Mid-Term Review of Project "Conservation of Snow Leopards and their Critical Ecosystems in Afghanistan"

Report Cover Image
Evaluation Plan:
2015-2022, Afghanistan
Evaluation Type:
Mid Term Project
Planned End Date:
03/2021
Completion Date:
05/2021
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
30,000

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Title Mid-Term Review of Project "Conservation of Snow Leopards and their Critical Ecosystems in Afghanistan"
Atlas Project Number: 00105859
Evaluation Plan: 2015-2022, Afghanistan
Evaluation Type: Mid Term Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 05/2021
Planned End Date: 03/2021
Management Response: Yes
Focus Area:
  • 1. Energy
  • 2. Others
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021)
  • 1. Output 1.5.1 Solutions adopted to achieve universal access to clean, affordable and sustainable energy
SDG Goal
  • Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
SDG Target
  • 7.1 By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services
Evaluation Budget(US $): 30,000
Source of Funding: GEF
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 30,000
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Nationality
William Andrew Laurie Consultant
GEF Evaluation: No
Key Stakeholders: MAIL
Countries: AFGHANISTAN
Lessons
Findings
Recommendations
1

Project reports should always present project progress firmly in the context of the overall programme

2

Deeper routine review and assessment of the impacts of project and programme actions and expenditure as measured against the objective and the outcomes.

3

The Project should explore avenues for continued funding for Snow Leopard conservation

4

Prepare a plan for extension of conservation activities to the whole of the Snow Leopard range in Afghanistan

5

Assess all project and programme initiated bodies and plans for sustainability and take appropriate action

6

 Diversify and widen stakeholder engagement

7

Expand project engagement with local universities

8

Ensure that training is deployed in the most effective manner

9

 Prepare new communication strategy emphasizing dialogue, feedback and dissemination

10

Extend the project by 12 months to ensure proper use of the remaining funds

11

Emphasize further development of the Wakhan National Park Management Plan through the PAC

12

Engage community conservation facilitators to deepen the dialogue and interaction with villagers

13

Post additional project staff in Wakhan over winter to work with communities and local government officials

1. Recommendation:

Project reports should always present project progress firmly in the context of the overall programme

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

The project activities are designed to contribute to one specific SRF indicators. The SRF indicators reflect progress toward project outcomes and objectives within the logical framework of the project. The links between project activities, outputs, outcome and overall objective of the project, as well as synergies with other WCS’s current projects, will be more elaborated and firmly presented in the progress reports. Outputs are easy to measure since they are the direct results of project activities. With outcomes, it is difficult to accurately determine the contribution of the project (attribution) in an open and dynamic environment where multiple actors (government, donor funded projects, private sector initiatives, and community-driven actions) all contribute to the outcome.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
WCS will improve M&E and reporting system (e.g. Quarterly Progress Report, Annual Progress Report, Project Implementation Report) to better present progress in the context of the overall programme.
[Added: 2021/09/17]
WCS 2021/06 Completed Quarterly Project Progress and PIR have been improved to better present progress in context of the overall project. Being initiated.
2. Recommendation:

Deeper routine review and assessment of the impacts of project and programme actions and expenditure as measured against the objective and the outcomes.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

In addition to the revision of the SRF based on the MTR recommendation, the project quarterly and annual progress reports will highlight project actions and outputs toward the outcomes and objective. However, the ecological indicators within the current SRF report impact on the status of wildlife and wild habitats are monitored by ecological, wildlife and livestock assessments. These are long-term monitoring systems which will extend beyond the life of the project and it will take time to determine long-term impacts.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Project Quarterly and Annually Progress Reports will highlight project actions and outputs toward the outcomes and objective
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/07/05]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated History
Adopt and apply the Social and Environmental Safeguard Principle (SEPS)
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/07/05]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated History
Revise the project SRF to add impact/objective level indicators that benefit entire programme, where necessary.
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/06/27]
WCS 2022/12 Not Initiated As per the guidance from donor GEF, the project has been paused since 15th August 2021. AFG CO is still awaiting GEF instructions and approval on resuming the project. History
3. Recommendation:

The Project should explore avenues for continued funding for Snow Leopard conservation

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

WCS is fully supportive to this recommendation and will work closely with UNDP to explore avenues for future funding for biodiversity and snow leopard conservation. WCS will also explore other sources of funding. Such as BIOFIN. Wildlife conservation is cross-cutting to all WCS’s work, and is included in all project concepts and proposals.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
UNDP and WCS will seek available funding streams to ensure biodiversity conservation particularly conservation of snow leopards and their critical ecosystems across Afghanistan.
[Added: 2021/09/17]
UNDP (Prosperity unit) and WCS 2022/12 Initiated This is a priority for WCS and WCS is exploring all options through support of UNPD to ensure multilateral funding such as GEF and GCF and bi-lateral donors. WCS Afghanistan is seeking support from WCS Global for fundraising.
4. Recommendation:

Prepare a plan for extension of conservation activities to the whole of the Snow Leopard range in Afghanistan

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

Some additional areas of Afghanistan’s confirmed Snow Leopard range within WNP’s buffer zone are already included for project interventions. WCS will work closely with UNDP for covering the whole of the Snow Leopard range in Afghanistan for potential new project/s.  WCS drafted concepts for extension of the Conservation of Snow Leopards and their Critical Ecosystem project to cover all snow leopard confirmed and potential habitats all over the country. The drafted concepts have been shared with UNDP for review and comments and UNDP is currently seeking opportunity to secure funding for these concept.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
WCS will work closely with UNDP to revise the existing concept notes and develop new project proposals.
[Added: 2021/09/17]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated WCS will incorporate UNDP’s comments in existing concept notes and re-submit it to UNDP for fund raising
UNDP will explore funding to extend the current project to cover all the snow leopard and its key pre species habitats
[Added: 2021/09/17]
UNDP (Prosperity unit) 2022/12 Not Initiated
5. Recommendation:

Assess all project and programme initiated bodies and plans for sustainability and take appropriate action

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2021/09/17]

WCS together with UNDP will work with government, particularly NEPA and MAIL, to ensure sustainability of project activities, such as running the IWT Taskforce, supporting local and newly established organizations/associations e.g. WPA, FMAs, RMAs, and WPAC, and continuation of the ranger programme. In order to maintain sustainability beyond the project lifetime, the project will develop an exit strategy and share it with UNDP CO and the project line ministries (NEPA and MAIL).

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The IWT Taskforce will be further strengthened and better functionalized through the remaining time of the project.
[Added: 2021/09/17]
NEPA with WCS support 2022/12 Initiated WCS is working with NEPA to strengthen the IWT Taskforce. Selected members of the taskforce will visit Wakhan to better know the situation and to engage local law enforcement in addressing IWT.
Work with MAIL to ensure the continuation of the ranger program for WNP
[Added: 2021/09/17]
WCS in partnership with MAIL 2022/12 Initiated MAIL has expressed their desire to continue and expand the ranger program. WCS is currently providing SMART training for gov. rangers to increase their knowledge and skills, with the aim of integrating MAIL’s rangers with community rangers in one coordinated system.
WCS will continue to work with NEPA to ensure the sustainability of the IWT Taskforce (funding, institutionalization, and operationalization) beyond the project.
[Added: 2021/09/17]
WCS working with NEPA 2022/12 Initiated NEPA is committed to sustaining the IWT Taskforce. Most of the costs can be covered by routine budgets of the participating Ministries and Agencies. There is however a need for some continuing donor support. WCS will write support for IWT-TF into new concepts and proposals. This will include new Snow Leopard projects
WCS will finalize establishment of the WPAC and registration of the RMAs/FMAs by MAIL.
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/07/05]
WCS with MAIL and NEPA 2022/12 Initiated History
Accelerate approval of WNP Management Plan
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2021/11/07]
WCS 2021/10 No Longer Applicable [Justification: Project is on hold until further notice.]
The key action is no more valid as the project is on hold until further notice History
Develop a project exit strategy to ensure project sustainability beyond the project timeframe.
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/06/27]
WCS and UNDP 2022/12 Not Initiated As per the guidance from donor GEF, the project has been paused since 15th August 2021. AFG CO is still awaiting GEF instructions and approval on resuming the project. History
6. Recommendation:

 Diversify and widen stakeholder engagement

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

The project has already engaged with a full range of stakeholders. The Project Board Members have been defined by the Project Document. The PB is chaired by NEPA and any additional members would need to be agreed by PB Members. The only PB member who was unable to attend the previous PB meeting was the Wakhan Pamir Association (WPA). This was due to logistics and travel restrictions.  In order to resolve this and if circumstance allow, the project will convene the next PB meeting in WNP to include the WPA member as well.

In addition, the Illegal Wildlife Trade Taskforce and IWT Consultation and Assessment Process engaged a full range of stakeholders (government ministries and agencies at the national and provincial level, law enforcement agencies, private sector, academia, civil society, community representatives, women and youth) across all regions and provinces of Afghanistan. The development of the Climate Model and Vulnerability Assessment Tool also engages a wide range of stakeholders in field assessments, workshops and trainings.

The project also provided opportunity for 6 students (3 males and 3 females) from Badakhshan University and 6 students (4 males and 2 females) from Kabul University to involve in the project implementation in Kabul and Badakhshan (Wakhan, Ishkashim, and Zebak districts) to enhance their conservation knowledge and experience. This initiative will be considered during the remaining of the project. The project will also identify specific activities e.g. assessments and studies for university professors and lecturers to complete to involve in the project intervention areas.WCS in 2021 has a very strong commitment to gender equality. Globally, one of WCS's thematic areas is Rights and Communities. WCS also has a strong commitment to supporting the rights of indigenous and local communities. This is reflected in WNP where WCS has been working with traditional Wakhi and Kyrgyz communities for the declaration and co-management of their traditional lands in WNP. When designing project activities, WCS ensures that activities do not put an added burden on women. WCS's Rights and Communities Unit now includes a Gender and Environment Specialist, a Gender and Environment Officer, and an EEP and Community Engagement Specialist. The Rights and Community Unit here in Afghanistan is supported by WCS's Global Rights and Communities experts. WCS has mobilized funding from CEPF to carry out gender analysis for WNP and buffer zone districts in 2021 as added value to the project.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Convene project Board in WNP to include WPA
[Added: 2021/09/17]
WCS 2021/08 Completed If conditions allow, the project will convene the PB meeting in WNP. This will allow WPA members to attend, and also provide other board members with the opportunity to visit WNP and observe the project first hand. This will improve their understanding of the project and the challenges facing conservation and development in isolated SNP. If this is not possible due to COVID-19 restrictions, security or any other factors, then the project will invite the WPA members to Kabul to participate in the PB meeting.
7. Recommendation:

Expand project engagement with local universities

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

The project is already engaged with universities at Provincial and National Level. Engagement with both Kabul University and Badakhshan University are already significant. In the past, the focus has primarily been on Agriculture faculties particularly Forestry and Natural Resources. With Climate Change and a holistic approach to biodiversity conservation as outlined in the Draft Zero Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, WCS is expanding its engagement with other faculties. For example, for Climate Change and Vulnerability Assessment Tool, this includes a range of faculties, which are being invited to trainings with programme funding (i.e., EU). The project has an internship program targeting students and recent graduates from Kabul and Badakhshan Universities. Currently, 12 students and recent graduated students (5 females and 7 males) are involved in IWT national assessment, tree planting, and other activities in Kabul and WNP.The Project Manager is an associate professor at Kabul University where he teaches conservation classes e.g. Introduction to Forestry, Introduction to Environmental Conservation, Natural Resources Management and Forest Policy and Administration.  Therefore, there is good engagement with universities.The project is also engaged with the National Agriculture Education Collage (NAEC) to work with their Natural Resource Management Department in developing an applied curriculum. Two consultation meetings between NAEC and the Project have been held to discuss the NRM Department curriculum.The project will continue to provide support and expand engagement with universities.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Work with the selected universities / faculties to enrich their curricula to include natural resources management and biodiversity conservation materials and lectures.
[Added: 2021/09/17]
WCS working with project partners MAIL and NEPA 2022/12 Initiated The project will continue to work with the National Agriculture Education Collage (NAEC) and Kabul University, and where possible, to support them in curricula development.
Provide university students with opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills in conservation and sustainable development through an internship program, including students from Wakhan, Ishkashim, and Zebak
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/07/05]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated History
Seek ways to involve university staff and university students wherever the opportunity arises, for example, to assist with assessments
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/07/05]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated History
8. Recommendation:

Ensure that training is deployed in the most effective manner

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

The project has deployed training in an effective manner from the beginning. The project will use past experience and lessons learned to enrich the training materials, workshops and on-the-job capacity development efforts.  The training covers all three outcomes of the project e.g. under the first outcome, training for law enforcement agencies to fight against poaching and IWT; Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) training for community and government rangers; training for community and government rangers in identifying snow leopard perdition incidents will contribute in reduction of illegal take and trade of snow leopards and conflict between human and livestock through greater community involvement. Training for community rangers in collecting data on snow leopards and their prey species; training for community members and district agriculture officials on tree husbandry for sustainable forestry practices; training for government staff at national, provincial and district level on adaptive, climate-smart land-use planning across the snow leopard landscape, and facilitation of exchange visit and a study tour for relevant government technical staff and community representatives at the national level to observe best practices on co-management of national parks will contribute in improvement of land use planning across critical snow Leopards ecosystem to reduce impacts of forest loss, land degradation and climate change impact. Developing outreach materials and conducting outreach activities on the importance of biodiversity and conservation will contribute to the third outcome of the project.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Revise training and outreach materials based on lessons learned and past experiences
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/07/05]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated History
Strengthening on-the-job training for government officials at national, provincial and district levels as well as for community and government rangers on different related conservation topics i.e. IWT, SMART, HWC, land use planning and etc.
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/07/05]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated History
9. Recommendation:

 Prepare new communication strategy emphasizing dialogue, feedback and dissemination

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

This is a specific communication strategy for conservation of snow leopards in order to increase awareness of local communities and other actors involved in poaching, trade, and on the important of wildlife conservation and relevant laws. However, WCS has an overall Communication and Visibility Strategy that covers almost all stakeholders, including general public and government staff and cover the overall program. The project will revise the Snow Leopard Communication Strategy by emphasis further on dialogue, feedback and dissemination.  

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Keep the WCS website updated to ensure that all results of the project initiatives are shared widely with relevant stakeholders
[Added: 2021/09/17]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated Project initiatives will be reflected in the WCS program website. WCS is working with NEPA to develop the Afghanistan Clearing House Mechanism (CHM) to include all formal and informal biodiversity related information.
Continue communication with GSLEP, SLN, GWP and other international Snow Leopard conservation groups and projects across the Snow Leopard Range.
[Added: 2021/09/17]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated Contacts have already been established and WCS, NEPA, and the project are part of the global movements toward biodiversity conservation, e.g. snow leopard conservation initiatives
Together with NEPA and MAIL, the project will revise and monitor the Snow Leopard Communication and Visibility Strategy with emphasis on dialogue, feedback and dissemination.
[Added: 2021/09/17]
WCS 2021/08 Completed WCS has always used dialogue, feedback and dissemination as part of the Snow Leopard Communication Strategy, as well as WCS’s overall wildlife communication strategy. This provides WCS with the opportunity to revise and improve these strategies.
10. Recommendation:

Extend the project by 12 months to ensure proper use of the remaining funds

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

: Agreed. Extra time is required to complete new and outstanding activities resulting from the MTR, and also for final evaluation and reporting

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
WCS will work closely with UNDP for a no-cost extension for the project which might require revision of the project based on MTR recommendations, lessons-learned and adaptive management.
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/07/05]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated History
11. Recommendation:

Emphasize further development of the Wakhan National Park Management Plan through the PAC

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

The Wakhan National Park Management Plan was prepared for a five-year period which ends in 2022. Thus, the present plan needs to be revised in 2022. The present WNP MP needs to be finalized and officially enacted as a requirement for the official formation of the Protected Area Committee (PAC).The existing WNP MP has already been signed by the PAC members and Chairman, and NEPA Director General and its waiting for the for MAIL Minister’s signature to be finalized and enacted. The project will facilitate and follow up with GD-NRM/MAIL to get the Minister’s signature. Meanwhile the project will work and liaise with the WPAC and government entities to take responsibility for WNP MP implementation. WCS has confirmed funding to support meetings and capacity building for WPAC.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Build the capacity of WPAC for the co-management of WNP
[Added: 2021/09/17]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated History
Follow up with the GD-NRM/MAIL to have the Minister sign the WNP MP
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2021/11/07]
WCS 2021/10 No Longer Applicable [Justification: project is on hold until further notice]
This key action is no more valid as the project is on hold until further notice History
12. Recommendation:

Engage community conservation facilitators to deepen the dialogue and interaction with villagers

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

WCS supports the concept of engaging community facilitators. There are now many university and secondary school graduates in Wakhan, and most are unemployed. Community facilitators can be trained to facilitate community conservation and development planning, support the functioning of established NRM associations, provide training to community members based on needs assessments, and operate community information centers as they develop across WNP. The focus would be on building the capacity of youth, young men and women, to lead development in their own communities. WCS is exploring the opportunity to using project funding to pilot digital community learning centers for village clusters across WNP, and have community facilitators trained to operate these centers. In 2021, access to internet is essential for conservation and development in isolated areas like WNP. For many, access to the internet is considered a human right. To date, the project’s approach has been to employ Wakhi staff. Local staff from Wakhan and Badakhshan make up the majority of the field team in Wakhan, including team leader, EEP officers, WNP rangers, and ecological surveyors. These local staff facilitate community-based conservation dialogue with local communities. Additionally, the project has been working closely with and building on capacities of local institutions (WPA, WPAC, RMAs, FMAs, CDCs, etc.) to further deepen and localize conservation dialogues. They have played the role of facilitators to work with villagers. The project will continue  supporting, strengthening and facilitating the existing protocols for dialogue and interaction with villagers, while the option of community facilitators is being explored.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
WCS will develop a concept and TOR for community facilitators and digital community learning centers
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/07/05]
WCS 2022/12 Initiated History
13. Recommendation:

Post additional project staff in Wakhan over winter to work with communities and local government officials

Management Response: [Added: 2021/09/17]

Majority of the project field staff, including support and programme staff as well as rangers, remain operational in Wakhan year-round. They continue communicating with local communities and local government as necessary under supervision and guidance of the WCS Management Team. However, due to harsh winters and nature of the activities, and challenging logistics, most of field interventions are suspended during few winter-months. There are also environmental concerns about significant biofuel use during this month. Having village facilitators active in their home village/community is one way for WCS to have year round engagement. Proposed digital community information centers can remain open year round. Community facilitators can then communicate with WCS technical and management team during winter, and be provided with training and coaching virtually.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
WCS will develop a concept and TOR for community facilitators and digital community learning center
[Added: 2021/09/17] [Last Updated: 2022/01/08]
WCS 2021/10 No Longer Applicable [Justification: Project is on hold until further notice]
All vertical funded projects have been put on-hold since 15 August 2021. So there is no follow-up and no actions have been taken so far. We are trying to get the approval from donor to start the project again through UNDP DIM modality. History

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