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How do Projects Implemented by Beneficiary Communities Save Time and Costs?

Kalesh Kumar's picture

In 2010, under the nationwide Elementary Education Program called Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), an education committee in Bhagwan Garhi in the Aligarh district of Uttar Pradesh, India completed the construction of an eight classroom school for the cost of $80 per square meter, whereas the cost incurred for a contractor lead construction of a comparable school structure in the nearby district of Lucknow was $124 per square meter.

According to review reports, the Community Beneficiary Committee in Bhagwan Garhi had completed the work drawing labor from the community and buying the required amount of materials at a lower rate with technical guidance from the district level engineer.

How does this happen?

A study conducted in four World Bank supported Community Demand Driven (CDD) projects in four states in India in 2009 shows a similar picture of substantial savings when the sub project activities are carried out by the immediate beneficiaries. Analysis of 47 constructions works show that Community Based Procurement (CBP) saves cost and time when compared to conventional estimates made by Public Works Departments and the savings are even higher in labor-intensive sub-projects. The savings ranged from 12% to 56% across the four States.

Another World Bank research reviewing Economic Results of CDD Programs in Burkina Faso, Indonesia and the Philippines undertaken in 2007 has shown that classrooms in Burkina Faso built by the PNGT are less than half the cost of those procured through competitive bidding to private contractors and adjudicated by the national procurement board on behalf of the Ministry of Education.

In all the above projects, the following key factors were identified as the real reasons that made the difference: 

-In all cases, the common link was beneficiary involvement. Ownership of the need along planning and implementation is an excellent incenstive. Knowledge that their children will sit under the school roof that is constructed for the school ensures consciouness to quality.

-For the most part, no contractors were involved. This resulted in savings through minimizing overhead and some taxes that contractors pay to authorities;

-The contributions went beyond cash and labor. With beneficiaries also working as masons and laborers, the cost savings also stemmed from reducing wastage to near zero and buying only what was just required for the work being undertaken. Their zeal and commitment for making something that would influence their lives also lead to minimize costs for technical supervision and storage costs of materials;

-A noticeable practice that helped save costs from the India study was that of Relationship Based Procurement, wherein the communities established a mutually beneficial and accountable commercial relationship between purchaser and possibly the lone the supplier in the village for delivering the best products at best price for a common cause in their community; Conventionally, Relationship Based Procurement systems based on family and kinship arrangements could align with elite capture and nepotism, however the sub-projects review showed that accountability is motivated by common need as long as institutional structures are in place and that all parties want better outcomes. There were instances of social boycotts of suppliers who have tried to cheat the community and growing market for those who had won the trust by providing best products and value for money;

-Success depended on the technical complexities involved and the kind of support and commitment the community received from the engineering authorities. In most cases, we could sight at least one highly motivated engineer supporting the community in decision making and quality assurance;

-Studies have also identified that at individual sub project level, numerous factors like isolated locations, double and triple handling of materials and frequent on-site design modifications all conspire to make it virtually impossible for commercial contractors to compete with the community lead implementation on a cost basis.

Look around and let us know if you've noticed similar experiences...


Submitted by Vedamurthy Kogalur on
Dear Mr. Kalesh Kumar Thanks for bringing the efforts of conscious & will participation participation of the community (Village Education Committee) of Bagawan Garhi and the District Project Implementation team , which constructed 8 Additional Class Rooms (ACR) economically. As mentioned, key factor for the success of the any CDD sub project depends on "willful participation" of the community supported or facilitated by project implementing authorities. This type of documentation efforts and showcasing the best practices of the community may further strengthen the developmental initiatives through CDD and deliverables in particular Ownership and Sustainability. - Vedamurthy A J Principal Procurement Specialist, GPCL Mumbai

Submitted by Kalesh on
Thanks Vedamurthy. Participation of "real" beneficiaries in such projects has been proved to lead to quality outcomes, savings as well as openness and transparency. Your independent procurement review studies of CDD projects also brought up similar findings. The challenge is gaining confidence and ensuring participation of the target groups in project tasks.

Submitted by Gyanedra Kumar Gutam on
Sir, Thanks For reflect of VEC role in project cost control in World wide. Er. Gynaendra Kumar Guatm District Coordinator (Construction) SSA Aligarh

Submitted by Kalesh on
Dear Gautam: Thanks and it was with your efforts as the engineer in charge the Village Education Committee could carry out the construction on their own. Also, let me clarify to all readers that the name of the district is Aligarh, not Ajmer, which was an inadvertant printing error.

Submitted by B K Paul on
Dear Kalesh Kumarji: very nicely identified and well explained. we will translate it in Gujarati and share with our SHG members. We are in drought and earthquake as well as salinity afffected areas of North Gujarat. for our effort in innovation got awarded in IDM 2007. we are not expert in education but your example can be an eyeopener for our SHG members and they can take the matter to DEO at Patan. Once again thanks Regards Biplab K Paul Ashoka Global Change Maker World Bank IDM 2007

Submitted by Shepherd Patrick Huruva on

thank you for what you are doing.l am staring a project to empower communities.Want to learn more from you.Wish to be in communication with you.If you can provide an email,l will sent you more information .Thank you

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