friends as the main reason they joined the system. If this process were to continue on a larger scale then I felt that it would be representative of the success of the diffusion of the project. If the irrigation system did not work and no sign of long-run benefits of joining were apparent, then it was safe to assume that most of the farmers would not encourage their peers to join. In fact, it is more likely that the farmers would drop out themselves if that were the case, which is partially what occurred in Phase 1.
(Appendix D: Model from Rogersâ€™s Diffusion of Innovation that captured process of diffusion of weed spray in an Iowa neighborhood. I utilized a sign-up sheet to capture a similar dynamic in Ekumdipe)
Because I saw acceptance through recommendation to be such an important sign of the level of the projectâ€™s diffusion, I implemented a method that would focus on this dynamic. Before leaving, I asked Jacob to create a sign-up system for individuals interested in joining the irrigation system. Kano Egye Man was already complete as a group of 10 and we would not allow for individuals to join the existing group contract. However, I told Jacob that if there was enough interest, we might be willing to extend another loan out to a different group. I asked him to create a sign-up sheet so that he could record the names of people who expressed interest in joining the next group. I also asked him to record age, gender, level of education, and source of knowledge of the project (potential metrics of future studies) on the sign-up sheet. This sheet would be my first metric of success of the adoption of the irrigation system in Phase 2. The second metric of success that I created before I left the village had more to do with the project itself and less to do with the perception of it. When I interviewed the farmers of Phase 1, I asked them to provide timelines of the first attempt to implement the irrigation system. The dates did not match up in every account, and therefore assembling a rough estimation of when things started to deteriorate was difficult. At the Phase 2 group meeting I asked the group of farmers to describe the entire dry season process to me to get a sense of how they approached the task and how long each step took. According to their explanation, the endeavor should take approximately 3-4 months. The entire process included clearing the land, burning the land, creating large beds for the vegetables, making smaller beds for the seedlings, transplanting the seedlings, weeding, and then frequently watering while applying chemicals (fertilizers, insecticides, and weedicides) from time to time. Not only did I ask for the specific steps,
but I also asked for the time intervals for each step so I could identify when exactly things began to deteriorate. Most of the farmers agreed that they all started the dry-season in late October (however, it’s important to note that different dates were given to me in some of the individual interviews). The group handled the clearing and transplanting together throughout the months of November and December. However, after the transplanting, the farmers’ level of engagement with the process began to decline. It was during the process of weeding, applying chemicals, and watering every other day that the group started to experience difficulty. Some of the farmers cited the difficulties of watering and weeding; others mentioned the lack of needed chemicals as the source of their troubles. “It is hard,” one farmer bemoaned, “Some of us are old so we cannot till and weed the land easily.” Another stated, “It is the insects. Without chemicals, we cannot kill the insects so the plants will die.” Regardless of what the source of the issues actually was, it seemed that by February the group had ceased the bulk of their efforts. With an understanding of this time frame, I felt that I could compare certain milestones and steps of Phase 2 against it in order to determine the success of its progress. Besides the steps of Phase I, there is an additional set of comparison points that I realized I would have access to this year. Because we introduced the Bawku farmers to the project before finalizing the loan agreements with KEM, the two-acre demonstration farm was launched substantially before the larger four-acre group farm (approximately one and a half months ahead). As a result, I have also been able to compare the steps of the KEM farm against the steps of the Bawku farm in order to measure progress. The Bawku farm started in mid-December and the KEM farm was launched approximately a
month and a half later. Given the time difference, I realized I could measure the progress of the Bawku farm and then wait to see if the KEM farm was proceeding as well as the demonstration model. If the demonstration farm eventually became a success and it became evident that the KEM farm was following the previous progress of the earlier farm, then I determined I could interpret that parallelism to be indicative of the future success of the group farm. Between the sign-up sheet and the anticipated timeframes of the KEM farm, I felt like I had legitimate metrics for anticipating the future success of Phase 2. In comparison to the previous efforts of Phase 1, Phase 2 of Project RISE has been an apparent success. Of course, until the actual harvest from the four-acre farm occurs, I have no way of determining this for sure. However, given my pre-established metrics, it seems that signs are pointing to a successful outcome. As of January 26th, 2011, a few weeks after the group started the project, none of the members had dropped out of the process. In fact, rather than dropouts, eight new individuals from the community had signed up to join a future project. As of March 4th, 2011, eleven total members of the community had signed up for the next loan9. Additionally, both Tamarâ€™s farm and the KEM farm have progressed wonderfully thus far (Appendices E and F).
Sign-up sheet can be found in Appendix 5 at the end of the thesis
(Appendix E: 3/4/2011 Picture of some of the ripe onions from the initial harvest from the Bawku farm. Sight of these onions prompted two more people to quickly sign-up for the next loan)
(Appendix F: As of 3/4/2011, the sprouts from the latent KEM farm â€“ shown here- are already denser, thicker, and more prevalent than those from the Phase 1 attempt) 45
Already, both farms have been able to exceed the efforts of the Phase 1 farm. On March 4, 2011, the Bawku farmers harvested their first round of ripe onions. More importantly, the KEM farm is following this process, with the steps of their four-acre farm following almost precisely a month and a half behind the demonstration farm. As of March 4, 2011 they had already completed transplanting and their sprouts were more significant and denser than last yearâ€™s attempts as well. Given the positive community responses exhibited in the sign-up sheet and evidence of progress from the actual project itself, my data suggest that Project RISE Phase 2 has been a significant improvement upon the initial phase. Even if it turns out that the Phase 2 KEM harvest of still fails (which is not entirely impossible), the preestablished metrics still currently signify that Phase 2 has been more of an overall success than the first attempt. A major opportunity has emerged as a result of the varying levels of success between the two phases of Project RISE. If there has indeed been major improvement between the two attempts then it is highly probable that some (or possibly even all) of the adjustments that I have made in-between my trips can be attributed as the reasons for success. Verifying the impacts of these variables is extremely important, as they could potentially be crucial to the success of future development projects like mine in other areas of the world. Given the limited nature of my project (location, time, etc.), I cannot measure the specific impact of each variable that I changed in this human experiment. However, as a result of the interview and observational data I collected during both trips to Ghana, I have been able to develop hypotheses on what some of the
barriers to development projects such as mine could be and, more importantly, how these impediments might be overcome.
Chapter 4: Analysis Based on the pre-established metrics I created before leaving Ghana I have been able to determine that Project RISE has made significant leaps since the original attempt. Since that original attempt, I made several changes with the aim of manifesting that improvement. Because the changes preceded the observed betterment of the project, it can be assumed that the adjustments are either wholly or partially associated with the progress. Of course, some of the changes had more of an impact than others. Figuring out the most influential adjustments is an important task because the information could be vital to similar, future projects elsewhere. With the aid of thorough in-field research and the accumulation of substantial interview data, I have been able to develop hypotheses on what the most relevant changes between Phase 1 and Phase 2 of Project RISE were. Although there were various missing components in the first attempt of Project RISE that were needed to make the project successful, I have concluded that the most significant shortcomings can be organized into three categories: a lack of the necessary resources, a deficiency of the necessary knowledge, and inadequate implementation. Despite the existence of the many other adjusted variables in the human experiment I have concluded that those most relevant to the improvement of Project RISE can be categorized in one of each of these three main areas. Therefore, each has helped create potential hypotheses in the realm of prominent socio-cultural boundaries to innovation in development projects like Project RISE. The majority of the issues that I have identified through my fieldwork with Project RISE have been in relation to resources, knowledge about innovation, and the
implementation of the system. Of course, not all of these issues represent socio-cultural problems. For example, if a farmer does not have the land to grow a new farm, it does not say very much about the farmer except that he just lacks the necessary resources to farm properly. However, despite the wide variety of problems that interfered with the progress of Phase 1 of Project RISE, I have concluded that the socio-cultural issues have permeated the majority of them. As a result, I will not just discuss the problems blankly (a farmer lacking land for example) in the rest of this chapter, but rather I will attempt to frame them in a socio-cultural context (what are the boundaries of the community that have prevented him from acquiring this land?). Because of its direct relevance to this context, I further conclude that the lack of proper implementation is the most important factor that inhibited the success of Phase 1. I also argue that poor implementation is directly related to the lack of resources and knowledge that were needed to successfully launch the project. Therefore, I conclude that the adjustments in the category of implementation are most responsible for the relative success of Phase 2 in comparison to the initial attempt of Project RISE.
Resources Resource issues have been the most direct and easily identifiable problems that have come up since the launch of Project RISE. When I asked Jacob to informally survey the farmers of Phase 1 on why they felt things did not go ideally, a lack of resources was frequently mentioned. At the time, the major resource issue that was relayed to me was the lack of apportioned land. This is most likely because there was an upcoming land demarcation at the time (as a result of the recent appointment of a successor to the village chief who passed in 2009) and that was a topic that was very important to community
members at the time. Besides land, the farmers broadly claimed that they did not have the resources that they needed to successfully finish the dry-season. However, it was only after I returned to Ghana for the second time that I was able to determine what these resources were. “At first everything was going well, but then because of the lack of chemicals, things did not go so good.” This was a statement made by one of the farmers at the group meeting in December 2010. In a personal interview the same week, another farmer mentioned similar sentiments. “We did not have resources to make it work like seeds for tomatoes.” Although these are only two of the many comments made during our return trip to Ghana, there were many others like these that were expressed in regards to a lack of resources. In general, the farmers attributed resources as the major reason for the low crop yields in the first attempt. We rarely heard anything about effort, knowledge, or any other factors during our interviews. Rather, the farmers repeatedly expressed that they would have been successful in Phase 1 if they had all of the resources required to succeed. There were a few needed resources that we heard of the most: weedicides, insecticides, fertilizer, and additional seeds. As we provided some of these resources to the farmers in the first attempt, they expressed not having enough of the resources they needed rather than expressing not having them at all. Although there was undoubtedly a lack of necessary resources in Phase 1, there was something peculiar about the farmers’ responses in relation to this category. Although the farmers realized that they did not have adequate resources in the spring of 2010, none of them approached Jacob or Professor Bawa to express the problem. And when asked about why they did not reach out to any sources for help, the responses from
the farmers usually involved either a certain level of apathy or confusion about who to reach out to and how. The second interesting thing about the farmers’ responses is that most of them did not mention the lack of needed knowledge. After all, this was the first time that many of them had ever attempted to farm during the dry-season so it seemed natural to expect them to lack some knowledge about the process. After the conclusion of my in-field research, I determined that my inkling was correct and that the farmers were severely underestimating their lack of knowledge.
Knowledge Knowledge is the first issue that I approached after Project RISE Phase 1. Both Professor Bawa and Jacob suggested that the farmers did not have enough knowledge to complete the first phase of the project. As a result, we recruited Tamar from Bawku to come to Ekumdipe. Tamar was supposed to accomplish two tasks: 1) demonstrate a successful way of dry-season farming in Ekumdipe and 2) teach the farmers of the group how to successfully produce a farm of their own. However, when I actually arrived in Ekumdipe for Phase 2, I was shocked to learn that the farmers minimized the necessity of Tamar’s expertise and experience. They were only concerned with procuring more resources, and many did not think they needed a hands-on instructor to be successful. “Even if he is not here, we will do it.” That was the response a farmer gave when I inquired the group if they would be willing to farm without the help of the Bawku farmer. This statement summed up the group’s sentiments towards Tamar and his role with the demonstration farm. The farmers were happy to have him around as an example but by no means did they consider him vital to the success of their efforts. This discovery
became extremely interesting once I was able to determine how important Tamar’s expertise eventually would be to the success of Phase 2. It was in my very first interview with a KEM farmer that I discovered an interesting dynamic that was occurring in relation to knowledge and Project RISE. In the interview, I asked the farmer if he had the chance to witness the progress of the Bawku farmer’s plot yet (which had just a few sprouts at the time). He told that us that he had seen it and was impressed by the progress. I then asked him why he felt that this attempt was successful when last year’s fell short. To my shock, he replied, “It is because of the fertilizers he has this year.” I continued the interview as usual but realized that the farmer had just introduced me to a key clue to what could have been a major impediment to the success of Phase 1. The farmer had cited resources as the major reason for why the Bawku farmer had been successful thus far, but he was wrong! At the time of the interview, Tamar had not initiated the process of applying the fertilizer. His progress thus far was purely the result of his expertise and efforts. At this point I made a clear realization. Perhaps the issue was more than just that the farmers lacked expertise on dryseason farming, but in addition, it was highly likely that they were ignorant to the reality that they lacked this knowledge. If this realization were true, then I could no longer rely on the farmers to admit that they lacked the knowledge to be successful or to reach out for help in this area. If the farmers were unaware (or perhaps in denial) that they did not know enough to successfully have a high-yield harvest, then it would be up to me as the change agent to make sure that the issue of knowledge acquisition was dealt with appropriately.
Before I jumped to the conclusion that the farmers were ignorant of their lack of necessary knowledge, it was important to consider the possibility of denial. In other words, the farmers may have realized that they did not know enough to be successful in the first attempt of Project RISE, but they may have reluctant to admit it in order to save face. In addition to the many barriers to change she cites in, “Managing the Human Side of Change,” Kanter also mentions the issue of Loss of Face. “If accepting a change means admitting that the way things were done in the past was wrong, people are certain to resist. Nobody likes losing face or feeling embarrassed in front of their peers” (Kanter 1985:54). Therefore, in order to avoid embarrassment, the farmers may have chosen to give the perception that they had enough knowledge and were already qualified to take on the task. The distinction between ignorance and denial is important, however I determined that both sources of knowledge deficiency could be handled in a similar fashion. The second time that I realized the importance of the Bawku farmer’s role in the success of Phase 2 was when Jacob, Darryl, Tamar, and I went to visit the demonstration farm. When we got there, I was impressed to see the amount of success that Tamar and his brother were able to make in such a short time span. After talking at the site for a bit, Jacob made an important remark to Darryl and I. “Do you see the ridges? They are much wider and more square than the ridges the farmers made last year.” This was something that I did not even notice myself, but with closer observation I realized that he was indeed right. The Bawku farmers were utilizing wider and flatter beds than those used the previous year to grow their crops (Appendices G and H). When I asked Tamar why he was doing this, he explained that wider beds were necessary to retain water in the
(Appendix G: A picture of me working on the narrow ridges of Phase 1)
(Appendix H: Picture of the Bawku farmersâ€™ Phase 2 preliminary beds. It is easily apparent that these are much wider and flatter than the Phase 1 counterparts)
dry-season. Besides the beds, I later observed that he was using a different type of hoe (that he brought from Bawku) to break the land than the ones used by the Ekumdipe farmers. It was easily apparent that not only did the Bawku farmer have superior expertise, but also he was utilizing advanced technology! It was at this point that I started actively prying Tamar about everything he knew and the supplies he was intending on using. I planned on taking these same supplies and making sure the KEM farmers had access to them. If the Ekumdipe group was going to emulate the Bawku farmerâ€™s progress, it was vital that I implement a system that gave them the best chance possible.
Implementation Thus far in this chapter I have elucidated the major issues of resources and knowledge and their relevancy to differences I observed between Phase 1 and Phase 2 of Project RISE. After my research, it seems quite clear that the lack of necessary materials and expertise represented significant impediments to the progress of the initial phase of the irrigation system. Identifying two of the major barriers to the success of my project was important. However, as the leader of a development project, I was more concerned with how to overcome these boundaries. I knew that the people lacked the resources and the knowledge to produce a high-crop yield, but how could I rectify these problems? How can one guarantee that they are providing enough resources to clients in a development project when the clients arenâ€™t even aware themselves how much they need? How could I assure that the farmers acquire the necessary level of knowledge when they themselves feel like they do not need further training? These were the most difficult questions I had to address throughout my involvement in Phase 2. After careful analysis
of the data, I discovered the answer to these questions and simultaneously identified what I felt was the third major category of issues during Phase 1 of Project RISE: implementation. Although implementation is just one of the categories of major problems that have existed throughout the duration of Project RISE, its all-encompassing nature makes it directly applicable to the other two categories. I have concluded that through proper implementation, a development project leader can overcome major deficiencies in both resources and knowledge. Of course, the implementation of a project needs to be contextspecific in order to be effective. With that in mind, I adjusted my implementation strategy to suit the needs of Project RISE and Ekumdipe. However, the major discoveries I made in this realm are likely to extend the existing literature for those attempting to launch projects like mine in different contexts as well. In the context of Project RISE, I identified three major features that were key in my attempts to improve my implementation of Phase 2: 1) Demonstration 2) Communication and 3) Incentivization. Demonstration In Diffusion of Innovations, Rogers (2003) argues that subjective evaluations are more important than the basis of scientific studies when it comes to the diffusion of innovations. In other words, an individual is more likely to adopt an innovation from the recommendation of a friend than from reading a thorough report. Keeping that in mind, I made it a priority to incorporate a successful demonstration into Project RISE. If Rogers is right, then having the people of Ekumdipe personally witness the success of a dryseason farm in the area would be much more influential than words from me or even an expert such as Professor Bawa. Undoubtedly, there are other ways to teach the farmers of
Ekumdipe how to successfully farm in the dry-season (lectures for example). However, for the sake of expedition (especially in a low-tech community), I determined that having a live demonstration in the area would be most effective. This is effective for two reasons: 1) It accelerates the rate at which farmers and community members believe in the feasibility of the project, as they are able to see the success of another rather than waiting for their own success 2) It provides an instant model that other farmers can quickly emulate â€“ rather than learning from the trials and errors of their own attempts, they can learn from the more extensive experiences of the demonstrator. I would highly recommend the introduction of a successful demonstrator for those who intend to introduce projects in similar contexts as Project RISE. There are undoubtedly other ways to lead individuals to the adoption of innovation (teaching individuals how to farm in the dry-season in a classroom setting for example). However, for the sake of practicality and speed, it seems that an in-community demonstrator is one of the most effective ways to accomplish the task. In the case of Project RISE, Tamar serves this purpose. Although he is primarily focused on providing a great model and maximizing his harvest yield at the moment, he will be expected to remain in Ekumdipe afterwards and instruct the KEM farmers as they proceed through March and April 2011. Communication Communication was easily one the trickiest and most complex issues I encountered throughout Project RISE. From the beginning, it was a challenge. Because the bulk of my correspondence occurred with Professor Bawa, I had to wait on slow and irregular email correspondence to communicate with him. As the project became more complex, so did the communication issues. Distance, time, language, and culture were
just a few of the issues I have come across in regards to communication. However, I have been able to create a typology for the two major communication issues I have come across during Project RISE: Long-term communication issues and short-term communication issues.
Short-term Communication Issues Short-term communication issues have been consistent throughout the process of creating the irrigation system. The most obvious form of this was the language barrier. Although English is the national language of Ghana, there are over 40 languages in the country. After English, the most widely spoken language in Ghana is a dialect called Twi. However, besides Twi and English, the main language spoken in Ekumdipe is the regional dialect, Nkumuru. Nkumuru is the name of an ethnic group in the community. In addition, the word is also the name of the language they speak. Most of the members of Ekumdipe spoke Twi and Nkumuru fluently with basic to little mastery of English. As a result, it was necessary for me to use a translator for the majority of my tasks. Throughout Phase 1 and Phase 2 of Project RISE, I utilized the help of various translators in my correspondence with both farmers and community members not directly related to the project. For the purposes of my interviews, I asked a young man named Foster to help with translations. He is fluent in 6 languages and also graduated from the School of Agriculture from the University of Agricultural Studies in Tamale, Ghana so he was ideal to assist with the irrigation project. Foster was a great translator and was very
patient in the interviewing process. However, there were some major issues that came up as a result of his involvement. Because of his knowledge in agriculture, there were multiple instances where Foster directly answered me back in response a question that I had intended for a villager. Many times, I already knew the correct answer to the question I was asking. However, Foster did not pick up on my cues at time and would answer on behalf of the farmer. Even worse, sometimes the farmers would be able to pick up on his English and repeat his answer, therefore nullifying my attempt. In addition to problems that occurred as a result of incorrect translations, issues also occurred after correct translations were made. For various reasons, individuals would sometimes hear the correct questions, but they would provide inconsistent answers. “How old are you?” I initially told Jacob to inquire Tamar. “31” is the answer I received. However, at the time I did not have a pen and paper so I asked again later just to verify, “How old did he say he was again?” This time the answer I received from Jacob was completely different. “He says that he is 37.” I was instantly perplexed. I thought perhaps that I had heard incorrectly in one of the instances, but after double-checking with Darryl, my initial suspicion was validated. Tamar had given me two different numbers in reference to his age! This was quite a stunning revelation in the context of communication issues for Project RISE. The age incident illustrated a major issue that has potentially permeated the entirety of my efforts in Ekumdipe. Throughout my interviewing processes in both Phase 1 and Phase 2, I assumed that language barriers would be the most significant short-term communication issue that I would come across. However, the mix-up with Tamar presented a very interesting dynamic. If a participant of my interviews could incorrectly
report something as simple as his own age, then that instantly casts doubt upon every survey answer that I have obtained over the past two years. I no longer could assume that even basic answers (a personâ€™s age for example) are correct just because members of the community say so. If that is the case, then when dealing with projects such as mine, it is extremely important to directly acquire data to additionally supplement answers from survey participants.
Long-term Communication Issues Although short-term communication issues were more prevalent, long-term communication issues were the most significant hindrances to the progress of Phase 1. Communication deficiencies were at the root of the low-crop yield that occurred in the initial dry-season. As mentioned earlier, when Darryl left Ekumdipe in December 2009, the outlook for Phase 1 was very positive. However, after he left, communication significantly dropped off. This of course, was a two-sided dilemma. Over the course of the Spring of 2010, I stopped reaching out to Ekumdipe as often as I did immediately before and after the launch of the project. Professor Bawa and Darryl assured me that the progress of the system was going according to plan, so I felt that I could reduce correspondence at least until the harvest period was imminent. However, it turns out that things went significantly awry before this time. Part of the reason I did not reach out to
the village is that I did not receive any word from anyone (including Professor Bawa or Jacob) about negative occurrences with the project. By the time harvest came around, I was caught off guard by the status of Phase 1 because I did not receive any updates throughout the spring. Before leaving the community the first time, I thought I made it clear that Project RISE was an ongoing initiative. Therefore, I thought there was a general understanding that if things did not go well, I would be the first to know what happened. However, many things occurred during the spring that I should have been made aware of. I should have been updated on the poor yield once it became apparent that there could be crop failure, or when the farmers realized that they lacked resources during their Phase 1 attempts. I was unaware that the expert from the University of Development Studies I hired to teach the farmers stopped returning to Ekumdipe for unclear reasons. Perplexed, I inquired with Professor Bawa as to why these issues were not getting back to me. His answers revealed another major issue that did not occur to me prior to the launch of the project. Professor Bawa explained, “When a young person from a foreign area comes to help out, you don’t want to keep going back to that person for help. Sometimes you feel like he has done enough and we should try and make things work on our own too.” His comment highlighted the significance of cultural norms when working in regions like Ekumdipe. In Ekumdipe (and the areas around it), age is an extremely important indicator of status. For example, every morning when different members of the community first greet, the younger person is expected to bow and kneel as a sign of respect. Through the observance of such customs, I became aware of the importance of age in the community. However, I did not anticipate that its significance would emerge as a major factor in the
execution of my project. Everyone that was working with me on the project (Professor Bawa, Jacob, the farmers, etc) was older than me. There is a good chance that this age factor came into play throughout the duration of my project. My respective position (a younger male) in the Ekumdipe society likely made it harder for any of the individuals to openly come to me with issues and failures. Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson (2007) explain the concept of denial in their book, Mistakes Were Made: But Not By Me, claiming that cognitive dissonance is the source behind internal conflicts and shame avoidance. They call cognitive dissonance the “state of tension that occurs whenever a person holds two cognitions (ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions) that are psychologically inconsistent“ (Tavris and Aronson 2007:13). In the case of the project, two dissonant cognitions of the farmers could have been, “Adam is my major resource for help with the irrigation system” but on the other hand, “Adam is younger than me and I should not rely on him for aid.” If that is the case then, according to Tavris and Aronson’s findings, the cognitive dissonance could have made it hard for the farmers to admit failures and come to me for help. Perhaps it could have been just easier to try and make things work on their own, which is eventually what happened. If age and other cultural factors made it harder for the members of Ekumdipe to actively reach out to me for aid, then it was clear that I needed to be proactive in my communication efforts to get updates. The final issue in my long-term communication efforts was more related to setup and implementation than to socio-cultural factors. The bulk of my issues with the actual irrigation system came from prioritizing the physical set up of the project over the human component. However, it seems that I focused too much on establishing a social connection with the farmers (town meeting etc.) and not enough on the actual system
(phone setup, emailing, etc) when it came to communication. As a result, I was not as involved with the development of the project as I should have been. In order to make sure this issue did not repeat itself, I made it a priority to revamp both my communication efforts and the system that I was using. One of the most common sentiments I heard during my second trip to Ekumdipe, was the belief that I was only concerned with the launch of the project and not its longterm development. For example though I initially told the first group of farmers that I would be remain active with the project and eventually return, one farmer demonstrated a lack of knowledge regarding my involvement in the project. “He told us about the farming and the system one day, but I did not know he would return.” In another interview, when we asked another farmer about my responsibilities in regard to providing resources he replied, “I don’t know. Maybe he would bring technical advice or find [resources] indirectly.” These answers of course were shocking to me. During the group meeting in August 2009 I explicitly stated that I would return to help the project and that ADI would provide ongoing support during the course of the project. However, it seems that because my communication with the project waned, the farmers’ belief in my involvement with the project subsided as well. As a result, I revamped the communication system and improved my efforts to maintain constant communication with the people of Ekumdipe. During Phase 1 of Project RISE, I estimate that I reached out to Professor Bawa regarding Project RISE about once a month. The length of time between our correspondences was also compounded by his varying ability to report on the project. It is important to note that although Professor Bawa grew up around Ekumdipe, he no longer
permanently resides in the region. As a professor at the University of Development Studies, he now lives in the nearby city of Tamale. As a result, his ability to touch base with the project was also limited. He did return to the village from time to time, but those returns were infrequent. In addition, Professor Bawa could sometimes get very busy and became difficult to correspond with via email as a result. However, these issues were not a reflection on my uncle or how much he cared about the success of the project. It became clear to me though, that he may have not been the most ideal choice for an onthe-ground liaison for Project RISE. Before I returned to Ekumdipe in December 2010 for Phase 2, I planned on identifying a new liaison to work with on the project. Professor Bawa was probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the area on development projects, but certain factors made him less than ideal a liaison. By the time of my return, I realized that my communication liaison needed to be someone that actually lived in Ekumdipe permanently. Having an expert in agriculture was valuable, but the extensive knowledge is useless if the dry-season farms suddenly catch on fire and the expert is unaware because of proximity issues. With this in mind, I determined it would be more valuable to connect with someone who is physically in village, even if he or she lacked expertise. It seems that my intuition was correct as Professor Bawa was relying on another individual to provide him with updates before reporting back to me. Fortunately, this individual was also someone who I felt I could count on and was heavily involved with the project. Therefore, I decided to rely on Professor Bawa as more of an outside advisor and asked Jacob to step in as my on-the-ground liaison for the project. The major concern with this of course, was providing Jacob with proper communication means. Whereas Uncle Bawa
lived in a University and had access to reliable Internet connections, Jacob lived in Ekumdipe and lacked that resource. After leaving Ekumdipe for the second time, I believed that Jacob was the ideal candidate for my communication liaison. He lived in the community, was very knowledgeable about the project, and was willing to constantly provide me with updates. However, Jacob was not equipped to properly fulfill the role. Eventually providing Jacob with effective communications means would just be a matter of funding and purchases. However, I felt an individualâ€™s ability to be hands on with the project should be the priority, therefore making Jacob a better choice than Professor Bawa for the position. I now believe that establishing a proper communication system is just as much of a responsibility for the creator of an international development project as providing the other crucial items of an irrigation system (pumps, pipes, etc). Without an efficient communication system to constantly check on the status of the project, the other physical components are largely worthless. After choosing Jacob as the communication liaison, I still needed to figure out a way to provide him with the proper communication means. For the most part, we have been communicating via phone calls in 2011. However, this method was still not ideal. Many times, reception in Ekumdipe can be somewhat poor and that makes conversations challenging. In addition, due to our accents, Jacob and I would have to repeat ourselves many times to make sure the other person heard correctly. Finally, I wanted him to have a way to send me visual updates (pictures, and sign-up sheets) as well. In order to overcome all of these boundaries, I knew that Jacob would need access to the Internet. Of course, like the other parts of the project, this would be very capital intensive and my
funds had already dwindled as a result of already paying for the return trip to Ghana. In February of 2011, I was fortunate enough to receive a $650 grant from the Harvard College Research Program that was intended to help me reinforce my efforts with my communication liaison. Since, I have purchased a laptop and portable modem for Jacob and had it sent to the village. With the new equipment, he has been able to send me daily updates, pictures, and more thorough explanations. Already, I have been able to witness the benefits of revamping the communication system. Similar to Phase 1, there have been unexpected setbacks so far with Phase 2. However, the difference is that this year I am more involved with the process and I have been able to help with the adjustments. Last year, the expert from the University of Development studies stopped returning to Ekumdipe to help teach the farmers how to farm in the dry-season. Likewise, this year Tamar left to go to Bawku for an extended period of time to buy seedlings for the KEM farm. Not only did he take longer than anticipated, but he was also not able to purchase as many seedlings as expected. Both of these issues had the potential to ruin the Phase 2 attempt of Project RISE and cause low crop yields for the second year in a row. However, unlike last year, I was made aware of these issues immediately and was able to help out from afar. I had Jacob reach back out to Tamar and notify him that not returning terminated the contract. Also, to rectify the situation with the seedlings, I requested for Professor Bawa to get the funds from Tamar so he could use them to buy seeds from Tamale. Having to buy seeds instead of seedlings set back the KEM progress by about 1-2 weeks, but this is a much better alternative compared crop failure.
Incentivization Adjustments in incentivization are easily the biggest changes I made in my implementation of Project RISE Phase 2. As mentioned earlier, Darryl and I made the decision to incorporate a loan system into Project RISE on our way back to Ekumdipe. However, this decision was mostly logistical for the sake of reinforcing the finances of ADI. It made sense for us to receive funds back (to use towards other projects) if we felt Project RISE truly was profitable endeavor that could eventually pay for itself. It was only after we arrived in Ekumdipe that we realized that switching to a more microfinance approach to the project could potentially increase the chances of success for the project itself. Incorporating the loan structure into the project was valuable for two reasons: 1) to realign interests and 2) greatly increase project efficiency. “No I did not say anything about these complaints. What reason would I have to do that?” This was the response of a farmer when I asked her if she had notified anyone once she realized that she did not have the needed resources to produce a high crop yield in Phase 1. It was a short response but the significance of what she expressed was overwhelming. “Why would you have done that?” I thought to myself, “because you wanted the system to work so you could make more money. This is obvious.” However, was it so obvious? After thinking about the woman’s comment, I realized that she had a point. It was indeed a big assumption for me to think that she would automatically want to reach out for assistance on the project. What if she did not think the project could work after experiencing setbacks? What if she never thought the project would work in the first place? No matter what her reason was, either way we had set up the project so that she
could walk away from it with little to no consequence. If one did not believe the irrigation system could work, then there was no reason not to simply just quit if it was showing signs of failure. I wanted the farmers to keep pushing at the project even if it did not initially work. However, they did not feel the same. In short, our interests were not aligned. During my first interview with an Ekumdipe farmer in December 2010, I learned of one of the major reasons that my interests were not completely aligned with the participants. Simply put, I discovered that the farmers did not assess the project as much as much as I would have hoped prior to joining the system. In the initial interview, I asked the farmer if he thought the project was profitable. He replied “Of course!” In 2009, I would have stopped with that question, but this time I pushed further. Next, I asked him if it would be worth it for us as an organization to give pumps and pipes to him to increase his income, and he said, “Yes.” I then asked him if he would take a loan to start his own farm since he thought it was profitable. At this point, his excitement waned and he became more hesitant. “I don’t know. I would have to learn some things first.” We asked him what things he would need to know. He stated that he would have to learn the total cost of the project, the amount of money he could make from the farms (important to note that he already implied that he knew this as he claimed to know the profitability – revenues minus input costs), the interest payments, and he would need clauses for help just in case the project was not going as well as he originally hoped. None of these things were mentioned when I asked him if he would be willing to take the pumps and pipes as charity. However, I could not even blame the farmer too much for his deficiency in knowledge, as I too did not even know these figures at the time. Just as the 10 farmers
took my word when I told them that Phase 1 would be profitable, I took Professor Bawa’s word when he told me that dry-season farming was profitable. This was no longer a safe assumption though, and I realized that I would need to determine the exact inputs of profitably (costs of the farms versus expected crop revenues) myself before I could ask the farmers of Ekumdipe to do the same. After doing research at the market, I was able to determine that the irrigation system was indeed profitable. The total cost of the loans was around $2,800 and the expected annual revenue from a 4-acre onion farm was approximately $3,800. In the process of creating this loan, Darryl and I were forced to increase our knowledge and ability to effectively execute the project. Moreover, we wanted to make sure that we used the loan to align interests. In other words, if the project failed this time, we wanted to make sure ADI was not the only party that was losing out. We used our calculations to come up with a minimum payment the KEM group should pay even if the crop yield was low. This would require them to use their earnings from the rainy-season to pay ADI back if things did not go well. An individual would only accept this agreement if they believed that the project would succeed. We then had a legitimate answer to the woman’s question. The reason that she would reach out for help now is that she did not want to take money from her rainy-season farming to pay back the loan. I believe that interest alignment is paramount to success to any development project such as mine because it encourages a higher level of coordination between both the clients and the change agents of a project. `
I call the small hurdle that can be used to assure interest alignment in projects
such as mine, “the cost of buy-in.” This term is dually appropriate because it requires
clients to both buy-in not only with potential capital10 (willingness to pay loan and interest if crops fail), but also to buy-in mentally as well. The psychological (mentality) aspect of economic decision-making is central to behavioral economics. Sendhil Mullainathan (2005) is a scholar who explores behavioral economics in the context of development in his article, “Development Economics Through the Lens of Psychology.” A key question in this model is whether people are sophisticated or naive in how they deal with their temporal inconsistency. Sophisticated people would recognize the inconsistency and (recursively) form dynamically consistent plans. In other words, they would only make plans that they would follow through on. Naïve people, however, would not recognize the problem; they would make plans assuming that they will stick to them and abandon their plans only if required, when the time comes. (Mullainathan 2005:9) Because the farmers showed inconsistent behavior (quitting after originally committing to the project) in Phase 1 of RISE, I could conservatively assume that they were naïve in their decision-making. By creating a cost of buy-in I could attempt to increase the sophistication of their decision. This method would also provide me with an efficient means of understanding whether the participants think a project is a worthy and profitable cause or not. After all, a farmer is not likely to refuse an irrigation system if told it can help him make money. However, if he is told that he has to pay a loan even if the project fails he will not accept unless he truly believes the irrigation system will work. Additionally, the farmer will be more likely to elaborate on what things he will need to make sure that the system will work before taking the loan. This happened when the KEM farmers insisted that we provide them the funds to pay for the tilling of the land before agreeing to sign the contract. Most importantly however, having a cost of buy-in will increase the likelihood that you will hear more from the participants if things do not 10
In the context of Project RISE, “capital” is defined as future funds, however potential consequences for buy-in do not always have to be financial. I touch on the institutions of shame and obligation in Chapter 5.
work. It is for this reason that I believe proper implementation, and more specifically, proper incentivization, is the most important factor of the successful execution of a project such as mine. Every project and region will have different issues that will come up and many times they are difficult to predict ahead of time. In my case, this was a deficiency of dry-season farming knowledge and input resources (seeds, chemicals, etc). Each individual development project will have its own set of issues unique to its specific circumstances. However, interest alignment is an applicable concept to all of them. By aligning interests with a cost of buy-in, a project leader is able to increase the chances that he or she is prepared to deal with unpredictable project issues if and when they occur.
Chapter 5: Discussion and Literature Review Given the wide range of topics and literature that apply to Project RISE and my research on it, I believe that it is appropriate to have a general discussion chapter. Since the second phase of this project, I have been using the data from my case study to try and answer a simple question: “Why has Project RISE improved between Phase 1 and Phase 2?” In my pursuit of the answer to this question, I have explored my data as well as various literary sources. In the process, I have identified three factors that might account for the improvement observed from Phase 1 to Phase 2. These factors are resources, knowledge, and implementation. My research has pointed me towards other potentially relevant findings though, and I think that it is important to address these topics as well. In the remainder of this chapter I engage with applicable literature that helps to elucidate what I observed through Project RISE. First, because of its direct relevance to the introduction of the irrigation system, I will touch on the subject of innovation diffusion.
Innovation Diffusion Literature There is a diverse literature that considers the topic of the diffusion of innovation (Wellin 2005; Mosteller 1981; David 1986; Lansing 1987 and 1991; Carlson 1965; Wollons 2000a and 2000b). One of the most prominent works from this collection though, is Everett M. Rogers’s Diffusion of Innovations. In the book, Rogers (2003) helps to define the subject of diffusion, gives the history of research on this topic, provides gives multiple examples and cases of the subject’s application in the actual world. He defines innovation as “an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption” (Rogers 2003:12) He then continues to state that
technological innovations have both software and hardware components. The hardware component consists of the physical object or piece of the innovation (the pumps and pipes of an irrigation system for example). The software aspect consists of the information used for the tool (the necessary knowledge needed to farm in the dry-season). Although he discusses the intricacies of different types of innovation, Roger’s book focuses heavily on the process of diffusion and what affects it. In the Diffusion of Innovations, Rogers defines diffusion as diffusion as “the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system” (Rogers, 2003:35). He continues to highlight an important component of diffusion called the “innovation-decision process.” This is the process that individuals go through from first learning about motivation to fully implementing and accepting it. He mentions that there are 5 major steps in this process: 1) Knowledge 2) Persuasion 3) Decision 4) Implementation and 5) Confirmation (Rogers, p.21). Rogers also claims that in a community, the progress of general adoption can be represented in an S curve (Appendix I Rogers 2003:11). The process can be represented in an “S” because early adoption is usually starts slow and then becomes more rapid after the adopters have accepted the innovation. Finally, the last stragglers, or the late adopters, pick up the innovation as the curve reaches the asymptote of 100% adoption. Of course, my data from Project RISE helps to confirm this idea, as early adoption (Phase 1) been slower than current diffusion (Phase 2).
(Appendix I: Figure from Rogers’s Diffusion of Innovations portraying S-curves of diffusion)
Besides describing the steps of diffusion, Rogers (2003) also brings up the major factors of innovations that are likely to be adopted. According to him, an innovation’s relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability are key characteristics that will determine whether it will be adopted rapidly or even not at all. Trialability and observability are two factors in particular that have had relevance to my project as they were most improved by the introduction of the Bawku farmer, Tamar, to Ekumdipe. Rogers also defines the roles of change agents (me), opinion leaders (Jacob), and clients (the farmers) and discusses the typical dynamics between them. “Opinion leaders can be ‘worn out’ by change agents who overuse them in diffusion
activities…Change agents often use opinion leaders in a social system as their lieutenants in diffusion activities” (Rogers 2003:27). Of course, both statements are very relevant to Project RISE as I, as a change agent, relied on Jacob very heavily throughout the process and was even concerned about his apparent fatigue at times. Besides the elaboration on innovations and how they are diffused, one of the key contributions of Rogers’s work is the multitude of diffusion cases he highlights. One of these examples, a study on the diffusion of hybrid corn in Iowa, had direct relevance to my project. Rogers describes the Ryan and Gross (1943) study on the research of the diffusion of hybrid corn as “the most influential diffusion study of all time” (Rogers 2003:31). In 1941, Bryce Ryan, a professor at Iowa State University, and Neal Gross, his assistant, commenced a study on the adoption of hybrid corn in two small Iowa communities. The hybrid corn seeds were genetically superior to alternatives as they increased harvests by approximately 20% per acre. Despite the clear advantages of the new corn seeds, the adoption process still took a significant amount of time. Although hybrid corn was an innovation with a high degree of relative advantage over the open-pollinated seed that it replaced, the typical farmer moved slowly from awareness-knowledge to adoption. The innovation-decision process involved considerable deliberation, even in the case of innovation with spectacular results. The average respondent took three or four years after planting his first hybrid seed, usually on a small trial plot of about one acre, before deciding to plant 100 percent of his corn acreage in hybrid varieties. (Rogers, 32) A contribution of the Ryan and Gross study was the creation of a standard research methodology for subsequent diffusion scholars. This method involved asking participants where they obtained information on the innovation and about the results of the adoption. Like Ryan and Gross, I was trying to introduce an agricultural innovation (the dry season irrigation system) with a clear comparative advantage. However, my case is a bit
different from theirs as in Project RISE, farmer adoption generally preceded full awareness-knowledge. Nonetheless, both cases include a slow process of diffusion. Although the Ryan and Gross study was extremely important, studies on the diffusions of innovations have expanded to other areas. The subject of innovation diffusion applies to a wide variety of areas in society. Currently, literature on the diffusion of innovations discusses the impact of new ideas, processes, and technologies in education, business, medicine, science, and many other sectors. For example, business scholars have considered the social challenges inherent in bringing about systems level change. In her article, “Managing the Human Side of Change,” Rosabeth Kanter (1985) lists ten of the major reasons that business managers experience resistance to change. Of the ten reasons for resistance, four were especially relevant in the context of Project RISE: concerns about potential uncertainty, concerns about competence, the reality of a greater workload, and something Kanter (1985) calls the Difference Effect. “A fourth reason people resist change is the effect of ‘difference’ – the fact that change requires people to become conscious of, and to question, familiar routines and habits” (Kanter 1985:54) Amy Edmondson (2001) also explains a phenomenon that is similar to the difference effect in her article “Disrupted routines: Team learning and new technology implementation in hospitals.” In the article, Edmonson explains that the adoption of new technologies and innovations can be impaired by the existence of established routines. Further contributing to the challenge of new technology adoption, organizational routines, which characterize much of an organization’s ongoing activity, reinforce the status quo. Organizations develop routines around the use of existing technologies, giving rise to self-reinforcing cycle stability. (Edmonson 2001).
This concept is directly applicable to the irrigation system as many of the individuals of Ekumdipe were used to the â€œself-reinforcing cycleâ€? of only farming in the rainy season. Another interesting point that Edmonson makes that is specifically related to my project is the concept of interdependence and group learning: Technologies that threaten to disrupt organizational routines are those with interdependent users. Interdependence requires people to communicate and coordinate to create new routines, thereby participating in collective learning process. This may involve learning about othersâ€™ roles, improvising, and making numerous small adjustments that facilitate technology implementation. Research on teams suggests factors that promote coordination and learning in teams in general, including authority structures, psychological safety, and team stability. (Edmonson 2001) Gaining a perspective on team learning was extremely invaluable to the development of Project RISE, especially considering that Phase 1 and Phase 2 included two teams that worked on the farms together. Although it was valuable to understand the business and organizational perspectives on diffusion and adoption, I sought literature that would be even more applicable to my project. Although there is ample literature today on innovations and diffusion, I noticed that the literature is less extensive when it comes to the context of third world development. Eric J. Arnould is a scholar who focused on context when researching the diffusion of innovation. Arnould (1989) argues that the typical paradigm used to understand the diffusion of innovations is not sufficient to explain the adoption of new goods in the Zinder Province of Niger: The standard model for the diffusion of innovations in consumer behavior does not adequately account for the incorporation of novel items of non-local origin into the material culture inventory of Hausa-speaking peasants in Niger. A synthetic, culturally relative model composed of elements drawn from the standard diffusion paradigm, from world systems theory, and from economic and symbolic anthropology provides a more satisfactory account of these processes. (Arnould 1989)
Arnould (1989) agrees with Rogers (2003) that innovation characteristics and methods are indeed important to the level of adoption. However, he contends that these approaches must be defined in â€œculturally relative termsâ€? to be effective. Other scholars like Arnould do elaborate on the important concept of context in relation to the diffusion of innovation, however my review of the literature suggests that specific diffusion studies in the context of third world social entrepreneurial projects are limited. Literature on the diffusion of innovation is vast and applies to a wide variety of areas of modern-day society. Despite the specific sectors (business, education, etc) many of the findings from the literature on diffusion theory seem somewhat applicable to all areas. Nonetheless, it seems that certain types of diffusion must be context specific. Although there is literature on the adoption of innovations and technologies in different global contexts, my review of the literature suggested that the specific context of innovation diffusion in third world international development projects (in particular social entrepreneurship) has been less extensively studied. Diffusion literature explains the process of technology adoption in agriculture and even elaborates on the specifics of innovation diffusion in developing regions and Third World nations, but what about the combination of the two? What exactly are the specific nuances that occur when trying to introduce new agricultural innovations to an underdeveloped community through a development project? What are some specific contextual socio-cultural barriers that can potentially put such a project in jeopardy and what are the ways to overcome them? These are some of the questions that I was not able to easily answer through my review of the literature. However, with the exploratory findings from my field-based case study
research on Project RISE, I believe that my work can help extend the literature in this area as I have provided some potential answers that can be built upon.
The Selection of Ekumdipe Selecting an area to implement the irrigation system was one of the biggest challenges of starting RISE. From a research standpoint, the selection of Ekumdipe is admittedly less than perfect. The location was not randomly selected and there are specific traits about the community that make it unique (my familial ties for example). However, from a development project perspective, Ekumdipe was an ideal choice. Although I was unaware at the time, there is existing that supports my decision. Given the added emphasis to context in my research, I wanted to specifically address the unique nature of the location as well. When I chose to implement RISE in Ekumdipe, my intuition told me that having family in the area could potentially increase my chances of success. Since the launch of the project, I have found that my data and literature support this notion. “Adam you are my cousin, my blood, how could I fail you?” This was the response I received from a cousin in Tamale after I asked him to have the laptop shipped to Jacob for communication purposes. I had heard similar sentiments, throughout both phases of Project RISE. However, to what extent were my family and extended family connections affecting the status of the project? According to literature, apparently more than I had initially perceived. In Lloyd Steier’s (2001) article, “Family Firms, Plural Forms of Governance, and the Evolving Role of Trust,” Steier claims that family ties can have positive benefits in
firms. He states that these types of relationships generate trust and thusly create advantages for the organizations that utilize them, especially in early stages of growth: For the family firm, trust represents a particularly important source of strategic advantage. For example, in the early stages of firm development, the trust indigenous in most family relationships allows firms to reduce transaction costs substantially (Steier 2001:353) Although Project RISE is not a firm, I believe that Steierâ€™s findings are still applicable to my work on the ground. Like the family firms that he cites, I was able to utilize family connections to lower transaction (and other costs) substantially. This was especially apparent when I was able to provide Jacob with a laptop somewhat seamlessly after receiving funds from the Harvard College Research Program Grant.
Gender Another potential factor worth exploring in with Project RISE is the role of gender. Initially I did not anticipate this to be a factor because the participants in both groups (Phase 1 and Phase 2) represented a relatively equal distribution of males and females. Therefore, I thought that all gender differences would be neutralized within the group. However, in Ekumdipe, I came to find that gender differences permeate everything, so it would make sense that gender could become a factor in the project as well. In the village, I noticed that household tasks were very gender oriented. Women spent the majority of their days cooking and preparing the households and the men were responsible for farming, husbandry, and other tasks. During a visit to one of the household kitchens, I inquired a woman about the gender differences. I initially asked the woman why she spent so much time in the kitchen everyday. Although tradition had set it up for women to spend time in the household, modern
opportunities provided men and women more equal chances of providing income for the home. Therefore, it currently makes less sense to designate just women to those household tasks. “Traditions are stronger here,” she replied, “In Ghana, here, the men’s voices are laudable.” She continued to elaborate on how all the time in the kitchen and household left girls disadvantaged in their education as they had less time to study and interact with the world than their male counterparts. However, despite these disadvantages, I acquired data that suggests that women are in fact more ideal participants for the irrigation system than their male counterparts. When I later spoke with a female farmer from the Kano Egye Man group, the issue of gender came up again (it’s notable that gender usually only came up when I spoke to women). When I asked her about the Phase 1 issues, she cited a dynamic that I had never heard of previously. Apparently, the men and women from the Phase 1 group split according to gender to do their tasks. I asked her why and she cited that men are more involved in preparing their rainy season farms than the women. “The men are most involved in yams. We did not have yams so we had more time.” As a result, the women apparently were able to devote more time and effort to the dry season farms than their male counterparts. Additionally, the women farmers were able to provide me with more accurate estimates for the cost of inputs for the onion farms and estimated revenues for the harvest, therefore making them more knowledgeable about the loan mechanics. Jacob informed me that this was most likely because the women were the ones responsible for attending market day every week and thusly had a better sense of prices. Shahidu Khandker (1998; 2005) explores the role of gender in his research on microfinance projects in Bangladesh. In his studies, Khandker states that “women are
disproportionately disadvantaged in countries such as Bangladesh and constitute the overwhelming majority of microfinance beneficiaries” (Khandker 2005:3). He also finds that because of preferences and other factors, women in impoverished conditions benefit more from microfinance loans than their male counterparts. Like the women in Bangladesh, the women in Ekumdipe are disproportionately disadvantaged and most likely have different preferences (from the existence of strong gender norms). Given, the limited nature of my research, I am not able to conclude whether or not women farmers fare better than their male counterparts in irrigation systems like Project RISE. However, I believe that including homogenous groups in future attempts could potentially help to isolate the impact of gender.
Contracts and Constitution A dynamic that I inadvertently stumbled upon during my involvement with Project RISE is the inclusion of contracts and a constitution. These organizing social structures were absent in Phase 1 but were later added in Phase 2 and therefore should be addressed. Literature on the two items suggests that their inclusion may indeed be influential on the improvement of Phase 2. What is especially interesting about these structures is that the institutions needed to sustain them in Western society are largely absent in Ekumdipe. In “Notes on a New Sociology of Economic Development,” Jeffrey Sachs (2000) explains on the importance of social systems, stating that economic growth, “has been intimately connected with capitalist social institutions characterized by a state subject to the rule of law, a culture that supports a high degree of social mobility, and economic institutions that are market based and support an extensive and complex division of labor” (Sachs 2000: 34). In The rise of the Western world: a new economic
history, North and Thomas (1973) discuss the necessity of such institutions for economic growth. They argue that without the existence of formalized institutions to uphold property rights, contracts, and fair transactions, economic growth cannot be sustained. These formalized institutions and systems did not exist in the village. However, I found that through the Ekumdipe culture, we still had the necessary social mechanisms to uphold the agreements. Prior to making and signing the loan I introduced the discussion of the lack of institutions with an elder in Ekumdipe. While walking through the community, I noticed that there were many chickens roaming freely throughout the town. The chickens were neither marked nor watched. As a result, I deduced that it would be easy for one to steal one of the chickens if he wanted to. I asked the elder what was stopping individuals from stealing their neighbors’ chickens. “What? How can he do that? You would be shamed. Everyone in Ekumdipe would look down on you. Even finding a wife after that would be hard.” In short, the elder was elaborating on a cultural system that regulates social behavior in Ekumdipe. Because most of the members of Ekumdipe know each other, to commit an act as heinous as stealing would evoke shame for an extended period of time. Clifford Geertz (1962) describes a similar dynamic that occurs in Java, Indonesia in his article, “The Rotating Credit Association: A ‘Middle Rung’ in Development.” In the article, Geertz describes credit associations called “Arisans.” Individuals are expected to give a weekly contribution to the arisan in exchange for the chance to get money back periodically. Individuals could default on their payment, but Geertz explains that the chance of this is low due to shame: This anxiety to receive the fund early cannot be traced simply to fear of default by other members, for default is quite rare, mainly because the
members are all fairly close acquaintances, and so would be deeply ashamed to evade their obligations, â€Ś (Geertz 1962:247) Likewise, the members of Ekumdipe are all fairly close acquaintances as well and would want to avoid any action that would bring shame. Failing to live up to a publicly known commitment would, I argue, fall into this category. Therefore, I was somewhat assured that efforts would be made to uphold the contracts. The second significant article of RISE Phase 2 was the Kano Egye Man constitution. At the town meeting, Darryl and I invited the members to discuss future procedures and decisions amongst themselves, but we had no idea that the group of farmers would come up with a formalized constitution. Although this happened unexpectedly, it seems that the constitution could have been a very beneficial contribution to the overall project. In the constitution, the KEM group laid out the conditions of membership and the process of profit splitting. This type of social structure can be very beneficial to organizational output. Mellizo, Carpenter, and Matthews (2011) argue that providing the participants of the farm system a say in their compensation scheme could likely improve their performance: We report evidence from a real-effort experiment confirming that worker performance is sensitive to the process used to select the compensation contract. Groups of workers that voted to determine their compensation scheme provided significantly more effort than groups that had no say in how they would be compensated (Mellizo et al. 2011:1) By creating their own constitution, the members of KEM were essentially voting to determine their own compensation schemes. If the finding from the article is correct, then the KEM constitution is another positive change that existed in Phase 2 and not Phase 1, which might also explain the progress between the two phases of Project RISE.
Chapter 6: Conclusion Project RISE has been a truly educational experience for me over the past two and a half years. When I first set out to launch the project, I was eager to help solve a problem that I saw in the world. Poverty is a persistent reality in many developing regions of the world and I believed, perhaps somewhat naively, that I could effectively approach the issue in a relatively different way. However, in all honesty, I was not very prepared to achieve my goal when I initiated the project. Fortunately, I have grown through this process and I was given the opportunity to refine my approach not only through acquiring wisdom as a consequence of spending time in the field, but also through consulting the academic literature, particularly that on innovation, technology, diffusion, and development. It is because of the uniqueness of my approach to Project RISE (application preceding intensive research) that I decided to structure my thesis in an atypical order. In my eagerness to launch the project, I dove in before fully preparing. As a result, I ended up learning things as I went along. I wanted the production of my research to mirror these experiences, so I first started this paper by detailing the process by which I created RISE. Next, I produced my results and provided an analysis that attempts to explain them. Finally, I included a section to discuss some of the major dynamics I have noticed with the project in hindsight and the wide array of literature that is applicable to my work on the ground. After I left Ghana for the second time, I realized that I had inadvertently created an in vivo experiment that I could study intensively. The bulk of my findings
though have emerged from the pursuit of answers to the simple question, “Why did Phase 2 work when Phase 1 failed?” It is important to note though, that I use the term experiment lightly here because in reality, the totality of my research resembles more of a case study. This is because although I was able to adjust certain variables throughout the process, I was not able to control the context (or all other variables) as well. Some may argue that the lack of control gives my findings a lack of validity. However, the case study method, when done correctly, can be a more than legitimate research method. Robert Yin (2003) elaborates on the usefulness of the case-study method in his book, Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Yin describes a case study as, “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between the phenomenon and context are not clearly evident” (Yin 2003:13) In my research on Project RISE, I did not want to completely divorce the observed phenomenon (the improvement between Phase 1 and Phase 2) from the context. In fact, on the contrary, I was especially interested in focusing on the context of this particular project and how it influenced results. The strength of my research extends from the deliberate exploration of these contextual issues (socio-cultural as well as others) and how they apply to the execution of an international development project. From my experience, work on the combined intricacies of both innovation adoption and the context of third world development projects has been somewhat limited. Therefore, I believe that my work leads to an extension in this area by simultaneously evaluating the elements from both sides (diffusion of innovation and project execution in a third world region).
Specifically, I indentified what I believe are the three most influential factors that I changed and discussed them within the specific context of Ekumdipe and Project RISE. My exploratory findings led me to conclude that out of all the factors I changed between Phase 1 and Phase 2, the changes that I made to the resources available to the farmers, the knowledge the farmers had about dry season production, and the total implementation scheme of the project, have been most significant to the improvement of the project. Moreover, I continued to argue that because of its all-encompassing nature, implementation is the most important variable of the three. Providing knowledge to a farmer could not have substantially helped Phase 2 outcomes if he lacked the resources and vice versa. However, I have found that with proper implementation, one can significantly improve the chances of overcoming potential issues in both knowledge and resource deficiencies. Therefore, I posit it is the most influential category of adjustments. In addition, I argue that the vitality of implementation is not merely exclusive to my project and its initial problems, but rather, can be potentially crucial to rectifying the issues of a variety of other future projects, thus increasing their chances of success. It is important to note that there is existing literature that suggests that possibly, it is the combination of all the changes together that was needed to make an improvement. Ichniowski, Shaw, and Prennushi describe in their article, â€œThe Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steal Finishing Lines,â€? a situation where bosses of steel production factories in the 1990s had to change a combination of variables at the same time in order to enact change. â€œWe find consistent support for the conclusion that groups or clusters of complementary human resource management (HRM) practices have large effects on productivity, while changes in
individual work practices have little or no effect on productivityâ€? (Ichniowski et al. 1997:291) In other words, a change to a single variable is not necessarily sufficient to experience an improvement. With that in mind, it is possible that all three of my identified variable categories (as well as others) needed to be adjusted simultaneously to create the changes between Phase 1 and Phase 2. Nonetheless, I still argue that Implementation is the most important of the three categories for the reasons I have stated previously. Besides the three major factors that I identify in my Chapter 4: Analysis section, I have identified other potential factors that could have been key to the relative success of Phase 2 in comparison to Phase 1. Although I do not believe that these areas have been as vital to project success as Resources, Knowledge, and Implementation, I still think that they are worth noting nonetheless. I have highlighted these factors in my Chapter 5: Discussion and Literature Review. There, I discuss various other dynamics that may have substantially increased the chances of success in Phase 2, such as: familial ties (Steier 2001), worker democracy (Mellizo et al. 2011), the cultural institutions of obligation and shame (Geertz 1962), and gender (Khandker 1998, Khandker 2005). If I am indeed incorrect about my hypothesis on the major reasons for why Phase 2 has improved thus far, I would encourage a future researcher to next look into these auxiliary areas for new potential answers. I believe that the research and work I have done for Project RISE is a large step in the realm of development projects. However, my research is not perfect. Through my in vivo experiment, I was able to introduce key variables that I felt were paramount to the changes between the two phases of RISE. My experiment is limited, though. As I
mentioned earlier, because my top priority for the past two and a half years has been successfully fighting poverty through the successful execution of a project and not research, I have not be able to establish effective controls. I have identified three key variables, but there is a chance that one or even none of them were actually impactful on the success of the project. It is not entirely impossible that my improvements were not actually needed, but rather, the farmers of Ekumdipe just needed another year to learn how to farm in a new environment. Also, the bulk of my data from the project is from a small sample. Although the data were extensive, I interviewed under 30 people throughout both phases to obtain it. In order to extrapolate my theories to a wider range of scenarios, one would need to try a different region and expand my base sample. Despite the limitations, I still believe that my thesis makes several important contributions to our understanding of contextual impediments to innovation development projects. The chance that none of the major variables I selected factor into the improvement of the project over the past year is quite low. Even if the variables I have chosen to highlight are not the most influential to the improvements of Project RISE, my work probably elucidates a key concept that could lead to the most important variables. I believe this is a potentially significant contribution given what is at stake with projects like mine. For example, if one were to further confirm that I am indeed correct about my hypothesis on the value of incentivization and the cost of buy-in, there could be widespread effects on the future of development projects. A discovery like that could potentially lead to the elimination of purely charity-based foreign poverty aid and could encourage more micro-finance based solutions such as mine. I feel that the future is bright in this particular area and that with more work, others will be able to figure out
increasingly effective ways of accomplishing my first goal with Project RISE â€“ creating self-sustainable ways to fight poverty.11
For more information, please visit http://projectrise.wordpress.com/; http://africandi.com/; or http://projrise.blogspot.com/
(Appendix J: The culmination of two and half years of effort â€“ the first ever large-scale dry-season harvest [note- from the Bawku farm] in Ekumdipe, Ghana. These onions represent a substantial source of additional income for the farmers in the community. Picture taken on 3/5/2011)
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Appendix 1: Phase 1 Modified Survey Pro Social Orientation
Opinions and beliefs <<Say:>> Now I would like to ask you some questions about yourself Strongly Disagree 1
Do you agree or disagree that people here look out mainly for their own families and they are not as much concerned with all of Ekumdipe?
If a community project does not directly benefit your neighbor but has benefits for others in Ekumdipe, then do you think this neighbor would contribute time and money for this project?
Agree Strongly Agree
Helping my family is more important then helping the entire community.
I work harder for the entire community than most of the people here.
Do you think that this project that we are working on is a worthy cause?
<<Say:>> Now, I would like you to tell me your level of agreement or disagreement with the following statements <<Read the statement and then circle the correct number: 1 = Strongly Disagree; 2 = Disagree; 3= Undecided; 4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree>> When given the opportunity, I enjoy 3 aiding others who will not work for 5-Jan themselves. 4
2 4 2 2
Appendix 2: Project RISE Timeline August 2008 - Project Inception
Fall 2008 to Summer 2009 - Planning and Fundraising
August 10, 2009 - Initial 5-Day Trip to Ghana and Phase 1 Launch
Late October 2009 - Phase 1 Group begins farming
December 2009 - Darryl makes trip to Ekumdipe
February 2010 - All members of Phase 1 group had quit
Late Spring 2010 - I receive report that crop-yields have underperformed
Early Fall 2010 - Phase 2 planning, Selection of Jacob as Communication Liaison, and preliminary surveying
Late November 2010 - Tamar arrives from Bawku and begins farming in December
December 16, 2010 - Darryl and I return to Ekumdipe for 15-day Phase 2 trip
Late January - KEM Group starts Farming
March 4, 2011 - Bawku farm has first onion harvest
Late April - Anticipation of KEM initial harvest
Appendix 3: Phase 1 Farming Group
Ethnic Gender Affiliation
2 Isaac Abresayi
Amba Miakpa Amah Nyundam
Appendix 4: Kano Egye Man Phase 2 Farming Group12
Bigiwa Charles, Emmanuel Mbo, Olanja Paul, and Kidikal George represent the new members of KEM that were not in Phase 1
Appendix 5: Sign-Up Sheet for Next Potential Farm Group13
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Name Wepari Saleweh Obio Joseph Tasun Yaaba
Male Male Female
Nsefo Godwin Kidekal Jagri Bidinun Kojo Nsefo Richmond Yaw Bawiah Tasun Nborinyi Johnson Addo Nsefo Yayaa
Source of Information
43 25 30
Teacher Farmer Farmer
Jacob Jacob Jacob
Male Male Male
22 29 32
Student Farmer Farmer
Teacher Training None None Senior Highschool None None
Male Male Male Male Female
19 25 20 35 35
Farmer Carpenter Student Teacher Farmer
Junior Highschool None Junior Highschool Teacher Training None
Jacob Jacob Jacob Jacob Jacob
As of March 4, 2011
Lee Jacob Kidekal George