Midterm review for the Improving Connectivity in the Central Forest Spine (IC-CFS) Project.

Report Cover Image
Evaluation Plan:
2016-2021, Malaysia
Evaluation Type:
Mid Term Project
Planned End Date:
Completion Date:
Management Response:
Evaluation Budget(US $):


Title Midterm review for the Improving Connectivity in the Central Forest Spine (IC-CFS) Project.
Atlas Project Number: 00080183
Evaluation Plan: 2016-2021, Malaysia
Evaluation Type: Mid Term Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 01/2022
Planned End Date: 01/2022
Management Response: Yes
Focus Area:
  • 1. Others
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021)
  • 1. Output 2.3.1 Data and risk-informed development policies, plans, systems and financing incorporate integrated and gender-responsive solutions to reduce disaster risks, enable climate change adaptation and mitigation, and prevent risk of conflict
SDG Goal
  • Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
SDG Target
  • 15.1 By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements
  • 15.2 By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally
Evaluation Budget(US $): 60,000
Source of Funding: GEF
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 60,000
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Nationality
Camillo Ponziani Lead Evaluator
GEF Evaluation: Yes
GEF Project Title: Improving Connectivity in Central Forest Spine
Evaluation Type: Mid-term Review
Focal Area: Multifocal Areas
Project Type: FSP
GEF Phase: GEF-5
GEF Project ID: 4732
PIMS Number: 4594
Key Stakeholders:
Countries: MALAYSIA

Lesson 1 - documenting requirements prior to embarking on any ICT decision making
tools:The Project has proposed a number of ICT tools such as the OSC and an integrated data sharing platform for SMART patrolling and data-driven decision making. Any IT tools should be anchored to a requirements document to ensure it meets the needs of end users and has a cohesive strategy from the outset. These information systems also ought to be accompanied by data sharing agreements and a change management plan, as well as accompanying documentation of new proposed business processes to support transition to how they should be leveraged as part of people’s existing job functions.


Lesson 2 - stronger alignment at design of project targets so they are not entirely out of reach from those who ultimately manage projects: While GEF projects must be ambitious to achieve global environmental benefits, they need to balance and take into consideration the sphere of influence of the management teams that implement them so as not to set them up for failure with unrealistic expectations and targets that are complex, especially those related to species. Contexts change and projects should be afforded flexibility to revise outcomes and outputs that clearly cannot be achieved at the end of the project period and replace them with more rational and feasible alternatives.


Lesson 3 - continuity in leadership and resourcing is key to project delivery and even
more so in complex ones: Too many resource changes within a project, especially key decision
makers, can have significant negative impacts.


Lesson 4 - project teams need to be empowered to make decisions: NIM projects must be country-owned and country-led and delivery teams must have the latitude to make mistakes, learn from them and make firm decisions that stick. As part of the UN Secretary General’s Development Reform, accountability should be concentrated in the National Project Manager. The National Project Director should be sufficiently involved to ensure engagement and to facilitate rapid decision making when needed. Clear escalation channels should be established so projects can focus on delivery.


Lesson 5 - too much time focusing on procurement, contracting and administrative
modalities can derail delivery: Introduction of new requirements and the reopening of administrative procedures derail projects with many stakeholder contracts and disbursements. These need to be locked from the outset.


Lesson 6 - upfront training and readiness: the Implementing Agency should spend time on readiness and providing guidance and best practice on key themes like project management, financial requirements, and approach to gender and community that need to be addressed at the outset and when there is a change in resourcing.


Emerging lesson 7 - state liaisons and coordinators are key management arrangements for the
Malaysian context: The establishment of the State Officer / Liaison has delivered significant benefit in working with the State Agency. When positions at State are not filled, especially coordinating roles, it hampers the project significantly.


In spite of not meeting all the necessary triggers for an extension, the MTR consultant team believes there is strategic value to continuing the Project and recommends allowing it to accelerate efforts on activities which will slip into the new year and consolidate results on core work into 2022.
Note: There should be no expectation on any subsequent extensions and the Project must deliver hard results. If tangible results towards the objectives
are not realized by mid-2022 the Project should take steps to wind itself down gracefully. See Table 5 for suggested new milestone triggers.


The Project’s weaknesses in results-based management largely stem from issues of the strategic results framework and from a sub-optimal focus of results planning and monitoring. While the MTR does not recommend revisiting the SRF at this juncture - as it will divert attention away from delivery - it is clear that without streamlining and prioritizing core deliverables, the Project is at a high risk of not realizing its core objective. Furthermore, the Project should avoid spreading itself thin and trying to accomplish everything in each state. Instead, the Project should focus on the value added and what elements have been advanced in each state to prove out a model that can be replicated in other states under the GoM’s national flagship CFS initiative. Following the MTR, it is recommended the Project revisit its 2022 Annual Work Plan and adopt a more streamlined work programme which prioritizes on the following investments:
f) Output 1.1.1: Implementation and refinement of the Biodiversity Monitoring Protocol in the CFS Landscape, one decision-making paper developed and submitted for approval to state and a module developed and included in the standard training programme for sustainable landscape forest management in the CFS (Output 2.3.3);
g) Output 1.2.1 - 1.2.566: (i) empowering 5 officers from each state forest department under the wildlife act; (ii) institutionalization of SMART based patrolling system within federal and state forest departments; (iii) enabling / accelerating prosecution of wildlife crime; (iv) data sharing agreement and common data sharing platform; (v) systematic capacity building programme related to monitor biodiversity; (vi) training on SOPs; and (vii) training on forestry crime monitoring, intelligence, investigation and prosecution at federal and state levels;
h) Outputs 2.2.2: more critical forest areas within the corridors gazetted based on the outcome of the ongoing study and recent tiger census data; i) Outputs 2.3.3: A standard training programme (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced) for sustainable forest landscape management within CFS developed, mainstreamed into existing CFS implementing agencies at each landscape and institutionalized within IBD Lanchang and/or relevant forestry training institutes;
j) Outputs 2.3.3: Continuation of dedicated CFS Counterpart Officer at each state. activity (Malayan Rainforest Station in Merapoh - hornbill stewards) + cross learning with other livelihood interventions;
h) Output 3.1.1 + 3.3.1: Financing plan + state buy-in / commitment to implement at least 1 measure (The end-of-project target is “one state has incorporated sustainable financing considerations into the CFS state plan and into their annual budget”).
f) Output 2.1.1: Finalization and implementation of Management Plan;
g) Output 2.3.1: Livelihood activities + cross learning with other livelihood interventions:
i. MNS - Tualang Honey Harvesting
ii. PSPC - Fish sanctuary, fly fishing, trail uilding for hiking / trekking and herb trail + plant nursery68
h) Output 2.3.1: Socio economic baseline study69;
i) Output 2.3.2: Study on economic losses due to HEC (ties in directly with the consultancy to develop a guideline and action plan on nonconsumptive wildlife tourism, which will be piloted
in RPS Air Banun);
j) Output 2.3.3: Training module on nonconsumptive wildlife tourism (bird watching and elephant spotting) developed by DWNP. Training will be piloted using this module. The target
audience is indigenous communities in CFS1:PL2 in Perak.
d) Output 2.2.1: Rehabilitation of degraded habitats70;
e) Output 2.1.1: Implementation of Management Plan;
f) Output 2.3.1: Livelihood activities: Ecotourism in Kg Peta (apparently initiated under CFS 1.0 but since then not monitored) - recommendation is simply to reinitiate monitoring and tracking of household income. Not to start anything new.
Note: Paring down the scope of work in line with the above and removing activities may have consequences and implications on the available budget. The Project should not expect the same budget envelope for less ambition and what was endorsed by the GEF. This however, will help focus on core work and deliverables in the time remaining that are likely to become the legacy of the IC-CFS project.


As best practice, it is recommended to strengthen due diligence and improve Social and Environmental Safeguards by:
a) Allocating funds towards contracting a short-term Safeguards Specialist from the existing UNDP BRH roster to undertake a desktop safeguards
review, to revisit the social and environmental risks identified by the Project at the outset and risks from planned activities, especially those relating to
the gazettement of ecological corridors;
b) Based on the risk of potential displacement, ensure the Orang Asli in the Project landscape are made aware of the grievance and FPIC
mechanism to UNDP if they disapprove of activities which threaten them;
c) Engaging MNS to conduct workshop(s) on free and prior informed consent as needed to inform communities of levers and recourse available to


There is currently insufficient focus on tiger conservation planning in Output 2.2.2. It is recommended the Project leverage tiger data census data as a bridge for collaborative decision-making,
bringing together FDPM and DWNP to look at the main points of connectivity and taking a holistic approach to tiger conservation.


The Project should consider repeating the capacity development scorecard immediately following the MTR to reassess progress against the baseline. Ideally this
should be done by an experienced consultant who - for continuity - should be engaged again to repeat it prior to the Terminal Evaluation. This will ensure
standardization and credibility in its results.


The Project needs to be more systematic and requires a paradigm shift with respect to increasing capacity. Currently most outputs are outsourced to consulting firms or to NGOs, which does not build in-house capacity. It is recommended to establish a knowledge transfer mechanism built by the Project in each of the Terms of Reference to strengthen Federal and State capacity. Finally, all 3 states need to be involved in all studies to enhance their understanding of CFS. Generally, CEPA activities should be put on pause at least until mid-2022, until there is a shared vision and coherent capacity building strategy as opposed to oneoff trainings and more progress on core deliverables which contribute to the Development Objective.
Additional Note:
• The CEPA programme to rehabilitate degraded forest areas (1 ha per state) has already been initiated insofar as hiring the consultants go. These are the ones from UPM. But their contract also includes research to analyses why rehabilitation of degraded forest areas failed previously, and which it seems FDPM needs since they don’t have a guideline on rehabilitating different types of forest areas. They’ve been using 1 standard guideline (and are required by the National Auditors to demonstrate that they are abiding by a guideline - and since there is only 1 standard guideline available, they defaulted to using that one). The latter should be allowed to continue.


Without a compelling business case of how the OSC will benefit the Project and help inform decision-making and what data sets from the Project itself will be
integrated, and without clearly documented requirements and architecture, this piece of work should either be wound down under the Project or taken forward using co-financing or FDPM resources as a separate initiative.


As the Project becomes more successful in empowering state officers under the Wildlife Act (in Perak currently 3 from PSPC and 2 from Forestry Department), it is imperative that the Forestry Department allocates resources to initiate patrolling and enforcement under the Wildlife Act.


In the absence of a standard training programme and to accelerate delivery of Output 2.3.3, the Project may consider leveraging and tailoring the existing training course on managing biodiversity in the landscape "A Common Vision on Biodiversity". The training should also encompass a module on the Biodiversity Monitoring Protocol in the CFS which has been
finalized. To ensure sustainability, this training course should be institutionalized in the relevant training institutes, trainers trained and offered to Project and state partners.


In the absence of a gender sensitive approach at the onset of the Project, all livelihood-related activities must document sex-disaggregated data and track incremental household incomes resulting from Project activities. A standardized tracking sheet may be disseminated to all relevant agencies/NGOs to ensure appropriate capture of data for monitoring and
evaluation. To ensure that indigenous women are benefitting from the activities geared towards them, agencies/ CSOs overseeing a livelihood activity must make sure that the
women who are conducting the livelihood activity receive the income directly, and that it is not disbursed or channeled through the male head of household (e.g.
raw beeswax production under the tualang honey harvesting project).


Improve the Project’s administrative, contracting and payment procedures:
a) revisit the Project’s administrative Standard Operating Procedures immediately following the MTR one final time and get sign off by the IA and IP with all use case scenarios and permutations fully documented therein. If new requirements emerge, an amendment to the SOPs shall be undertaken first, before they are introduced to minimize disruption and reputational risk. Any contracts already in flight should proceed uninterrupted;
b) standardize overhead / administrative payments to sub-contractors (e.g. pro bono work being done by WWF vs. 10% administration fee for MyCat);
c) establish a reasonable holdback to all work undertaken by consultants and firms, although the Project should use its discretion in cases where grassroots organizations do not have liquidity and are unable to “float” salary payments to Local Community Rangers;
d) establish Service Level Agreements for processing of payments and salaries and enforce these vigilantly. Deviations should be escalated to the Senior Management committee;
e) Implementing Agency to provide upfront and ongoing refresher training on financial procedures and obligations of GEF projects.


Provide upfront and ongoing refresher training on project management best practice and how to apply a gender lens to GEN2 projects should be the norm as is the case with other UNDP Country Offices. This can help build relationships with the IP and also establish the necessary readiness to succeed at implementation


Strengthen the Project’s governance and management arrangements:

a) initiate PSC meetings twice annually for the remainder of the Project. The first should gauge and take stock of progress on the previous year’s AWP and help remove barriers / obstacles to implementation, while the latter should approve the following year’s AWP. Additional extraordinary sittings of the PSC may be necessary as key issues and risks emerge, but these can be handled virtually or electronically;

b) establish a small Senior Management “escalation committee” made up of no more than 5 individuals as a formal mechanism to quickly resolve project operational bottlenecks that are escalated. It should function in parallel to the Project Steering Committee. This group can consist of the IA DRR, IP Deputy SG, rotating representative from the AMAP and the GEF OPF to resolve issues. The National Project Manager shall escalate issues (by way of a two-page briefing note) to the Senior Management committee that cannot be resolved internally by the Project through its governance mechanisms for a decision;

c) establish a more dedicated and targeted forum to engage the forestry department. Right now, there is just a yearly forum. There should be a dedicated session for this Project to engage Forestry and what needs to be done on an expedited basis;

d) empower the NPM to be the owner, strategist and orchestrator of all activities;

e) The job scope of the SPCs should be amended whereby oversight of the Project ought to be added into their respective KPIs to enable them to prioritize activities as opposed to ad hoc FDPM requests;

f) key decision makers from the Implementing Agency (IA) and Implementing Partner (IP) or their representatives with delegated decision-making authority must be present at key meetings (including PMU meetings, Annual Work Planning etc.). The IA and IP must either attend and contribute to discussion directly, or respect the country driven approach and decisions made at these forums. The Project should not be made to wait for post-facto input that can reverse decisions in the best interest of the Project. If a decision maker cannot be at the meeting either it is moved to accommodate or all parties shall respect decisions made. The IA should be invited to all key meetings.


Improve work planning, stakeholder engagement and communication:

a) Establish regular regimented project updates open to all Project stakeholders and to the PSC, to break out of silos and connect with the broader picture. It is incumbent on the NPM, in consultation with the NPD, to define the strategy and coherence of all work to deliver on the Project’s core objective;

b) Make better use of all members of the PSU ensuring accountability for roles and division of workload. The entire PMU and SPCs should understand the strategy behind activities and dependencies between them;

c) Establish a forum to enable cross-pollination between sub-contractors, between NGOs and between both, as a mechanism to surface dependencies, overlap and efficiencies;

d) Conduct exchange visits between the states involving teams of forestry staff, executing partners and community representatives with clear objectives for structured knowledge sharing, documentation and results dissemination;

e) Make an Engagement Plan for continuous and senior project engagement with corresponding senior levels at the States e.g., State EPU and State Secretary and at the Federal Level to the National Lands Council.


The Project’s efforts to engage women and to avoid elite capture of benefits at the community level are inadequate. In order to mainstream gender and social equity into implementation, the Project is advised to:

a) ensure both initial and ongoing “floating” support by UNDP community and gender subject matter experts to all projects within the portfolio is recommended. Projects should not bear the burden of undertaking gender responsive implementation and community engagement without proper guidance, especially if projects were not designed as such and afforded a budget to do so;

b) amend the Project’s “Stakeholder Participation and Communication Strategy”. The strategy document should contain the strategy of engaging women and other disadvantaged groups, informed by the Project’s forthcoming socio-economic survey(s) results. The strategy should spell out the principles of engaging women and disadvantaged groups into project implementation (including the identification of beneficiaries of livelihood development activities), translate them into clear strategies and operationalize them through a Stakeholder Participation and Communication Plan. This Plan should contain trackable targets which shall be linked to and tracked by the Project’s monitoring system;

c) collect indicators specific to gender and disadvantaged groups in the course of monitoring to allow adaptive management to focus on the effective mainstreaming of these broader development objectives18;

d) vigilantly collect sex-disaggregated data for utilization in all internal and external reporting including PIRs, PAR etc.;

e) give gender equity due consideration for identifying beneficiaries of livelihood investments. Instead of the generic type of activity (e.g., honey harvesting) driving the selection of eligible beneficiaries, the needs of those who are most heavily depending on forest resources and are thus most impacted by resource use restrictions for conservation should be identified and their alternative livelihood needs be met;

f) consciously contract women facilitators to engage with women in the Project landscapes;

g) ensure an understanding of gender-based power dynamics within a community. This understanding is essential in informing the design of activities and ensuring that the results are experienced equitably. For example, good practices for distribution of financial aid/ income to ensure that women are recipients of those funds.

Latest Evaluations

Contact us

1 UN Plaza
DC1-20th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Tel. +1 646 781 4200
Fax. +1 646 781 4213