The project was conceived in 2004 to address the poor delivery of basic services, such as access to education, water and sanitation and health care services, and slow implementation of Benin’s decentralization process. Lack of access to basic social services and low use of existing services prior to the project contributed to high illiteracy (68 percent), low utilization of health services (36 percent utilization rate), low access to improved water sources (52 percent of rural households), and limited access to financial services (only 7 percent of the Beninese population had a formal bank account). With regard to decentralization, although the 1999 Decentralization law had given communes responsibility for the preparation and implementation of local development plans and the provision of basic social services and infrastructure, in reality these authorities were unable to fulfill their mandate due to lack of resources and skilled personnel. While Benin had a wide and positive experience with community-based development, this approach had not been integrated into the new decentralization policy.
In line with the CDD approach, the project supported improved basic infrastructure at the community level by empowering communities to direct resources and improve their living conditions. At the same time, the project is building the capacity of local governments to integrate a community driven development approach in the development and implementation of their local development plans. Furthermore, the project supported the government’s decentralization agenda by helping line ministries (such as education, health, water and sanitation, agriculture, livestock and fisheries) to delegate responsibilities to local governments which will, in turn, delegate some of these responsibilities to communities. Finally, the project supported good governance and accountability through providing technical assistance for capacity building in demand-driven methods at all levels (community and local government), as well as procurement and fiduciary management.
During 2004-2010, 750 communities and 32 communes have completed infrastructure subprojects, resulting in the construction or rehabilitation of 1,629 classrooms, 84 health centers, and 37 water and sanitation systems. Approximately 81,450 students are enrolled in schools constructed or rehabilitated under the project. About 10,000 people have gained access to an improved water source, and another 10,000 people in 409 previously unserved communities have gained access to microfinance services during the same period. About 440,000 people in 1,500 communities have received Grassroots Management Training (GMT) through a cascading training of trainers approach, with 1,804 trainers trained by the project. The GMT consisted of modules on community organization; participatory poverty and needs assessment; participatory planning of subprojects; participatory monitoring and evaluation; community procurement; and financial management for subprojects. The training received was essential in allowing communities to prioritize, plan, execute, and monitor their infrastructure subprojects. The GMT is expected to have a lasting impact on communities' ability to play an active role in their own development. Finally, the CDD approach—which is proven to deliver small-scale infrastructure faster and cost-effectively—has become increasingly mainstreamed into the government’s decentralized development efforts.
IDA support has consisted of US$50 million equivalent approved in July 2004 and an Additional Financing of US$12 million equivalent approved in July 2010. The Additional Financing was provided in order to: (i) allow completion of the original project activities by filling an unanticipated financing gap created by fiscal pressures on the government of Benin arising from the global economic crisis; and (ii) support new technical assistance for the development of Benin’s social safety net system.
Harmonization and coordination of the project with the programs of donor partners is picking up as the project evolves to become more aligned with the decentralization agenda. The technical assistance on social safety nets supported by the project is being delivered in coordination with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The next phase of the project is expected to be prepared in close collaboration with the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the European Union (EU), Belgium, and France, who are actively supporting the government’s fiscal transfer system.
The project’s approach will be scaled up in its next phase, under the support of a new IDA operation (tentatively called PNDCC 2) in early fiscal year 2012. While continuing to support community-driven investments in basic infrastructure, PNDCC 2 is intended to (i) align the project with Benin's decentralization strategy and donor partners’ support by channeling funds through the nascent intra-governmental fiscal transfer system; and (ii) include a pilot conditional or unconditional cash transfer program to help address the impact of the global financial crisis on Benin.
The June 2008 Beneficiary Satisfaction Survey found that 84 percent of beneficiaries expressed satisfaction with the impact of the infrastructure on their community, with only two percent expressing a negative opinion. One community leader felt that the impact of the project went beyond the physical assets that were constructed: “besides the infrastructure that we were able to build with the support of PNDCC, the training that we received was very important and empowering. We feel that the abilities we acquired, and which allowed us to implement our own microprojects, have empowered us to be true actors in our own development.”