Development money makes the world go round

5 September 2005




Although I think I can fill a whole year of Limeblasts analysing and criticising leather development projects, for the moment this will be the last Limeblast on the Raw Hides & Skins Grading & Pricing Systems, because I don't want to bore you. After reading the June issue, one of my esteemed (UN employed) readers asked me why CFC, Esalia or others should answer my questions? I was asked who do I think I am to pose certain questions which are asked by governments and donors, not by John Doe or Sam Setter. I don't think that my questions are wrong but it is the system of secrecy surrounding public money that is wrong. What do institutions have to fear by disclosing their expenditure or providing information? I think we are entitled to know how our money is spent and what results are obtained by development projects and what impact they have. Let me go back to the development project at hand which was designed to alleviate the poverty of the grass root stakeholders by introducing a hide and skin selection system. As a large number of (paid) studies made for FAO, Unido and CFC have demonstrated, the main problem with the quality of African hides and skins is two-fold: natural defects and man-made defects. To tackle the natural defects such as parasites, insect bites, scars etc, one needs complex, long-term and costly projects. For the man-made defects, it is possible to design projects with a direct focus and hopefully results are more immediate. The Tanzanian trader I quoted in last month's Limeblast told me: 'Our company has had a regular dialogue with the Ministry of Livestock in Tanzania explaining that the value of raw hides and skins could be increased by up to 30% just by improvements in flay. In the case of Tanzania some measures would have to be taken regarding brands, in particular multiple brands. These measures would have a greater and more immediate effect than trying to establish grading or pricing structures, or even the Holy Grail of making expensive wet-blue. 'It is also important to note that cuts and holes are not only made by the person flaying the hide but in many cases the worst damage is made by small boys being allowed in the slaughterhouse compound who take off small pieces of meat left on the hide with no regard to what further damage they may cause.' That's exactly what I and others, including a number of reports, have been telling CFC, FAO and Unido for years. Instead of filling a booklet with theories, CFC could and should have stated in their end-of-project report that one of the lessons learned as to why hides and skins are seriously damaged by flay cuts and holes in the four project countries is that there is no interest or incentive at the production level to avoid flay cuts. Merchants who pick the green hides up from abattoirs don't even look at them. At the production, collection and trade level in the present system, quality is not an issue. It is at tannery level but abattoirs, collectors and traders don't listen to the tanners. The abattoir is not the owner of the animal, its carcass, its hide or skin. The abattoir is paid only for the slaughter service at the rate of $5-10 per head and is only interested in processing the animal as fast as possible in order to put the meat as quickly as possible at the disposal of the butcher. This, my friends, is THE lesson that is to be learned and THE problem that needs to be tackled. If the abattoir were the owner of the hide, they would automatically be careful to produce good quality flaying and conservation enabling them to negotiate better prices with merchants based on quality and selection. Alternatively abattoirs can be organised through laws, rules and regulations in such a way that speed becomes subservient to quality. The Limuru abattoir in Kenya is an example that this is possible, but those who should pay attention to this don't! From the summary of projects from the 8th session of the FAO subgroup on hides and skins you will see that almost all deal with some sort of hide improvement scheme. 1 Raw Hides and Skins Grading and Pricing System, CFC grant $1,400,000, total budget $3,186,000, executing agency Esalia 2 Workshop on the hides and skins and leather sector in Africa: essential action to meet quality requirements of importers, CFC grant $53,000, total budget $297,000 3 Adding Value to African Leather Through Improving Collection and Quality in Small-Holder Farming Systems, CFC grant $1,551,400, total budget $2,273,000, executing agency Comesa 4 Commercialisation of Hides and Skins by Improving Collection and Quality in Small-Holder Farming Systems, CFC grant $2,207,600, total budget $3,075,000, executing agency Esalia 5 Hides and Skins Improvement Scheme in West Africa, CFC grant $1,555,725, total budget $2,242,925, executing agency Unido 6 Grading and Pricing of Wet-blue Hides and Skins in selected Western, Eastern and Southern Countries, requested CFC grant $965,000, total budget $2,215,000, executing agency Esalia 7 Warehousing Receipt of Hides and Skins in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, requested CFC grant $450,000, total budget $585,000, executing agency Esalia 8 Capacity Building of the Leather Industry in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, requested CFC grant $1,500,000, total budget $2,000,000, executing agency Comesa 9 Regional Raw Hides and Skins Grading and Pricing Scheme (for Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Uganda), requested CFC grant $750,000, total budget $1,000,000, executing agency Comesa None of these projects except the fifth have an active approach towards the elimination of flay defects at the production level, though all projects deal in one way or another with quality and all seem replicas of the Raw Hides & Skins Grading & Pricing Systems project, the one that failed. Hence it is probable that most of these projects will fail. Just add up the budget for these projects and you reach the mind blowing figure of $16,873,925 and imagine that this is used for establishing or teaching matters such as Adding Value to African Leather Through Improving Collection and Quality in Small-Holder Farming Systems, Warehousing Receipt of Hides and Skins in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and Capacity Building of the Leather Industry in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda etc. Great excuses to spend lots of money! Assistance is needed to address the practical problems in a practical way, not theories that feed theories. The SFF is a practical, direct, hands-on approach and the project that I proposed covered 16 African countries with costs estimated at $1,850,000, hence slightly more than 10% of the $17 million that is now on the line. CFC rejected the SFF project, but sanctions projects that in my view have no benefit other than keeping the air conditioners running and the executives travelling. A South African reporter John Matshikiza writes that poverty alleviation represents one of the biggest businesses in the world! He is so right. Some people make a fortune but they are certainly not the grass root stake holders! Sam Setter [email protected]



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