Project Failure in a Provincial Department of Agriculture

Author: Njoni, Derick Skhalele
Supervisor: Professor. Dr. Andre Watkins
Date: Professor Erik Schmikl

Various departments of the Limpopo provincial government have spent millions of rand on agricultural projects in an attempt to eradicate poverty within the province. After such huge expenditure, there is still little impact on poverty eradication. The Exco Lekgotla is the Executive Council of the Limpopo Government, which mandated the Department of Agriculture to commit itself to improving the agricultural projects regardless of who initiated the projects.

Four years after the mandate to improve the projects‟ status was ordered, agricultural projects are continuously non-functional; some to the point of abandonment. The above challenges prompted research to identify the possible reasons for agricultural project failure or success in the Department of Agriculture. The research objectives are:

To identify factors that give rise to project failure.

To recommend possible solutions that may reduce project failure.

The research focused on the Department of Agriculture officials, service providers and project members. The research methodology that was used was an open, conceptualised interview survey based on possible reasons for agricultural project failure or success in the provincial Department of Agriculture.

The data was collected from officials in the provincial Department of Agriculture at all levels, that is, provincial, district and local levels, project members and service providers by way of personal interviews. The research limitations were reluctance of people to provide information, time constraints and transport expenses.

The research was not carried out randomly and the Likert-scale was used to collect the data. The research findings have identified the following factors that may have contributed to project failure within the provincial Department of Agriculture, – improper community consultation, lack of project planning, not considering stages of project development, not considering project implementation pre-requisite, lack of Project Office, insufficient application of project management principles, poor organisational systems, insufficient communication, lack of alignment of project objectives with that of the department and sponsors.

The research findings were then compared with the existing information to draw conclusions and recommendations. The following recommendations are made to minimize the project failure in the provincial department of agriculture:
A new strategy should be developed to improve project implementation and should consider environmental scanning through a SWOT analysis of the department
The department needs to change from a traditional culture to adopt total quality management systems
The department should be restructured to introduce a Project Office
It is also recommended that the project-driven approach be applied as the department is implementing multiple projects
Projects should be implemented as projects, not on-going operations in future project implementation
Cost-benefit analysis should be considered in the planning phase to avoid fruitless expenditure on poor projects and all unsuccessful projects should be put on hold and reassessed