RTZ Award for Long-Term Commitment
Hunting Technical Services Ltd.
Hunting Technical Services (HTS), with a professional staff of 100, is the largest British-based natural resources and rural development consultancy. It has carried out well over 1,000 projects in over 130 countries.
David Potten, the present managing director, first came across it in Makalle, Northern Ethiopia, where he went with his wife to visit a friend. They found themselves in the midst of a hair-raising civil war. (A British vet was captured in the area and not seen for 12 months.)
They put up at the Castle Hotel where the only other guests were rural development specialists from HTS, a company he at the time knew nothing about. These specialists were developing techniques for farming in a very marginal area, techniques which the present, post-civil-war Ethiopian government is keen to learn about. "I decided," he says, "that they were a dedicated group I'd be happy to work with."
HTS grew out of Hunting Surveys which decided in 1953 that its aerial photographs could be put to other uses such as vegetation, land use and land capability surveys. A Cambridge researcher, Vernon Robertson, was appointed "to carry out the duties of an ecologist but also duties not normally undertaken by an ecologist."
In Burma, HTS pioneered irrigation from underground water, establishing what is still a showpiece despite Burma's political difficulties. In Pakistan, the Lower Indus Project, planned jointly with Mott MacDonald, showed the way to improve the irrigation and drainage of Sindh. David Potten is sad that implementation has been slow, through shortage of funds and capacity. But the waterlogging which has forced some farmers off the land has been eased in some areas.
HTS has been committed to Pakistan since 1959, and has also had a commitment for over 30 years to the Sudan, Indonesia and other countries. It has also shown commitment to its own employees, to training, to a sustainable environment and to quality. The British Consultants Bureau gave it the Consultant of the Year Award in 1992 for the quality of work in Bangladesh.
Typical current examples of HTS assignments include projects in Bangladesh, Sudan and Zambia.
The Agricultural Support Services Project in Bangladesh, funded from British aid, is aimed at tens of thousands of farmers, agricultural extension workers and officials. It seeks to change the approach of agricultural advice from top down to bottom up, from telling farmers what to do to finding out what they need. It also seeks to involve non-government organisations.
The Atbara project in the north of the Sudan, implemented on behalf of the UN Development Programme, is promoting small-scale rural development: goat rearing, oil pressing, handicrafts.
LOGOSP, the local government support project in Zambia, involves developing and implementing a programme that will strengthen efficiency, democracy and accountability in local authorities throughout the country.
Zambia decided ten years ago to decentralise government powers. On behalf of Britain's Overseas Development Administration, HTS staff have spent several years in the Central Province, training staff, working with them on financial procedures, encouraging them to get involved in identifying and implementing development projects and at the same time promoting private sector activity where it is more appropriate.
David Potten says: "We have been contracted this year by the ODA to implement a nationwide programme, LOGOSP. Price Waterhouse are also involved with the accounting and finance. We have teams of both expatriate and Zambian staff in Lusaka and in every provincial capital." HTS has an office in Khartoum staffed by Sudanese and is a shareholder in locally-staffed companies in Dar-es-Salaam, Jakarta and Johannesburg. Projects are planned and supervised, however, by staff from Hemel Hempstead.
HTS also works with and encourages local consulting firms. "RDC in Sri Lanka," says David Potten, "was once an HTS sub-contractor but is now a major company with more employees than we have and it competes with us for work in South-East Asia."
Moving into Eastern Europe, HTS is training the staff of a consulting company in Romania. "A company in Poland was our sub-contractor. Now it is the lead company and we are the sub-contractor. We put that down as a measure of our success."