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Operation Wealth Creation and the Ad hominem Fallacy


“Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) is doing extremely well – the volume of inputs. The impact is enormous irrespective of the fact that the extension is not good, the impact is there.” 

That was the conclusion of the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit (BMAU) of the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED)  on the performance of OWC. BMAU shared its conclusion of its view that OWC is doing extremely well during the Joint Agriculture Sector Annual Review (JASAR) 2016.  

Perhaps, before I apply logical analyses on the BMAU conclusion of OWC’s enormous impact during the financial year 2015/2016, let me first share what I understood as what BMAU communicated during the JASAR 2016 as the basis – the premise - on which it arrived at its conclusion:

a) BMAU sampled 61 farmers were. 

b) The 61 farmers it sampled received all the inputs that were earmarked to them.

c) The 61 farmers it sampled received all the value addition equipment.

d) BMAU observed that there is abrupt delivery of OWC inputs – some of them left at police stations for collection in the following days. 

e) In some cases, BMAU observed that there were no holding -grounds for OWC delivered animals – grounds where the animals would have been kept and treated prior to distribution to beneficiaries. 

f) OWC inputs were not delivered on plan noted BMAU – therefore, according to BMAU farmers were not ready - for example, a farmer is picked to grow mangoes when said farmer has never grown mangoes, but just because OWC has brought mangoes. 

g) In Maracha District, BMAU found that 200 kilograms of OWC maize was delivered late, farmers could not pick it at the time the maize was delivered and so by the time the famers came for the seed it was too late. 

h) Items received by 27 (44 percent) of the BMAU sampled farmers it found had issues of low survival rates; animal mortality; and of non-functional equipment.

i) BMAU found that farmers, in some instances, had taken the OWC seed, washed it and eaten it as food. 

j) There are so many OWC facilities, like the maize mill in Buikwe, which BMAU found to be not functional. Another example, in Isingiro that BMAU gave was an OWC milk-cooler which had been there for one year and it was not functional. 

If an output be “the act of producing something, the amount of something that is produced or the process in which something is delivered”, it appears that the premise on which BMAU based its conclusion that “the impact is enormous” of OWC is mostly immediate output indicators and not impact indicators. Right from premise (a) all the way to premise (g) the BMAU simply described OWC recipients and the manner in which OWC made deliveries – which is consistent with the definition of outputs. 

Utilising deductive logic, therefore, it is illogical to accept the conclusion of the BMAU of “the enormous impact” of OWC on the basis of its premises (a) to (g). This is because it does not always automatically follow that if inputs are procured, delivered and farmers have received them, that those inputs procured, delivered and received will necessarily cause enormous impact. 

This is particularly so if one, as I do, accepts that impact is the “measure of the tangible and intangible effects (consequences) of one thing’s or entity’s action or influence upon another.” In the context of this discussion the remaining premise on which BMAU based its conclusion of “the impact is enormous” of OWC - (h) to (j) - can be considered as impact indicators. 

However, even when considered as impact indicators, BMAU premise (h) to (j) provoke significant questions. Premise (h), for example, indicates that farmers did plant the crops, albeit 44 percent of the farmers who did so had issues - in that the crops that germinated from the OWC seeds that they planted had low survival rates. 

Continuing to utilise deductive logic, does it follow that BMAU’s conclusion “the impact is enormous” of OWC continues to hold true even when 44 percent of the OWC beneficiary farmers were not able to achieve bumper harvest for domestic consumption and for sale; and to multiply seed?  

The manner in which the BMAU formulated its Premise (h) - grouping multiple indicators and assigning them to have applied to 44 percent of OWC beneficiary farmers is confusing. For example, did 44 percent of OWC beneficiary farmers experience low crop survival rates, animal mortality and non-functional equipment in exactly the same way? 

What percentage of the OWC seeds that the 44 percent of OWC beneficiary farmers planted had low survival rates? What percentage of the animals that they received died? What percentage of the equipment was non-functional? Are we to believe that whereas 44 percent of OWC beneficiary farmers had challenges – low crop survival, animal mortality and non-functional equipment - the other 54 percent did not have any challenges at all? 

In the realm of logicians BMAU’s premise (h) makes it difficult for BMAU’s conclusion of “the enormous impact” of OWC to automatically hold true. This is because Premise (h) triggers many more other questions; questions whose answers potentially invalidate the BMAU conclusion.

BMAU’s Premise (i) is revealing. If the farmers were able to wash and eat the seeds, what kind of seeds were they? Were they really ‘improved and properly treated’ seeds or were they grains intended for food that were coloured and then distributed as seed? 

The farmers who ate the seed had the benefit of instant nutrition, at the very least. Nevertheless, that was not the intended immediate purpose for the seed.  In which case, the output was achieved – the seeds were procured and delivered, but the intended impact in the context of OWC – producing primarily for sale and then some for consumption – was not achieved.  

How then does no production by 44 percent of OWC beneficiary farmers support BMAU’s conclusion of “the impact is enormous” of OWC? 

One’s doubts are enhanced even further by BMAU’s Premise (j) – non-functional machinery and equipment – such as the maize mill in Buikwe and the milk cooler in Isingiro. Similarly, OWC did achieve the output – items procured and delivered – but since the items are non-functioning the intended impact for them being purchased has not been achieved. 

The fact that OWC procured and distributed machinery is non-function for over a year even further weakens the premise for the BMAU conclusion that “the impact is enormous” of OWC. Worse more, there are added burdens that come of one being in possession of non-performing assets, the kind often referred to as ‘white elephants’  for such non-performing assets are likely more costly to maintain than their usefulness to one in possession of them or responsible for them. 

No doubt, when deductive logic is applied, the premise on which BMAU arrived at its conclusion of the impact is enormous of OWC do not support its conclusion. It is however likely that the farmers who are also OWC beneficiaries are actually achieving the stated goals of OWC but not necessarily because of OWC. For after all, BMAU in its conclusion clearly indicates that the extension services provided by OWC are not good.

It is not farfetched for one to speculate that it is quite likely that the conclusion of BMAU that the impact is enormous of OWC suffers from being a reverse Ad hominem fallacy of sorts. As in even though it is clear that OWC is not achieving its intended impact, BMAU has to find a way of stating so, because of the revered person(s) and the revered institution(s) behind OWC. 

Photo Credit: OWC citrus tree seedlings arrive at Lira Municipality for free distribution to farmers. Photo taken by Nora Owaraga.

This article is written by Norah Owaraga, CPAR Uganda Ltd Managing Director (April 2012 to date). Read more about her here. Please note that Norah’s views are not necessarily those of CPAR Uganda Ltd. 

For the information of you the readers, here is important learning from the JASAR 2016 which will enable you to appreciate how the Government of Uganda monitors and assesses the performance of its projects. During a presentation by the relevant unit of the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development, we were educated on the Governments criteria for judging success of projects as follows:

If a project scores

  • Anything below 50 percent, as in, for example, if a project was given outputs to deliver and it was unable to deliver at least 50 percent of them then that is poor performance. 
  • 50 – 69 percent – it is fair, it is doing something 
  • 70-89 it is good 
  • 90+ it is very good
  • 100 percent is when it is rated excellent

We were further educated on what assessment process Government uses in order to arrive at the project performance scores as follows:

  • Selected projects and programmes are reviewed – every month another set is chosen so at the end of two to three years the Government will have covered most of the programmes.
  • Government looks at both physical and financial performance.
  • In physical performance Government uses an integrated scoring system in order to establish relative importance of an output as per the approved budget. For example, if a project reports that it delivered 200 percent of maize seeds, the monitors and evaluators look further for the answer to the question: “Is that what the project was budgeted to do?”
  • For financial performance the Government assess the overall programme or project.