Midterm Review Report for UNDP: Sustainable Water Management in Rural Areas in Uzbekistan (EU -Water) - Component 2: Technical capacity Building

Report Cover Image
Evaluation Plan:
2016-2020, Uzbekistan
Evaluation Type:
Mid Term Project
Planned End Date:
03/2019
Completion Date:
10/2018
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
20,000

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Title Midterm Review Report for UNDP: Sustainable Water Management in Rural Areas in Uzbekistan (EU -Water) - Component 2: Technical capacity Building
Atlas Project Number: 00080810
Evaluation Plan: 2016-2020, Uzbekistan
Evaluation Type: Mid Term Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 10/2018
Planned End Date: 03/2019
Management Response: Yes
Focus Area:
  • 1. Environment & Sustainable Development
  • 2. Others
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2014-2017)
  • 1. Output 1.3. Solutions developed at national and sub-national levels for sustainable management of natural resources, ecosystem services, chemicals and waste
SDG Goal
  • Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
SDG Target
  • 6.4 By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
Evaluation Budget(US $): 20,000
Source of Funding: UNDP
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 12,580
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Jochen Froebrich Consultant
GEF Evaluation: No
Key Stakeholders: National partners
Countries: UZBEKISTAN
Lessons
1.

Track I. National uptake and scaling out8 of results

Challenges
The MTR revealed a great demand by the official responsible persons – from WCA up to the Ministry level – to establish truly functional WCAs, to repair more canals and irrigation infrastructure and to provide better service to all users.
Such scaling-out of efforts is clearly a key element in maintaining the water infrastructure of Uzbek-istan. In this view, maintenance should be considered in the widest sense and should address
• Hardware (Building, Hydraulic structures, transport, machinery)
• Software (Knowhow, networking)
• Orgware (Maintenance protocols, bookkeeping)
At the same time, maintenance of water infrastructure and services must occur in different time horizons and should include
• Preventive exchange of parts with lifetime expiry
• Repair of smallest damages immediately
• Repair of accidental damages at occurrence
• Back up strategies
The key challenge is clearly to adapt the perception of all stakeholders involved and to realize a full awareness for ongoing maintenance and repair. Water infrastructures, water management and pro-tecting water resources are of vital essence in Uzbekistan. This dependency becomes in particular visible in the extreme water scarce rural areas (such as in Karakalpakstan). Countries that depend so excessively on water resources and infrastructure must naturally do their upmost effort to prevent any damage, now and in future, and to increase the adaptive capacity. There is clearly a need for a “zero failure strategy”.
There are powerful examples since from history how nations paid attention to the persistence and performance of critical water infrastructure. This includes e.g. the water supplying aqueducts in ro-man time, the efforts from the Netherlands to cope with flooding and storm tides, or the effort in Germany to guarantee reliable water supply and sanitation to the industrial Ruhr area for over 100 years. All examples have a strong zero failure strategy in common, avoiding the interruption of service provisions by all means. The strategies include maximizing the robustness of buildings and construction works, the monitoring of its service, and the timely replacement of vulnerable parts. The examples also represent systems that had been or still are subject to a permanent change, innovation and adaptation.
For increasing water security in Uzbekistan the maintenance of infrastructure and the protection of water resources should shift from just being merely a technical issue towards becoming a top societal priority at all levels – at ministry level – administration level – and in the perception of all citizens.
Without doubt, maintenance requires financial resources. However, it is not just the lack of finances at state level that hampers a proper maintenance of infrastructure. Financial savings from reducing the energy costs for pumping Amu Darya Water up to higher elevations could be utilized. Interna-tional donor consortia are periodically investing in big rehabilitation projects, where a small propor-tion can be made available to finance the maintenance and repairs. Uzbekistan’s transition to become a middle income country offers increasing financial opportunities to invest into the maintenance of infrastructure. And above all, the timely replacement of critical parts, usually prevents bigger ex-penses at time of the unexpected collapse of a hydraulic infrastructure.
It is hence not the absolute absence of financial resources that matters, but the willingness to elab-orate ways for accessing financial resources accordingly.
Instead, the MTR instead revealed at all interviews a lack of strategic visioning or at least a lack to communicate plans for increasing the operational capacity in future. All interviewees reflected the project in a backward looking perspective, not in sharing proudly plans how to extend the activities. It might relate to a large extend to the decadal experiences of operating in a state driven system, where reporting was key and individual planning difficult.
The MTR also underlined the dilemma of refinancing large investments, such as building costs for the WCA office, procurement of expensive machinery, and the rehabilitation of weirs and distribution gates, exceeds the possibilities to finance such from eventually collected water user fees. New strat-egies and financial instruments that realize initial investment costs, as long future depreciation costs could be shared amongst the users as part of the water user fees.
 


2.

Track II. Scaling up innovations
Challenges

Effective water saving cannot be restricted to the improvement of crop water use efficiency and the reduction or conveyance losses alone.
Future questions will comprise issues such as becoming increasingly independent from canal waters and to reduce the massive pumping with its related unsustainable demands for electricity and finan-cial resources. Other subjects will be a stronger intertwining of IWRM and regional planning for eco-nomic development.
Such transitions require a fundamental diversification of the current agricultural water use, the initi-ation of new value chains and to introduce new players. In other words, the increase of water produc-tivity should not be restricted to extend the number of applications at existing crop productions (horizontal scaling out), but in particular to identify completely new and less water consumptive production chains (scaling up).
The component II project already created at the level of household a very important nucleus for diversifying the agricultural water use. All household irrigation sites that had been visited during the midterm review revealed a strong entrepreneurial drive (though skills and capacities differed). Strengthening the commercialization of household irrigation requires the involvement of retailers and investors for building up agri-food processing capacities.
There is an increasing political climate to diversify the agri-food sector in Uzbekistan. Bringing leading players from the agri-food sector together and to develop jointly new business cases is a proven pathway to identify new and less water consumptive productions, using closed greenhouse systems, cradle to cradle solutions or to explore untapped solutions from the wider bio-economy.
The key success factors for such vertical – scaling up of water innovation are
1. A process that brings innovative parties together and maintains a continuous innovation
2. A location and a facility to demonstrate actually the value and economic viability of inno-vative water saving business cases
Cooperation with innovative companies must not be restricted to national level, but also should iden-tify markets outside Uzbekistan. Local processing facilities are key to add value to the products. These should not be restricted to the traditional packing and cooling, but can improve e.g. nutrition qualities, create new food and beverage products, reduce weight and volumes to reduce transport costs, and extend the shelf-life of products.
Worldwide, there are examples for new forms of public private partnerships and cooperative models (such as e.g. the section 21 companies in South Africa) that involves not only farmers, but companies and value chain partners as cooperative members as well or innovative business stimulating NGO’s.
Such a setup can form actual innovation platforms or innovation hubs and facilitate the co-innovation amongst different key actors in the value chain. Especially in the early phase, non-profit models are effective to re-invest profits directly in the further innovation of the agro-food production chain, into processing facilities, and to intensify the networking and capacity building.
Transitions from “farming as usual” into modern agri-business is also key to offer highly attractive employment opportunities of young female and male entrepreneurs, and for effectively building up networks between agro-business, the financial sector and water administrations.
Additional value that is created will be crucial to re-finance the services of WCA’s as well.
Extension services must go beyond the solely exchange of technical information in agricultural water management.
Innovating the agricultural production must also help farmers to understand farming as a business, support farmers to explore new niche markets and allow them to innovate production and marketing by their own.
Modern extension services will also facilitate the collaboration of farmers and the co-creation of in-novation in a collective way.
The challenge is to develop specific constructions, which fits into the enabling environment of the political economy in Uzbekistan.


3.

Track III. Utilize higher education institutes
Challenges

Both the scaling out of project results (improved maintenance and service provision in water supply) as well as the scaling up (new less water consumptive agri-food business) require the involvement of creative, flexible young local professionals that inherent the dimensions of innovation processes. Education of such future change agents to advance the sustainable development and inclusive growth in Uzbekistan should not be restricted to the teaching of classical curricula in economy, agronomy, and water resources management. Capacities to “think out of the box”, to communicate and to es-tablish effective multi-stakeholder networks are critically needed.
Higher education institutes, such as TIIAME provide already a critical mass and a learning environ-ment. There are also opportunities for stock taking the experiences gained in establishing the double degree processes, e.g. with Wageningen University, the NL and other partner universities worldwide.
Ways should be exploited to increase the reputation of research institutions in Uzbekistan to attract international students and experts as well. However a difficulty to reach that aim is related to the growing international competition of higher education centres. First class multi-lingual learning en-vironment, financial resources to maintain research, and favourable logistic conditions, are a pre-requisite, but not a grant for success.
The key challenge is to define unique selling points, and to support the international research and education, with true experience from practice.
A stronger interaction of higher education institutes in Uzbekistan with actual working innovation hubs, facilitating both first-hand insights as well as career perspectives for the young professionals provide a potential unique selling point that could be further explored.


Findings
1.

1. Recommendation
The Component II UNDP project offers a unique occasion to build also capacity on the strategic maintenance.
Where ever possible, the project should bundle resources and to run specific activities to increase the mental, financial, and operational capacity of maintenance and strategic planning.
In this context the project could explore ways to establish a piloting funds (e.g. a water innovation funds), that increases the capacity for maintenance and strategic planning in three dimensions.
1. The funds would give Water Consumer Associations and other players a specific perspec-tive that it is worth to engage and that financial means for maintenance activities could be obtained in principle.
2. The funds would provide to applicants a clear incentive to develop a maintenance strategy, to estimate required financial and personal resources, and to shift gradually from a re-active towards a pro-active mode
3. The application process could be subject to specific training for applicants, supporting their personal capability to develop the strategic maintenance planning. At the same time, evalu-ating the training, will reveal valuable lessons learned and to derive conclusion for a more structural establishment of such financial instruments in Uzbekistan. For the latter the project might benefit from the temporary contracting of additional expertise.
The MTR also revealed a need to increase personal capacities e.g. at WCA level and to offer oppor-tunities for young professionals in order to support e.g. WCA chairs in the strategic planning and fund raising. Such renewal may lead to conflicting existing power structures, interfering with habitual ways of handling the day to day business, and to create additional overhead costs. Therefor such a process should be carefully elaborated. Here, the project offers excellent means to investigate deeper stakes and personal interests, to identify obstacles, and to identify opportunities for a smooth re-newal. Enabling households, farmers, WCA staff, ISA and BISA experts to establish own personal networks is instrumental to increment learning by exchanging success stories, insights on innovation barriers and coping strategies. To date, the exchange between key actors from the 6 demonstration sites is limited (due to the wide distances). The project could however furthermore strengthen the exchange amongst the acting change agents and innovators. Specifically it is recommended that the project will select a front running case study region and to initiate a special piloting capacity building program that includes the following components:
- Initiate a kick-off round table with the MWR to share ownership from the earliest beginning
- Participative mapping of perceptions on maintenance (interviews, video documentation), inviting the interviewees to report also on best practices perceived
- Initiate round table workshops with international experts with expertise to refinance the maintenance of infrastructure (e.g. from the bank supporting the Dutch water boards https://www.nwbbank.com/home-enm or similar institutions)
- Establish multi-donor dialogues to explore ways to set up possible revolving funds
- Elaboration of adequate legal and regulatory settings to allow the acquisition of finances from the republic of Uzbekistan and abroad, while providing the necessary accountability
- Design eligibility and scoring criteria for the application process that reflects in particular the maturity in the strategic planning and past performance in maintenance
- Provide training and capacity to key stakeholders in strategic planning and application pro-cess
- Support proactively the networking of all change agents involved, creating a landscape of experiences and the exchange of successful examples
- Monitor and evaluate the capacity building process and to derive conclusions for the struc-tural establishment of such a “water innovation funds”
During the visit of the BISA offices the demand for a continuous monitoring of water resources had been regularly emphasized. Systems as provided by the Dutch Company Royal Eijkelkamp provide professional and practical solutions that are also already applied in Uzbekistan (see Annex and http://grondwater.webscada.nl/uzbekistan/).
However, it is important to note that the vulnerability of any automatic monitoring system is the regularly maintenance. The maintenance need to cover technical control and repairs, regular data plausibility checks as well a regular revision and maintenance of the data stock provided. There is also a need to increase the number of technical staff that is able to work with and to maintain such systems. The setting up of a water innovation funds, could also generate perspectives to find strat-egies for extending the network of automatic monitoring in Uzbekistan.
It is recommended that the project will contract an international consultant who will be supporting the project in bringing best practices in creation of development/maintenance fund for WCA and to assist the project in providing advice for the MoWR in formulating its Development Strategy/Concept.


2.

2. Recommendation

Uzbekistan should exploit it’s rich natural and human capital in a more water smart way.
It is recommended that the project will not restrict its capacity building only on the existing produc-tion chains (household vegetables/ fruits) and irrigated farms. The project should utilize its momen-tum and reputation to identify future opportunities for scaling up innovation and to establish new forms of co-innovation in the agri-food sector that reduce significantly the absolute water consump-tion and increase the economic return.
The Component II project should engage in a discussion to strengthen innovation hubs, that
- improves market conditions for the household irrigation pilots (and to stimulate more house-hold to engage in the local production)
- attract new actors and partners in the value chain innovation
- facilitate a permanent re-investment into agribusiness innovation and capacity building
- support the extension process.
Steps to elaborate such an outlook should comprise
1. a multi stakeholder inventory of key actors within and outside Uzbekistan
2. mapping success stories and underlying key principles
3. identify financial resources that could be utilized
4. organise a round table workshop with related key stakeholders in the political-economy.
5. Summarizing the findings in a roadmap document, that is endorsed by relevant stakeholders.
In this context the project should benefit from contracting additional expertise outside Uzbekistan to support the design of the roadmap process and where necessary in its elaboration.
Results of the outlook process can form the basis for shaping follow up activities in the context of the EU cooperation, within the implementation of the UNDAF and/or also on a completely independ-ent private sector financed basis.
Related to the future strengthening of extension services, i is proposed that the project will take the suggestions from NBT into account and focus its activities on the elaboration of a realistic strategy to innovate the extension service with considering the aspects as stated above. The joint develop-ment of innovation hubs could be a valuable source of experience to integrate activities between game changing actors from the agri-business sector, the state research institutes, the council of farmers in close interaction and coordination between the Ministry of Water and the Ministry of Ag-riculture.
The innovation of the Extension service should also address the following aspects:
- helping farmers to develop pro-active mind sets to understand effective & professional farming as a business opportunity and that it is especially the farmer who have to lead the information gathering, developing own innovation strategies, and to realize innovation by its own.
- help that groups of farmers can co-create, striving collectively for a better position in the market, or successfully branding regional products
- organise that famers can get access to multiple sources of the required information that will inspire and help farmers to create new business ideas
- ensure that extension service is decentral available and easy to be accessed by farmers
- provide services where farmers actually see the value for money of the given service.


3.

3. Recommendation

Understanding the strategical value of local innovation hubs or nucleus innovation centres (see Track II) in advancing higher education in Uzbekistan should make the establishment of such a centre the logical first step.
In addition, the formation of local innovation hubs could provide the required unique selling point and attraction to stimulate international cooperation in research and education at an early stage as well.
In case that the project will consider efforts to establish a roadmap for developing innovation hubs in Uzbekistan, it is recommended to initiate a dialogue with higher education institutes around the world to inventory best practices and lessons learned from intertwining higher education with actual water smart agro-business innovation on the ground.
 


4.

4. Extension
In order to address and to prepare an inclusion of the points as mentioned under 6.2, the project should be extended by 1 year. This additional calendar time would be essential make up delays that had been externally caused in the beginning of the project by the organisational reforms within MoWR as well as by the difficulties to get the review of capacity building modules assessed by UNESCO. The time should be also used to continue the required multi-stakeholder dialogues, especially when in it comes to the co-development of strategies to secure the long term maintenance of infrastructure.


5.

5. Extension

Suggest new project activities after the lifetime of the project
The Component II UNDP project can mark a true turning point for the capability of Uzbekistan to shift from a water wasting economy towards a water smart rural development.
Prerequisite for such a transition is to develop solutions out of the “water box”, in other words to widen the solution space broader than just thinking within the vector – River – BISA – ISA – WCA – farm.
The Component II impressively underlined the possible momentum that can be unleashed if (i) ac-tivities are strongly endorsed in the actual political economy (from Ministry to household level), (ii) operational capacity is provided and (ii) stakeholders are satisfied with the service that is provided.
Stronger capacity to maintain infrastructures in all aspects (hardware, software, orgware), a parallel development towards strategic planning (including maintenance, contingency plans, future increase of service provision), and to make the provision of financial resources operational is an intrinsic necessity for a sustainable water resources management. Therefore the project should seek for any possibility to follow up the invitation of the MWR for sharing ideas in this regard.
Future post-project activities should concentrate on the transition from traditional irrigated agricul-ture towards the establishment of innovative agribusiness chains that both reduce the total water consumption as well as to stimulate an inclusive green growth at the same time.
Establishing related agribusiness innovation hubs would not only stimulate transitions within Uzbek-istan, but also provide a mechanism to intensify the relations with neighbouring countries in Central Asia by exchange lessons learned and by extending markets and trade opportunities for innovative products and services.
A national uptake of such initiatives would already earmark a shift from reactive donor driven man-agement towards a water smart proactive development and will provide ample opportunities to
promote the project successes accordingly. This in turn will be naturally attractive to all donor or-ganisation that are interested in supporting a transition towards a truly sustainable development.


Recommendations
1

Where ever possible, the project should bundle resources and to run specific activities to increase the mental, financial, and operational capacity of maintenance and strategic planning. Particularly, the project could explore ways to establish a piloting funds (e.g. a water innovation funds), that increases the capacity for maintenance and strategic planning in three abovementioned dimensions.

2

It is recommended that the project will not restrict its capacity building only on the existing production chains (household vegetables/ fruits) and irrigated farms. The project should utilize its momentum and reputation to identify future opportunities for scaling up  innovation and to establish new forms of co-innovation in the agri-food sector that reduce significantly the absolute water consumption and increase the economic return.

3

In case that the project will consider efforts to establish a roadmap for developing innovation hubs in Uzbekistan, it is recommended to initiate a dialogue with higher education institutes around the world to inventory best practices and lessons learned from intertwining higher education with actual water smart agro-business innovation on the ground.

4

In order to address and to prepare an inclusion of the points as mentioned in the evaluation report (section 6.2), the project should be extended by 1 year.

5

Suggest new project activities after the lifetime of the project

Management Response Documents
1. Recommendation:

Where ever possible, the project should bundle resources and to run specific activities to increase the mental, financial, and operational capacity of maintenance and strategic planning. Particularly, the project could explore ways to establish a piloting funds (e.g. a water innovation funds), that increases the capacity for maintenance and strategic planning in three abovementioned dimensions.

Management Response: [Added: 2019/07/02] [Last Updated: 2019/07/05]

Within its capacity the project could assess the local finance institutions motivation/capacity in designing and introducing special low-cost water loans for Water Users Associations and other similar structures. The loans can meet the WUAs needs in short-term repair costs, system upgrades, for small capital projects, and emergency loans. Along with this, in the course of its programming UNDP will explore national government’s position on establishing a Rural Water Loan Fund.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Assess the local finance institutions motivation/capacity in designing and introducing special low-cost water loans for Water Users Associations
[Added: 2019/07/05] [Last Updated: 2020/06/23]
Project team, the Environment Cluster 2021/11 Not Initiated The reformation of WUA hasn't completed yet, and therefore there is no possibility to asses the new financing mechanism to be introduced for WUA, that a new UNDP water project (if initiated) would be in the position to asses the efficiency of resent reforms and propose recommendations if feasible. History
Explore national government’s position on establishing a Rural Water Loan Fund.
[Added: 2019/07/05] [Last Updated: 2020/06/23]
Project team, the Environment Cluster 2021/11 Not Initiated The reformation of WUA hasn't completed yet, and therefore there is no possibility to assess the new financing mechanism to be introduced for WUA, that the decree affects both actions as the low-interest loan and proposed Rural Water Fund is interlinked and assumed to support WUA. A new UNDP water project (if initiated) would be in the position to assess the efficiency of resenting reforms and propose recommendations if feasible. History
2. Recommendation:

It is recommended that the project will not restrict its capacity building only on the existing production chains (household vegetables/ fruits) and irrigated farms. The project should utilize its momentum and reputation to identify future opportunities for scaling up  innovation and to establish new forms of co-innovation in the agri-food sector that reduce significantly the absolute water consumption and increase the economic return.

Management Response: [Added: 2019/07/05]

Given the specifics of the project, which aims to strengthen the technical capacity in the water sector, agribusiness issues are beyond the scope of the project’s mandate. Nevertheless, we consider it useful to recommend the project to study the existing experience of project in the field of improving market conditions for small producers of agricultural products.

Key Actions:

3. Recommendation:

In case that the project will consider efforts to establish a roadmap for developing innovation hubs in Uzbekistan, it is recommended to initiate a dialogue with higher education institutes around the world to inventory best practices and lessons learned from intertwining higher education with actual water smart agro-business innovation on the ground.

Management Response: [Added: 2019/07/05]

This initiative was indeed discussed during the assessment. Due to the fact that this recommendation goes beyond the project’s mandate, it can be taken into account when developing new project proposals.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Include specific activities where relevant in future programming on initiating a dialogue with higher education institutes around the world to inventory best practices and lessons learned from intertwining higher education with actual water smart technologies in agriculture.
[Added: 2019/07/05]
Project Team and Sustainable Development Cluster 2020/12 Not Initiated
4. Recommendation:

In order to address and to prepare an inclusion of the points as mentioned in the evaluation report (section 6.2), the project should be extended by 1 year.

Management Response: [Added: 2019/07/05]

The donor supported the proposal to extend the project for another year to the end of 2020.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Undertake required actions on extension of the implementation period of the Water project from forty-eight to sixty months (no-cost extension) to the end of 2020.
[Added: 2019/07/05]
Project Team and Sustainable Development Cluster 2018/12 Completed
5. Recommendation:

Suggest new project activities after the lifetime of the project

Management Response: [Added: 2019/07/05]

The water sector is amongst key areas of focus for UNDP’s programming in Uzbekistan. UNDP works on an ongoing basis for country’s needs assessment on development assistance and explores resource mobilization opportunities for new initiatives covering policy advice and scaling up of the demonstration work on reduction of water losses in irrigation.

Key Actions:

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