Terminal Evaluation Report Promoting ecotourism to strengthen the financial sustainability of the Guatemalan Protected Areas System (SIGAP)

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Evaluation Plan:
2015-2019, Guatemala
Evaluation Type:
Final Project
Planned End Date:
08/2017
Completion Date:
10/2017
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
7,000

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Title Terminal Evaluation Report Promoting ecotourism to strengthen the financial sustainability of the Guatemalan Protected Areas System (SIGAP)
Atlas Project Number: 00064681
Evaluation Plan: 2015-2019, Guatemala
Evaluation Type: Final Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 10/2017
Planned End Date: 08/2017
Management Response: Yes
Focus Area:
  • 1. Others
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2014-2017)
  • 1. Output 1.4. Scaled up action on climate change adaptation and mitigation across sectors which is funded and implemented
Evaluation Budget(US $): 7,000
Source of Funding: UND/GEF
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 22,736
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Silvia R. Ziller
GEF Evaluation: Yes
GEF Project Title: Promoting ecotourism to strengthen the financial sustainability of the Guatemalan Protected Areas System (SIGAP)
Evaluation Type: Terminal Evaluation
Focal Area: Biodiversity
Project Type: FSP
GEF Phase: GEF-4
GEF Project ID: 4191
PIMS Number: 3374
Key Stakeholders: National Council on Protected Areas
Countries: GUATEMALA
Lessons
1.

Institutional coordination is essential for best results in the development of tourism with environmental sustainability criteria in protected areas. This was expressed by representatives of INGUAT and CONAP who understood and saw the advantages of cooperation to both institutions due to the implementation of activities of mutual interest facilitated by the project.

 

It is very important to adjust projects to the institutional capacity of the executing agency. Large projects generate many new activities and an extra work load to employees, who are often insufficient in number. Simultaneous projects are also common. These conditions create risks for the projects in terms of achieving expected results.

Activities that may strengthen environmental institutions should be considered for inclusion in projects. Especially large projects should support specific activities focused on strengthening institutional budgetary requirements. To develop specific studies on conservation issues considered national priorities for presentation to the National Congress, such as natural disasters due to climate change or the maintenance of ecosystem services essential for production, may help authorities betetr perceive the value of institutions in charge of environmental issues.

An assessment of stakeholder priorities is key to facilitate project ownership and achievement of goals. This applies more specifically to municipalities, but also to protected areas not directly managed by CONAP. Such an analysis would identify activities and needs that could have been included in the project to favor the establishment of agreements and better cooperation to achieve expected results. Although such an assessment was carried out in the design phase, changes in personnel and in the external context of the project often complicate practical application.

 

It is important to involve CONAP directors and technical staff of CONAP Regional Offices since the design phase of projects so they can contribute to concepts and provide notions of regional reality. This promotes project ownership as implementation progresses, as well as sustainability once the project is terminated. Technical staff with regional experience should also be involved in capacity building workshops so they can later function as facilitators. Staff in CONAP Regional Offices expressed some regret for not having been involved in the selection of consultants. This is more than anything due to the fact that some of the consultancy reports that were not considered satisfactory required revision and corrections by CONAP staff. Although quality issues in consultancy reports will most likely not be solved if technical staff participate in selection processes, participation would increase collaboration and engagement in improving unsatisfactory products.

Involvement of the private sector increases the sustainability of project activities and programs for applying, in practice, what was designed and approved in documents and products, while reducing the impact of political changes.

The implementation of monitoring of biological indicators and impacts of visitation in protected areas must be adjusted to local capacity. Simple protocols are more easily adopted and implemented, while complementary data can be requested in the long term after park rangers and others in charge have gained more experience.

It is important that the increase in capacity to perform evaluations of impact caused by tourist visitation, objective of several capacity building workshops organized by the project, is followed by increased knowledge in possible mitigation alternatives so that protected area managers are able to take immediate corrective action once problems are detected.

Managers of the pilot protected areas represented by municipalities and associations evaluated using the UNDP Institutional Capacity Scorecard clearly demonstrate better ability to participate in processes and projects and, in second place, to generate, access and use information and knowledge to develop strategies, policies and legislation, while capacity for management and implementation of activities and for monitoring and evaluation are significantly lower. These three groups of criteria are clearly separated in the scorecard, which might be related to the span of political administration in municipalities: four years grants enough time for participation in processes, use of information and planning strategies, but not enough time for implementation. This substantiates the relevance of conserving technical staff for practical application of development plans. It is important for future projects to consider existing capacity so investments are made to improve the weakest points. In a similar way, application of the institutional capacity scorecard at the beginning of projects can identify frailties of project partners and stakeholders that should be addressed by project actions.

Capacity building workshops should include open hours to allow participants to exchange information and experience, identify common agendas and opportunities for collaboration between regions and/or institutions.

Local capacity building workshops are more effective for addressing particular needs of a region or protected area, which contributes to solving practical problems and increases the level of interest. In addition, travel and lodging costs which often prevent people from participating are spared.

It is very important to avoid disseminating a perception of tourism as the great economic solution for the surroundings of protected areas and to work within the reality that it can create additional income opportunities for some people, communities and the private sector as well as for the maintenance of protected areas. Although practically all goals designed in the project were achieved and that ecotourism gained importance in the perception of the general public and institutions involved for creating income alternatives for communities, families and people living around protected areas, this process is still in its initial phase. For example, in the PBZ Volcán Chicabal, although revenues were distributed for the first time among 19 families in 2016, they were not significant in terms of provision of income.

 

 

 


Findings
Recommendations
1

Compile a registry of references used in project design and compare activities with existing projects to avoid duplication of efforts. Especially register the data used to define the baseline of indicators and other information that supports project goals. Lack of reference data on the baseline calculations for several indicators in this project required them to be redefined at the expense of extra funds and time.

2

Identify priorities of stakeholders and beneficiaries during project design and include funds in the project budget to support feasible activities. Even if modest investments are made, supporting the development of activities of special interest increases cooperation with project activities and goals. This is especially relevant in environmental projects involving municipalities where conservation is often not seen as a priority. Authorities often prioritize actions that generate outcomes that are visible, politically interesting and focused on economic growth. Including activities with these characteristics can be an interesting strategy in project design. In addition to specific environmental conservation needs of partners and beneficiaries, identifying priorities of other stakeholders and including funds to support compatible activities can secure their interest and increase the viability of activities that are key for the achievement of project goals. Some of the interviewees suggested that projects should have regional focal points for pilot areas to ensure local commitment to the project. In the case of this project, it would have been important to provide equipment to CONAP regional offices and municipalities, such as waterproof clothing for biological monitoring, as well as support the construction of very basic infrastructure in pilot protected areas and take pilot area managers to visit other protected areas that are advanced in tourism management. Identifying synergies that are priorities for the project and stakeholders increases potential achievement and the sustainability of activities initiated during project implementation. This issue was brought up repeatedly during interviews during the terminal evaluation. Many people involved in protected area management maintained the impression that, once the project provided management, public use and business plans, it would have been essential to include some funding at least for basic infrastructure. Small investments would have helped to consolidate and apply guidelines, as well as justified the implementation of visitor entry fees. Complementarily, had such funds been included in the project budget, it would have been easier to negotiate agreements and increase collaboration especially at the municipal level, as well as to start implementation of management and public use plans, including the application of visitor entry fees and approved policies and regulations in the pilot areas, yielding more substantial results in the field.

3

Projects must invest efforts and resources in establishing institutional cooperation in order to share benefits as well as responsibilities for the sustainability of activities. The goals of this project were achieved mainly through cooperation agreements with relevant partners, which compensated for political instability and institutional difficulties.

4

Ensure follow up of partner co-financing commitments. In the case of this project, co-financing commitments were partially lost due to the delay between project design and start. Activities developed by partner organizations in the Western Highlands in synergy with project objectives were still considered as co-financing, but as they were not directly linked to the project, follow up was not prioritized. The amount of expenses made by Counterpart International on behalf of the project during the PPG, in 2012, was lost for lack of registry and therefore not included in the co-financing contributions.

5

CONAP and INGUAT must ensure continuity of the development of ecotourism with sustainability criteria in Guatemala and apply the products generated by this project throughout SIGAP, expanding biological monitoring and the monitoring of impacts from tourist visitation. CONAP must develop an online tool for the calculation of visitor entry fees based on operational costs of protected areas so it is widely available to SIGAP and beyond Guatemala.

6

CONAP technical staff must follow up and support the implementation of management plans, public use and business plans in the pilot protected areas benefitted by the project, including biological monitoring and monitoring of impacts from tourist visitation. The support from CONAP is highly valued in protected areas and is especially important in case political changes in the municipalities result in the dismissal of persons currently in charge of management. Data generated through biological monitoring must be adequately processed and preferably made available online for the benefit of all who work in biodiversity conservation.

7

CONAP must define a continued capacity building strategy with support from people who were capacitated as facilitators through this project to ensure the maintenance and increase of technical capacity at the regional level. This is especially relevant as political changes incur in losses of personnel benefitted by capacity building workshops delivered by the project. For the same reason and to increase the chance of perpetuation and wider use, practical manuals and guides generated by the project should be made available from websites beyond CONAP, such as in universities providing courses linked to tourism and environmental management, partner NGOs, INGUAT and other organizations working on ecotourism

8

CONAP should reconsider the complexity of approval of legal and technical documents such as management plans and public use plans, which have to be submitted to repeated analysis at different institutional levels that take long and cause delays in the implementation of projects. The approval of plans for the protected areas managed by municipalities first requires written mention in the minutes of a Municipal Council meeting. The plans then have to be protocoled at the CONAP Regional Office, where they are technically and legally reviewed. From the Regional Office, they are sent to Central CONAP, where they are again technically and legally reviewed. If approval is granted at all levels, the plans are sent to the Executive Secretary for ratification. If at any instance the documents are not approved they are returned to the municipality for improvement without further assistance provided by CONAP to ensure approval. Considering the reduced technical staff in CONAP and the number of protected areas lacking management plans, time would be best employed in supporting the development of more plans than reviewing them more than once. Optimizing these procedures would be beneficial to CONAP technical staff in terms of their work load and, if they are instead able to support the development of plans, by the time plans are ready there should be no obstacle for approval and less need of revision. It is important to optimize these processes so that different documents can be approved either by the Regional or Central Office, with criteria defined for each case. In the case of this project, expedited approval would have meant more time for implementation of management and public use plans with support from the project.

9

INGUAT should consider offering second time participants in the Impulsa Program private tutoring instead of generic capacity building. Beneficiaries are interested in having support to develop specific issues in their businesses. Some of the topics offered in capacity building workshops in the Impulsa Program seemed fairly basic to beneficiaries who had long term experience in tourism business. A more flexible program would help them develop new business perspectives and vision as well as seek complementary expertise more relevant to their individual enterprises.

10

CONAP and INGUAT must design and disseminate more tourist destinations that include protected areas to promote visitation and support the development of ecotourism. The Association in charge of the PBZ Volcán Chicabal perceives the need for promoting the area as its main weakness and greatly welcomes any form of support. Personnel at the Mirador Rey Tepepul RMP presume that the park was only included in a tourist destination because it was part of this project, which corroborates the relevance of external support to promote visitation to protected areas that are not widely known.

11

An effort to regulate access of tour operators to protected areas through CONAP is important to avoid unregistered services without adequate safety conditions and qualified guides for tourists, as well as to prevent disloyal competition with tour operators who are formally registered and follow legal obligations, such as those contemplated by the Impulsa Program.

12

As possible, CONAP should hire tourism experts for the Regional Offices to promote the development of tourism activities with sustainability criteria and social participation. These experts would ideally provide support to municipalities and community groups in promoting the protected areas they are in charge of. An analysis of existing protected areas and their tourism potential should help prioritize regions where experts would have more potential for development.

13

Considering the instability of public positions in Guatemala, the main threat to the memory and sustainability of project benefits, future projects must secure strong involvement of NGOs and research / education institutions for ownership of project knowledge and products. This will increase the potential of sustainability given that these institutions are not susceptible to political changes.

1. Recommendation:

Compile a registry of references used in project design and compare activities with existing projects to avoid duplication of efforts. Especially register the data used to define the baseline of indicators and other information that supports project goals. Lack of reference data on the baseline calculations for several indicators in this project required them to be redefined at the expense of extra funds and time.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

During design of future projects, a justification of important decisions will be described in the project’s document (Prodoc).

 

Key Actions:

2. Recommendation:

Identify priorities of stakeholders and beneficiaries during project design and include funds in the project budget to support feasible activities. Even if modest investments are made, supporting the development of activities of special interest increases cooperation with project activities and goals. This is especially relevant in environmental projects involving municipalities where conservation is often not seen as a priority. Authorities often prioritize actions that generate outcomes that are visible, politically interesting and focused on economic growth. Including activities with these characteristics can be an interesting strategy in project design. In addition to specific environmental conservation needs of partners and beneficiaries, identifying priorities of other stakeholders and including funds to support compatible activities can secure their interest and increase the viability of activities that are key for the achievement of project goals. Some of the interviewees suggested that projects should have regional focal points for pilot areas to ensure local commitment to the project. In the case of this project, it would have been important to provide equipment to CONAP regional offices and municipalities, such as waterproof clothing for biological monitoring, as well as support the construction of very basic infrastructure in pilot protected areas and take pilot area managers to visit other protected areas that are advanced in tourism management. Identifying synergies that are priorities for the project and stakeholders increases potential achievement and the sustainability of activities initiated during project implementation. This issue was brought up repeatedly during interviews during the terminal evaluation. Many people involved in protected area management maintained the impression that, once the project provided management, public use and business plans, it would have been essential to include some funding at least for basic infrastructure. Small investments would have helped to consolidate and apply guidelines, as well as justified the implementation of visitor entry fees. Complementarily, had such funds been included in the project budget, it would have been easier to negotiate agreements and increase collaboration especially at the municipal level, as well as to start implementation of management and public use plans, including the application of visitor entry fees and approved policies and regulations in the pilot areas, yielding more substantial results in the field.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

All UNDP-GEF projects have and will continue identifying priorities of stakeholders and beneficiaries during project design. These priorities are funded with GEF and cofinancing resources. 

Key Actions:

3. Recommendation:

Projects must invest efforts and resources in establishing institutional cooperation in order to share benefits as well as responsibilities for the sustainability of activities. The goals of this project were achieved mainly through cooperation agreements with relevant partners, which compensated for political instability and institutional difficulties.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

All UNDP-GEF projects have and will continue investing efforts and resources in establishing institutional cooperation.  This is considered to be one of the key elements to ensure the sustainability of results.

Key Actions:

4. Recommendation:

Ensure follow up of partner co-financing commitments. In the case of this project, co-financing commitments were partially lost due to the delay between project design and start. Activities developed by partner organizations in the Western Highlands in synergy with project objectives were still considered as co-financing, but as they were not directly linked to the project, follow up was not prioritized. The amount of expenses made by Counterpart International on behalf of the project during the PPG, in 2012, was lost for lack of registry and therefore not included in the co-financing contributions.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

During project’s design phase and implementation a responsible party and protocol will be put in place to ensure follow up and accounting of disbursements and use of co-financing resources. a high level of co-financing partners’ participation will be promoted in order to ensure that agreed and committed actions are closely aligned, not only with the project’s global environmental objectives, but also with specific and direct project’s objectives

Key Actions:

5. Recommendation:

CONAP and INGUAT must ensure continuity of the development of ecotourism with sustainability criteria in Guatemala and apply the products generated by this project throughout SIGAP, expanding biological monitoring and the monitoring of impacts from tourist visitation. CONAP must develop an online tool for the calculation of visitor entry fees based on operational costs of protected areas so it is widely available to SIGAP and beyond Guatemala.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

The continuity of the ecotourism sustainable criteria implementation and the biological monitoring system is ensured through  formal agreements, which established the collaboration framework and specific responsibilities for each signatory part.

 

Regarding the creation of the web page, CONAP has assumed the commitment to elaborate this tool, in which the Information Technology Unit is already working with support and monitoring of the Sustainable Tourism Section

Key Actions:

6. Recommendation:

CONAP technical staff must follow up and support the implementation of management plans, public use and business plans in the pilot protected areas benefitted by the project, including biological monitoring and monitoring of impacts from tourist visitation. The support from CONAP is highly valued in protected areas and is especially important in case political changes in the municipalities result in the dismissal of persons currently in charge of management. Data generated through biological monitoring must be adequately processed and preferably made available online for the benefit of all who work in biodiversity conservation.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

CONAP's regional offices mandate includes monitoring the compliance with the Annual Operating Plans of the 7 pilot areas, as well as provide them with technical support when needed. CONAP’s regional offices, not only participated in the construction of the action plans included in the Management Plans, but also approved them.  These plans include specific actions for tourism monitoring and development.

 

In addition, through the activities carried out by the project, CONAP’s regional offices have strengthened the collaboration framework with the 7 pilot areas and the support and technical. As a consequence, although is important to keep in mind the limiting factors faced by those offices, the assistance is currently carried out in a coordinated and permanent manner

Key Actions:

7. Recommendation:

CONAP must define a continued capacity building strategy with support from people who were capacitated as facilitators through this project to ensure the maintenance and increase of technical capacity at the regional level. This is especially relevant as political changes incur in losses of personnel benefitted by capacity building workshops delivered by the project. For the same reason and to increase the chance of perpetuation and wider use, practical manuals and guides generated by the project should be made available from websites beyond CONAP, such as in universities providing courses linked to tourism and environmental management, partner NGOs, INGUAT and other organizations working on ecotourism

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

To carry out training activities addressed to CONAP’s regional offices and protected areas’ administrators is a mandate assumed by the Sustainable Tourism Section of CONAP. Thanks to the purchase of the Webex platform, this type of training can be execute without travel expenses, making possible the continuity of this type of training regardless of the financial situation of the institution.

 

The recommendation to make technical tools and training materials available to universities and other institutions is considered pertinent. However, since the management of their web portals is independent, it cannot be guaranteed that those institutions agree to upload these materials in their respective web sites.

Key Actions:

8. Recommendation:

CONAP should reconsider the complexity of approval of legal and technical documents such as management plans and public use plans, which have to be submitted to repeated analysis at different institutional levels that take long and cause delays in the implementation of projects. The approval of plans for the protected areas managed by municipalities first requires written mention in the minutes of a Municipal Council meeting. The plans then have to be protocoled at the CONAP Regional Office, where they are technically and legally reviewed. From the Regional Office, they are sent to Central CONAP, where they are again technically and legally reviewed. If approval is granted at all levels, the plans are sent to the Executive Secretary for ratification. If at any instance the documents are not approved they are returned to the municipality for improvement without further assistance provided by CONAP to ensure approval. Considering the reduced technical staff in CONAP and the number of protected areas lacking management plans, time would be best employed in supporting the development of more plans than reviewing them more than once. Optimizing these procedures would be beneficial to CONAP technical staff in terms of their work load and, if they are instead able to support the development of plans, by the time plans are ready there should be no obstacle for approval and less need of revision. It is important to optimize these processes so that different documents can be approved either by the Regional or Central Office, with criteria defined for each case. In the case of this project, expedited approval would have meant more time for implementation of management and public use plans with support from the project.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

CONAP is currently immerse in a complex process of reengineering internal procedures for the implementation of the Internal Organic Regulation (ROI), which was approved by resolution 03-13-2015. This recommendation will be taken into account in mentioned process.

Key Actions:

9. Recommendation:

INGUAT should consider offering second time participants in the Impulsa Program private tutoring instead of generic capacity building. Beneficiaries are interested in having support to develop specific issues in their businesses. Some of the topics offered in capacity building workshops in the Impulsa Program seemed fairly basic to beneficiaries who had long term experience in tourism business. A more flexible program would help them develop new business perspectives and vision as well as seek complementary expertise more relevant to their individual enterprises.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

This recommendation is considered to be very valuable and pertinent. Giving ongoing support to the companies and entrepreneurs supported by the Impulsa Program will increase the guarantees that these companies will settle as stable sustainable tourism businesses

Key Actions:

10. Recommendation:

CONAP and INGUAT must design and disseminate more tourist destinations that include protected areas to promote visitation and support the development of ecotourism. The Association in charge of the PBZ Volcán Chicabal perceives the need for promoting the area as its main weakness and greatly welcomes any form of support. Personnel at the Mirador Rey Tepepul RMP presume that the park was only included in a tourist destination because it was part of this project, which corroborates the relevance of external support to promote visitation to protected areas that are not widely known.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

CONAP and INGUAT have established a high and effective level of collaboration for the promotion of sustainable tourism in protected areas. Without a doubt, the promotion of tourist routes that include destinations in protected areas is a key aspect for the development of visitation in these areas

Key Actions:

11. Recommendation:

An effort to regulate access of tour operators to protected areas through CONAP is important to avoid unregistered services without adequate safety conditions and qualified guides for tourists, as well as to prevent disloyal competition with tour operators who are formally registered and follow legal obligations, such as those contemplated by the Impulsa Program.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

INGUAT regulates the legality of the operations of tour operators at the national level. In order to reinforce this measure within protected areas, this recommendation will be taken into account when designing management plans and Visitor Management of protected areas with tourist visitation.

Key Actions:

12. Recommendation:

As possible, CONAP should hire tourism experts for the Regional Offices to promote the development of tourism activities with sustainability criteria and social participation. These experts would ideally provide support to municipalities and community groups in promoting the protected areas they are in charge of. An analysis of existing protected areas and their tourism potential should help prioritize regions where experts would have more potential for development.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

It is CONAP's commitment to strengthen regional offices in terms of incorporating tourism specialized personnel. Although this measure cannot be guaranteed due to important budgetary limitation, CONAP’s is permanently requesting a budge extension in order to strengthening the most strategic regional offices with tourism specialist

Key Actions:

13. Recommendation:

Considering the instability of public positions in Guatemala, the main threat to the memory and sustainability of project benefits, future projects must secure strong involvement of NGOs and research / education institutions for ownership of project knowledge and products. This will increase the potential of sustainability given that these institutions are not susceptible to political changes.

Management Response: [Added: 2017/12/20]

This recommendation will be taken into account during the preparation of future projects as a measure that provides stability to the execution and especially to the sustainability of the results.

Key Actions:

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