The Market Development Project (MDP) was initiated by the Fresh Produce Development Company (FPDA) of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 2006. The study showed that some of the objectives have been achieved, for example, gaining practical experience in marketing, building capacities of famers and staff, establishing bank accounts and encouraging savings for some farmers. However, these achievements were not significant relative to the time and substantial resources that had been invested in it. More importantly, it failed to make significant inroads into addressing known supply chain issues of poor transport, poor post-harvest handling, and inconsistent supply. Our findings suggest that more effort should have been given to staff and farmers’ training, gathering information on costs of production and marketing and identifying and addressing supply chain issues. In addition, a workable monitoring and evaluation framework should have been put in place so that problems and deficiencies in the design and operation of MDP, most notably its pricing structure and quality control measures, could be identified and rectified as soon as they occurred. The case of MDP demonstrates clearly that administered pricing (as is MDP pricing) is no substitute for the free play of market forces and farmers’ interests can be better served by government acting as a facilitator, rather than as an interventionist.
In recent years we have been involved in designing, implementing, monitoring and assessing a number of agricultural RD&E projects that have had a specific outcome focus on increasing the profitability of the participating businesses. These projects are based on ongoing research and development of the Sustainable Improvement and Innovation (SI&I) model which has Continuous Improvement and Innovation (CI&I) as its key process. A number of issues and dilemmas have arisen in managing these projects. One solution has been to write down in a formal way, at frequent intervals, what we have designed, what we have done, what we have achieved, and consequently what we need to do better. In this paper we describe several of these recent writing tasks, spread over several years. Apart from attempting to resolve the broad range of issues and dilemmas noted above, we have had two additional objectives: first, to expand interest in the concept of CI&I in the broader RD&E community and to stimulate its adoption in RD&E projects; and second, to use the writing task itself as a CI&I process to stimulate new thinking and action and to improve and innovate in our project management. We conclude by offering some lessons we have learnt from this process.