Pacific island livestock development

Love, Ralph Ngatata
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Honolulu, Hawaii : East-West Technology and Development Institute
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This case study concerns livestock development project carried out in 1972-1975 in the small, independent country of Rabona (Rabona is a pseudonym for a real South Pacific country. For reasons relating to political and personal sensitivity, the names of specific places and individuals are disguised in this study. All other factual description is accurately represented) in the South Pacific. This nation of many islands and relatively few people had remained basically traditional in its orientation, subsistence agricultural economy, land tenure system, and communal social relationships. An increasing desire for foreign imports placed a heavy burden on Rabonans, for the copra produced from coconuts for export was the only cash crop. The Rabonan Cabinet decided to give high priority to developing a local cattle industry to reduce Rahonan dependence on costly meat imports. Financial support and technical assistance were requested from New Zealand's aid program.
The N.Z. Ministry of Foreign Affairs approved the request, and delegated responsibility to plan and implement the project to the N.Z. Department of Agriculture. A retired Department field officer with livestock experience was asked to conduct a feasibility study in Rabona. He proposed a project with twenty-one task units, aimed chiefly at building up a beef breeding herd and expanding facilities at the Government's experimental farm. Subsequently he was appointed to manage the project.
Prior to this, the Agriculture Director in Rabona, a native of the islands, unofficially commissioned two former staffers to do an informal survey on the subject, before they left for Australia to continue their graduate studies in agriculture. The two men, also native Rabonans, approached their task with full attention to the constraints of local custom and local resources, and developed a plan which took this into account and heavily involved local farmers from the start. For private reasons, the Director did not forward this proposal to his Minister nor to New Zealand officials on the project. This was unfortunate for the scheme was soundly based on local realities and promised quicker results than the expatriates plan.
The project, as conducted under expatriate direction, met numerous problems in implementation, including delays and cost overruns resulting mainly from the director's lack of professional management experience, his failure to correctly estimate the limitations of Pacific shipping schedules, a lack of skilled local workers, the leisurely pace of Rabonan administration, and his difficulty in working closely with Rabonan personnel because of their cultural differences. As a whole, the project failed to attain the goal of beef self-sufficiency, although some positive, short-term benefits did accrue from the separate task activities.
Of the problems encountered in the Rabona venture, many are common to development projects elsewhere in the Pacific. Project design and management control need to be flexible in response to the reality of local cultural and environmental constraints, and the lack of skilled manpower at all levels and the relative unfamiliarity with Western management practices have to be recognized by planners.
For more about the East-West Center, see
Beef cattle - Oceania, Agriculture and state - Oceania, Economic assistance, New Zealand - Oceania, Livestock - Economic aspects - Pacific Area
xi, 63 p.
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