Anders Sejerøe. Distributed by www.AnthroBase.com.
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Table of contents
Conventions in this text
|2 The Story of the Danish Engagement in Smolensk|
|3 The Paradox of Top-down Controlled Bottom-up Development|
|4 Bottom-up and Top-down in Practice|
|5 Society and Economy, Top-down and Bottom-up|
Appendix no. 1: Agricultural development in the Soviet Union
My fieldwork would not have been possible without the assistance of the Foreign Department at the Danish Agricultural Advisory Centre in Skejby and the Smolensk Information Advisory Centre. Thank you very much to you all for allowing me in on your daily work and giving me an insight in the life of a Danish project and a Russian advisory centre.
And thank you to all others, in Russia and Denmark, who took the time answering my questions and showing me around in their homes or workplaces.
In writing this thesis I am very thankful for the readings and comments by Vibe, Dorte, Rikke and Ole from my study group, Michael Whyte and my supervisor Finn Sivert Nielsen.
In the text there are quotes from documents, informal conversations, formal meetings and interviews in Danish, English and Russian. The quotes that I have translated directly into English is marked by a (MT) - my translation, while quotes which I have reproduced from my field notes (and in most cases also translated) is marked by (FF) - from fieldnotes.
When you drive around in the Russian countryside it is easy to imagine farm life as it was centuries ago. You see an old woman tending the vegetable garden in front of her small wooden house, a couple of men in the meadow during haymaking loading hay on their horse-drawn wagon, a girl bringing home the family cow for milking, a young man on a horse looking after a larger herd of cattle, and even a large group of young people harvesting flax by hand and stacking it in sheaves. But soon the picture gets confused - the small road tavern nearby is selling coca-cola and imported beers, while Russian pop-music fills the air. You are passed by a big, new Mercedes at the same time as you try to pass a horse-drawn carriage. In other fields big combiners are harvesting and loading trucks with grain. Factories, power pylons and antennas are also part of the picture. And two or three-story buildings have replaced the traditional wooden houses as part of the effort to change the Russian peasant into a modern industrial worker. This picture leaves a somewhat confused image about the life of the rural Russians.
The picture is equally mixed when reading a Russian magazine for animal husbandry. Between commercials for new Western breeds and special mixes of fodder and articles on for example a new Russian computer-program for cattle breeding one reader asks how best to feed his working horse, and the magazine brings together with their own answer a copy of an article from 1885 on the same topic. Another article shows how to build a traditional barn which is made entirely of "free" resources that can be found in every forest(1).
The picture of Russian agriculture oscillates between different stages in the agricultural evolution. From primitive peasant subsistence farming, over small individual farms and soviet-style large-scale farms with heavy machinery to modern and efficient industrialised farms. And in between there are small private plots on which nearly half of the entire agricultural production in Russia takes place(2) (Amelina 1999). The most striking feature is the great differences from region to region and from farm to farm - differences relating to technology, organisation and efficiency.
If one looks at the Russian agriculture in a larger perspective, the current low productivity and efficiency is of course partly an effect of the general economic crisis in Russia, but also prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, productivity was very low. The agricultural sector experienced a high growth in productivity in the years after the Second World War but the growth stagnated by the 1960s (see appendix 1). By the end of the 1980s crop yields in (Soviet) Russia were estimated to be 30 per cent lower and livestock yields 40-50 per cent lower compared to similar climate zones in the West (Perrotta 1998: 149). Foreign experts and Russian reformers saw the socialist organisation of the agricultural production as the main reason for this. Instead of private and individual farms as in the West, socialist agricultural production was organised in large units - state farms (sovkhozy) and collective farms (kolkhozy)(3) with several hundred employees in each. Besides the official production on those large-scale farms(4), a substantial part of the overall agricultural production took place in the 'private plots'. Private plots are the small pieces of land grown 'privately'(5) by workers from mainly the large-scale farms, but also from other workplaces. Compared to collective production the private production had an extremely high yield. Hedrick Smith(6) points to figures showing that 27% of Soviet agricultural production in 1976 was from 'private plots' which only covered 1% of the total agricultural land. According to these figures, the agricultural production under private management was thus 40 times as efficient (Smith 1977: 251)(7). Figures like these combined with the overall low productivity in comparison with Western agriculture convinced advisors and politicians in both Western aid agencies and the Russian government that privatisation was the way to achieve a higher output (cf. Perrotta 1998: 149). A wide range of reforms and programmes was initiated with the goal of letting the workers leave the collective production to start up their own farm.
The Russian government currently receives various kinds of support (financial, technological, and ideological) from Western donors. Among these initiatives is a Danish agricultural project in the Smolensk region (See appendix two and three for a closer description of the project and its history). The project is sponsored by the Danish Ministry of Agriculture, in cooperation with Smolensk regional administration and executed by the Danish Agricultural Advisory Centre (DAAC). The aim of the project is to help develop independent commercial agriculture and modernize the production by building agricultural institutions - an advisory centre, a machinery station and a grain-store - and introducing Danish agricultural techniques and organisation of work. I followed this project during six months of fieldwork in 2001, and this project is the focal point of the thesis.
Today, a decade after the start of the reforms and restructurings, the picture of Russian agriculture has not improved and the productivity is still extremely low. The problems in the Russian agricultural sector are manifold: The expenditures are rising without a similar increase in prices on products, the productive apparatus is outdated and worn down, there is a shortage of competent workers and the sector has lost most of its previous support from the state (Norsworthy 2000). The efforts to privatize have not yet had the expected result: a commercial agricultural production based mainly on the private independent farmers.
The continuing low productivity in spite of domestic and foreign initiatives gives rise to the questions: why are the experiences with successful farming so few and dispersed? Why do Russian farms not achieve higher productivity now that they apparently have the possibility to benefit from the same conditions as Western farmers - privatised and able to operate on a free market? It seems strange, especially in Smolensk region, where the Danish project has introduced modern efficient techniques and forms of organisation to the agricultural producers.
During my fieldwork, officials from the Danish donor - the Danish Ministry of Agriculture - visited the project and I joined them on a tour to farms connected to the project. As we drove to visit a former collective farm, we passed large areas of unused land that earlier had been cultivated, but now lay bare and had become overgrown with shrubbery and young forest. The Danish officials' comment on seeing this was that all of this land was just waiting for somebody to use it. "Imagine what could be done, if a few Danish farmers would come over and work the land,"(FF) he said. The Danish comments reflected amazement on why nobody seemed to take advantage of this unused land, and at the same time indignation of this waste of a great potential resource. They considered it not only irrational not to utilize the land, but also immoral, especially considering the poor economic situation of the country. To them, there seemed to be no obvious explanation why the Russians did not utilize the land better, especially since they now had access to modern techniques, which the Danish project so generously had demonstrated. "They [Russians] always come up with excuses," one of the Danish officials said in an irritated tone. "They say the low production this year is because of the warm and dry season, and last year they blamed the low harvest on too much rain"(FF). In the conversation there was an implicit understanding that local people were acting irrationally - using old ineffective techniques even though the project have showed them better, lacking initiative and being lazy - why else did they not take advantage of the land instead of complaining?
In this thesis I will follow up on this amazement and investigate the problems of reforming Russian agricultural production through a Danish project. However, my approach will not focus on the "irrational Russians", but on the rationalities in play at the Danish project in Smolensk. My overall question is: Why has it been so hard for the project to succeed in transferring Danish agricultural technology and organisational structures to the Smolensk region, when Danish agricultural production compared to Russian clearly is many times as efficient? The thesis is thus a study of both the Danish and the Russian approaches and practices in a specific agricultural project. I therefore take a closer look at the complex situation of Danish system-export and examine what happens when Danes travel to Russia, bringing with them material resources, invitations to Denmark, technology, models and approaches on how to do effective farming. This is a complicated process in which the interests and practices of many actors (Danish as well as Russian) are in play - practices that are rational in themselves but become irrational and illogical when combined.
My aim is to provide an analysis of the problems of Danish development work in Russia based on an empirical study of a Danish agricultural project.
My first objective is to explore the factors which shaped the design of the project. In chapter two I investigate how a combination of the neo-liberal discourse (Rose 1993) and guidelines from development work in the Third World formed the general parameters for development work in Eastern Europe. I will show how different criteria for development work, such as the overall insistence on top-down control with the donated funds combined with the criteria of local participation and bottom-up development, leads to internal oppositions in the project design, as evident when following the history of the project. This first section takes as a point of departure anthropological works on development in general (cf. Gardner & Lewis 1996) and on Eastern Europe and Russia in particular (cf. Wedel (2000, 2001, 2002) and Creed & Wedel 1997).
In chapter three I will examine the opposition between the top-down practice and the bottom-up ideology within the project and show how the actors are able to cope with this opposition by using methods similar to those used in the Soviet command economy to cope with discrepancies between ideology and reality, rhetoric and practice. These methods are against Danish ideological goals such as transparency and their existence in the project is therefore problematic. This point is not a critique of the individual actors (Danish and Russian) in the project but a general critique of development policies and the assumption that a combination of bottom-up ideology and top-down control is unproblematic. Aside from this important critical point on the project design, my attitude to the project work and the central actors is positive. I find that the central actors in the project work hard and competently to achieve results on a local level and that they succeed (although not in every aspect) despite very difficult circumstances. Their work is valuable and directly beneficial to local agricultural producers and also in accordance with the ideology of the Danish project.
Despite the positive elements, the results of the project are still modest considering the large funds donated. The agricultural institutions within the project are established, but only serving a limited number of farms, and the introduced Danish techniques are mainly being used by farms directly connected to the project, and not to a very great extent by other farms in the region. Most other development projects in Russia (and most of the other former Soviet republics) face similar problems (cf. Wedel 2001) and the question is thus, why is it so hard to achieve technological or institutional changes? My central point is that the opposition between the bottom-up and top-down approach is not only an opposition between ideology and practice within the project, it is also an opposition between two very different approaches to knowledge, and how knowledge should be distributed. In chapter four I examine this difference and show how it is connected to the placing of responsibility and organisation of work.
This leads to the final part of the thesis (chapter five) in which I, in line with Lass (1999), examine how the technology and institutional models in the Danish project are tightly connected to a larger social and economic setting which makes it difficult to implement in a Russian context. The basic economic conditions in Russia are different from those in Denmark, which I will discuss by defining the main dominating economic principles (Polanyi ). This helps me to define the rationality of the top-down and bottom-up approaches and from this to answer the initial question of the thesis: why the efficient Danish Model and bottom-up approach only in certain respects has been implemented in a Russian context with success.
The thesis is divided into two main sections: first, the discussion of the bottom-up ideology versus the top-down practice in the project and how the actors in the project cope with this internal opposition (chapter two and three), and second, the connection between technology, social organisation and economy (chapter fire and five). The main analytic tool that will combine the two sections is the opposition between a top-down and a bottom-up approach. In the first section this opposition is mainly expressed as an opposition between practice and ideology in the implementation of the project, while in the second section, the bottom-up approach is revealed to be not just ideology but also a practical prerequisite for several of the project elements.
My initial aim for doing research was to follow the project in the different levels from the donor - the Danish Ministry of Agriculture - over the project implementer - DAAC - to the beneficiaries - the Russian farmers. But the project involved a far larger number of actors than what could be placed under these three categories, and a great methodological problem of my fieldwork was to get an overview of the very large number of persons and institutions involved in the project(8). The different actors acted in very different settings and a large part of their activities involved travelling to meet each other. As I followed the project also in this aspect, this meant that my fieldwork in every sense of the word was multi-sited (Marcus 1995), both regarding geography(9) and regarding the social level in which the different persons acted(10).
Besides, the different kinds of interaction between the actors, their backgrounds and interests opened for a wide range of theoretical issues, which deserve attention and further research. This is beyond the scope of this thesis though, and I will focus on the work of the agricultural advisory centre in Smolensk (SIAC(11)) and of DAAC. The people working in these two institutions were my primary informants. The strategy I utilized in my multi-sited fieldwork was to 'follow the persons'(12) and I joined the local advisors in their work in the region, at different seminars and in their daily interaction at the office with costumers, regional directors, Danish consultants and officials etc. I applied the same method on the Danish consultants visiting Smolensk, and furthermore I joined them in the evenings and weekends as we shared the same apartment(13). The most informative situations were when different actors met (in official or unofficial meetings) and both their shared and oppositional ideological standpoints, interests and goals became visible. These interface situations(14) (Long 1999) became the pivotal points for the thesis and helped demarcate the key issues in the project. Beyond acting as 'traditional' informants, the consultants from DAAC and especially the advisors at SIAC also provided important help to contextualise data from situations and interviews in other settings(15).
A limiting factor in my fieldwork was my relatively low level of Russian language. Although I was able to speak Russian for everyday communication and could conduct simple interviews, I felt that formal interviews, especially with people that sat working time aside for me, had to be with the assistance of an interpreter. This reduced the number of official interviews as they had to be coordinated with the interpreter and arranged in advance, which was difficult for most informants. The most fruitful situations were when the informant had time and patience to talk directly with me, without an interpreter, and we could have a direct and informal conversation.
My own position in the local context was a bit confusing for many of my informants since I stated that I was not part of the project or a representative for DAAC, but at the same time I was clearly placed in the field by them. I was introduced to the central actors via DAAC, lived in their apartment, joined the Danish consultants on tours around the region and communicated with them throughout the project period. I was therefore by most Russians perceived as part of the Danish project. This meant that I in Smolensk became some sort of representative from DAAC although my position as student meant I was of low status. My close tie with DAAC proved to be a great advantage since I got immediate access to the central actors connected to the project, and officials set time aside for interviews and allowed my presence at official meetings. The cost of my close connection with the Danish side of the project has been that some of the data I received were prepared as presentations to DAAC or the Danish donor and yet other data probably was kept secret from me. But on the other hand, I can see no position that would have given me free access to all data. DAAC and SIAC proved important to me as central actors that could function as 'gatekeepers' to the field, which is especially important in the Eastern European context, where "strangers are to be trusted only if they are linked by a common acquaintance who is also trustworthy" (Bruno 1998: 180).
In the following I will point to several critical issues in relation to the project, but I would like to make clear that in the overall perspective I sympathize with the project and the work done by the central persons in especially DAAC and SIAC. The issues I want to problematize are in relation to the overall dynamics of development work in a Russian context and not to the specific actors in this project.
With this chapter I wish to start an unwrapping of the Smolensk project, and show the different interests at stake and the complex of problems arising when Danish good intentions and resources engage with a local Russian reality.
First, I will show how the project is positioned in relation to the political history of development work. Afterwards I will move on to a description of the history of the project.
Since the 1950s, Western countries have given aid to countries in the South(16). Western countries have via different programmes of help and donation tried to 'develop' the so-called 'underdeveloped countries'. Governments and international organisations administrate the fundings and those same bodies also execute programmes and a wide variety of activities. In the last decades, private and semiprivate actors (such as consulting companies and different kinds of non-governmental organisations, NGOs) have increasingly undertaken the execution of projects and have often been in competition for the same funds. It is thus possible to speak of the development "business" or aid "industry" and perceive the development world as a market among others. The actors engaged in this market (whether governmental, private or non-governmental) all, to some extent, rely on the same mechanisms and rules of this market. These market rules differ from normal supply and demand, as it is the donors rather than people in need, who decide what is in demand (Westphalen 1998: 53).
The actors in the market need political goodwill and administrative approval from the donor. The need for administrative approval implies that those who want to be in the business must be able to fulfil the administrative demands, such as the delivery of correctly formatted project applications, budgets and reports. The need for political goodwill means that changing political attitudes and foreign policies set the basic framework for possible areas of project work.
It is therefore relevant to investigate how current policies of development to Eastern Europe are placed in the larger tradition of development work, as they set up the parameters for individual projects.
The development business has changed a lot since its beginning after World War 2. The basic idea is modernisation-oriented and optimistic, based on an evolutionary perception of the world, which placed the 'North' and the 'South' at different levels of development. In this view the backward and undeveloped South thus resembles the historical North and just as the North has developed through history so too is it possible for the South. The first decades of development work (1950-70s) were oriented towards industrialisation and the level of development was measured in GNP. The idea was that the 'trickle down' effect(17) eventually would rectify symptoms of poverty such as high child mortality, malnutrition and illiteracy (Gardner & Lewis 1996: 6p).
However, the experience after the first decades of development work was that large prestigious projects, such as the building of dams, bridges and power stations, did not improve the situation of the poor and this led to criticism of the top-down modernization approach. Many of the donors reacted to the criticism and changed some of the procedures. One result was that many projects became directly orientated towards poverty relief or towards certain target groups such as women, the poorest etc. One way of trying to reach these groups was by projects of 'empowerment' that attempted to stimulate and support the target group to learn and take action themselves. Instead of being perceived as passive objects for development projects, local people were redefined as active 'stake-holders' with a personal interest and active involvement in the project. The active involvement of the beneficiaries - it was assumed - would simultaneously help reduce costs and secure the effect and 'sustainability' of the project. 'Local participation' were therefore seen in much of the development world as the missing ingredient that would help to avoid 'white elephants' (big expensive prestigious projects that failed). Many critics, however, view participation "as a degraded term, which served only to 'soften' top-downism" (Gardner & Lewis 1996: 111), often without any substantial impact (cf. White 1996).
Another consensus that grew out of the 1970s, was that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) proved to be more efficient in the execution of projects because they had better contact with the local communities than the state agencies. As a consequence NGOs were gradually given a bigger role in the development world of the 1980s and 90s (Gardner & Lewis 1996: 107pp).
By the 1990s, when Western development programmes started in Eastern Europe, the experiences of development projects in the 3rd world served as the background for development projects in the region. This meant that keywords like 'participation' and 'sustainability' played an important role in policies for development and aid assistance and also for individual programs and projects. This is not to say that none of the mistakes from development project in the South were repeated. As my material will also demonstrate, it is one thing to advocate participation and sustainability in official policies and a completely different thing to implement them in practice.
The end of the Cold War meant that a whole new field opened up for the development business, as the West promised to help the former enemy behind the Iron Curtain and put large sums of money aside for this purpose. The aid was intended to help the East European countries to proceed through the 'transition' and thereby end up achieving the same benefits of democracy and free market economy as countries in Western Europe. The idea among most scholars and politicians in the West was simply that the removal of the communist order combined with large economic investments would 'free' the East Europeans and bring them to the supposed "natural" state of liberal capitalism and democracy (cf. Gerner & Hedlund 1994: 8, Verdery 1996). This meant that expectations for a relatively quick and unproblematic transition grew both in the East and the West (Creed & Wedel 1997: 254).
The first to engage in this new market were mainly big actors in the traditional development business of the Third World (Wedel 2001: 27), but newcomers soon followed them. In Denmark these new actors were public and private institutions. They are different from the traditional firms in the development business, as they often have no prior experience from development work in the Third World, and development work is not their main activity. They only participate in areas, which are directly related to their normal business and the projects they are involved in often have as their main aim to copy elements of their work and/or organisational structure in Denmark into a local context in Eastern Europe(18). These types of projects are in Denmark referred to as 'system export'.
The Danish government joined the efforts to help Eastern Europe with the 'transition' and in 1990 established the East Assistance Office (Øststøttesekretariatet), which coordinates the programmes and projects under different ministries. The variety of projects has been great, and both public and private companies, NGOs and individuals have been free to apply for money for projects on their own initiative in almost all areas of work. For Russia alone more than a billion Danish kroner have been granted to Danish projects in Russia in the period 1990 - 1998 (Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1999: 21). The East Assistance is separate from assistance to the Third World (which is administrated by Danida (the Danish International Development Agency) and differs from such aid in several ways, among others in that the East Assistance is not poverty oriented. The initial help was supported by great public enthusiasm and a wish to help Danish neighbouring countries, poor and inexperienced in the liberal market economy after so many years of totalitarian rule. In the beginning, the programmes varied greatly, but after some years the focus shifted towards a more instrumental use of the funds to directly further Danish political interests with a focus on environmental issues and active promotion of Danish technologies.
To sum up, the aim of the Danish development assistance to East Europe is to "promote stability and good neighbourly relations" and by "cross-border cooperation … to bridge old dividing lines in Europe" (Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1999: 5). The East Assistance has as its primary aim to support an economic, social and commercial development that is environmentally sustainable. Besides this The East Assistance aims to help create a market for Danish export and to show as part of Danish foreign policy that Denmark still stresses good relations with e.g. Russia, even though the country is outside the EU and NATO enlargement sphere (as opposed to Poland and the Baltic countries)(19).
The need for a restructuring of the post-socialist East European societies was evident for Western politicians, and Danish public institutions were seen by Danish politicians as perfect models. The concept of 'system export' was primarily applied to the export of systems that were already working in Denmark, primarily in public institutions. It thus implies export of know-how, expertise and organisational structures, which in the concrete projects are often combined with transfer of technical equipment and study-tours to Denmark.
Connected to the concept of 'system export' is the concept of 'The Danish Model'. It is used to describe a presumably unique Danish approach to social life and institutions characterised by dialog, respect for the individual, a low hierarchical structure and an antiauthoritarian approach (Westphalen 1998: 111). The 'Danish Model' is based on specific historical elements from the transformation of Danish society in the late nineteenth century. This was the period when Denmark changed from a rural to a modern industrial society and simultaneously became democratic. 'The Danish Model' thus combines two aspects that are considered essential for the 'transition' in Eastern Europe: a democratic as well as a commercial aspect of development within the free market. To understand this, a short overview of Danish history is useful.
The transformation of Denmark to a modern industrialised society with democracy took place in the last half of the nineteenth century. Denmark had lost the war with Germany in 1864 and with that also a large part of Southern Jutland. It was a time when national sentiments ran high and since war no longer was an option to regain what has been lost, these feelings were directed towards internal development and modernisation (allowed by favourable economic conditions) as expressed in the proverb: "Hvad udad tabes, skal indad vindes," - meaning that what had been lost externally should be gained internally. A modernisation in all areas of society took place and especially in the agricultural sector (cf. Sehested & Wulff 1998). Two phenomena are generally emphasised in this connection: The cooperative movement and the folk high school movement, both of which were central to rural development.
The object of the cooperative movement was purely financial: to buy and sell agricultural products. The background was a dramatic drop in world prices on grain in 1875, which contributed to a change in Danish agriculture from mainly grain production to livestock farming. With the establishment of cooperative dairies and slaughter houses, Danish farmers became able to produce processed food that could be sold on the international market, especially bacon and butter for England. The movement grew so big that more than 90% of all milk and pork production went through the cooperatives. The general principle of the cooperatives was "one man, one vote" regardless of the size of the farm, open membership, and profit distribution in proportion to the individual members' business activities with the cooperative. The establishment of cooperatives was possible since most farmers owned their own land, and they were therefore able to provide joint liability for the cooperative (Bjørn in Sehested & Wulff 1998: 2.13). The cooperatives thus represent a 'bottom-up' development, as farmers founded the cooperatives on a democratic basis - although an exclusive democracy with only farm owners as members.
Alongside with the cooperative movement the 'folk high school' should also be mentioned. The Danish 'folk high school' as developed by Grundtvig (1783-1872) focused on a general, free and enlightened education for the working people (to begin with, the farmers). The education was not restricted to a fixed syllabus and was without exams altogether. There was a focus on national history and Danish cultural heritage, and the schools encouraged students to be active and competent citizens, open for new thoughts and the opinions of others (Lundgreen-Nielsen in Sehested & Wulff 1998: 1.14). The teaching took as its point of departure the interests of the students and their knowledge, and encouraged them to share this. Knowledge in this sense is not just what is learned from books, as in the formal educational system, but also knowledge based on practice and life experience.
The ideologies behind these two movements are key elements in the 'Danish model' with its focus on active, resourceful, free and equal individuals joining together in associations and cooperatives, and thereby receiving the advantages of large units without loosing individual independence. The democratic element is thus combined with technical and commercial development.
'The Danish model' was the ideology behind and the reference point for the first generation of Danish projects in Eastern Europe and became the basic political criterion for actors in the Danish development business. Especially for projects in the agricultural sector 'the Danish model' was emphasized both internally towards the Danish public and donors, and externally towards the recipients of aid. This is expressed directly in material distributed to foreigners (including farmers in Smolensk) such as the pamphlet "Danish farmers and their cooperatives"(20) which describes the development and function of Danish cooperatives. A substantial part of the Danish grant for Eastern Europe is administrated by "The Democracy Fund" which supports "democracy building", mainly by sponsoring study tours for Eastern Europeans to Denmark, where foreigners are to learn from seeing the 'Danish model' working in practice. "The Danish Model" is in this connection presented as a working example of "good governance", another international keyword in the development world, and described as "a democratic, non-corrupt and also effective administration (MT)" (Demokratifonden 2000: Recommendations).
The Danish Agricultural Advisory Centre (DAAC) is an actor on the scene of Danish 'system-export'. On their homepage and in presentations they directly represent themselves as a working example of the 'Danish Model'(21). The following presentation of DAAC and their work is based on how they presented themselves to a group of Russians from Smolensk on a study tour to Denmark. The tour, which I followed, was arranged by DAAC as part of the project in Smolensk. Similar tours have been conducted throughout the project period on an annual basis.
DAAC is the Danish national centre for an agricultural advisory system, which includes 75 local advisory centres in Denmark. DAAC provides service and know-how to the local centres, which directly serve the individual farmers. DAAC is owned by the two large farmers associations(22), which together count 95 % of all Danish farmers as their members (see figure 1 below). DAAC presents itself as a user-owned grassroots organisation, which serves its members effectively on a commercial basis(23). This organisation is presented as unique and differing from other Western countries which have a state agricultural advisory service. DAAC is proud that they only receive about 10% of the cost for consulting from the state, while users pay 90%.
The figure shows the organisation of the Danish agricultural advisory service and how a farmer simultaneously can be a costumer and a joint owner of a local advisory centre. Most farmers (95%) are either members of the local Farmers Union or Family Farmers' Association and through a national cooperation between these two organisations the farmers own the Danish Agricultural Advisory Centre (DAAC). DAAC is the mother organisation for the local advisory.
In Denmark, the advisory service functions as follows: As a member, the farmer pays a fixed annual fee depending on the size of his(24) production. This gives him access to basic services, such as free subscription to a newsletter, free advice via the telephone etc. He can then choose to buy more services, such as farm-visits by advisors with the purpose of planning certain parts of the production or in order to get specific advice e.g. on technical improvements. The local advisory centres also offer help on business aspects of farming, such as doing farm tax-reports. One of the things DAAC emphasises is that they operate under market conditions and do not have a monopoly on their service. Farmers are free to use other consultants or of course to abstain from advising altogether, but actually 80% of all Danish farmers use their local advisory centre and DAAC points to this as an indicator of their success (DAAC 2001a).
DAAC in the business of 'system-export'
In 1990, the international department at DAAC was established. During the first period up to 1994, DAAC operated in Denmark's closest neighbouring countries, the three Baltic States and Poland, on the development of national advisory services. By 1995, the activities spread to the Ukraine and Russia(25).
To enable effective agricultural production under market conditions it is necessary to constantly keep up to date with the newest knowledge. The slogan of DAAC: 'We put knowledge into work' represents the function of DAAC - to gather and distribute knowledge. The product DAAC is selling is not just concrete knowledge but also constant access to the newest knowledge - a flow of information - and practical suggestions on how to implement the knowledge.
DAAC "puts knowledge to work" via the local advisors visiting the individual farmers and through different media such as computer-programs, newsletters and databases accessible over the Internet. According to the DAAC consultants, the short distance between theory and practice (see figure 2 below) helps both to accelerate scientific research by the broad base of practical experience collected from the farmers trying new methods, and at the same time gives all farmers instant access to the most efficient methods (Bech 2001).
The figure shows how DAAC connects theory (at the top) with practice (at the bottom) by linking agricultural producers via local advisors and educational programs. New scientific knowledge (the arrows going down) and practical experience (the arrows going up) are in constant dialogue.
The figure was used in a presentation on the virtues of the Danish Model for Russians on a study tour in Denmark, 2001 by a DAAC consultant.
What DAAC wants to "export" to Eastern Europe through projects is a) modern agricultural knowledge and technology which will enable "good agricultural production", and b) the establishment of a structure of knowledge in accordance with its version of the "Danish model" - an agricultural advisory service owned by the users and working under the conditions of the free market, which will continuously improve the users' production.
The contact between Denmark and the Smolensk region was established in the fall of 1992 during a visit of a Russian delegation to Denmark. This visit led to a revisit in spring 1993 to Smolensk by officials of the Danish Ministry of Agriculture(27) (from now on only the Danish ministry) and from five Danish private farming organisations and companies, including DAAC. Among those companies one (here referred to as company A) was selected to lead the Danish cooperation and they made a proposal to the Danish ministry, which then granted money for a 'Fact-finding Mission'. This mission was executed the following year (1994) and resulted in a report recommending the establishment of an advisory centre, a cooperative grain-store and a cooperative dairy. These institutions were to serve Russian independent farmers(28) and give them access to some of the same elements that the large-scale farms normally possess: agricultural expertise in the form of agronomists and other professionals (the advisory centre) and big expensive machinery (the grain-store and later a machinery station). The report was the basis for a project application to the Danish ministry, which granted funds to the project for 1995 and 1996. Within this project, two of the three elements recommended by the 'Fact-finding Mission' were established: The advisory centre and the grain-store(29). Besides this, selected local farms participated in the project as demonstration farms, and received e.g. Danish seed material or special fodder. The purpose of these demonstration farms was to test Danish methods locally and if the outcome was positive, the advisory centre would hold seminars for farmers showing the benefit of the methods and encouraging them to use the same techniques. A central part of the project throughout the years has been study tours. Local Russians, who were connected with the project in different ways, were invited to Denmark to see 'working examples' of 'the Danish model' in e.g. DAAC itself, cooperative grain stores and dairies, as well as to visit farmers and see practical examples of modern farming methods(30).
The target group: independent farmers
Two questions arise: First, why did the Danes expect that independent farms would be prevalent and second why were only independent farms part of the initial project set-up? The answer to these questions can be found in the prevailing image of socialism in Western Europe in the early nineties, and in the ideas on the way the expected transition would change Eastern Europe to end up resembling the West.
The prevailing understanding in the West was that the collapse of the Soviet Union had demonstrated the failures of socialism, and thereby proved the superiority of Western style market democracy. As I pointed out above (part 2.1) almost nobody (neither Western nor Eastern Europeans) saw any other alternative for Eastern Europe than to adopt the Western approach - the only questions were how and how fast (cf. Wedel 2001, Gerner & Hedlund 1994). The collective and state farms of the Soviet Union did not fit into this picture. They were seen in the West as typical examples of the social and economical failures of socialism, as proven by their much lower agricultural productivity compared to that of Western European countries. The fundamental problem in collective production was that the rationality of the collective as a whole did not correspond with the rationality of the individual. An example is shallow ploughing, which is irrational in relation to the overall agricultural production (as it is not very effective) but rational for the individual tractor driver, as shallow ploughing allows him to plough a larger area in less time while he simultaneously saves petrol and wear on the plough, all of which gives him a higher personal bonus (Hedlund 1989: 152). Similar examples often came up during my fieldwork; they were recounted by Danish consultants, independent farmers and Russians in general - although not by people themselves working on the large-scale farms, they focussed on low prices, inadequate support and other external factors as explanations of low productivity. The personal plots with their much higher productivity were, as mentioned in the introduction, seen as proof, that the individual agricultural worker is rational and hardworking, when he works for himself. The critics of socialism saw that the independent and entrepreneurial people were forced to work in collectives against their will. The result was low work morale, low levels of productivity and an overall irrational mode of production. With information like this, it was no surprise that people from the West expected that the Russian farm workers would automatically leave the collectives once given the opportunity and thereby regain their 'natural' independence both as individuals and producers. Following this line of logic, this type of large-scale farms would cease to exist in a future Russia based on the free market and democracy, and were therefore not considered proper targets for development projects.
The hegemonic discourse of privatization as the only way forward is evident. The large aid programmes were established under the condition that large scale political reforms were made, and privatisation became a goal in itself for the initial support.
The first project period in Smolensk
The Smolensk project faced problems from the beginning. The staff at the advisory centre established within the project (Smolensk Information Advisory Centre - SIAC) received their salary from the local regional administration. A combination of low wages and the insecure future status of the centre meant that the original staff at SIAC left after the first six months and new personnel needed to be trained.
It also proved difficult to sell advisory services to the farmers in the area, both because it was an entirely new concept to pay for advice and also because the centre had no results to prove its worth. According to DAAC, the status after the first project period was: "A weak advisory centre without dynamic leadership and without funds to pay for salary and petrol [for the cars]. A functioning grain-store with low capacity utilization (MT)" (DAAC 2001c: 2).
By the end of the first project period in 1996 the Danish ministry found that company A had not achieved satisfactory results and turned down the proposal for a continuation of the project by company A. Instead DAAC was selected to continue the project(31). A new review of the project and local needs was made by DAAC, which stressed the importance of "strengthening" the advisory centre and the grain-store, together with the establishment of a machinery station. The work continued under DAAC with seven different grants (all from the Danish ministry) for the Smolensk project in the period 1997 - 2001. The change in actors from the Danish side did not result in great changes locally since many of the Danes who worked on the project have remained the same throughout the period. DAAC had since the beginning been involved in the development of the advisory centre. It should be mentioned that all of the DAAC consultants were in Smolensk only on a short term basis (typically one or two weeks).
The basis of the Smolensk project was, as stated above, "system-export" based on the "Danish model". For an agricultural project like this, this meant that the overall goal was to help develop a modern agricultural sector among independent farmers who could optimise their production and trade by joining together in democratic cooperatives. But as it turned out, the focus on independent farmers and cooperatives did not correspond very well with the Russian reality.
The missing independent farmers
The initial beneficiaries of the project were, as mentioned above, independent farmers. But the development of independent farming locally did not proceed as expected. After the first optimistic period in the early 1990s, the number of independent farms and their overall production decreased in the Smolensk region (see figure 3). The very attractive state loans for new registered farmers, which many used for consumer items instead of farm investments, meant that the high number of officially registered farms in 1991 and 1992 were considerably higher that the actual number of functioning independent commercial farms. This is also true of Russia in general (cf. Amelina 1999). Especially in the proximity of the grain-store there were fewer independent farmers than expected. This meant that the costumer base for the grain-store was rather limited. Also, several of the initial founders of the grain-store cooperation stopped farming on a commercial basis after a few years (or had never started seriously)(32). The Danes did not anticipate this development, but tried to adjust to the circumstances by allowing the project institutions to serve the former collective and state farms (large-scale farms) as well. The large-scale farms quickly became by far the largest costumers for all the project institutions and several of them now participate directly in the project as demonstration farms. Thus, the initial focus on independent farms was broadened to include all commercial farms in the region.
Figure 3 (SIAC 2001)
The figure shows the correlation between the number of registered farms and agricultural production in the "private sector" (independent farms). Worth noticing is the rise from 1991 until 1993, the period when the state offered privileged loans to newly established farms, and the following decline.
The democratic deficit
In documents from the first project period, the focus of the actors on the Danish side was on the establishment of the grain-store cooperative. The "democratic element" was highly stressed as shown in the article "The first "Danish" cooperative established in Smolensk region by Russian farmers" (MT) in a Danish farmers' magazine.
"By the 20th of February, 60 private farmers in Smolensk had set up their own cooperative, which they named "The Big Bread". Several of the farmers have been to Denmark and seen how the Danish cooperatives work, and the rules of the first Russian cooperative therefore resemble the Danish rules.
But the Danish proposal for the constitution was not just passed on. The room was filled with the atmosphere of a good old-fashioned election campaign, when the rules were debated. " (MT) (Landsbladet 1995)
What is emphasised in the article is how the Danish model of cooperatives is successfully "exported" to Russia, and how the Russians do not just passively accept the Danish proposal but take part in animated discussions on the organization of their own cooperative. The reader gets the impression that the project is a success and that the Russians have taken the democratic aspect to their hearts and act as competent, rational farmers. A report to the Danish ministry also remarked that "the election of the Board in the Lenin room [was] a historic event" (Report 1995: 3). The concept of the cooperative movement was a central part of the Smolensk project in the early phase, and the project thus followed the political trend in Danish system-export at the time (cf. part 2.2). However, in later reports these elements of democracy, participation and grassroots organisation are not in focus and. In the following I point to some of the factors that led to this change in focus.
Sustainability as a project goal obtained through an active counterpart
One of the keywords in present development policy is 'sustainability' (cf. part 2.1), meaning that the projects implemented are supposed to have a lasting effect beyond the donor-paid period (Crewe & Harrison 1998: 70). Sustainability in the case of the Smolensk project is defined as the continued existence and use of the three central elements (also referred to as the "three pillars"): the advisory centre, the machinery station and the grain store. Although there is a strong focus on 'software' in the project (training and teaching good agricultural practice and the Danish way of organising) only the 'hardware' (such as machinery, computers and office equipment) is directly visible to the Danish donor and the public. As long as the hardware still works and is being used, there is a tangible proof of a positive outcome of the Danish donations. Inherent in the "Danish model" that DAAC aims to export, is that the "three pillars" will (ultimately) be independent of public support. 'Sustainability' thus means that these institutions will be able to generate a sufficient income to pay both the running costs and the amortization of the equipment. A continual focus throughout the project has therefore been on "strengthening" the "three pillars" of the project, both in the form of 'software' and 'hardware' support. The advisors and accountants at the advisory centre (SIAC) receive training from the Danish consultants. The centre also receives limited financial support to cover communication and transportation costs and new technical equipment such as computers. The grain-store and machinery station have received the same kind of support from Denmark, although here the focus on 'hardware' is clearly stronger. The machinery station receives new machinery from Denmark on the condition that the Russian side as an "equal partner" supplies as much as Denmark. The machinery station is officially owned by the Smolensk regional administration but the right to use the machines belongs to the farmers' cooperative. The idea is that the cooperative will gradually repay the value of the machines back to the administration and eventually become the real owner of it all.
One of the strategies of the Danish ministry to secure 'sustainability' is to involve the 'counterpart' to the highest possible degree. Following official Russian procedures in relation to foreign assistance, local participation must involve an official body such as the regional agricultural administration as counterpart. The Danish donations therefore passed through the regional administration and along with it passed the responsibility for involvement and achieving results. The intended beneficiaries (the cooperative of independent farmers) are thus not themselves the counterpart, and the more the Danish side stresses the involvement and responsibility of the Russian counterpart, the more the Russian administration takes charge and the less is left for the established cooperative to decide. This conflict is most evident in the administration of the machinery station within the project. When the Danish machines stood unused or misused and the machinery station could not generate enough activity to cover the costs, the local manager of the machinery station was reprimanded by visiting Danes. However, the real negotiations on the future of the machinery station and its place in the project were neither with the manager nor with the cooperative, which according to the Danish model was supposed to be in charge of the machinery station, but with the regional administration.
The present situation is that the cooperative is formally in charge of the machinery station and granary store and the cooperative board has an annual meeting, but in reality the ordinary members do not participate in the decision-making process and have practically no economic interest in the working of the cooperative. Decisions are taken by the president of the board of the cooperative, but in accordance with guidelines set out by the regional agricultural administration. The Danish consultants are of course not happy with the situation, but they do not feel they can do anything to increase membership participation, and instead they focus on the practical running of the machinery station itself. Whether the reason for the poor functioning of the cooperative is its dependence on the regional agricultural administration, its inactive members or different understandings of the cooperative model is not clear, but my point here is that the Danish project design itself is part of the problem, in as much as it rested on an unsteady opposition between top-down practice and bottom-up ideology.
The overall structure of the Smolensk project is represented below in figure 4, and two main things should be noted. First, that the project is a cooperation between two partners - The Danish Ministry of Agriculture and the Smolensk regional administration, and second, that the former collective and state farms (the large-scale farms) are the main agricultural producers in the region, and have become central to the project.
The time of my stay in Smolensk (summer and autumn 2001) was during the last months of DAAC's seventh project funding period. DAAC had sent several applications for a continuation of yet another project period, but slow working procedures at the Danish ministry meant the decision was delayed by several months. The ministry sent the application back with comments suggesting changes that would be needed if they were to accept the application. This went on a couple of times: DAAC making an application, waiting and then the ministry demanding minor changes in order to consider the new project application. By November 2001, two persons from the ministry visited the project to inspect the progress themselves(33). The impression of the situation shared by the Danish actors at the time was: A poorly running machinery station with no capacity even to pay its running costs, and much of the machinery worn down by misuse and poor maintenance. The grain-store was running poorly but with increasing profit and had a reasonable level of activities. The advisory centre (SIAC) was the most positive element: it was conducting more and more activities that generated an income. SIAC had several large costumers (all former collective farms), which were able to pay for the advisory service, and these farms clearly profited from the advice and tools provided by the advisory centre. The staff was active and working competently as advisors.
The visit ended on a positive note. The people from the Danish ministry had some demands especially in relation to the machinery station and were not completely satisfied with the running of the project, but their overall impression was still positive. After many years of continued support they considered that the project institutions should by now be able to sustain themselves, and wanted to phase out Danish support. This would happen in a "decent" way, so the Danish donor and the Danish project by both Russians and Danes would be seen positively. If the "three pillars" did not prove 'sustainable', it would not be because the Danish side withdrew prematurely, but for local reasons. But things did not work out that simply.
In the Danish national elections of November 2001 (the same month as the official visit from the Danish ministry to Smolensk) a new government was elected in Denmark. This meant a political shift and great changes in almost every aspect of Danish political administration. All governmental institutions were ordered to freeze all new expenses until the new national budget was passed by parliament. This meant that all decisions were postponed. Only in December 2002, after more than a year of uncertainty about the future of the Danish project in Smolensk, DAAC was granted a continuation of the project. This illustrates that development projects depend on continuous political support from the donor, and that changing political attitudes - often not related to the individual project - can be decisive in determining the fate of a project.
The preceding chapter outlines the history of the project and its place in the political field of development. It shows how the overall political wish in Denmark to 'do good' and help the new neighbours in the East is realised in projects that use certain political and administrative procedures in order to uphold two main ideals: a) an ideal of a democratic approach and the active participation of the target group through bottom-up development, and b) an ideal of accountability and transparency in economic and administrative procedures (top-down administration). The first ideal (a) is related to the overall political goal of transferring Western models (as in Danish 'system-export') to the countries of Eastern Europe. The second ideal (b) refers to the administrative procedures to avoid 'white elephants' and the public criticism of misused public money (see section 2.1). This ideal demands strict top-down parameters on how the donated funds can be used. Both ideals are central within liberal market economy, but as my analysis in the following chapter demonstrate it is difficult to combine them in reality.
In this chapter I start with a description of the two opposed approaches, bottom-up and top-down. I then move on to show how both approaches exist within the project design and finally how the actors overcome this opposition.
Top-down management is simply when the top, whether a single person or an institution, centrally plans and gives orders that lower levels in the hierarchy should follow(34). That is, when there is a central leadership for management and control, which implements a given plan through vertical lines of authority. The leadership possess different mechanisms of control which can be exercised through both positive actions such as distribution of resources, and negative through different types of sanctions - the carrot and the stick. Top-down management is known in all places, in the East as well as the West, to different degrees in both public and private administrations.
I see top-down management as more prevalent in Russia than e.g. in Denmark. This can be understood as part of Russia's inheritance of the political tradition from the Communist regime with its pervasive centralization and vast public administration(35). Many of the same administrative procedures still apply to Russia today and Danish actors in Russia are advised by the Danish Foreign Department to have that in mind: "There is still a strong tendency to concentrate authority and competence at the top of the hierarchy… With respect to management many Russian companies still resemble the earlier system (UM 1995: 107p). To understand the top-down procedures that also apply in the agricultural sector in Smolensk, it is therefore helpful with an introduction to the dynamics of the socialist system, as I therefore will present below.
The command economy of the Soviet Union
Verdery (1991) describes socialism's basic "laws of motion" as based on the principle of "rational redistribution": "The ideology through which the bureaucratic apparatus justifies appropriating the social product and allocating it by priorities the party has set" (Verdery 1991: 420). The power of the centralised state lies in its power to redistribute products and resources. The centre must therefore have control over the resources and the production apparatus. Once a product is out of the state's control, it cannot be redistributed and has no value as a tool of power for the state. This explains both the focus on heavy industry with products that can be controlled centrally, and the legal prohibition of private production and sale, which would compete with the power of the state (Verdery 1991: 421p).
Production was not directed towards a market but towards the fulfilment of the plan. A greater production than expected did not give the productive unit a surplus, but meant rising expectations and larger quotas to be fulfilled in future plans. A unit was therefore reluctant to show overly positive results. Deliveries were allocated from above and could not be bought on the market, and as a buffer in case of e.g. poor quality or slow delivery units strived to acquire more than they needed. The hoarding of resources led to a relative shortage of resources, as resources were stored up instead of being circulated. This caused periods of nonproduction, which ultimately led to real shortage, which as a vicious circle only increased the necessity to hoard (Verdery 1991: 423).
Units on the same horizontal level in the hierarchy were in strong competition with each other over these scarce resources and products. The gatekeepers who controlled the flow of resources were in a powerful position, and personal ties, deals under the table and exchanges of favours etc. could prove essential in the allocation of resources. Verdery (1991: 423) distinguishes between two powers in the distribution of resources: the allocative bureaucracy, which controls the daily flow of resources, and the party centre, the top of the hierarchy which makes the general decisions.
The hierarchy in the socialist system consisted of units within units, like Chinese boxes (or more appropriately Russian Matryoshka dolls), where the centralised system of redistribution is replicated from a national over a regional level down to the single productive unit. "Like the feudal estate, the socialist enterprise is not simply an economic institution but the primary unit of Soviet society and the ultimate base of social and political power" (Simon Clarke (1992) in Verdery 1996: 206). The productive unit provided all its employees basic facilities: housing, childcare and healthcare, as well as consumer items and holidays etc. Each individual depended on the work unit to uphold their living, and reversely the productive unit depended on the workers' loyalty and work ethic to uphold production.
The productive unit provided stability and the necessities of life for the individual. Nielsen (1988: 6) describes the productive unit as an island of stability and security which must be protected from the chaos and instability of the outside world by strong barriers. Barriers can be physical like walls and barbed wire to protect the unit against theft, or administrative e.g. using rationing coupons to keep products from floating out of the unit. But no unit is entirely self-sufficient: "There must be Gates in its Barriers, to allow a certain flow of skills, resources and people in and out of it… Thus, Barriers are defended, insisted on at all cost. But at the same time, they are controverted and undermined - even by the powers that erect them" (Nielsen 1988: 7). The direct relation between different productive units was often unofficial and illegal (Humphrey 1998: 444) but these relations helped the individual units to overcome shortages and bureaucratic "bottlenecks". Likewise Sampson (1987: 122) notes that these unofficial relations were at the same time corrosive and lubricating for the official economy.
The command economy of the Soviet Union thus implied top-down commands and redistribution of resources. The official vertical distribution led to strong horizontal competition for the same resources, but simultaneously the productive units engaged in unofficial barter deals on a horizontal level, in order to supplement the official allocations from above. These horizontal relations were vital to maintaining the official production, although illegal.
The post-Soviet era
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the severe economic decline after 1991 meant that the central government had far fewer resources to distribute. The collapse can be compared to the king's death within a feudal system (to stay within Verdery's analogy). This initiated a power struggle among the 'feudal lords'. The 'feudal lords' in this context are mainly the leaders of the large, newly privatised enterprises (e.g. the oil industry), the regional governors and high ranking officials in major institutions as the army and the intelligence service. So in spite of the turmoil and the division of centralised power to different 'feudal lords', the system of top-down management remained on a local level. Humphrey (1995: 41) uses the metaphor of the iceberg to describe the situation, in which only the visible top is removed (the symbols and institutions of the Soviet Union) while the underlying structures and old nomenklatura networks remain in place.
The local political situation and continuation of top-down practices
The 'survival of the system' or maybe more precisely the continuation of a certain style of governance is also evident locally in Smolensk. The governor, Mr. Prokhorov(36), bases his power on old networks established in the Komsomol, the youth branch of the communist party. The network around Mr. Prokhorov includes the managers of old monopolistic industries from the Soviet era, ranging from an alcohol factory, the telephone company, and an electrical company to large food producing companies. Officially they are all separate private enterprises, but they are tightly connected by personal ties and barter contracts. In addition, most of the local media, television and newspapers are under the control of Prokhorov and his network (Lallemand 1998). This is of course a delicate subject, and I do not know how organised the network around Mr. Prokhorov is(37). The talks I had on the subject with my informants were often vague and insinuating, and thus resemble talks on 'mafia'. As Sampson notes, 'mafia' is a term often used about those personal networks one is not a member oneself (Sampson 1994: 11). The notion of 'mafia' can be used similarly to the Azandes use of 'witchcraft' (Evans-Pritchard 1976), as a mechanism to understand and explain the world - why some people succeed in business and others fail (Verdery 1996: 220, Sedleniekis 2002). It is my clear impression, however, that the political situation in the region is heavily influenced by personal connections, and that high ranking officials have greater authority than granted them by official democratic and bureaucratic procedures.
On lower levels of the hierarchy the same system of personal networks applies. I was told that most directors in the collective farms and the regional administration have a background in the Komsomol, and that personal ties rather than professional skills are decisive when people are appointed to such positions. When I asked about individual persons in good positions, I was often told that their appointments were due to their personal friendship with specific higher-ranking officials. Changes in the top of the local hierarchy also meant changes on lower levels, as new leaders tended to take people from their personal network in. This also affects the Danish project, which needs continual local support. Below, the Russian coordinator, Mr. Ivanov(38), explains the local situation to a representative of the Danish donor:
Mr. Ivanov: There have been three changes in power [within the period of the project] and each time it has been painful for the project. There have been a lot of questions and misunderstandings. It is unfortunately a bad tradition here when power changes. The new leadership blames its predecessor for all errors. And it is hard to protect the advisory centre and the project each time. The next election is in April and the campaign has already started.
Karlsen (official Danish representative): If there is a new governor, will there also be a new administration?
Mr. Ivanov: All leaders will be new!
[Mr. Ivanov states that it is almost certain, that there will be a new governor - and therefore new people in charge of the administration.]
Mr. Ivanov: At the meetings with the new administration it is important to show both results for the cooperation [with Denmark] and also concrete plans for the future. Last time it took more than three months to get it approved in the administration [the Russian part of the project]. It is now three years ago. And at that time, the newly placed administration knew me personally, which made things easier. FF
Also elected (as opposed to appointed) directors of large-scale farms(39) have strong personal networks. They are often elected repeatedly as a consequence of their established network, also even when the farm experiences a decrease in production and income under their leadership. Farm directors are normally the old bosses from Soviet times and they often stay in their position until they die, even though their age is above the normal age of retirement. The system of redistribution means that it is more important for a director of a large-scale farm to have good connections with the administration than organisational skills pertaining to the production.
The system of redistribution still dominates the agricultural sector and the farms still rely on the goodwill of the local administration for continual support (cf. Bruno 1998: 177). Most former collective farms in the Smolensk region for example have large debts and have to continually obtain new loans, just to maintain production. The typical large-scale farm makes contracts with the regional administration to receive gasoline and extensions on electricity bills in return for the future harvest. Until now no productive unit, like a former collective farm, has been allowed to go bankrupt and has always received a minimum of support from the regional administration (cf. Amelina 1999). By not letting the market forces reign freely, the regional administrations stay in control with most of the agricultural production and are able both to secure cheap food supplies to public institutions and to uphold a net of social security in the countryside via the large-scale farms (Amelina 2000: 20). However, since 1991 the system has become highly fragmented, with large differences from region to region.
Top-down management as an organisational structure
I will use the term 'top-down management' not only to refer to the management style of the Soviet system and its legacies, but as a general mode of administration exercised on all levels of public and private administrative bodies.
Most development work is constructed in accordance with similar mechanisms of top-down management, where the donor is at the top of the hierarchy. Development depends on external initiative and funding from a donor, who (directly or through a partner) makes plans and has various mechanisms of control and resources available to implement those plans. Therefore all development work entails some kind of top-down procedures and can never be truly bottom-up. As Hobart (1993: 12) argues, even those development programmes that use concepts of bottom-up development and active local actors still have an implicit understanding of development in which development must be initiated from the outside - from the donor. This implies an understanding of the local population as caught in either traditional structures or forces of the market economy, and as such without substantial agency in relation to their own development (Hobart 1993: 13).
Within the bottom-up approach, decision making and planning are placed at 'the bottom' of the hierarchy and each productive unit is seen as autonomous with both an ability to manage itself and to influence the overall structure(40). Whereas one of the dominating metaphors within the 'top-down' approach is the machine and each unit is seen as a cogwheel in a larger structure, the dominating metaphor within the bottom-up approach is organic, and expressed in words like 'grassroots' and 'development' implying both growth and evolution. The central role of the donor is here to nurture the 'environment' and help create the best possibilities for the different actors to develop their own potential (cf. Morgan 1998)(41).
The bottom-up approach is central to liberalism. The basic conception is that individual actors are rational and competent if the foundations of society are in place. The role of the state within liberalism is not to govern and control society directly, but to provide the basic framework for a functioning market and a living civil society and to ensure the individual the rights of citizenship (Rose 1993: 289). The freedom for the individual to pursue his or her own interests and initiatives ensures a great variety of practices and a continuous improvement of society by the force of the better example as other rational individuals would copy successful elements. Liberalism stands in opposition to political ideologies such as socialism, and the idea that society can be planned and administered centrally. In liberal societies, individual actors should be self-regulating and take responsibility for themselves, and state regulations should only ensure that the freedom of the individual is not harmful for other individuals or society in general.
As I have shown earlier (part 2.2) the basis for the Danish ideal of a bottom-up approach is based on a Danish historical tradition with emphasis on the cooperative movement. Within this approach, development is assumed to take place at the 'bottom', where the agricultural producers join in cooperatives to achieve technical and commercial rationalisations, and at the same time, political influence.
The two approaches stand in opposition to each other. Within top-down management vertical relations of distribution and control are prominent, while the bottom-up approach is characterised by horizontal relations of cooperation. But, as the experience with the Soviet Union illustrates, not even the totalitarian command economy were ever entirely top-down controlled, and correspondingly there has never been a case of complete bottom-up development. The experience with the project shows how these two approaches exist side by side, which at times creates confusion and problems.
The difference between the two forms of management becomes evident when looking at conflicting ideas on how the institutions within the project should work. I experienced this when I accompanied a Russian advisor and a visiting Danish consultant on their visit to a former collective farm. The farm is a costumer of the advisory centre and has received Danish grass seed through the project with the aim of demonstrating the efficiency of modern agricultural methods. We were shown around in the stables and the head farm agronomist answered questions, but she did not ask any questions herself nor take any initiatives. The Russian advisor said that we wanted to see the demonstration field with the imported grass seeds, and the farm agronomist asked if she should come along and show it or if we could find it ourselves. The Danish consultant said privately in Danish to me, annoyed by her attitude and her tone of voice:
"It's typically Russian! As if she was doing us a favour by showing us the field! She should have prepared herself by having questions to ask and things to show the advisor. She is the one who gains from our visit and she should prepare herself to secure an optimal outcome of this visit. It is the same with K. [another large-scale farm], when we arrived the director asked us what we wanted to see!" (FF)
With the two opposed approaches in mind, the situation can be analysed in two different ways, as I also understand that the actors do. The Danish consultant clearly expected the farm agronomist to react to the advisory service as a rational costumer under market conditions (that is within a bottom-up approach), and she should therefore use the visit to her own benefit and be the active person in the situation. He considered his own visit as a good chance for the agronomist to get free and competent advice, not only from the local advisor, but also from him as a foreign expert. Her passive and apparently uninterested attitude seemed so irrational for the Danish consultant that no explanation could be given, and the irrational behaviour was reduced to a cultural trait - something "typically Russian!"
But the former collective farm is not merely a costumer for the advisory centre; it is also a recipient of resources from the project. The farm is a 'demonstration farm' within the project and the imported grass seeds have been received for demonstration purposes from the project. This means that the project and the advisory centre are part of 'vertical' lines of distribution, and that the visit is just as much an inspection as a consultation. Basically I think the farm agronomist considered the visit a waste of her time, since she personally does not benefit from the visit, but she had to fulfil the role of host and serve the guests, which were representatives from higher parts of the hierarchy. She probably reacted to the visit in the same way as she would react to other official visits like the inspections by the local agricultural administration.
The irritation or confusion of the situation lies in the dual role of the relationship between the farm and the advisory centre. On the one hand the farm and the advisory centre have an equal and horizontal relationship as costumer and provider of agricultural advice, and on the other hand they each have a position in the hierarchy of vertical distribution of resources connected to the agricultural sector - a hierarchy in which the Danish project is placed in the top as a provider of resources.
Another element that might influence the situation is the different cultural expectations the individuals have to each other. Expectations as to how a customer should act in relation to an agricultural advisor or how a receiver of Danish seed material should act to a representative of the donor might vary greatly between individuals with different social and cultural backgrounds. Although this element of cultural clash and following misunderstandings definitely has had consequences in the execution of the Smolensk project, the central actors by now know each other after several years of cooperation and have jointly created a framework around the project, which governs how they interact and communicate with each other. I will therefore in this thesis not investigate how cultural expectations clash and are possibly overcome, but focus on the actual relations of power that exist within the project.
In this section I will go into detail with how the opposition between top-down management and an ideology of bottom-up development exist on different levels of the project and how this is a key to interpreting the project.
First of all, there is a general opposition in development work as such, when the donor from the outside tries to initiate a bottom-up development locally. The project is planned in Denmark, and the donor always has the last say on how to use the funds. This means that the project has to reflect certain demands from the donor, and I distinguish between two criteria - a political and an administrative. The political criterion refers to the reasons for why the aid should be given. This implies that the project have to share the same political goal as the donor. In the Smolensk project the adjustment to changing political attitudes in Denmark is reflected in a change of focus in the project documents from democracy building to a focus on environmental issues. The administrative criterion refers to how the help should be given, based on the administrative tradition of the donor. This includes principles of accountability and documentation of expenses and results.
The project executer (DAAC) and the target group (the agricultural producers in Smolensk region) only have access to the donated funds if specific political and administrative conditions are observed. The donor and the project executer have agreed on conditions that are written into the approved project application, which sets the plan for the execution of the project.
The administrative process of planning, execution and evaluation
The administrative conditions within the development business determine how contracts are made, which limitations the contract sets and how the results are reported. There are two basic ways in which funds for projects are allocated - either the donor sends a project description for competitive bidding, or applicants make their own project applications (as the case is for the Smolensk project), which the donor then either approves or not. Both ways involve time-consuming procedures of first estimating the local needs and possibilities for potential development, and then having the donor evaluate if the contract should be approved or not. As I have mentioned earlier, DAAC had not yet gotten the expected approval for a future project when I did fieldwork, and the whole process of writing applications, waiting for answers, making small adjustments and then waiting again took up large amounts of time. During this time all parties, Danish as well as Russians, were uncertain of the future status of the project. The procedures have been established to secure transparency and open and fair competition between actors and optimal use of governmental money, but at the cost of time-consuming procedures.
When the Danish ministry has approved an application by DAAC, money is allocated for the project period, which is normally two years. All project activities are described in the application and must be executed. But if the local situation changes or turns out to be different from the assumptions made in the project applications, problems can arise, as it is very complicated to change the activities once the application is approved. At the visit to Smolensk in November 2001, officials from the Danish ministry talked to the DAAC representatives about the rigid bureaucracy and explained that their work is also governed by statements in official documents, and their evaluation of a project is based on how the donated money is used in relation to the purposes specified in the application. Thus, the procedures that are set up to ensure transparency also have the negative consequence of decreasing the responsiveness and flexibility of projects - a flexibility that is especially important considering the speed of change in the societies of Eastern Europe (Howell 1994: 61).
When project activities have been completed, DAAC writes reports to the ministry to show the fulfilment of the plan and the status of the different activities. It is of course in the interest of DAAC and the project to deliver reports that show a positive development of their work in order to secure a positive view from the donor on future applications, both concerning the project in Smolensk, but also in relation to other possible projects sponsored by the ministry. This means that the focus of the project activities risk being determined by what is reportable - measurable or in other ways visible - and activities with a long-term perspective might be neglected. Another factor is the time-consuming work of gathering results and report writing, which was especially evident during the last part of my stay, since it was also the last part of the project period.
Donor's strict administrative procedures in order to secure transparency thus on the one hand reduce the flexibility of the projects and on the other leads to a focus on short term goals - short especially in relation to agricultural production that often operates with much longer time perspectives. Even though each of the project periods in the Smolensk project involves the same participating project institutions, longer-term planning is difficult since there is always a high decree of uncertainty about whether the initiated activities will continue to get support from the donor beyond the current project period.
The donors' political objective
A project application is composed of long-term goals; 'development objectives', which are very general and show how the project will have an impact on a general and more abstract level and not only on the direct beneficiaries of the project. I quote from the project application: 'the development objective is to improve the consciousness of Good Agricultural Practices and the sustainability of agriculture in Smolensk Oblast [region]"(42). The development objectives are so general that they cannot be used in measuring the effect of the project, and they are therefore specified in short-term goals or 'immediate objectives', which shows what the direct result of the project will be. The 'immediate objectives' have been achieved when all 'project activities' are completed.
The range of activities must be in accordance with the current political focus of the donor, and changes in official Danish policy, like the shift in focus towards ecology, are reflected in a shift in the development objectives of the different DAAC projects(43). The current political focus is evident in the project application which gives an account of 'the expected impact' on a) a sustainable development, b) the environment and c) Danish trade and industry (DAAC 2001). All three elements were repeated and emphasised in the official talks between the Danish ministry and Smolensk regional administration.
Though official policies change, the practical goals and the work of DAAC remain much the same, as modern efficient agricultural production is understood by DAAC as a benefit both for the environment and the economy. DAAC has therefore been able to sustain a continual focus on the strengthening of the 'three pillars' of the project regardless of whether the official political focus was on 'aid', democracy building or environmental issues.
Below, I will go into detail on some of the specific demands from the donor. These demands may be discussed and negotiated by DAAC and the Russian partners, but they often have the status of a sine qua non for further support, and the firm top-down control of donor is evident - also in the paradoxical form of a top-down insistence on bottom-up participation and leadership.
An active local counterpart
As I have shown in section 2.1 most modern development projects use the active participation of a local counterpart to secure the sustainability of their work (cf. Gardner & Lewis 1996: 110). In principle, the counterpart should be involved as much as possible and share responsibility for the execution of the project with the foreign developers. This is also the case with the Smolensk project and has been so from the beginning. The official Russian counterpart to the project is, as previously mentioned, the Smolensk regional administration.
The counterpart of a project is normally the immediate target group, which should have a shared interest in the success of the project since the people in this group are the ones who benefit from it. The target group for the Smolensk project is the agricultural producers, but the counterpart is the regional agricultural administration. This discrepancy has different reasons: Firstly, it would be against the Danish logic of promoting bottom-up development on market conditions if a few individual farmers were to receive help directly(44). Secondly, in order to avoid heavy custom duties on the donated resources, the project needs to have the status of 'humanitarian aid' and have an official Russian institution as recipient. This of course compromises the Danish ideological goal of pure grassroots involvement and control, but the project set-up tries to compensate for this by separating the actual ownership of the project institutions (the regional administration) from the right to use the institutions (the agricultural producers in the cooperative).
But as the experience with the project shows, this project design is full of complications and the Danish top-down insistence on bottom-up control led to some strange situations. In the following I will take as my point of departure the case of the machinery station, which was established by the project and show, first, the problems arising as a result of the 'top-down controlled bottom-up development' and secondly, how the actors try to deal with this.
The establishment of the machinery station was a response to the fact that most individual farmers had an inadequate amount of machinery. By establishing the machinery station the project aimed to help the local farmers with this problem and to demonstrate two things: a) The advantages of the cooperative model, which gives the individual farmer access to modern and expensive machinery, and b) the efficiency of modern Western equipment. The machinery station is officially owned by the Smolensk regional administration and run by a chairman of the board of directors of the cooperative of independent farmers. The machines at the station have been donated in accordance with a 50/50 principle, meaning that the Danish donor and the Smolensk regional administration each have donated one half of the machines. All this has been achieved as stated and the cooperation has so far been a success: the machinery station has been built and machines have been delivered by both parties. The official structure of the cooperative follows the Danish ideological model of a user-based cooperative based on the tradition of the Danish cooperative movement (see part 2.3). But the machinery station is not functioning as intended. Only a minimal income has been generated, the machines are poorly maintained and improperly used, and the result is that most of the expensive Danish machinery is out of order. Besides, most members of the cooperative have stopped farming or have never been serious farmers and have practically no economic interest in the machinery station. In year 2000, only 18 active members in the cooperation remained out of the initial 60. The main costumers today are the nearby large-scale farms and several of the (functioning) machines are rented out on a yearly contract to them. This is far from the initial idea with the machinery station, which was to give relatively cheap access to large machines to a large number of independent farmers.
If the machinery stands unused or out of order, then neither the advantages of the cooperative nor the efficiency of modern equipment is demonstrated, and the actual working of the machinery is therefore a primary measure of success in the project. Actions were demanded from Denmark to improve the situation or further assistance would be out of the question. The initial focus on cooperatives and user participation therefore lost importance in the project in order to secure the practical work and utilisation of the donated machines.
When officials from the Danish ministry visited the project in autumn 2000 they visited the machinery station and wanted the running of it to be improved. They demanded a local initiative to improve the cooperation between the project institutions, and that the managers of the project institutions, together with the local administration, should make specific plans for the future of the project institutions. This lead to the writing of the official document, 'The conception of the continuation of cooperation', which was signed by the four central Russian parties: a) the Russian coordinator(45), b) the director of the advisory centre, c) the chairman of the board of directors of the cooperative, and d) the chairman of the regional farmers union. In addition, it was approved by the regional vice-governor of agriculture. In the document, future plans for the cooperation between the different project units were set out, and the document mandated the creation of a standing council of the signing parties, which was to work to secure a functioning cooperation. The document has estimated budgets for the advisory centre and the machinery station for the period 2000 - 2005 that presuppose a continued Danish support.
The document was well received by the Danish side (especially DAAC) and fulfilled the demands made by the Danish ministry. The DAAC project staff wrote that they together with officials from the Danish ministry: "agree that we have never seen such a well set-out and thoroughly prepared minute from the Russian side, and that this could be the basis for a new project in Smolensk(46)"(MT). In the negotiations between the Danish ministry, DAAC and the regional administration on the possibility of a future project, both the Russian side and DAAC referred to the document as proof of local commitment and emphasised that the local plans and budget demanded further Danish support. But despite this, the document alone did not impress the Danish ministry and they had no comments on it. A DAAC consultant complained about the "imperialistic attitude of the [Danish] Ministry to demand such a document on perspectives for the future and then never to react to it… It is impudent to demand such a paper, when we all know how hard it is to reach agreements. They [the Russians] are driven from pillar to post" (FF).
The case shows how the donor always has the last say and can make final demands, and in this perspective it is impossible to talk about any real bottom-up development. But it is important to note that this does not mean that every aspect of the project is decided by the donor and that the donor 'controls' the development. As Norman Long (1992: 22) points out, all actors, regardless of the situation, possess agency and are capable of influencing their situation. Russians have proven this point more than most under the totalitarian rule of state socialism. Soviet citizens have always been able to make use of the free space left by the totalitarian regime to further their own plans - to create additional income in the unofficial economy, to access better jobs by joining the party, to obtain the right documents to bypass bureaucratic obstacles and so on.
Michel de Certeau (1988: xix) describes the power of the 'powerless' as tactics in opposition to the strategies of the powerful. Tactics are responses to changing circumstances, where the grounds of possible actions are determined by external factors. "The space of a tactic is the space of the other. Thus it must play on and with a terrain imposed on it and organized by the law of a foreign power" (de Certeau 1988: 37). In contrast a strategy consists of planned and calculated actions that are possible if the actor has an independent place isolated from outside powers and can foresee possible actions by other actors and prepare own actions (de Certeau 1988: 36p). Following de Certeau, top-down implemented plans are strategies imposed by the powerful and tactics are the local responses to cope with these plans in the best possible way.
The Russian actors in the project are very competent in responding to top-down strategies. They draw on years of experience of tactics learned from coping with the top-down bureaucratic system of the socialist regime and, as I will show, the same tactics have also proven useful in dealing with the bureaucratic system of the development world.
In the following I will take a point of departure in the situation of the machinery station and show the responses by actors in the project to deal with the demands made by the Danish donor to improve the situation. I describe the use of three different tactics to cope with the top-down demands: the separation between 'paper reality' and 'real reality', the use of 'flexible organisations', and tactical ignorance in order to avoid open confrontations.
Within bureaucracies documents are of the highest importance, and as the official from the Danish Ministry said, as bureaucrats they themselves are directly responsible in relation to these documents, as they pass up and down in the bureaucratic system. This means that statements written down in these documents - the 'paper reality' - often have greater importance within the bureaucratic system than the 'real reality' - the people and institutions in the distant Russian setting. Acts, agreements, expenses etc. are only fully accepted in the bureaucratic system if they are officially documented. Travel expenses can only be covered if the receipt exists. Cooperation with a partner only officially exists if a 'letter of agreement' is written and stamped by all parties. This is the case in all bureaucracies and problems only start when somebody confuses the 'paper reality' with the 'real reality'.
The demand from the Danish donor to see local initiatives and plans for the future of the machinery station (and the other project institutions) resulted in the writing of the document 'Conception of the continuation of cooperation' - as also mentioned above. When I asked about the standing council, mentioned in the document, I found that this was only part of the 'paper reality' and not of the 'real reality'. The answer to how the council works was:
"It does not work! It was a stupid paper made only because it was demanded from Denmark. But how can they [the signing parties] foresee what kind of income they will have in the next five years? Not only in rough numbers, but also divided into analyses, fuel, laboratory etc. I am not sure that they even know it themselves that they are supposed to be part of this council(47)" (FF).
The 'paper reality' is not necessarily untrue, but refers to the project mainly in terms of the documents created in order to satisfy the administrative criteria from the Danish donor. The creation of documents to prove a 'successful' project was especially important at the end of the project period, during negotiations about funding for a new project period. An episode from a visit to one of the large-scale farms illustrates this: A Danish consultant visited a large-scale farm together with two local advisors. After they had inspected the fields with Danish grass seeds, the group went to the administrative building to discuss how the cooperation could continue - that is, if the farm could receive another contribution by being designated as 'a demonstration farm'. The head agronomist of the farm was asked to write a statement concerning the cooperation until now (to be presented the Danish donor). The actual writing was done by one of the Russian advisors from SIAC, and the head agronomist sent the paper to a secretary to be typed, and then to the director for signing. But there was a problem; the official stamp was unfortunately not on the farm, as the bookkeeper had taken it to town to sort out some business with the bank. However, the farm was prepared for situations like this, and had prepared blank sheets of paper already stamped, and the document was photocopied to one of these papers. The Danish consultant remarked: "The Danish bureaucrats are just as bad as the Russians in their insistence on documents. Fortunately for the project though, Russians collect and keep all numbers and figures. They might not be true or ever be used for anything, but they are always kept!"(48).
The point here is that all parties are aware of the pragmatic necessity of creating the right documents to feed higher levels of the bureaucratic hierarchy. The Russians are accustomed to this practice and it is therefore not a problem to demand the writing of official documents such as the 'Conception of cooperation' or to make official documents of goodwill and cooperation.
My concept of 'paper reality' vs. 'real reality' resembles the notion of 'system model' vs. 'arena model' as described by Philip Quarles van Ufford (1993: 138). Quarles van Ufford has done research on a Dutch development project in Indonesia, where he found that the representations of the project to the donors stand in contrast to the project in the local setting. The separation helps the actors in the project to get continuous political support from the donor, since mainly the positive elements in the project are reported, while problems and conflicting interest are only present in the local 'arena'. Quarles van Ufford's concept of 'system model' refers to the official understanding of the project cycle as a relatively straightforward process of planning, execution and evaluation in which all the actors connected to the project share common goals and interests (Quarles van Ufford 1993: 138). In the 'arena model' the project is seen as an 'arena' with the local target group consisting of a complex of actors with conflicting interests. What in the 'system model' seems to be a straightforward process of project implementation, in reality reveals itself to be a complex continuous process in which each actor tries to obtain control over the flow of resources, and in which actors' attitudes, cooperation and resistance can change throughout the process (Quarles van Ufford 1993: 139p).
The 'paper reality', like the 'system model', reflects the official understanding of the project process, in the sense that these understandings have become realities in the bureaucracy of the donor by being written into official documents. Conflicts and opposed interests may be presented in these documents, but only if the people writing them (mainly DAAC and the Danish Ministry) feel it necessary or helpful (as e.g. an explanation of failures in fulfilling the project activities). Documents from the 'paper reality' can also be used as arguments in the 'arena' of the project, which different actors can refer to in order to strengthen their position, as shown when DAAC and the Russian side referred to the 'Conception of cooperation' as an argument for continual support.
The reason I use the term 'paper reality' rather than 'system model' is that I did not meet anyone who only considered the 'system model'. All actors, including the officials form the Danish ministry, are aware of the distinction between 'paper' and 'real' reality. And even though the 'paper reality' is a constant point of reference for activities and working goals and of vital importance for the project cycle, none of the central actors refer only to this. They all still engage in negotiations, informal talks and often make oral agreements before an official paper is constructed. The active distinction between 'paper reality' and 'real reality' creates a room for manoeuvre in the otherwise rigid and top-down defined space of the project. This allow the actors to take pragmatic considerations and use common sense, but at the cost of transparency in all procedures.
The document 'Conception of cooperation' was created in autumn 2000 and describes an improved cooperation between the project institutions and the regional administration, as demanded by the donor. But the officials from the Danish ministry were not impressed with this document, and the running of the machinery station had not improved at the time of their visit the following year. The Danish donor continued to demand substantial changes if they were even to consider further support. These demands were made to the project partner, the local administration. Different meetings and discussions took place during my stay concerning the future status of the machinery station, and below I describe such a meeting.
A Danish consultant, Jørgen Skov, visited the Smolensk project in early autumn 2001 and even though he was not directly involved in the planning of the project or the negotiations, he agreed to meet with Mr. Potapenkov, a representative of the Smolensk administration. At this meeting, Mr. Potapenkov inquired about the Danish attitude if the Smolensk administration were to change the formal status of the machinery station. Mr. Potapenkov said that the administration wished to give the project machinery station the same status as eight other machinery stations in the region, which all are independent, but under the regional budget. He explained that if this change was carried through the regional administration would be able to support the machinery station within the ordinary regional budget and the change would only affect the administration, not the practical work of the machinery station. He would himself be the new director, but the current staff would stay. In brief, the plan he presented combined more control of the machinery station with more support from the regional budget, but without changing the daily management or structure. Jørgen, who normally did not participate in project negotiations, was confused (as was I) on how it was possible to take control of the machinery station without changing its structure.
Jørgen Skov: Will there be a board of directors who are responsible for the daily work?
Mr. Potapenkov: No, there will be a director and then a staff with a bookkeeper and so on, just as there normally would be.
Jørgen Skov: Would SIAC be involved?
Mr. Potapenkov: Yes, of course. The cooperation between the machinery station and SIAC will continue.
Jørgen Skov: But how can SIAC participate in the decision-making if there is no board of directors?
Mr. Potapenkov: … The cooperation will continue, exactly as now.
Jørgen Skov: But there will be no farmers involved and no official position for SIAC…?
Mr. Potapenkov: The current board will still be in charge. The farmers union will also be on that board. A reorganisation would be profitable due to the additional income from the administration. Without this support the machinery station will go bankrupt. The reorganisation will improve the daily cooperation. (FF)
The set-up Mr. Potapenkov is presenting is that the machinery station will be owned and managed by the regional administration, but the cooperative of independent farmers will still have a board of directors. If this does not happen, Mr. Potapenkov told, and the machinery station remains a private institution, the regional administration will not be able to support it and it will soon go bankrupt. What confused Jørgen and I was that Mr. Potapenkov insisted that the board of directors still would be in charge - to the same degree that it always had been. But to my understanding, the board and the cooperation have in reality never functioned according to the Danish ideal - although it was established with the best intentions. This means that the regional administration can take charge without practically changing the role of the board of directors which in latter years has been nothing more than a democratic façade - a Potemkin village - which the Russian side has considered relevant only in relation to the Danish donor.
Mr. Potapenkov's proposal appears self-contradictory but it is actually a pragmatic solution to the problem of the malfunctioning machinery station, which both the Danish and the Russian side agree must be dealt with. The Danish donor wishes to support the machinery station as a private cooperative under the condition that the local counterpart - the regional administration - supports it on equal terms. The Smolensk regional administration is not allowed (or does not want) to give resources to a private institution outside its control, especially considering the general shortage of resources in the agricultural sector. This means that the Russian and the Danish criteria for supporting the machinery station are contradictory. To avoid a clash of conflicting interests the status of the machinery station is therefore left in a grey zone, in which it can be presented as both an independent cooperative institution to the Danish donor and as a regional machinery station to the regional administration and duma(49).
The setup with the machinery station and its ambiguous status, both in the current and the proposed plan, resembles the 'flex organisation' described by Wedel (2001: 152, 2002: 3). Wedel uses the term 'flex organisations' to describe organisations working with foreign aid in Russia, and shows how these organisations exist on the boundary between the state and the private sphere and that their strength lie in this ambiguous status. These 'flex organisations' are efficient in canalising resources to groups of individuals through their "impressively adaptable, chameleon-like, multipurpose character" (Wedel 2001: 152). "They afford maximum flexibility and influence to those who use them, while burdening them with only minimal accountability" (Wedel 2002: 3).
Wedel describes how foreign donors use the 'flex organisations' in their aid programmes since they are very effective in achieving short-term results and in coping with complicated local bureaucratic procedures. However, in the long-run the use of flex organisations leads to corruption and is clearly anti-democratic as well as destructive in the building of legal Russian administrative procedures and they are therefore counterproductive towards the development goals of the aid programmes (Wedel 2001: 172p). The layout of the farmers' cooperative and the organisation of the institutions within the Danish project have elements of Wedel's 'flex organisations': Officially they follow the initial ideals of bottom-up and user participation but in reality there is a local top-down control with the project institutions. This has to my best understanding happened not as a cynical way for locals to extract resources from the Danish project, but rather as a pragmatic solution (or maybe rather lack of solution) allowed by donor in order to give the project institutions a chance to demonstrate 'good agricultural practice'.
But how is it possible to uphold such obvious contradictions? The Danish side - both donor and DAAC - are aware of the insignificant role the cooperative plays in the running of the machinery station and how the demand of an improvement inevitable would lead to more local top-down control by the regional administration. A stricter top-down control with the machinery station is probably a reasonable solution if the machines are to be utilised better, but it is still against the initial Danish objective of an independent farmers-based cooperative.
Realising the difficulties in implementing the project, the Danish side takes on a pragmatic approach and focuses on what is possible within the given circumstances. By ignoring problematic elements in the project it is possible to make the project institutions work. This gives the Danish side the opportunity to introduce different elements of "good agricultural practice". Another factor is that it is difficult to view or directly measure the workings of the cooperative - how democratic and efficient it is - while it is very easy to measure the activity of the machinery station and see the conditions of the machines. The Danish side therefore accepts that not all ideals have been met and then take on a pragmatic approach which allows the project to continue regardless of minor irregularities.
One of the things that is not tolerated by the donor is 'corruption', and one of the reasons for strict Danish control with all project funds is to avoid local corruption. In the project there were to my best knowledge no visible or open corrupt practices, but several times I heard of practices which were in a grey zone where official and personal interest were strongly intertwined.
One example is the position of the local project-coordinator, who is hired by the regional administration to oversee the Russian and Danish cooperation in the project. His position as coordinator includes helping to select the farms participating in the project (and thereby getting free Danish seed) and the individuals going on study tours to Denmark. Besides holding the position as official coordinator, he is at the same time director of the construction company which built the machinery station and has also done extensive work for the regional administration and some of the large-scale farms connected to the project. When I asked directly about his connections I was told, that of course his personal relations with the farm directors and people in the regional administration had an influence on who became part of the project, but no money was involved and besides "it is normal for friends to do small favors like this for each other" (FF) as one person told me.
In the beginning of the project, the Danish consultants were sceptical about this person's double role as both director of a private company working for the project and the coordinator of the project. But over the years they found him indispensable in keeping the project running locally. He persuaded the people in the local administration to keep supporting the project and he continually kept an eye on things. The attitude among the Danish consultants is that to have a person like him is essential for the daily running of the project, and that it is only fair that he receives payment for this. As long as most of the resources for the project go the right way and helps improve the agricultural sector locally, it does not matter which specific farm that is target for the Danish help. "It is peanuts" (FF), as one Danish adviser said to me referring to the value of the free seed material one large-scale farm received. 'Peanuts' both compared to the farm's overall budget and considering the extra work needed to implement the new system. The overall attitude among the Danish consultants is that this "petty" corruption is a reminiscent of the old system, where everybody expects a side deal or special arrangement made before a contract is written, and this is a nuisance but not a hindering of the project-work. "It is of course a problem, but if we want to improve the agricultural production over here, we have to play along with the system to some degree" (FF).
I find the case above was close to an 'abuse of office for private gain' (The World Bank definition on corruption in Wedel 2002: 2). But it was not an object for discussion neither on the Russian nor on the Danish side. Whether or not it was corruption did not seem to matter much, because both sides acknowledged that this is the way of the "system". By ignoring acts that could potentially be understood as corruption and never officially speak of or inquiring into these, they would not exist in the official 'paper reality', and thus donor or DAAC would not have to react on them. Ignorance can thus be a pragmatic tactic which allows the project work to continue despite "minor irregularities" (cf. Quarles van Ufford 1993: 157).
One of the ways by which the Danish side stays clear of potentially corrupt practices is to only negotiate input and output of the project with the counterpart and leave the local administration of the project almost entirely in local hands. From the donor's point of view, this means that the ideological goals of local participation and commitment are observed while local differences and conflicts are out of sight. How the participants for the study tour are selected is not of Danish interest, just as the choosing of demonstration farms is a local matter. The Danish side focuses on the results: that independent farmers participate, that the demonstrations are a success and that partners in the project are willing to follow the Danish instructions. This mean that all local negotiations with different local actors and authorities are kept to a minimum by the Danish side and the local administration of the project is more or less left in a 'black box' (cf. Quarles van Ufford 1993: 157). The disadvantage by staying more or less officially ignorant to the local project administration is that the Danish donor indirectly allows both a local top-down administration of the project and that administrative decisions are based not primarily on the principles of the market or democracy but rather by personal networks.
The result after years of project work in Smolensk is positive in the way that the practical side of the project has been implemented more or less according to the plan - the three project institutions have been established, study tours have been conducted, demonstration fields have demonstrated better agricultural practices etc. However, this has only been possible using unofficial 'tactics' in order to avoid or circumvent the internal opposition in the Danish project design caused by a combination of the administrative criterion of control and the political criterion of a bottom-up development.
The relative success of the practical implementation of the project shows the flexibility and responsiveness from the actors in the project. They have locally been able to cope with the different Danish demands as well as local administrative procedures and political demands, which proves a local 'tactical wit' and ability to manoeuvre in a system of top-down strategies. Steven Sampson (1996) speaks of the procedures around project- and development-work as 'magic' by which actors by different words and documents try to obtain access to resources from the donor: "The magic of transition requires strange jargon and a host of rituals and ceremonies in which inequality between west and east masquerades as 'partnership' or 'coordination" (Sampson 1996: 141). I find this to be true in the case of the Smolensk project as well. There is a great deal of 'magic' in the sense that the project partners try to say and do the right things in order to get continual support without really knowing if the 'magic formula' will work. But this is not 'magic' in the sense that these practices are strange or unknown. It is rather "business as usual", since the same logic of distributing resources on the basis of political goodwill and administrative control applied during (and after) socialist rule. The 'project speak', the key words of the transitions, just replaces the socialist rhetoric and as Creed & Wedel (1997: 256) point out, the Western donor replaces the Communist Party both in the role as provider of resources, and in the role of the enlightened planner, local actors need to pay lip-service to. The Western donation thus become part of an already established system of redistribution - as Bruno writes "Presumably involuntarily, donor agencies are offering through development projects, new sources for reinforcing the elitist, feudal type system of social stratification" (Bruno 1998: 179). The risk of this is that the Russian counterpart and those involved in the project will come to believe that Western models and ideologies inherent in the project are only models and ideologies similarly in kind to the Soviet propaganda, and that people therefore act upon the models in order to get the 'real deal' - the actual resources transferred - and may ignore the ideological message on a practical level.
In a larger context the size of the Danish support is small and nobody expect the flow of resources within the project in it self to make a substantial difference beyond the actors directly involved in the project. The Danish idea with the project is its demonstrational effect - that if the project succeeds in demonstrating the effect of more efficient practices, then Russian producers, as all other rational people, will eventually copy the useful elements and the effect of the project would spread out like ripples in a pond.
One of the officials from the Danish ministry visiting the project compared the role of the Danish advisors to that of missionaries and said "the only thing that is left when we withdraw is what we leave in the minds of people" (FF). The Danish advisors were repelled by this image of them as missionaries - they do no consider themselves as preachers, but rather as competent and rational professionals, and they believe that the project institutions make a substantial difference in the local agricultural production. Still, the Danish advisors similarly focus on the 'software' in the project and consider this much more important than the 'hardware'. As they say, if it were just a matter of transferring resources, "it would be easy to argue that the farmers would have been helped in a better way by giving them this [the cost of the project] money cash.(50)" The 'hardware' in the project is, in this respect, just tools to demonstrate the efficiency of the Danish approach - not the essential part of the project. Put simply, the Russians "swallow" the Danish ideology and models in order to obtain the resources (hardware), while the Danes allow a flow of resources in order to demonstrate Danish ideology and models (software).
But if the local counterpart does not take the 'Danish model' seriously, why keep the project going? The reason for that is because the official local counterpart - the regional administration - is not the primarily intended beneficiary of the ideological message. The recipients are mainly the independent farmers, the experts on the large-scale farms and the agricultural advisors - people who are directly involved in the agricultural production and who are to gain directly from an increased production. The official counterpart, the regional administration, is merely the gatekeeper to reach this group. This is of course a bit crudely put, since people in the regional administration also can see the benefit of an increased efficiency in the agricultural production and work to improve the local situation.
My argument is: there is a 'Danish model' at stake when the Danes implement their project in Smolensk, and it is qualitatively different from 'normal' Russian practice. The Danish bottom-up ideology can not be reduced to 'paper reality', but imply substantial differences in the work and organisation of the local agricultural sector that is otherwise dominated by top-down practises. Both the Danish donor as well as the DAAC consultants see the 'Danish approach' as a practical approach to help develop the miserable agricultural production in Russia - a help that is badly needed. How the differences between a top-down and a bottom-up approach are expressed in the project and the practical work is the focus in the following part.
Er lyset for de lærde blot
til ret og galt at stave?
Nej, himlen under flere godt,
og lys er himlens gave,
og solen står med bonden op,
slet ikke med de lærde,
oplyser bedst fra tå til top,
hvem der er mest på færde
|Is light just for the scholars|
To spell out right and wrong?
No, heaven wishes well for more
And light is the gift of heaven,
And the sun rises with the farmer,
Not with the scholars,
Enlightening from top to toe,
Those who are the busiest
N. F. S. Grundtvig 1839
The text above is the first verse of a song/poem written by Grundtvig - a key historical originator of the Danish Model (cf. part 2.3). In the poem he emphasises a general enlightenment of the people - not just of professionals or scholars - and uses wordplay on enlightenment (referring both to the enlightenment caused by the sun and by increased knowledge). Knowledge becomes part of democratic development by which all, high and low in society, will be able 'to spell right and wrong'. This represents a democratisation of knowledge, which can be compared to the reformation of the church. Similarly, just as the protestant has a direct relationship with God and the priest only acts as counsellor, each individual should have a direct relationship to knowledge and no expert should posses any monopoly on knowledge. Everyone should be able to see what is right and wrong and judge for themselves, with experts only giving guidance. This is a basic principle of the 'Danish Model'.
But what is 'the Danish model' in relation to modern agricultural production? In the following I argue that the Danish approach to agricultural production is qualitatively different from the Russian 'norm', and that this becomes evident in the project when it must deal with the status of knowledge and how it is distributed. The difference I find between the Danish and the Russian norm replicates the opposition between bottom-up ideology and top-down practice, which I found in my analysis of the project's implementation. The opposed approaches are mainly represented in the project as an opposition between Russian practice and Danish ideal.
In the following I will present three cases in order to show, first how there is two different approaches to knowledge (a top-down scientific approach as opposed to a bottom-up experience-based approach) and then move on to show how the perception of knowledge determines how knowledge should be distributed or learned, and then, finally, how this connects with the placement of responsibility. By doing this I will show that the 'Danish Model', when applied to local agricultural production not only reflects certain agricultural methods and techniques but is connected to the overall organisation of agricultural production in society.
Knowledge of 'Good Agricultural Practice' is a central part of the Danish project in Smolensk. It includes knowledge that is directly related to the agricultural production e.g. seminars and pamphlets on various agricultural practices - how to use different agricultural machines, make fodder plans, optimise milking etc. But it also includes knowledge that is more indirectly related to production - e.g. knowledge of how to present information and establish networks of exchange of experience. The Danish knowledge transfer to Smolensk thus has two main aspects: a) Transfer of modern, technical agricultural knowledge, and b) An approach to knowledge based on the 'Danish model', which focuses on horizontal sharing of knowledge.
A basic difference between what I define as the 'Danish' bottom-up approach and the 'Russian' top-down approach lies in what the different actors regard as meaningful knowledge. The opposition is between knowledge based primarily on science and knowledge based on practical experience. In the following, the SIAC advisor Dmitri Dmitrich represents the Danish approach.
I was with Dmitri Dmitrich(51), one of the advisors from the advisory centre, at the local agricultural institute to attend a seminar on crop growing. The audience consisted of agronomists from the region, mainly those working in the local agricultural administrations (on rayon(52) level) or in the former collective and state farms. There were about fifty people or so in the room, just as many women as men. Most of them were about forty to fifty years old. The room was a big auditorium with different wall sheets showing diagrams, figures and text on agricultural science. A big table was full of fur caps as winter had started, and most of the participants had also hung their winter coats on the rack, since the room was sufficiently heated even though some of the windows were broken.
Different lectures had been presented during this one-day seminar and as we arrived a lecture by an esteemed professor from Moscow was about to start. He talked on the effect of potassium in fields and showed a lot of different figures and diagrams and used the overhead repeatedly. The presentation seemed to me as a layman to be very scientific, but also rather dry and theoretical, and the audience seemed tired, not to say bored, after several hours of lectures. There were no questions from the audience.
After the professor, Dmitri Dmitrich gave his presentation. It was much shorter, only ten minutes. He presented the experience of the use of a Danish grass seed mix in a specific farm in the region. His presentation included figures from fields and the improved milking yield from the cows eating the grass. The agricultural result was demonstrated via the improved milking result and converted to economic figures, so as to show the overall profitability. He gave the address and phone number of the advisory centre and encouraged the audience to contact him now or later if they were interested in using a similar grass mix. There were also no questions asked after this presentation, nor any direct responses aside from a single inquiry in the following break.
Afterwards we talked about the seminar and Dmitri was not very satisfied. "They have been sitting for six hours talking about potassium and its useful effects. But all for nothing, since they have no [potassium] at their disposal!"(FF) He considered the seminar of little value, since almost all the agronomists present were educated twenty years ago and today they have forgotten much. "All the scientific details went over their heads, and besides this, they have no use at all of such high scientific knowledge in their daily work" (FF). His opinion of the scientific approach was very negative. Science focuses on how things ought to be ideally, instead of on giving practical advice to farmers on how they can improve the production in their current situation. Thus Dmitri demarcates a line of conflict between the 'scientific' versus the 'practical' approach.
My understanding of the lecture by the Moscow professor is that his point of departure was formal science. The purpose of the lecture was to ensure that the agronomists also here in the province maintain a high scientific standard, so that they can fulfil their role as experts and make correct and optimal plans for the agricultural production. Dmitrich on the other hand talked to the audience as agricultural producers. He was not so much concerned with scientific knowledge, but rather with practical experience gained in specific fields in the region. He was not showing the proper way of doing things, but recommending a way that is profitable within the given circumstances.
One could argue that there is only a very slight difference between an emphasis on potassium or on a specific grass seed mix, since both aim to increase the efficiency of the fields by one means or the other. The important difference in this context, however, is that potassium is a basic resource, which as a general standard should be in every field in sufficient amounts, while the imported grass seed mix is an investment that the individual producer can undertake or not. The regional administration is supposed to supply all farms in need with potassium, although this only happens to a very limited extent, due to the (perpetual) lack of resources. So knowledge of the correct use of potassium is only 'reality on paper': The expert may know the useful effect, but he cannot act upon this in practice. The farm agronomist can only ask the farm director to ask the local agricultural administration and then hope that his request for potassium will be granted. In contrast, investment in imported grass seeds would normally be made by the producers themselves. On large-scale farms, potassium and imported grass seeds thus belong to two separate forms of economy - redistribution and the market (Polanyi : 54). This point will be further elaborated in chapter five.
The Moscow professor explains the proper use of potassium and how things ought to be, not just here, but in every field everywhere. This is presented as a universal scientific truth that the agricultural producers should accept because he, as a professor and a representative of scientific authority, tells them to. Dmitri on the other hand focuses on the cost/benefit ratio and the economic result - a focus on profit in opposition to a focus on agricultural science. The strength of Dmitri's approach - as seen from a bottom-up perspective - is thus his direct focus on economic rationality and profitability. The problem is that the audience consists of agronomists who normally do not have any financial resources at their disposal. This is part of the explanation for the lack of response to his presentation; the other is - as I will argue in chapter five - that economic rationality is not the only form of rationality at play in local agricultural production.
The two kinds of knowledge, scientific truth and practical experience, are of course connected, since science is based on empirical experiments and practical experience is based on the use of theoretical scientific knowledge. But for local producers, who are not doing research, a distinction between science and experience is meaningful. The point of departure for 'scientific truth' in a hierarchical system is the formal scientific world. The top of the hierarchy defines the 'truth' and define the correct procedures, which people in lower levels should follow. This is done e.g. through formal education, scientific magazines and through a lecture like the one by the professor and then further down in the hierarchy by e.g. the senior agronomist on a large-scale farm giving orders to the agricultural workers in the production. 'Science' is for the producer a 'truth' that one has to believe and cannot argue against. The danger of a strict top-down distribution of knowledge is that people cannot question the statements by those in higher ranking position as it could be interpreted as a questioning of their status. This means that erroneous statements risk being left unchallenged(53). Some of the Danish consultants told of different cases where this happened. One incident was with a director of a large-scale farm, who insisted that turf was adequate fodder for pigs and therefore did not want to spend any additional resources on fodder. The director was not receptive for any of arguments from the Danish consultant, and dismissed all objections by saying he had heard otherwise by other experts.
Practical experience on the other hand is directly related to the producers, and there are no 'ultimate truths' as each production is different. The producer must be able to judge based on his own personal experience, whether the cases presented have significance for him - if it would be profitable to follow the proposal or not.
The status of knowledge as either top-down 'truth' or bottom-up experience determines how knowledge should be transferred and learned. As 'truth' cannot be questioned, there is no need for discussions and it is more or less just a matter of 'transferring the data' to the recipients. Experience is more complicated, as it not only requires the recipients to know but also to understand. The recipients must therefore have personal practical experience as basis for all further knowledge.
Most actors in the agricultural production cannot utilize scientific knowledge directly, as they have to take a long line of specific practical things in consideration. In the implementation of new techniques, the practical experience of others would often be very useful, as it can give examples of specific solutions to the problems occurring. Horizontal sharing of experience can therefore be very useful, since the solutions offered or elements of it can be directly employed.
I therefore argue that if knowledge is understood as scientific truth - of which only one thing can be true - distribution of knowledge would primarily have a top-down character, while if knowledge is basically understood as practical experience, then horizontal sharing of knowledge among actors in similar positions would be central and this could be described as a bottom-up approach.
My point here is not to engage in a theoretic discussion on what knowledge is, but in a crude way to show that there are two different focuses on knowledge and two different styles of communicating knowledge involved in the Smolensk project. To push it to extremes, one can speak of a 'Danish' style going back to Grundtvig and his emphasis on the spoken work, which is continued in the 'Danish Model'. Here focus is on public debate and mutual agreement through discussions, and the active participation of individuals combined with their receptiveness for others' opinions are of utmost importance - maybe even more important than the issues discussed(54). This stands in contrast to a 'Russian' style characterised by determined leadership and few discussions within the group when first the hierarchy has been established (cf. Bathurst n.d.). Here communication follows an almost militarised line of command, where individuals do not question the statements put forward by superiors in the hierarchy.
This opposition became visible during a seminar for Russian advisors where Danish consultants attended, which I describe in the following case.
The Danish advisory centre (DAAC) sponsored a seminar in the Leningrad region for agricultural advisors from Leningrad, Kaliningrad and Smolensk region, where DAAC has helped establish advisory centres. The host was the regional agricultural academy(55). I followed the seminar together with representatives from Smolensk advisory centre. Several lectures took place during the three-day seminar, which also included excursions in Leningrad region to a local agricultural administration and some farms, as well as sightseeing. Besides the advisors, two Danish consultants, a representative from the Russian Agricultural Ministry in Moscow and a few others joined the seminar.
The lectures held by the Russian speakers(56) related to various aspects of agricultural advisory work, such as the use of computer programs, the importance of balanced fodder, the national homepage for agricultural production of the Russian Agricultural ministry and more. The two Danish consultants each held a lecture and these lectures stood in stark contrast to those of the Russians. Instead of focussing on "cutting edge" knowledge they repeated what is considered basic knowledge and used simple drawings on transparency sheets to make their relatively easily comprehendible points clear. One lecture was on the importance of cleaning the udders before milking while the other was on how the advisors can introduce simple accounting practices among farmers. The latter used simple drawings of happy or unhappy farmers with money or without money. I found the pedagogical approach and very simple points striking in contrast to the much more "scientific" lectures held by Russian speakers. Several times the Danish consultant asked the Russian advisors about their experience with how to understand the farmers and how to make them understand, and she tried to initiate discussions. Later she told me that it is difficult, if not impossible, to start a discussion among the Russians. "Normally", she said, "they just sit and listen and ask no questions… At a seminar like this, there should be a person to organize and control discussions" (FF). In another context, she said: "Have in mind that Russians do not question the knowledge of experts or ask any questions… Expert presentations would most of the time be received in silence, as a decree - which can not be fulfilled anyway" (FF).
Another important issue, which the Danish consultant emphasised, was the use of joint experience groups(57) as an advisory tool. The Danish consultant presented the virtues of joint experience groups with a focus on the benefits of sharing experience to the benefit of all members in a group. She proposed some practical considerations for the advisor to take into consideration when establishing a group. But the sharing of experience on a horizontal level, among equals, should not only take place among the producers, but among all actors, including the advisors themselves. She (the Danish consultant) told them to "use each other! The contact you have established between each other at this seminar is also useful afterwards. It is completely free to get advice from each other. Be open to share your knowledge, and you will probably also get something back" (FF). Many of the Russians that the Danish consultants met did not react as they expected to this practice of free sharing of knowledge. In another case, a Danish consultant told a Russian about the Danish system of advisory centres and explained how the young agricultural experts from the university are introduced and trained by older experienced advisors. The Russian found this strange and asked if the experienced advisor would really just give away their knowledge and experience freely - implying that this was a hard earned resource that no-one normally would give away for nothing.
After the seminar I talked to a young Russian advisor, who argued that the Danish lectures were examples of good pedagogic and communication, but the content was on a too low scientific level for the consultants present, who all have university degrees. There was nothing new in these lectures for them. I got the impression that the rest of the Russian audience shared this opinion, but that they just sat respectfully and listened, probably wondering why the Danes wasted their time on this. The Danish lectures would, in their eyes, only be interesting for manual workers or individual farmers, not for them as experts. Nobody said this, since it would be impolite towards the Danish guests and sponsors.
Bruno similarly describes how local Russians involved in Western projects see their participation in the almost obligatory workshop as "ritual lip-service or as 'tax' which they have to pay in order to obtain funding" (Bruno 1998: 180). The Danish consultants were aware of this attitude among some of the participants and how they looked down on this "simple" knowledge, but as they told the audience, they considered it irrelevant to discuss new scientific agricultural knowledge if the basic practices were not in place. Similarly, they Danes argued, the Russian advisors should always take a point of departure in the individual farm and the situation there, and not in the ideal model of a farm. The point of the Danish lectures was not to give new scientific knowledge to the advisors, but to give them an example of how an educational program could be, and of what they, as advisors, should focus on in relation to the workers in the agricultural production. The Russian advisor, who thought that the Danish lecture was an example of good pedagogy, works simultaneously as teacher and has complained that the older generation of teachers and professors have a poor understanding of pedagogy and communication and do not take an interest in this. Communication, she told, is regrettably not part of education at the agricultural institute or university.
The two different aspects of knowledge - what is considered as relevant knowledge, and how to communicate this knowledge - are tightly connected. If proper knowledge for a professional seminar is 'science' as defined at the top of the hierarchy, then the speaker will present a 'truth' that simply has to be learned. Questions would in this case only be to clear up misunderstandings, and there would be no need for discussion. If knowledge on the other hand is taken as 'practice' based on the experience of the speaker and the audience, then interaction between the speaker and the audience, as well as discussions in general, are essential to reach higher levels of understanding. The main role of the speaker is in this case not to deliver the truth, in a one-way knowledge transfer, but to help the audience to reach an understanding e.g. by making them relate to their prior experience in new ways by listening to the experience of others.
I will characterise the two ways of communicating knowledge as respectively a vertical top-down transfer of knowledge and a horizontal sharing of experience. These two ways of communicating do not exclude each other, and they can (and often do) exist side by side. The point I wish to emphasise here though, is that in the local reality of the project these two understandings of knowledge and communication stand in opposition to each other and represent two different views and approaches to knowledge, to agricultural production and ultimately to society. In the project, the opposition is often expressed as an opposition between the Danish ideal and the Russian practice.
The figure above (figure 5) shows schematically my understanding of the difference between the two approaches. Within a top-down approach the top of the hierarchy determines what is relevant knowledge and distributes it down through the hierarchy - similarly to the distribution of orders and resources in the command economy. The 'bottom-up' approach is characterised by horizontal sharing of knowledge and information. This should according to the 'Danish Model' hopefully not stand alone, but be accompanied by horizontal cooperation and only then by communication and negotiation with higher levels or different parts of society.
The perception of knowledge is connected to how different actors relate to knowledge in their work position and how responsibility is placed as a consequence of this. I will discus this below.
At the seminar in Leningrad region (the same seminar as in case b) the businessman Eduard Petrov from Smolensk followed some of the sessions. He wanted to invest in agriculture and was therefore trying to learn more about agricultural production. As the official program ended, he took advantage of the group of advisors present and presented his investment scheme. He had for some years now led a company with several tankers that drive around Smolensk region and buy milk from the small producers and sell it to the dairy. He now wanted to establish his own dairy farm and had money to invest, but lacked agricultural knowledge. His proposal was that he would invest in the necessary equipment and hire workers and then make a contract with Smolensk Advisory Centre (SIAC) and have them to plan and supervise the production throughout the year. To secure optimal advice from SIAC, he would only pay SIAC a certain percentage of the profit. This means that SIAC would receive no payments until the end of the season and only if the production had turned out well. "Consulting [advisory work] is business", he said "… SIAC should not just sell advice, but be a partner. They will invest knowledge and I will invest the materials!"(FF).
His idea was met with great enthusiasm from all the Russians present. The representative (and reformer) from the Russian Agricultural Ministry considered his suggestion a very good idea and was fascinated by the new thinking, and, as she said, "normally, if there is a fixed price, there is no guarantee for good advice. Here the advisory centre would be paid a percentage of the profit, a profit that only would come if the advices are good, and the advisory centre would therefore share both responsibility and profit with the producer"(FF). The director of SIAC agreed and added, "We [SIAC] often work without receiving any payment. This is therefore a better offer and besides we would have a model farm we could use for demonstration, which would strengthen our image"(FF).
The only persons critical of his idea were the Danish consultants. Their criticism was a) that the arrangement would drastically limit the number of contracts the advisory centre could make, since the constant supervision would take a lot of time, and b) that there would be a problem of authority since the advisory centre might be displeased with e.g. the daily manager, but would have no means to control his work or fire him, and finally c) that if production turned out to be lower than expected there would be discussions about who is to blame, the advisory centre or the persons running the farm. To the argument that the farmer would be ensured the best advice possible by this arrangement, since the advisory centre will receive no payment unless the advice works, the Danes replied that the advisory centre always tried to give the best possible advice to secure future costumers, so there was no need for this arrangement. The Russians were not convinced of the Danish arguments. They remained enthusiastic about the idea, and soon started to talk about more practical aspects of the investment scheme.
The case above is interesting because it touches on a wide variety of issues: the unclear role of the advisory service in Russia, the idea of market economy, of the economic rationality binding advice and profit tightly together, and of how a new type of economic actor - the businessman - is entering agricultural production. The focal point that combines these issues is the discussion of how responsibility should be placed in agricultural production.
The Danes' reluctance to accept the proposed arrangement may be seen as a conservative attitude to the work of the advisory centre: the centre should focus on advisory work and not engage in too many different things, with the risk of lowering the standard of advice. But this is not the central issue. What troubles the Danes is that responsibility is placed jointly with the producer and the advisor in the proposed scheme. If the advisory centre is paid in accordance with the profitability of production, the advisory centre will have no control over payments. The advisors, even with close supervision and regular control visits, will never be able to supervise all parts of production, and they therefore have no guarantee that the people on the farm will do everything according to their advice. The Danes do not consider the role of the advisory centre as planner and controller as desirable, and want to keep the advisory centre as an external advisor with no direct involvement in farm production and management.
The main difference, as I see it, is therefore whether the farm and the advisory centre should be partners that share responsibility and profits, or whether they should remain separate units with a clear division between them. This difference reflects the opposition between top-down and bottom-up management: Top-down methods are implicit in the model Petrov suggests, in the sense that the advisory centre would take charge and be responsible for production (along with the farm manager). In the Danish scheme, in contrast, agricultural production is independent, and although SIAC is accepted as an advisor, producers will always have to choose for themselves and ultimately be responsible for both planning and implementation of production - a bottom-up approach.
This implies that there is a connection between how work is organised and how knowledge should be distributed. If the advisory centre is placed within a hierarchy (as partner with Petrov or a large-scale farm management) and therefore becomes responsible for both agricultural expertise and its implementation, then the most efficient means of distributing knowledge would be in the form of commands and instructions, and workers would not need to understand the larger perspectives (a top-down approach). On the other hand, if the advisory centre is only responsible for the advice and not directly involved in production, it will have to secure the willingness and thereby also the personal understanding of the farmers in order to make them want to buy the advice. The focus in the knowledge distributed should in this case not only be on correct scientific knowledge, but on knowledge that makes a substantial (economic) difference for the individual farmer.
Above, I have described how the actors' point of departure in either of the two approaches, top-down or bottom-up, result in opposed opinions about the status of knowledge, about how knowledge should be distributed and about how responsibility should be shared as a consequence of this. This clear opposition was not explicitly stated by any of the actors connected to the project but has turned out to be a very helpful analytic tool to explain the different conflicts and opinions within the project. Below I schematically sketch out the main parameters of the two approaches as I understand them.
A scientific rationality based on the general
An economic rationality based on the concrete
Units follow instructions from the top. The top supervises and evaluates the individual units.
Units act independently and by themselves estimate need for expertise in relation to the individual production.
Units share responsibility and profit, there are no clear division lines between areas of responsibility
Each unit is autonomous with clear demarcations of areas of responsibility
The main opposition between the two approaches, as I see it, is whether the different units are seen as part of one coherent productive system (top-down) or as basically autonomous (bottom-up). When all units work within the same system it is not possible to clearly separate the spheres of responsibility or profit, as units depend on each other and collectively share the overall outcome, though the actual sharing of resources is not necessarily equal. In contrast, actions of autonomous units only directly influence the unit itself, and it must therefore make sure that all contracts are profitable.
I would a bit simplistically characterise the advisory centre's relationship to large-scale farms as an expression of a top-down approach and its relation to independent farmers as an expression of a bottom-up approach. I will below explore the different roles of the advisory centre depending on whether it works within a top-down or a bottom-up approach.
When there is a vertical integration of agricultural production the top of the hierarchy is normally not directly involved in production, but only in planning and management. The top could be the central leadership of the agricultural administration and the large-scale farm directors, but also a businessman as Eduard Petrov in the case above.
I asked one of the Russian advisors at SIAC, whose background is employment in a large-scale farm, why the large-scale farms need the advisory centre when then have their own agronomists and zoo-technicians. He answered:
"At the agricultural institute the zoo-technicians learn everything that is needed. But when they arrive at the collective farm there is nothing to feed the cows with but hay and grain. You use this fodder, since there is no alternative. There is no money or resources for the zoo-technicians to make an optimal feeding of the cows. When they have worked like this for many years, it becomes routine, and they just do it and forget all about better feeding possibilities. The [Danish] project and the centre [SIAC] then come and give new input and most importantly, they come and control the work. Before, people worked because they were inspected. When everything was set free and nobody controlled people anymore, everybody relaxed and did not work. An important function for the centre [SIAC] is therefore to come regularly and control the work, and see to that the feeding plans are observed." (FF) (Advisor at SIAC)
According to this comment, the large-scale farms need the advisory centre not only to give new input to the agricultural experts but also to supervise and control their work. This implies that the advisory centre would become part of the hierarchy. It would not function only as an external expert, but be directly involved in the planning, implementation and evaluation of agricultural production. The advisory centre would therefore not only be responsible for the advice given but also for the implementation and the following results. This is necessary according to the advisor, because the people on the large-scale farms are accustomed to being supervised and controlled and therefore no longer work as efficiently now that they are set "free". The agricultural workers would, following this view, not function within a 'bottom-up' approach, but are in need of a strong top-down leadership as before.
The discussion of whether or not people in Russia and other post-socialist countries have acquired a certain ethos or habitus(58) (Bourdieu 1996) as a result of the years of socialism, which makes it difficult for these countries to achieve a transition to Western-style capitalism and democracy, or, indeed, whether Russians are 'homo sovieticus' with no chance of becoming 'homo oeconomicus' (Gerner & Hedlund: 1994) is a large and relevant discussion - both theoretically and locally. How Russians are as a people was a recurring theme during my fieldwork, and various points of view on this question were used by both local Russians and visiting Danes to explain various situations. Many said directly that Russians in general lacked the work ethic of Western Europeans. One of the most successful independent farmers in the region was of German origin and the locals mentioned his 'hardworking German ethos' as an explanation for his success. But even though this theme is interesting and plays a central part in the worldview of many actors, I will not investigate it further in this thesis. I will instead in line with Lampland (2002: 46), see cultural dispositions primarily as emic explanations of success and failure. Ethos-oriented explanations, according to Lampland, also do not pay sufficient attention to such factors as actors' social position, education, practical experience, or many other local conditions.
Thus, in the present case it is enough to emphasise that there is an understanding by some of the advisors, farm managers and local officials that the advisory centre is needed not only as a provider of agricultural advice and expertise, but also to control the work. When the advisory centre takes on this role, it comes to hold a position within an established hierarchy, often between people with different interests according to their place in the production enterprise, and this was in some cases problematic. In one of the first contracts SIAC had with a large-scale farm, the farm leaders were all for the plan, but the subordinates were against it, and just the time it took for the advisors to go through the different administrative layers on the farm made it impossible to fulfil the plan. Also, since the workers did not support the idea they could in practice hinder the plan by taking everything very formally and only doing things they were specifically ordered to do. This made procedures very slow and as a result the plan could not be fulfilled(59).
I was not told why the workers were against the plan. Humphrey shows with the 'irresponsibility thesis' that: "what workers [in large-scale farms] are given a monetary incentive to do is more confined than their possible sphere of control, but this latter is itself more limited than their imputed sphere of responsibility" (Humphrey 1998: 263). This suggest that the workers, if the plan was carried through, would be given an even larger area of responsibility and subjected to more external control (giving a similar reduction of their own sphere of control), but probably without a substantial increase in salary.
In another case, a large-scale farm was presented with plans to improve the milking yield, which required a reorganisation of the work with the cows, which would be grouped together according to their current milking yield. The plan was declined by the manager, who explained that it would not be possible within their present system, as each milkmaid had to have an equal number of high-yielding and low-yielding cows, since their pay depended on how much each of them milked. "This is not rational production"(FF), was the comment from the Danish consultant on hearing this answer.
Clearly, stories like these are only part of the picture, and in other cases the cooperation between the advisory centre and the different parts at the large-scale farms worked out well. But the stories illustrate the position of the advisor in relation to the individual worker on the large-scale farm; as not necessarily a benefactor, but also as someone who brings demands for extra work and control. The advice given can be rational for the overall production cycle, but for the individual worker it might only mean in increased burden or a loss of authority.
When the advisory centre works with independent farmers there are no conflicts of interest within the productive enterprise, since the independent farmer is the same person who plans, implements, and profits from the production. There is no distance between top and bottom since the farmer is his own master. Furthermore, the farmer would often be aware of his need for agricultural expertise, as most farmers lack higher agricultural training. The advisors say that they feel it is much easier to work with independent farmers than with large-scale farms because cooperation is simpler. The advisory centre is here an independent institution selling professional expertise and it can cooperate closely with the independent farmer, without being an integrated partner in his enterprise. The independent farmers themselves are always responsible for their own production and the role of the advisor is merely to give advice, to present opportunities for possible action, not to lay down instructions that must be followed.
When the centre works as an external advisor it is no longer enough to give orders; it is essential to promote understanding. The advisors have to present suggestions for improved techniques in such a way that farmers will be convinced that the solutions will improve their production and that advice is useful - and worth buying. The young advisors mentioned the problem of communicating with older experienced farmers as one of the main difficulties in their work, especially in the beginning of their career, both because they as young persons have difficulties in achieving adequate respect and also because they have never received any training in communicating with people without any theoretical education. The character of their work is thus very different from work within a top-down approach since the advisor has to focus not only on providing the scientific knowledge appropriate for the given circumstances, but also on how best to present this knowledge and its economic advantages in an easily comprehendible way.
The problems of independent farming in relation to the advisory centre are on the one hand that there are very few independent farmers engaged in serious productions, and on the other hand that most of their farms are still rather small and cannot take full advantage of the services the advisory centre offers. For instance computer programs for breeding and accounting must be applied to large enterprises in order to be worth the effort. One independent farmer was presented with the opportunity of creating a breeding program for his 25 cows with artificial insemination. Although it seemed as a sound and reasonable plan, it turned out to be impossible to implement: The veterinarian closest to the farm found it too troublesome to take the farmer as a costumer and not worth the pay - which is set at a low, officially fixed rate. For the farmer to buy all equipment himself, including a fridge to keep the semen in, would be too costly. The farmer therefore invested in a bull instead. This is just to show that several of the techniques that are considered an integrated part of the 'good agricultural practice', which the advisory centre promotes, are based on either large scale enterprises or require a well-functioning infrastructure with access to basic services that far from all independent farmers posses. This means that the local commercial infrastructure is a limiting factor for the initiatives the Danish side tries to implement.
The advisory centre works with both large-scale farms that are part of the official system and independent farms that stand alone. But the advisory centre is also itself both within and outside the official system. SIAC is on the payroll of the regional agricultural administration and is given tasks such as helping local agricultural administrations (on rayon level) and buying grass seeds to be distributed to large-scale farms. Simultaneously, the advisory centre is allowed and expected to earn money by selling of advice on commercial terms. It is thus neither completely public nor private and resembles the 'flex organisations' described by Wedel (2001).
The dichotomy between large-scale farms that are indirectly part of the official administration, and independent farms that stand alone seems to be softening. The director of the regional agricultural administration said: "Since year 2000 there has been a change in attitude. Before, the distribution of resources went to secure social justice, while today we focus more on efficiency, and on who exploits the land best, regardless of whether it is a large-scale farm or an independent farmer"(FF). The change in attitude does not reflect a wish to enter a more stringent market economy or to strengthen the agricultural sector through a more centralised economy, but represents a will, on the part of the regional administration, to take on a more pragmatic approach and include large-scale farms and independent farms on a more equal basis in its plans. Also, advisors in SIAC are not displeased with the overall system of substantial regional support to large-scale farms as such, but more with what they find unfair - that large-scale farms receive help while hard-working independent farmers do not.
An official from the Danish ministry suggested a tighter cooperation between the independent farmers and the project. According to his idea, farmers would be offered to lease machines inexpensively, under the condition that they use the project institutions and follow the advice of the advisory centre. This suggestion would clearly function within a top-down approach since it would make the farmers part of a hierarchy controlled by the Danish project. However, the consultants from DAAC did not consider this a good idea and no elements of this scheme have been implemented.
This shows that the difference between working within or outside established hierarchies, between following a top-down or bottom-up approach, is not only an opposition between Russians and Danes, but is also an opposition between actors on both sides of the "cultural divide" - mainly between actors who are already part of larger systems of redistribution (such as the Danish ministry, the local administration or the large-scale farms), and actors who are outside such system (such as the independent farmers and DAAC).
In chapter three I conclude by stating that the Danes take the Danish Model (the bottom-up approach) seriously and do not see it merely as an abstract ideological goal, but also as a set of practical principles and ways to act that are more rational and effective than those following the top-down approach. In chapter four I gave concrete examples of how the two approaches stand in opposition to each other in terms of conflicting attitudes towards knowledge, knowledge distribution and sharing of responsibility in the actual work of the project institutions. But as I have stated earlier both approaches exist simultaneously in all societies. I will in the following therefore argue that the opposition is not simply between top-down and bottom-up approaches, but also between different forms of top-down and bottom-up management.
I argue that whether actors work primarily within top-down or bottom-up approach is determined by the local economic and social context. I see the different rationalities and irrationalities of the actors in the project as a consequence of the different contexts in which they operate. My argument in chapter four - that the organisation of work and placement of responsibility corresponds with the role of knowledge and knowledge distribution - indicates that individual elements of the Danish Model cannot function in isolation, but must be embedded in a specific social context to work. This means that many of the impediments the project faces must be seen as consequences of the differences between social contexts in Denmark, where the models originated, and in Russia, where they are implemented.
In the introduction I indicate that the local Russian agricultural sector is a mixture of productive units that are so different that one might almost say that they belong to different stages of technological evolution - from the man with his horse-driven carriage to modern farms with complex technology. The technology used on an individual farm is tightly connected with the social organisation and economy in which the farm is integrated. A highly industrialised farm does not only need highly specialised and competent workers, it also requires a great variety of complex input that only is attainable on the international market. It therefore needs a steady monetary income - generated either by sale on the market, by subsidies or by a combination of both. Its opposition is the pensioners and other people with their small pieces of land who have almost no money available and therefore produce with only minimal additional inputs or resources that are available either freely in nature or through exchanges with relatives or neighbours.
Local economic conditions are a crucial factor in the shaping of Russian agriculture, and more so, I argue, than the level of agricultural technology and knowledge present. The two most important economic factors, as I see it, are the low access to capital and the poorly developed market for agricultural products.
Firstly, agricultural producers have no access to commercial bank loans of substantial size or time frame. Only relatively small loans are available and they normally run for only a year. Various types of privileged loans(60) exist to help independent farmers. These have interest rates that are approximately half of what is normal(61), but farmers still have to provide collateral for the loans, normally in the form of new machinery worth twice the value of the loan (land cannot be used as collateral, as farmers do not own their land). Such loans normally run for no longer than a year, and they are therefore used on mainly inputs in the production, which will generate a profit within year, e.g. fertilizer, fodder or animals. Larger investments on expensive machinery or buildings are in general only possible through capital accumulation by the farmer. The result is that practically all the independent farmers' machinery is old and worn, bought (or obtained in other ways) cheaply from large-scale farms. However, it also means that the farmers own their farm, including machinery, animals and buildings, without any loans. This is a quite different situation from that of Danish farmers. Practically speaking, all Danish farms are heavily mortgaged with loans running from 10 to 30 years. Danish credit institutions give mortgages on up to 70% of the farm's value (which is primarily the value of land) and many farmers supplement this with bank loans (DAAC 2000b). This means that a very substantial part of the gross income of a Danish farm is spent on interest payments(62) and the farm must constantly generate a relatively high surplus to support this. So whereas low-yielding milk cows in Russia are kept since they represent a value, in Denmark a cow is slaughtered as soon as the ratio between the income gained from its milk and the expenditures on fodder falls too low, i.e. when the time and resources used on this cow could more rationally be spend on another, more efficient cow. Fodder and work with animals are in Russia often not considered an expense, as this often is not paid for in cash, but only through labour. Even a low-yielding cow can therefore provide cash income, which can be very important for people with little access to monetary resources.
Secondly, there is no well developed marked for agricultural products in Russia as we know it from e.g. Denmark. There are no wholesale buyers and most agricultural producers have to find their own costumers. Besides agreements with public institutions, some large-scale farms establish long-term contracts with food processing companies, providing the companies with a stable supply of products often in return for direct investments on the farm. Thus, there is a vertical integration in most part of the food production, where the individual farm becomes part of a larger system dominated either by big private enterprises or by regional administrations. In 1996-97, 70% of the total sale of farm products where by barter contracts (Serova 2000: 110p). Another way for large-scale farms to sell their products is to have their own shops in town or permanent stalls at the food markets. Similarly most independent farmers sell directly to their costumers either off the farm or on local food markets - only few of them are able to get contracts with large public institutions. This means that independent farmers must spend a great deal of work and effort in selling their products and that they must take considerations on the needs of their local costumers, which often imply that they must have a wide variety of products(63). Larger cities (especially Moscow and St. Petersburg) have large and well-developed markets for agricultural products. But the poor infrastructure surrounding most farms means that the distance to these urban markets is often too great for sales to have practically importance.(64)
The contrast to Denmark is huge. Here commercial infrastructure is well developed. Prices and opportunities for sales are available to the public, and personal connections do in general not play an important role in large commercial contracts.
In Russia there is great heterogeneity in relation to market possibilities, infrastructure and types of production both geographically, from sector to sector, and even within the individual sectors. Neighbouring actors can be involved in completely different types of economic relations. I have already mentioned the difference between the large-scale farms, the independent farmers and the family plots, but there are also large differences from farm to farm. Some independent farms are well connected to the local administration or to neighbouring large-scale farms while others are completely isolated and have practically no involvement with official authorities besides filling a simple tax report each year. Some large-scale farms may have close connections to industrial food producing companies and official authorities, while others stand alone. Yet another category of agricultural producers, which I have not touched upon in this thesis, consists of large non-agricultural institutions that have their own farms. These include some large factories, prisons, army units and even the regional nuclear power plant. Here, agricultural production is primarily for consumption within the institution itself, where it often provides an important part of the salary of employees, and is not for sale on the market. Thus, different types of agricultural producers engage in farming with different purposes and different economic aims - e.g. to earn a profit, to create workplaces or to be self-reliant - and most producers pursue several aims simultaneously.
Agricultural production in Smolensk (and in Russia in general) is therefore quite different from in Denmark. Danish agricultural production is oriented towards the market and structured almost entirely by monetary conditions (such as interest rates on credits, prices on inputs and labour, market prices for produce, and state taxations and subsidies). In Smolensk, the market is only one parameter of agricultural production.
Polanyi distinguishes between four economic principles: reciprocity, redistribution, householding and market exchange (Polanyi : 54p). Reciprocity is the simplest and arises when two persons directly exchange goods or services according to a principle of symmetry - an approximately equal exchange. This can have many forms: from simple gift giving to complex exchange systems like the kula trade in the Trobriand Islands(65). The horizontal (and often unofficial) relations between units in command economies (e.g. when bartering products to their mutual benefit) are an example of this. Redistribution arises when a central power (person or institution) collects resources and products and redistributes them downward through a hierarchy. This is the central principle of the command economy and of top-down distribution in general. Householding is when a unit is self-sufficient and does not engage in any exchange of goods. The small subsistence farms in post-socialist Russia are units that have householding as their primary economy principle. According to Polanyi, these three economic principles are basics, and dominate all pre-capitalist economies - singly or in combinations (Polanyi : 53pp).
The fourth principle - market exchange - is radically different from the three other types, since it can lead to the establishment of an institution on its own - the market. In a market economy there are many buyers and sellers of the same product, which allows for competition. There is no central decision-making agency; the 'invisible hand of the market' determines prices.
A Russian farm, whether large-scale or independent, can simultaneously engage in reciprocal arrangements with local actors and have an internal system of redistribution, where salaries (in money or kind) do not depend directly on the value of work but on political criteria, with the farm managers taking the key decisions. The farm might try to involve itself in the market, but simultaneously try to uphold the highest possible decree of self-sufficiency. The most successful farms are those which are able to shift between different economic principles and economic spheres, so they obtain resources through the official system of redistribution and the unofficial system of reciprocity, while simultaneously engaging in the market.
In modern Western societies too, different economic principles exist in complex interaction. For example, Western countries redistribute a large proportion of their GNP as welfare benefits, and the agricultural support system within the EU and other Western countries is of considerable size. In order to grasp the complexity of the local Russian context in contrast to the West, the principles of reciprocity and redistribution need to be nuanced.
General and balanced reciprocity
Reciprocity can have very different forms. A mother giving milk to her child and a band of Indians stealing the neighbouring tribe's horses are both examples of reciprocity - though of two extreme kinds (Sahlins 1972: 191): The mother gives milk to her child as she herself received milk from her mother. The Indians are stealing horses as they have had stolen horses from them. To distinguish between those various kinds of reciprocity Sahlins places them on a continuum from general reciprocity (e.g. mother and child) to negative reciprocity (e.g. horse stealing). The kind of reciprocity that exists between individuals is determined by their social relations and moral assumptions. Both negative and general reciprocity imply strong moral relationships between actors, in which economic rationality does not apply. Only when there is balanced reciprocity is it possible for two individuals to exchange without any personal involvement.
General reciprocity exists between people who are close, and implies continuous loyalty and sharing over time with no need for direct repayment. Sahlins writes: "That scarcity and not sufficiency makes people generous is understandable, functional, "where everyone is likely to find himself in difficulties from time to time". It is most understandable, however, and most likely, where kinship community and kinship morality prevail" (Sahlins 1972: 211). In the Russian context this kind of mutual reciprocity within a social group has been thoroughly documented in descriptions of such social institutions as blat(66) (cf. Ledeneva 1997, Lovell, Ledeneva & Rogachevskii 2000) and svoi liudi [one's own people] (cf. Rivkin-Fish 2002: 13). The individual reduces uncertainty by establishing strong personal connections (blat) that will help to overcome shortages. Similarly, within a group of svoi liudi there is a social expectation for each member to help the others without direct repayment.
Balanced reciprocity is pure trade and the fundament for economic rationality. Here there is no need for personal involvement and trust beyond the trade-act itself. As the exchange only will happen if both parties agree and are to benefit, rational traders can with a clear conscience optimize their exchange rate and market competition can occur.
General and balanced reciprocity are thus two kinds of exchange that are both rational although each in relation to different circumstances. Stable social conditions without a threat of shortage allow a free trade to develop and thereby also an economic rationality. Uncertainty, on the other hand, in an unstable environment is most rationally counteracted by strong relationships to others and therefore implies general reciprocity.
Redistribution by legal or traditional authority
A distinction similarly to the one Sahlins draws in his discussion of reciprocity may be applied to redistribution. We may distinguish between redistribution based on close personal ties and following moral obligations, as in general reciprocity, and redistribution where only objective criteria are of importance, as in balanced reciprocity. This distinction is similar to the one established by Weber (1947), between traditional authority (personalised) and legal authority (not personalised).
Weber (1947: 329-340) describes legal authority as based on a consistent system of laws and rules. An administrator has authority only as a function of the official position he occupies, and members do not owe obedience to him as an individual, only as an official. Administrative acts, decisions and rules should be based on clearly defined procedures formulated in documents, leaving personal decision-making to a minimum.
Relations between leader and subordinates in traditional authority are based on personal loyalty. The leader is free to choose on a case-to-case basis, and his decisions are based on his personal attitude and not on formal principles. Personal loyalty and trust are of outmost importance and long-lasting personal relationships between leader and follower are normal. High-ranking positions are therefore often filled with members of the ruler's clan or family ruling. Under traditional authority the following are absent: "a) a clearly defined sphere of competence subject to impersonal rules, b) a rational ordering of relations of superiority and inferiority, c) a regular system of appointing and promotion on the basis of free contract" (Weber 1947: 343).
Weber's concepts are ideal types and elements of both forms of authority can be found in Western and Russian contexts. Mars and Altman (1983) describe an opposition between formal Soviet values and Georgian traditional values, which is similar to the distinction between legal and traditional authority. Formal Soviet values are described as having a separation of private life from work life; decisions are based on rules etc. These principles are clearly based on legal authority. In contrast, Georgian values are based on a fusion of work life and private life, of nepotism as a moral duty and on decisions based on honour commitments (Mars & Altman 1983: 555). This is not only an opposition between Georgian and official Soviet values but rather, as I see it, a general opposition between the formal and informal economy of the Soviet Union. The difference between redistribution based on traditional authority and legal authority in the command economy is reflected in Verdery's concepts "political" and "allocative" power. The central Soviet political leadership seeks to establish rules and regulations that apply throughout the Union, but the practical implementation is in the hands of local bureaucrats who favour people within their personal network (Verdery 1991: 423). Bureaucratic redistribution is thus often intrinsically connected to personal reciprocity.
Sahlins' concept of negative reciprocity would correspond to illegal authority (my term), e.g. when criminal organisations collect tribute in return for protection (cf. Humphrey 2000: 234pp). Well known in a Russian context is the concept of krysha (meaning 'roof' or 'umbrella') which means that small enterprises or individuals pay tribute to a person or organisation (the 'roof') in return for protection against often both illegal and legal harassment(67). I will not follow up further on illegal authority in this text. It does play an important role in Russian society, but first of all I did (fortunately) not encounter it, and from talks with agricultural actors on the subject, it did not seem to play a very important role in relation to agricultural production(68).
My argument is that all types of authority (traditional, legal and illegal) are in play in the Russian context, with a public administration that officially is based on legal authority but in reality is a mixture of legal and traditional authority (and sometimes illegal), in which personal connections are of great importance. Western societies are a similar mixture of all types of authority, with different proportions and configurations of the different types of authority in different settings. But nonetheless, legal authority is far more important in the West, both as an ideal and as practice.
The oppositions between traditional authority and legal authority and between general reciprocity and balanced reciprocity can be placed on a similar table as in section 4.4 (see table below). However, it is no longer dealing quite the same opposition, since both sides of the table may be understood as variants of a top-down approach, a redistributive hierarchy; and both sides may also be seen as bottom-up, in the sense that they emphasise horizontal relationships of reciprocity. Still, I argue that it is possible to retain the opposition under the more generalized heading of "vertical integration" and "horizontal cooperation".
The main difference is if cooperation is based on primarily personalised relationships (with general reciprocity and traditional authority) or by impersonal objective criteria (balanced reciprocity and legal authority).
Units are integrated in every aspect (alliance)
Autonomous units cooperate in clearly defined areas
|Reciprocity (Sahlins 1972)||
Personal networks, Blat, svoi liudi
Positive moral relationship
Equal voluntary exchange in restricted areas.
Neutral moral relationship.
|Redistribution (Weber 1947)||
Arbitrary(69) rule based on personal loyalty.
Bureaucratic administration based on impersonal laws and procedures.
Control and stability
Power by personal position and connections
Power by capital
The two columns are ideal types with the "bottom-up" column representing the Western ideals of a public (or governmental) sphere of redistribution defined by legal authority, and a private sphere clearly separated from this, dominated by horizontal cooperation and balanced reciprocity. In opposition to this stands the "top-down" column representing a large part of lived practice in a Russian context. Here an individual person can reduce uncertainty by establishing close personal connections either on a horizontal level by networks of svoi liudi, or on a vertical level in relation to a local authority by personal loyalty to the leader.
The kinds of rationality that would be effective in the two models can be placed in the same table. Economic rationality depends on a stable society where it is possible to calculate expenditures and income and make reliable estimations of future inputs and outputs. This means that there must be a regulated market with an official administration that secures the observation of legal procedures and laws. On the other hand, if society is unstable and the future insecure, the primary need is to reduce risk. One way is to leave the market altogether and be self-reliant (following the economic principle of householding) which is not so much a choice as a last resort for many. This is evident in the importance of the private plots all over Russia. Another way to achieve stability is through a form of vertical integration, in which resources are distributed within the community by locally defined procedures more or less regardless of market conditions. This is evident in the resilience of the large-scale farms and their connections to regional administration and/or large food producing enterprises.
The point that a "market economy can function only in a market society" (Polanyi : 57) and its reverse that tactics and strategies developed within a "top-down" system are most effective when operating in a similar system might seem obvious, but it is important and helps us to understand that the universal rationality of homo oeconomicus applies only where the market functions in its full mode. A central point is therefore to understand the complexity of the local context, which can be described neither as a pure "top-down" or a pure "bottom-up" mode, but must be seen as a changing, complex, heterogeneous mix of both.
The Danish project and the work of the project institutions have the explicit aim of helping farms on a commercial basis - following an economic rationality. The central elements in the work of the advisory centre are based on economic planning and calculations which require that income and expenses can be estimated in advance. The benefits of using imported seed material for pastures are evident, as Dmitri Dmitrich made clear in his presentation to the regional agronomists, when calculating the profitability in terms of income and expenses (part 4.1). But when the large-scale farms do not pay directly for expenses or receive cash payments, but instead make deals with the regional administration, investments in imported seed material becomes a complex matter and raises the question of who should invest money and work and who should benefit from the increased production. Farms can only follow the same rationality as the advisory centre, as long as they calculate income and expenses in a similar manner as the centre. More complex elements of the project - such as the establishment of the cooperative - require a far more complex line of preconditions to be fulfilled before they would function in a way that is similar to the Western ideals.
Lass (1999) describes a similar experience in his analysis of an American project that aimed to introduce a new, internet-based library system to the Czech and Slovak Republics. The Americans expected the project to be a relatively simple technological introduction and the project had sufficient skilled people and financial resources and furthermore a computer indexing program was not a new concept with the libraries. But still, the project turned out to be complicated and full of problems. Lass asks why did this project face such difficulties, when e.g. McDonald's restaurants - an entire new concept - could be introduced to the same region without larger difficulties. His answer was that the two types of implementations related to the local context in different ways. The McDonald's restaurant, although a complex and highly specialised unit, only requires relative simple conditions to be in place: a market for its services, access to the needed inputs and people willing to work. The processes that allow the production of a meal within a few minutes are self-contained within easily portable units, and can therefore be transferred from one setting to another relatively easy. In contrast, the internet-indexing system in the library project requires the agreement and cooperation between all the various actors involved. Instead of viewing a library as "an institution with a definable organizational structure […] it seems more productive to view the library, along with its history, as a confluence of complex interlocking networks of books, religious wars, worldviews, political agendas, and influential individuals and as essentially porous and unbounded" (Lass 1999: 281). The apparently simple project of technology transfer thus interfered in a complex setting with various actors and various interests, and a whole number of prerequisites and compromises by actors was needed.
In system export or technology transfer there are thus two main parameters upon which the successful implementation of project elements in a local setting depends: a) The correspondence (economically and socially) between the context from which the element is exported and the context to which it is implemented, and b) the complexity of the interactions between the exported element and the local setting. Both refer to how well a certain project element can be adapted to the concrete local context, but each with a different accent: either on the element transferred or on the local context in which it is implemented. Predictably, therefore, different elements within the Danish project have been implemented locally with different degrees of success. One of the most successful elements is one of the most simple - the imported grass seeds that require no new technology or organisational structure to work, only a different perspective on 'field economy' where more expensive inputs to the field are counterbalanced by higher income from milk production (via cows eating grass). In contrast, the farm cooperative, one of the most complex elements of the project, was also one of the most unsuccessful and a wide range of basic preconditions were not fulfilled: The practical expertise was not in place, the cooperative institutions were geographically located too far away to be of practical value for most independent farmers, and only few of them had been able, in the course of the few years that had passed since privatisation was initiated, to acquire substantial productive units that might benefit from the institutions. Finally, long distances and poor roads meant much time wasted on transport and heavy wear on the machines. Other project elements were also of limited success, such as computer programs for cattle production (relevant only for some of the larger large-scale farms), or joint experience groups (established only by a few independent farmers).
The aim of this thesis is, first, to describe the basic "laws of motion" of Danish system-export to Russia. I have shown how the political wish to support bottom-up development is implemented through top-down procedures, thus defining two opposed forces that constitute the field of tension, in which the different actors connected to the project work. Secondly, the thesis explores what the Danish 'system-export' to Russia is about, not only in the terms of visible resources transferred, but in terms of the actual project work in accordance with the bottom-up approach by Danes and Russians, and the practical consequences the implementation of this approach has.
The initial political goals of the developing programs of the early 1990s reflect the optimism following the end of the Cold War and the 'victory' of Western-style democracy and market economy. The goals focussed on democracy and commercial development. There was a widespread assumption that following the collapse of the Soviet Union there would be a period of transition during which the nations of Eastern Europe would develop into societies similar to those found in Western Europe. According to this understanding, the former collective and state farms were obsolete; refuse from a socialist past that would have no place in future democratic society based on market economy.
But the state of insecurity and uncertainty associated with the post-socialist transition did not seem to end, and by the late 1990s it was slowly accepted by most people in the region and by local and Western policy makers as a condition of life. There was no longer any hope of a bright future lying just beyond a short transitional phase, attainable by rapid structural and economic reforms(70). This change in the understanding of the transition also meant changes in policies of development assistance to Eastern Europe. The Danish project in Smolensk broadened its focus from independent farmers to include former collective and state farms. Instead of building an entirely new structure based on Danish ideals and the 'Danish Model', the project shifted to a more modest aim of improving the local agricultural production in the form it has.
The distance between the political allocation of money to development projects and their actual implementation is great, in terms of both time and hierarchy. This means that a project's flexibility and responsiveness to change are typically low. The politicians who act as donors only set out general political guidelines and trust the distribution of the donated resources to bureaucrats and officials, under the condition that administrative procedures are observed. Thus, a company engaged in development work, such as DAAC, must keep within the framework set out by current political goals and administrative procedures. The political and administrative criteria may draw in opposite directions, as in the Smolensk project, when the political wish for bottom-up development clashed with practical administrational top-down procedures. These opposed criteria made it difficult to execute the project, but since the main actors of the project, Danes as well as Russians, shared an interest in the continuation of the project, they found pragmatic solutions and made compromises that allowed the project to continue. I have specified three different tactics that the actors use to create a room for manoeuvre: a separation between 'real reality' and 'paper reality', a form of flexible organisation and an active use of ignorance.
I argue that the tactics used in the project, as a means to cope with the conflict between top-down ideology and bottom-up practice, are similar to tactics used during socialism to cope with the discrepancies between communist rhetoric and actual reality. However, my point is not that these tactics are specific to Eastern Europe or Russian, but on the contrary, that similar tactics would be used by resourceful actors in all settings where similar structural oppositions occur. This point, that actors use different tactics to cope with structural opposition caused by a rigid top-down defined framework, does not mean that the actors necessarily disagree with the official ideology. But there will always be a question of how far politically defined goals can be circumvented or bent in order to fit the local reality, so the whole purpose of the project is not lost. I found that the Danish consultants take the bottom-up approach seriously and use it as a point of departure for all their work.
This leads me to the second part of this thesis, where I explore what the Danish ideology of bottom-up means in the actual project work and what consequences it has locally to follow this approach.
According to the bottom-up approach, units are autonomous with clearly defined areas of responsibility, and I speak here of horizontal cooperation, which stands in contrast to vertical integration, which I see as the predominant style of cooperation locally in Smolensk. Through vertical integration, units establish strong, long-lasting ties with other units in a hierarchy in order to secure more stable conditions for production. The Danish side had difficulties in persuading the locals to work with the bottom-up approach, as we saw in the lack of response to a rational presentation of field economics (case A), in the often-ignored Danish invitation to share knowledge and experience with colleagues (case B), and in the unwilling response to the Danish insistence that there should be clear a separation of areas of work and responsibility between the different units (case C). The reasons why it has been so difficult for the Danish side to make the local Russians understand the rationality of the demonstrated cases is neither 'irrational Russians' nor inadequate consultants, but rather that the rationality of bottom-up practices is heavily influenced by a specific social context. It is simply more rational to choose a top-down approach, if the social setting is dominated by uncertainty and instability. Vertical relationships and long-lasting personal alliances provide individual units with a minimum of stability and security. But the local setting is not entirely dominated by an economy of vertical redistribution. Different economic relations exist simultaneously side-by-side in a complex and changing pattern. The same farm can simultaneously buy and sell on the market, be an active party in a system of redistribution, sustain direct reciprocal relations with other units over time, and provide its workers with basic resources that enable them to sustain a home production they practically live on. This understanding of the farm economy as a complex system of overlapping economic relations and corresponding rationalities helps to understand why some elements of the project have been successful while others have failed.
To conclude: The local reality is complex, with various kinds of social and economic relations existing side-by-side, each implying different world orientations and forms of rationality. When foreign donors and developers make strategic plans to influence and change this complex local reality they move into the territory of a foreign local setting and must continuously make tactical adjustments and even be willing to alter their initial strategic goals.
The lesson that can be learned from the experience of the Danish project in Smolensk is that not only technical knowledge and equipment but also institutional organisation must be adapted to the local socio-economic context. The assessments made before development programmes and projects are initiated should therefore not only evaluate the suggested technology, the agricultural practices and knowledge prevalent within the local setting, but also include an evaluation of local social and economic dynamics: Both socio-economic relations that are part of the market economy and stand outside it, as e.g. administrative procedures, social reciprocal contracts or moral obligations for redistribution within the local community. Only when the development project includes this and is allowed to respond flexibly to changing local conditions, does it have the potential to effectively support a bottom-up development.
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Source: A. A. Nikonov 1996: Spiral' mnogovekovoy dramy: agrarnaya nauka i politika Rossii (XVII-XX vv.) [The ever-increasing century-old drama: Russian agricultural science and politics (17th-20th Century)MT]
Grain productivity in USSR compared with other countries, in centners per hectare
Growth in %
Milk yield per cow, in kg per year
Growth in %
(Nikonov 1996: 321)
The agricultural productivity of the USSR, yearly average
in billons Rubbles
|Grain, mill. tons||130,3||167,6||181,6||205,0||180,3|
|Sugar beat, mill. tons||59,3||81,1||76,0||88,7||76,4|
|Potatoes, mill. tons||81,6||94,8||89,8||82,6||78,4|
|Meat, mill. tons||9,3||11,6||14,0||14,8||16,2|
|Milk, mill. tons||64,7||80,6||87,4||92,7||94,6|
(My translation, Nikonov 1996: 323)
Comment: The tables show how the growth of agricultural productivity in the Soviet Union was stagnating compared to other countries. The national differences cannot just be compared simply as the agricultural productivity varies between extensive and intensive farming. But even with this in mind, it is clear to see that during the period of 1965 to 1985 the Soviet agriculture was stagnating compared to the Western countries.
The table gives an overview of the Smolensk project through the years in relation to the situation of Russian agriculture. The primary source for information on the project is DAAC (2001c).
|Year||Russian agriculture||The Danish project in Smolensk|
Different types of alternative forms of agriculture production become legal - including forms of private farming.
AKKOR, the Russian union for independent farmers, is established in 1990.
The Russian state gives substantial economic support for the establishment of private independent agriculture. Individual farmers have access to privileged loans, agricultural land and machinery.
Practically all independent farmers are established in this period.
A Russian delegation, including officials from
Smolensk, visits Denmark in 1992. The
Russian side suggest that Denmark should
establish an agricultural advisory centre in the
A Danish delegation with persons from the Agricultural Ministry and five different companies visits Smolensk 1993. They agree to support the new independent farmers in the region and start up activities, which include the establishment of an advisory centre, a cooperative grain store and cooperative dairy.
The substantial state support for independent farmers ceases.
Large-scale farms (former collective and state farms) are continually supported against bankruptcy.
The larger part of the formally registered independent farmers has no commercial production.
Production on personal plots or dachas for private consumption within households is (still) widespread.
Persons from company A and DAAC sets out
on a Fact finding mission to Smolensk and
following this, they recommend the
establishment of an advisory centre, a
cooperative grain store and cooperative dairy.
Company A writes a project application which
the Danish ministry approves and this leads to:
The project "Russian Danish Farmers'
Development Project". The two year long
project is executed and the advisory centre
(SIAC) and the grain store are established.
The status afterwards is: A weak advisory centre with no capacity to pay running costs and a grain store with low utilisation.
The development of independent farming is much lower than expected and the declining animal production means that there is no need of a dairy in the project.
Company A sends a new project application
which is declined by the Danish ministry.
|1997-98||The economic crises culminate in august 1998 and the Rouble is devaluated.||
The Danish ministry decides that DAAC should
replace Company A and take charge of the
activities in Smolensk.
DAAC receives funds to execute "A review of the Smolensk project" (MT) and concludes that there is a need for a strengthening of the advisory centre and the grain store and to establish a machinery station.
On the basis of this, two projects start: "Pig Production Project 1997 -98" in which local advisors is trained on the correct production of fodder and feedings of pigs and "Consultancy Service, Smolensk 1997-98", where SIAC cooperates with different farms as demonstration farms.
The machinery station is established within the second project.
Representatives from the Danish ministry visit
the project and agree to continue the work in
A possible turn in
The economic crisis in 1998 makes it more expensive to buy foreign products. This leads to a greater interest in local produced agricultural products.
The Russian Agricultural Ministry works on implementing advisory service in all regions and in the long term in all rayons (local administrative units).
AKKOR works for equal rights and equal level of state support between independent farms and large-scale farms.
Two projects are executed.
The project "Environment Smolensk, 1999" where DAAC works with a large-scale farm and SIAC to reduce the discharge of slurry.
And the project "Technical Assistance to Smolensk Farmers' Consultancy Centre 1999" in which DAAC trains personal in all three project institutions. More agricultural demonstrations are executed in cooperation with local farms. The working area of the machinery station is expanded.
Representatives from the Danish ministry visit
the project and agree to continue the work in
The project "Environmentally Sustainable
Agriculture in Smolensk 2000 - 01" is
executed: The machinery station receives more
machines and training of both practical and
administrative personal. The activities on SIAC
and the grain store are continued.
Representatives from the Danish ministry visit the project august 2000 and ask for a local suggestion on how to improve the cooperation between the project institutions.
The document 'The conception of the continuation of cooperation' is made and is send to the Danish ministry. It is the basis for a new project application by DAAC.
The Danish ministry does not approve the new application (including the revised versions) made by DAAC to continue the project.
Representatives from the ministry visit the
project again in November 2001 to make a
|2002||2002 All larger institutions that receive support from the regional government have their accounts inspected. Following this inspection all companies running with a chronic loss will be declared bankrupt.||
But no final decision is made before changes
in the state administration puts a stop on all
new activities. This is a consequence of the
change in the Danish government following the
Danish national elections in November 2001.
Restructurings in the Danish state administrations mean that the responsibility for all foreign projects activities (including agricultural projects) is moved to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
New negotiations with personal in the Foreign Ministry are undertaken by DAAC and a new project application is written.
By December 2002 DAAC is granted a new project period in Smolensk.
SIAC is the hearth of the Danish project. It has an office with three rooms in the building of the agricultural academy (an institution that gives courses to e.g. agronomists working on large-scale farms) which is in the outskirts of Smolensk city(71). The initial plan was that SIAC should be integrated with the academy, but some sort of disagreements with its director meant that SIAC became an independent institution. The building is rather worn, but the office is well equipped with five modern computers, a photocopier, telephones, a fax, and internet access. Pictures on the wall and different material as booklets, pamphlets and books on the shelves reveal a strong link to Denmark.
The personal consists of a director, three agricultural advisors, a marketing consultant, a bookkeeper and a driver. They all receive their pay from the regional budget. Furthermore a woman working as both interpreter and secretary for DAAC also has her place at the office. SIAC has two cars of which one is four-wheel driven. This is essential as the minor roads leading to the farms often only are passable with that.
The daily business activities are diverse; e.g. answering questions from farmers visiting the centre or calling by phone, preparing plans for feeding and fieldwork for individual farms, visiting farms and inspecting/supervising their production - either demonstration farms in the project or farms that have a contract for specific tasks. SIAC works with farms in different parts of the region and the driving time to those farms furthest away are several hours each way. This means that it can take a whole day to visit just one farm. There are a lot of activities connected to the Danish project: to send data to Denmark and prepare the visits of Danish consultants, be a connecting link between the grain store and the machinery station and the regional administration and farms. Several times a year the centre arrange seminars on different subjects - either to show the results of the demonstration fields or to show new agricultural methods, and several times a year the advisors themselves participates in other seminars.
The grain station and machinery station are located next to each other twenty minutes drive from Smolensk city. They are a bit inconvenient placed five minutes drive away from the main road, but this was allegedly the only place possible. In the beginning there was no road leading to the grain store making it problematic to deliver grain. The grain store was built in the beginning of the Danish project in 1995. It has storage capacity for up to 5,000 tons of grain and facilities for drying grain, making fodder and producing seed corn. The machinery station was built in 1997-98 while its workshop was finished in 2000. The buildings are made locally while most of the machinery in both places is from Denmark. The machinery station and the grain store each have two men working with the machines and they share a bookkeeper and a manager.
The personnel have changed a lot, and different people have used the machines of the machinery station - often with little or no experience in using the special equipment. The machines have therefore been exposed to a great tear as a result of incompetent use and also from driving on the rough roads and fields. At the time of my stay most of the machinery was unfit for use and needed repair and (expensive) spare parts.
The biggest costumers for the machinery station and the grain store are the nearby large-scale farms. The large-scale farm closest to the grain store uses e.g. half of the storage capacity of the grain store. A few of the large machines of the machinery station are leased on a year long contract to large-scale farms and stay more or less permanently on those farms. Although there is a local need for the services the machinery station provides, bad administration and misused machinery mean that the utilisation is far lower than expected and that the machinery station is not even able to generate an income sufficient to pay for the running costs.
Below is a table that describes how the three agricultural institutions have developed within the Danish project and what they have received through the different project grants. The table is my translation of a table in a DAAC report to the Danish Ministry (DAAC 2001c: 5p).
|Project title||SIAC||Grain Store||Machinery Station|
The advisory centre is
Personal is trained. Computer and cars received.
The grain store is
The personnel are trained and a computer is received.
|Status: A weak advisory centre with no dynamic management and without economic resources to pay salary or transport||Status: A functioning grain store with low capacity utilisation||Status: There is a local need and wish for the establishment of a machinery station|
|Pig Production Project 1997-98||
Training of advisors in
relation to feeding of
An advisor is on a trainee stay in Denmark.
A booklet is produced and seminar conducted both concerning feeding of pigs
|The personnel are trained in the production of fodder for pigs.|
|Consultancy Service Smolensk 1997-98||
Eight farms are
selected as partners
for the project.
Advisors are trained in field trials and feeding of cows.
Two study tours to Denmark are conducted for farmers and advisors.
Seminars are conducted
established next to
the grain store.
Equipment is bought: two tractors, a sprayer, a sowing machine, two ploughs and a combiner.
The personnel are trained in the use of the machinery.
|Environment Smolensk 1999||
The slurry system is
renovated on a large-scale farm and two
slurry lagoons built.
The advisors are trained on rotation of crops and field fertilization.
A study tour to Denmark is conducted.
|A Slurry wagon and a dung spreader are installed.|
|Technical Assistance to Smolensk Farmers' Consultancy Centre 1999||
The advisors are
trained in relation to
field trials and pig
grass seed material
and boars are
Photocopier and computer equipment are supplied.
A study tour to Denmark is conducted.
|The personnel are trained in the production of fodder and economic management.||
A plough and
silage making are
The personnel are trained in the use of the machines.
|Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture in Smolensk 2000-01||
The advisors are
trained in relation to
grass fields, feeding of
cows, field trials and
utilisation of slurry.
A study tour to Denmark is conducted.
|The personnel are trained in the production of fodder and economic management.||
A tractor for the
slurry wagon, tools
and equipment for
the workshop are
The personnel are trained in the use of the machines and economic management.
A study tour to Denmark is conducted.
1. The magazine "Husbandry" (Zhivotnovod) Moscow, January 1999.
2. This production seldom reaches the market, but stays within the families for their own consumption.
3. The two types of farms have different historical origin, but were in the late Soviet period similar in relation to the organisation of work and production (cf. Humphrey 1998: 13)
4. I will use the term 'large-scale farms' as synonymous with the 'former state and collective farms'.
5. I put 'privately' in inverted commas since the production to a great extent relied on resources from the work place, and therefore was an integrated part of the collective production (cf. Humphrey 1998).
6. Hedrick Smith is a journalist working for the New York Times with many years of experience in the Soviet Union (and later in post-communist Russia). He won the Pulitzer Prize for his work from Moscow.
7. Writers as Hedlund & Ståhlberg (1984) and Humphrey (1998) point out that figures like this are misleading if not false, since the two productions are of different types. The large-scale farms perform large scale extensive farming and the private plots small scale intensive farming, which demands high input of both labour and resources. Private or collective - intensive farming would always have better outputs. Furthermore the so called 'private' production was an integrated part of the collective production and dependent on the inputs people received through their workplace - either as part of their pay or by 'privatising' the collective property themselves. Even with these reservations in mind, most agree, that the efficiency of the large-scale farms was hopelessly low, while people have made the most out of their personal plots.
8. I tried to keep track of the central persons involved and my list includes 137 persons (and this is far from all), of which I directly met 74. The persons belonged to more than 33 different types of organisations, institutions or businesses.
9. The fieldwork took place in three different countries (Besides Russia and Denmark, I include Poland, which I visited together with Russian participants on an agricultural seminar), seven large cities and countryside tours in both Denmark and Russia (and Poland).
10. By this I mean the different kinds of positions and relations the different people have to the project ranging from Russian workers, independent farmers, advisors, local bureaucrats and politicians to Danish consultants and officials.
11. SIAC = Smolensk Information Advisory Centre
12. Marcus (1995: 106pp) suggests several strategies for multi-sited fieldwork: as follow the people, the things, the metaphors etc.
13. DAAC rents a small apartment connected to the Agricultural Academy where the office of the advisory centre is located. The apartment has two bedrooms and I was allowed to stay in the apartment when there where no or only one visiting consultant from Denmark. Approximately two thirds of the time I was there alone.
14. Long describe interface as the situations, "in which interactions become oriented around problems of bridging, accommodating, segregating or contesting social, evaluative and cognitive standpoints" (Long 1999: 1).
15. This was especially in relation to information on agricultural production, to the local setting, to development work, and to the different actors connected to the project.
16. Different words have been used to describe the poor countries which are receiving aid from the rich and developed North (to stay within a North-South discourse); the South, the Third World, the underdeveloped countries. The different words reflect different discourses with different understanding of the position of those countries. E.g. the Third World reflects the Cold War division between the West (the capitalist block) and the East (the communist block), while to talk about underdevelopment implies an understanding of evolutionary modernisation (Gardner & Lewis 1996: 12-20).
17. The 'trickle down' effect means that help in the form of large scale projects towards e.g. improved infrastructure or production automatically will benefit all parts of society through a general increase in employment and market possibilities (Gardner & Lewis 1996: 7).
18. An example is the County of Bornholm that established training centres to support social services in Kaliningrad or the Danish ministry of taxation that introduced new procedures and methods in the Russian tax administration (Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1999).
19. Interviews with Head of Section in the Directorate for Food, Fisheries and Agro Business under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries November 2001 and January 2002.
20. Published by the Federation of Danish Cooperatives and The Agricultural Council. Denmark, Odense 1993.
21. See e.g. http://www.lr.dk/international/informationsserier/projekter/danish_model.htm
22. The Danish Farmers' Unions and the Danish Family Farmers' Association.
23. The presentation of DAAC is on the internet (www.lr.dk), in publications and is also present in the applications for the Smolensk project.
24. I use the masculine pronoun as most farmers are male.
25. DAAC has so far also been involved in short-term projects in 15 other countries.
26. For an overview of the history of the Danish project in Smolensk see appendix two.
27. I will refer to the ministry only as the Danish Ministry of Agriculture even though later reforms have changed its name to the Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fishery.
28. I will use the term 'independent farmers' to describe those individuals who run a private farm on their own. Normally the closer family takes part in the production, possibly along with some hired workers. The independent farm stands in opposition to the former collective and state farms (the large-scale farms), which today are privatised in some way, but where production and organisation in most places still resembles that of the Soviet period. The independent farm is a new concept and most of them were established in the early 1990s.
29. For a closer description of the agricultural institutions developed within the project see appendix three.
30. I participated in the study tour in June 2001 with participants from Smolensk region.
31. The "project" is actually a conglomerate of projects running in periods of up to two years at a time. But in the documents and the perception of the Danes involved these officially different projects are referred to as one project - "the Smolensk project".
32. At the time of the establishment of the cooperative in 1995 there were 60 "farmers" who were members. In year 2000, members that did not have an active agricultural production were excluded from the cooperative and only 18 were left.
33. I was present when the officials from the ministry arrived and had the opportunity to follow all their official and unofficial meetings in Smolensk.
34. In 'development jargon' top-down is defined as "interventions imposed on local people by those in authority" (Gardner & Lewis 1996: xiv).
35. Writers as Gerner & Hedlund (1994) see the pervasive top-down governance as belonging to a much older tradition with a continuation over time from the orthodox emperor in Constantinople, over the Tsars to the Communist regime. Even though the regimes were very different, they were all similar in the sense that the political leader was the same as the religious/ideological leader. In the Eastern European tradition, in contrast to the Western European, there was no clear dividing line between politics and morality, between rule of state and rule of man (Gerner & Hedlund 1994: 13).
36. The governor changed after my fieldwork following the election in spring 2002, when Mr. Prokhorov lost. He was said to have had a bad relationship with Moscow and because of this the region received a low level of federal support compared to neighbouring regions. The new governor has a background in FSB (The previous KGB) - just as the president Mr. Putin.
37. This section is based primarily on the text by Lallemand (1998) and only to a lesser degree on talks with local people. Most people I talked to about this subject did not know much about it and generally had little faith in the political system. Most expected the political leadership to put their own interests higher than those of the people.
38. In order to provide my informants anonymity all personal names are changed in the thesis.
39. Local directors of former collective farms are elected for a four to five year period (personal communication).
40. In 'development jargon' bottom-up is defined as interventions that "come from the grassroots as opposed to government planners or development agencies" (Gardner & Lewis 1996: xii).
41. In "Images of organization" Gareth Morgan (1998) writes about how management theory and practice are shaped by metaphors.
42. DAAC 2001: Application to the Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries for Funding of Project in Central and Eastern Europe. DAAC Project No 8895, January 2001.
43. This shift is most evident in the titles of projects as seen in the following project titles: "Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture in Smolensk" or "Further Agricultural Development with respect to Environment".
44. As stated in written communication between company A and the governor of Smolensk region in the initial phase.
45. His full title is 'Coordinator of the Russian-Danish cooperation in Smolensk on behalf of the regional administration and General director of "Smoldanagro" [the name of his construction company]'.
46. Communication between DAAC and the Danish Ministry of Agriculture October 2001.
47. Comment from staff connected to the project.
48. The Russian administrative system is notorious for its gathering of information and production of tables and statistics (cf. Humphrey 1998: 199).
49. This particular meeting was not a success. Mr. Potapenkov failed to convince Jørgen of the benefits of the plan and furthermore Jørgen was not in a position in which he could negotiate; firstly, he was not normally involved in the organisation of the project at DAAC, and secondly, his (and DAAC's) acceptance would not mean much, since all larger decisions concerning future support depends on the donor, the Danish ministry. Jørgen said he would bring the information to Denmark and the meeting ended. Later the regional administration decided to let the machinery station stay as it is with the farmers' cooperative officially in charge, but continue to support it and also in practice make all larger decisions.
50. This is a quote from a letter from the Danish project manager in the early phase of the project to the regional governor. In the letter he argues that the regional administration should be the end receiver and not the farmers. The farmers should only have access to the donated equipment through realistic conditions and the project would thereby be a realistic demonstration of their profitability.
51. Dmitrich was hired by SIAC directly after he finished the agricultural institute and has no other professional experience. He has continuously worked with DAAC and also been in Denmark for several months as a trainee. He is therefore highly influenced by the Danish approach.
52. Smolensk region (oblast) is subdivided in 25 local administrations (rayons).
53. An extreme example of how the top of the official scientific hierarchy can dictate the scientific truth is the famous case of Lysenko, who between 1938 and 1963 dominated Soviet agricultural and biological science. He advanced the theory that plant genotypes are influenced by environmental modifications upon the phenotype - that the offspring of plants (and other living things) directly reflect the (environmental) experience of its parents. The theory corresponded to the social theory of communism of the possibility to create a new and better man by communist rule. The theory of Lysenko was abandoned in 1964 but set biological research several decades back in the Soviet Union, since all research and teaching of traditional genetics in the period was illegalised (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1999).
54. Anne Knudsen (1996) describes how the preferred style of communication in Denmark is between persons that are able to "sit down, and discuss things face to face". When everybody sits down, physical height are levelled, and it becomes clear who are in and who are outside the group. Within the group all patiently listen to one another and everybody is heard. If someone is silent, it is considered a critique of the group and therefore a problem. Everyone must have an opinion and must be heard - although the others might not follow their views.
55. The regional agricultural academy acts as centre for the advisory service in Leningrad region, which has several local advisory centres established with help from Danish and other donors.
56. Most of the speakers work at the agricultural academy.
57. Joint experience groups are widely used in Denmark in a wide range of areas. The purpose is to bring a group of individuals together, who share a common experience of being e.g. independent farmers, and the more they resemble each other (production, age, education etc.) the better. They can then use each other to share practical experience in a wide range of areas, not only directly related to the production, but also to other areas of being an independent farmer, to test ideas withat each other, listen to what other propose and do, speak of their own frustrations etc. The concept of joint experience groups are in Denmark used in a growing number of areas, from e.g. first time mothers to former alcoholics.
58. Habitus is a concept used by Bourdieu together with the concepts field and capital. It denotes the internalised logic by which the individual actor understands and acts in the world - a logic of practice tied to the specific local and historical relations in which the actor lives (Bourdieu & Waquant 1996: 27pp).
59. The farm mentioned became a part of the Danish project as a demonstration farm for better slurry management and slurry containers were built for project money. The workers on the farm were suspected to be responsible for deliberate sabotage of the equipment.
60. Farmers can apply for these loans through the national Farmers' Bank (. ) or through loan societies or rural credit cooperatives (institutions established with the help of foreign donors, e.g. the European Union's TACIS programme).
61. Interest rates I heard of ranged from 16-18% p.a. on the privileged loans compared to normal bank rates of 28-36% p.a.
62. In Denmark 2001 the total value of agricultural production was 63 billion DKK, of which 36 billion DKK was used on raw material and additives, and 10 billion DKK on pay and depreciation, leaving a result on 17 billion DKK. Out of this, two thirds (12 billion DKK) were spent on interest expenses (Landbrugsraadet 2002).
63. To give some examples: one independent farmer had most of his sale on the farm with each costumer buying only small portions and he had 10 different crops in stock. Another farmer regularly visited five different markets.
64. To give an example: One of the independent dairy farmers connected to the project has no cooling equipment on the farm and must therefore deliver the milk directly to the dairy after each milking. This means that he spends two hours two times a day to deliver the milk, mainly because the road, though only five kilometres long, is in very poor condition. In winter he often has to use a horse and sleigh as the road becomes completely impassable. He would have to pay for all improvements on the road himself.
65. As described by Malinowski in his book on the Trobriand Islands (1922).
66. I here follow Lovell, Ledeneva & Rogachevskii (2000: 2) in their definition of blat as the informal exchange of favours dissimilar to bribery (the use of public office for private gain). The distinction between blat and bribery is in practice often difficult to uphold, and a definition of something as either blat or bribery often depends on the position of the definer.
67. It can be difficult to make sharp distinctions between legal and illegal authority in a Russian context, since the criminal worlds often have strong connections to the official administration and vice versa, and the work of public institutions in some cases bear strong resemblance to armed hold-up - most noticeable the 'task force' of the tax inspection.
68. I think the general low level of capital in the agricultural sector and the mere volume of agricultural produce in relation to its value makes it an unattractive sector for people seeking to make easy money.
69. By arbitrary rule I do not mean rule at random or by chance, but rule that depends on individual discretion and is not fixed by law.
70. For lack of a better term this period is referred to by Steven Sampson (2002) as post-post-socialist.
71. Smolensk city is the administrative city in Smolensk region. The region has a population of 1,165,800, while the city has 350.000 inhabitants. The region has an area of 49,800 square km (a bit larger than Denmark's 43,094 square kilometres) and borders Belarus (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1999).