Evaluation of the Atoll-Ecosystem Conservation Project

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Evaluation Plan:
2011-2015, Maldives
Evaluation Type:
Final Project
Planned End Date:
11/2012
Completion Date:
11/2012
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
15,000

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Title Evaluation of the Atoll-Ecosystem Conservation Project
Atlas Project Number: 00038902
Evaluation Plan: 2011-2015, Maldives
Evaluation Type: Final Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 11/2012
Planned End Date: 11/2012
Management Response: Yes
Focus Area:
  • 1. Environment & Sustainable Development
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2014-2017)
  • 1. Development plans and programmes integrate environmentally sustainable solutions in a manner that promotes poverty reduction, MDG achievement and low-emission climate-resilient development
  • 2. National and local governments and communities have the capacities to adapt to climate change and make inclusive and sustainable environment & energy decisions benefitting in particular under-served populations
Evaluation Budget(US $): 15,000
Source of Funding: GEF
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Elena Laura Ferretti Independent Consultant elferretti@virgilio.it
GEF Evaluation: Yes
Evaluation Type:
Focal Area: Biodiversity
Project Type: FSP
GEF Phase: GEF-1
PIMS Number: 1044
Key Stakeholders: Government; Beneficiary Islands
Countries: MALDIVES
Lessons
Findings
Recommendations
1 The AEC Project has not focused enough on capacity building notwithstanding the fact that the capacity issue is the subject of all conversations. An important investment in capacity development needs to be done at different levels: BRO: staff is new and requires both management and technical skills; the two months input of the Capacity Builder will not exhaust needs; it is recommended to: i) take full advantage of existing capacity building possibilities (general organisation and environmental management) that resorts/diving centres can offer as confirmed during the interviews for this TE but ensure this is done under MEE/EPA leadership; ii) ensure BRO is provided with the basic means to operate: hire the two additional envisaged rangers, provide the necessary number of boats (currently they are operating with only one rented boat) and consider handing over the AEC Project speed boat; iii) ensure EPA support is maintained: ideally an EPA staff should be seconded to the BRO for a sufficient period of time; in other atolls: for replication purposes and to sustain the decentralization process; at central level: although not recognized as urgent, capacities need to be strengthened also in line-ministries to ensure adaptive management and full application and replication of the decentralised environmental management model. With the new electoral period approaching, this is even more evident. It is recommended that the Government: i) develops clear guidelines and codes of practice for integrating biodiversity into sectoral policies and programmes; ii) proceed to the revision of the Environmental and Fisheries Law; iii) orient policy/regulatory mechanisms towards the provision of additional incentives to support conservation and ecosystem/biodiversity management; iv) strengthen enforcement mechanisms.
2 The AEC Project has been extremely successful in building partnerships and raising enthusiasm; the private sector embraced the Project?s objectives and communities generally adhere to the BR concept; however this may quickly be reversed if the management of the Reserve does not prove effective: the private sector has very different ways of working and getting things done; on the other hand communities have long expected tangible results for livelihood activities; these need to be urgently shown in the field to ensure momentum is not lost through a smooth and quick implementation of BACF activities.
3 Awareness raising about the importance of observing the rules and regulations established or to be established in the BR and protected areas? management plans must be a continuous activity which utilizes different means targeted to different audiences. Ideally curricula revision should be undertaken to provide for environmental and biodiversity teaching material; additional targeted tools can be utilized, among others: i) strips and comics for kids in schools but also for adults at community level; ii) frequent meetings between the Atoll Council/Island Councils with the BR staff to revert the current gap in communication; iii) a simple version of the Valuing Biodiversity Study for dissemination to local administration staff, local communities, schools: islanders must know the value of the natural resources and the fragility of the environment on which they live; iv) NGOs and WDC should be given the opportunity to play a role in raising and maintaining awareness as they can be instrumental for the BR sustainability.
4 Monitoring mechanisms should be ensured and structured at various level: i) to financially monitor BACF: the Department of Planning/MFT informed that all its staff is undergoing results-based management training but that skilled personnel should be assigned to the careful management of the new trust fund; ii) to monitor the quality of implementation of the future livelihood projects under BACF: discussions are on-going to build on UNDP experience with the GEF Small Grants Programme and the Mangrove for the Future. The system should be simple but effective; a final report on achievements will not suffice as implementation of the proposals should be constantly monitored; a mechanism for beneficiaries to control on each other should be found; this may prove particularly beneficial to control fishermen?s activities. UNDP attention is drawn on the management of unspent Truc Funds (left balances from the Women Development Project, the Goidhoo Agricultural Project and the previously envisaged ferry terminal in Eydhafushi): it should be ensured these funds are spent for the envisaged purpose or be given a different destination (i.e. be integrated in the BACF) to allow UNDP to close its accounts.
5 Many users currently identify the BR with Hanifaru PA; the current low degree of conflict among fishermen or the fact that Coco Resort did not sign the partnership agreement probably because located too far from Hanifaru Bay seem to confirm this hypothesis. Draft management plans have been prepared for another 5 PA of the Reserve and should be completed as soon as possible and put under implementation. The level of conflict is likely to arise as more areas will be prohibited for certain fishing or recreational activities modalities. Conflict resolution mechanisms should be envisaged.
6 Climate change challenges the country?s own existence. The Consultant has difficulties in understanding the reasons for which this risk has been overlooked in planning without considering adaptive measures at least in the last period of island and atoll?s planning; although at project start the concept was not as explicit as it is today, there has been many occasions during a decade of implementation to bring it to the attention of management and stakeholders. The development of the BR management plan shall consider climate change adaptive measures at atoll and islands level.
7 An extension of the BR to the entire country in five years time appears optimistic, although it has the positive effect of keeping national/international attention on the subject. Fiscal balance difficulties and the economic interests at stake, with a large number of households engaging in fisheries, may make the process harder than expected. The model is not immediately replicable as it is unlikely that less tourist dependent atolls may have the same opportunities to create sustainable private-public partnerships and generate sustainable financial resources. If the point is not to have a designation label but effective management, a network of PA covering the different atolls could be a more practical possibility. It is recommended that before up-scaling the BR at national level, i) sustainable tangible results are reached in Baa Atoll, ii) careful analysis is done of each atoll economic characteristics to identify possible sustainable elements, iii) proper consideration is given to the difficult and time-consuming process of constructing partnerships while at the same time producing scientific knowledge; iv) the awareness ground is prepared from the grassroots level by revising educational material and curricula, train teachers and work with the media sector; v) ensure that an eventual upscale do not jeopardize the visibility and prestige of the Baa Atoll BR; vi) ensure waste management is addressed: there cannot be a BR with the current waste situation.
8 A participatory exercise involving relevant national and local stakeholders, including representatives of the Baa communities should be made to identify the major lessons learnt from the process of applying the decentralised environmental management model to conserve biodiversity and build future management on strengths and opportunities. The exercise should prove useful for all stakeholders, considering that the capacity to go beyond daily management and provide for ?pauses of reflection? on the significance of achievements reached was lacking during Project development. A knowledge sharing mechanism can utilise existing networks such as the Shark Network and the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network has envisaged in the original project design.
9 The Consultant?s has collected positive information on the commitment of the various stakeholders to sustain the BR; notwithstanding the current fiscal balance difficulties, the Government?s position to enrol the BR staff under the civil service is a clear expression of interest. However the BR is as fragile as the corals it intends to protect; complete donor support withdrawal at this stage may jeopardize achievements and it is recommended that a supporting and supervisory role is maintained. UNDP and GEF appear open to provide some kind of assistance and supervision; the way in which this will be done is not yet decided but the upcoming Mid-Term Evaluation of UNDAF provides the occasion for assessing the way forward. Apparently a couple of years ago GEF had offered the possibility to scale up activities at national level but evidently the times were not yet mature and the Government seemed not interested in this possibility. Surely with the intention to replicate the project in other atolls and having the BR in all the country, today this offer would be regarded in a different way.
10 An ex-post evaluation is suggested in a couple of years time to assess impact and future benefits generated by the implementation of the BACP or the new BR management plan and the functioning of BACF and the way in which portions of funding raised as a result of biodiversity resource use are allocated to directly finance local initiatives. The ex-post evaluation should be prepared in an appropriate way by at least providing for: i) the implementation of the envisaged monitoring surveys of atoll biodiversity and ecosystem health conditions which have not been done by the end of the Project; ii) the update of databases or the GIS if functioning; iii) the selection of a control group in another atoll.
1. Recommendation: The AEC Project has not focused enough on capacity building notwithstanding the fact that the capacity issue is the subject of all conversations. An important investment in capacity development needs to be done at different levels: BRO: staff is new and requires both management and technical skills; the two months input of the Capacity Builder will not exhaust needs; it is recommended to: i) take full advantage of existing capacity building possibilities (general organisation and environmental management) that resorts/diving centres can offer as confirmed during the interviews for this TE but ensure this is done under MEE/EPA leadership; ii) ensure BRO is provided with the basic means to operate: hire the two additional envisaged rangers, provide the necessary number of boats (currently they are operating with only one rented boat) and consider handing over the AEC Project speed boat; iii) ensure EPA support is maintained: ideally an EPA staff should be seconded to the BRO for a sufficient period of time; in other atolls: for replication purposes and to sustain the decentralization process; at central level: although not recognized as urgent, capacities need to be strengthened also in line-ministries to ensure adaptive management and full application and replication of the decentralised environmental management model. With the new electoral period approaching, this is even more evident. It is recommended that the Government: i) develops clear guidelines and codes of practice for integrating biodiversity into sectoral policies and programmes; ii) proceed to the revision of the Environmental and Fisheries Law; iii) orient policy/regulatory mechanisms towards the provision of additional incentives to support conservation and ecosystem/biodiversity management; iv) strengthen enforcement mechanisms.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31]

The AEC Project has not focused enough on capacity building: This Project is in biodiversity not capacity building It is recommended that the Government : i) develops clear guidelines and codes iii) orient policy/regulatory mechanisms t ; iv) strengthen enforcement mechanisms. ii) proceed to the revision of the Environmental and Fisheries Law; iii) All 4 points mentioned are very vague as these are ongoing initiatives by the government and some even are already in the process.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Implement Capacity Building options outlined by the Capacity Building Consultant for BR Office
[Added: 2013/01/31]
MEE/EPA 2011/01 Overdue-Not Initiated within 5 years starting 2013.
2. Recommendation: The AEC Project has been extremely successful in building partnerships and raising enthusiasm; the private sector embraced the Project?s objectives and communities generally adhere to the BR concept; however this may quickly be reversed if the management of the Reserve does not prove effective: the private sector has very different ways of working and getting things done; on the other hand communities have long expected tangible results for livelihood activities; these need to be urgently shown in the field to ensure momentum is not lost through a smooth and quick implementation of BACF activities.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31]

Agreed.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Through grants from BACF, pilot 2 to 3 tangible results in the area of livelihood.
[Added: 2013/01/31]
MEE/EPA/BR OFFICE/BACF 2013/12 Overdue-Not Initiated
3. Recommendation: Awareness raising about the importance of observing the rules and regulations established or to be established in the BR and protected areas? management plans must be a continuous activity which utilizes different means targeted to different audiences. Ideally curricula revision should be undertaken to provide for environmental and biodiversity teaching material; additional targeted tools can be utilized, among others: i) strips and comics for kids in schools but also for adults at community level; ii) frequent meetings between the Atoll Council/Island Councils with the BR staff to revert the current gap in communication; iii) a simple version of the Valuing Biodiversity Study for dissemination to local administration staff, local communities, schools: islanders must know the value of the natural resources and the fragility of the environment on which they live; iv) NGOs and WDC should be given the opportunity to play a role in raising and maintaining awareness as they can be instrumental for the BR sustainability.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31]

Agreed Awareness is an ongoing process and THE BR Office with EPA and MEE will be undertaking this at atoll level as planned

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Awareness on Biosphere Reserve
[Added: 2013/01/31]
MEE/EPA/BR OFFICE/BACF 2011/01 Overdue-Not Initiated 2013 onwards
4. Recommendation: Monitoring mechanisms should be ensured and structured at various level: i) to financially monitor BACF: the Department of Planning/MFT informed that all its staff is undergoing results-based management training but that skilled personnel should be assigned to the careful management of the new trust fund; ii) to monitor the quality of implementation of the future livelihood projects under BACF: discussions are on-going to build on UNDP experience with the GEF Small Grants Programme and the Mangrove for the Future. The system should be simple but effective; a final report on achievements will not suffice as implementation of the proposals should be constantly monitored; a mechanism for beneficiaries to control on each other should be found; this may prove particularly beneficial to control fishermen?s activities. UNDP attention is drawn on the management of unspent Truc Funds (left balances from the Women Development Project, the Goidhoo Agricultural Project and the previously envisaged ferry terminal in Eydhafushi): it should be ensured these funds are spent for the envisaged purpose or be given a different destination (i.e. be integrated in the BACF) to allow UNDP to close its accounts.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31]

Will be undertaken as per the Memorandaum and articles of association of BACF

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Financial Monitoring for the management of BACF:
[Added: 2013/01/31]
MEE/BACF 2011/01 Overdue-Not Initiated 2013 onwards.
5. Recommendation: Many users currently identify the BR with Hanifaru PA; the current low degree of conflict among fishermen or the fact that Coco Resort did not sign the partnership agreement probably because located too far from Hanifaru Bay seem to confirm this hypothesis. Draft management plans have been prepared for another 5 PA of the Reserve and should be completed as soon as possible and put under implementation. The level of conflict is likely to arise as more areas will be prohibited for certain fishing or recreational activities modalities. Conflict resolution mechanisms should be envisaged.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31]

Do not agree to this comment. Coco Resort did not sign the partnership agreement probably because located too far from Hanifaru Bay seem to confirm this hypothesis: Do not agree to this as well

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Complete remaining 5 Draft management plans as discussed and agreed previously with all stakeholders.
[Added: 2013/01/31]
MEE/EPA/BR OFFICE 2011/01 Overdue-Not Initiated 2013 - 2018.
6. Recommendation: Climate change challenges the country?s own existence. The Consultant has difficulties in understanding the reasons for which this risk has been overlooked in planning without considering adaptive measures at least in the last period of island and atoll?s planning; although at project start the concept was not as explicit as it is today, there has been many occasions during a decade of implementation to bring it to the attention of management and stakeholders. The development of the BR management plan shall consider climate change adaptive measures at atoll and islands level.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31]

Agreed.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Incorporate Climate Adaptive measures where possible into the work of BR
[Added: 2013/01/31]
MEE/EPA/BR OFFICE 2011/01 Overdue-Not Initiated 2013 onwards.
7. Recommendation: An extension of the BR to the entire country in five years time appears optimistic, although it has the positive effect of keeping national/international attention on the subject. Fiscal balance difficulties and the economic interests at stake, with a large number of households engaging in fisheries, may make the process harder than expected. The model is not immediately replicable as it is unlikely that less tourist dependent atolls may have the same opportunities to create sustainable private-public partnerships and generate sustainable financial resources. If the point is not to have a designation label but effective management, a network of PA covering the different atolls could be a more practical possibility. It is recommended that before up-scaling the BR at national level, i) sustainable tangible results are reached in Baa Atoll, ii) careful analysis is done of each atoll economic characteristics to identify possible sustainable elements, iii) proper consideration is given to the difficult and time-consuming process of constructing partnerships while at the same time producing scientific knowledge; iv) the awareness ground is prepared from the grassroots level by revising educational material and curricula, train teachers and work with the media sector; v) ensure that an eventual upscale do not jeopardize the visibility and prestige of the Baa Atoll BR; vi) ensure waste management is addressed: there cannot be a BR with the current waste situation.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31]

This will be undertaken as a separate project by the GOM based on the lessons learned from the Baa Atoll AEC project

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Rolling out of Biosphere reserve
[Added: 2013/01/31]
MEE/EPA/LGA 2011/01 Overdue-Not Initiated 2013 onwards.
8. Recommendation: A participatory exercise involving relevant national and local stakeholders, including representatives of the Baa communities should be made to identify the major lessons learnt from the process of applying the decentralised environmental management model to conserve biodiversity and build future management on strengths and opportunities. The exercise should prove useful for all stakeholders, considering that the capacity to go beyond daily management and provide for ?pauses of reflection? on the significance of achievements reached was lacking during Project development. A knowledge sharing mechanism can utilise existing networks such as the Shark Network and the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network has envisaged in the original project design.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31]

Agreed.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Undertake the exercise to identify the lessons learnt with the already existing information
[Added: 2013/01/31]
MEE/EPA/BR OFFICE 2013/12 Overdue-Not Initiated
9. Recommendation: The Consultant?s has collected positive information on the commitment of the various stakeholders to sustain the BR; notwithstanding the current fiscal balance difficulties, the Government?s position to enrol the BR staff under the civil service is a clear expression of interest. However the BR is as fragile as the corals it intends to protect; complete donor support withdrawal at this stage may jeopardize achievements and it is recommended that a supporting and supervisory role is maintained. UNDP and GEF appear open to provide some kind of assistance and supervision; the way in which this will be done is not yet decided but the upcoming Mid-Term Evaluation of UNDAF provides the occasion for assessing the way forward. Apparently a couple of years ago GEF had offered the possibility to scale up activities at national level but evidently the times were not yet mature and the Government seemed not interested in this possibility. Surely with the intention to replicate the project in other atolls and having the BR in all the country, today this offer would be regarded in a different way.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31]

Complete donor support withdrawal at this stage may jeopardize achievements and it is recommended that a supporting and supervisory role is maintained. The Ministry with the technical assistance of EPA is at present involved in this. GEF had offered the possibility to scale up activities at national level

Key Actions:

10. Recommendation: An ex-post evaluation is suggested in a couple of years time to assess impact and future benefits generated by the implementation of the BACP or the new BR management plan and the functioning of BACF and the way in which portions of funding raised as a result of biodiversity resource use are allocated to directly finance local initiatives. The ex-post evaluation should be prepared in an appropriate way by at least providing for: i) the implementation of the envisaged monitoring surveys of atoll biodiversity and ecosystem health conditions which have not been done by the end of the Project; ii) the update of databases or the GIS if functioning; iii) the selection of a control group in another atoll.
Management Response: [Added: 2013/01/31]

?Undertake ex-post evaluation? needs to be defined more. BACF and BR Office has certain reporting mechanisms and what is recommended will be undertaken once the reporting is completed.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Undertake an ex-post evaluation.
[Added: 2013/01/31]
MEE/BR OFFICE/EPA 2015/12 Overdue-Not Initiated

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