Rural Development & Local Government

Apart from managing some big cattle farms, which we inherited from our former owners, we also organised some livestock exports, like cattle to Romania and Austrian “Haflinger” horses to Bhutan.

The projects in Tunisia first dealt with the improvement of animal husbandry by the introduction of purebred heifers from Austria. Those heifers were the cornerstone of an approach to improve the performance of an emerging dairy sector. Some livestock, mainly goats and sheep, was introduced also in the frame of some the other rural development projects.

We have implemented such projects in Rwanda, Burundi, and in Burkina Faso. Their aim was to make traditional agriculture sustainable in terms of crop production and input provision. This meant to apply methods of resource management and preservation, agro-sylvo-pastoral integration, improvement of seed production and production of farm-based manure. Rural microfinance schemes and training, including alphabetisation, were additional yet important aspects of the chosen approach.

Both projects in Rwanda and Burundi were area based rural development projects with the aim of improving the prevailing subsistence agriculture in order to produce some surplus for nutrition deficient parts of the country. The project in Rwanda called CYGAND concerned four communes in the Ruhengeri province. The one in Burundi (PIA RuBuBu) dealt with three communes in Bururi province. Both copied experiences made by similar projects of the German and Swiss development cooperation at the time (esp. Nyabisindu and Kibuye projects in Rwanda). While the project in Rwanda has come to an abrupt stop in 1994, the one in Burundi could survive the crisis years and lasted until 2003, when the handing over phase ended.

In Burkina Faso, the first sustainable agriculture project started in the province of Kourittenga in 1996 as follow-up to the ill-fated “Opération 30.000 charrues” financed by the Austrian Development Cooperation. It has applied an approach based on the needs of the target group and asking for its active cooperation in the execution of the programme. To this effect, the programme signed formal agreements with the selected villages at the start of each season. The main activities concerned the improvement of the low-input subsistence agriculture in order to maintain the fertility of the soils and anti-erosion measures. Accompanying activities were the introduction of a credit scheme, the promotion of women activities and alphabetisation courses as well as the construction of small polyvalent community centres in the villages.

Some years later, the Austrian Development Cooperation in another province of the same region, Koulpelogo, proposed a similar project submitted to a tender process. The approach was different in the sense that the newly developed concept of local development was already in the centre of its approach.

Both projects recently became merged into a decentralisation programme, where farmers are supposed to promote their own micro projects and to implement them with the help of a regional fund. The main aim of the project’s overall guiding principles is to foster environmentally sustainable development and to improve the economic performance of the participating farmers by strengthening their position in the local market.

In Tanzania, it all started in 1994 with a “Community Development Programme” conceived for the local population in addition and as a supplement to the support to the health sector, represented by the two “Austrian” hospitals. This programme addressed some key issues – education, veterinary services and water management. The programme supported local NGOs and was about to create an umbrella NGO to coordinate the support coming from outside, when the donor decided to shift its support from the NGOs to the district administration (in 2000).

After a lengthy preparation phase, the new programme was tendered in 2002. Austroprojekt formed a consortium with the Swedish company ORGUT and subsequently won the contact against all odds. The main objective of the programme was to assist Ngorongoro District and the rural communities to improve their living standard, particularly of lower-income groups facing poverty, through enhanced economic and social development as well as efficient and affordable provision of services by the local government and the private sector. The plan of operation is based on results and findings of previous programme activities – a community needs assessment, a capacity needs assessment (for the district administrators), workshops about poverty alleviation, good governance, participatory planning and budgeting, and a strategic planning workshop – and serves as a guideline for NDDP planners and implementers.
The overall goal of the programme was poverty alleviation. All the activities implemented linked and contributed to this objective, in particular activities under the productive sector, primarily agriculture and livestock production. The results of NDDP activities have significantly improved food security in the district. A visible success in the productive sector was the introduction of dry land farming techniques, alternative cash crops, improved storage facilities and raised awareness on soil conservation issues. For the first time ever farmers in Ngorongoro District were able to produce a surplus of maize, which was exported to Kenya. – Unfortunately, ADA decided unilaterally and abruptly to stop the support to Ngorongoro District in 2006, whereas the district was preparing itself to fully integrate the national decentralisation process only in 2008.
In Ethiopia, we have developed and subsequently executed an integrated livestock development project that was implemented in 7 woredas of the North Gondar Province, Amhara Region, and aimed at the improvement of the living standard of small scale farmers by means of increasing the productivity of their livestock and generating sustainable income. Essential components were sustainable resource management through ecologically sound pasture and fodder production and the use of appropriate technologies. A small-scale fattening programme for cattle and sheep, support to the decentralised extension services (training) and measures to upgrade and expand basic rural animal health care and mobile veterinarian services constituted focal points of our intervention.

We have conducted school-leaver programmes to pupils of a secondary school in the Kerio valley of Kenya and supported a training centre for young women who never had the chance to attend school in Tunisia. The aim was always to promote knowledge of improved agricultural techniques adapted to the personal situation of the beneficiaries.
Shortly after the rebound in Eastern Europe in the early nineties, we have supported a veterinary station and training centre in the south of Albania, where Austrian purebred cattle had survived from an importation scheme executed under the former Communist regime.

Recently, we have won a tender in Albania for the “Integrated Rural Development Project in Kelmend”. This is a remote commune in Northern Albania, Malësia e Madhe province, characterised by strong emigration. There are two major components – infrastructure improvement (schools, bridges, irrigation, and the hospital) and economic advancement of the population with the ultimate aim to promote tourism.

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