Reducing the Vulnerability of Cambodia Rural Livelihoods (mid-term)

Report Cover Image
Evaluation Plan:
2016-2018, Cambodia
Evaluation Type:
Mid Term Project
Planned End Date:
02/2019
Completion Date:
02/2019
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
26,000

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Title Reducing the Vulnerability of Cambodia Rural Livelihoods (mid-term)
Atlas Project Number: 00085641
Evaluation Plan: 2016-2018, Cambodia
Evaluation Type: Mid Term Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 02/2019
Planned End Date: 02/2019
Management Response: Yes
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021)
  • 1. Output 1.1.2 Marginalised groups, particularly the poor, women, people with disabilities and displaced are empowered to gain universal access to basic services and financial and non-financial assets to build productive capacities and benefit from sustainable livelihoods and jobs
Evaluation Budget(US $): 26,000
Source of Funding:
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 20,750
Joint Programme: No
Mandatory Evaluation: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Elinor Bajraktari Senior Evaluator elinorbajraktari@gmail.com ALBANIA
GEF Evaluation: No
Key Stakeholders:
Countries: CAMBODIA
Lessons
1.

Lesson 1: Kick-starting a Project Requires Strong Coordination

One lesson that can be learned from this project is related to its late start. Late starts are common when the project involves multiple parties playing key roles in the project. In this case, it took time for project implementing partners to agree on specific roles and responsibilities, although they were outlined in some degree of detail in the project document. The key lesson here is that to get the project started on time, a lot of preparatory work and coordination is necessary while the project document is receiving approvals from the funder (GEF).


2.

Lesson 2: Effective Use of Adaptive Management

Given the project’s late start and evolving circumstances, the use of adaptive management by the project team and board was crucial for dealing with a number of unexpected contingencies and taking advantage of emerging opportunities. Examples of the project team’s ability to respond swiftly to evolving needs and emerging opportunities were the modification of the funding scheme, the change in the scope of work for the Service Provider, the decision to conduct only two surveys (baseline and endline), etc.


3.

Lesson 3: Building Resilient Local Communities Takes Time and Requires Sustained Engagement

The development of institutional and human capacities at the sub-national level, especially at the commune level in small and remote locations, is a challenging task that requires a long engagement and repeated interactions. As has been outlined in this report, a number of interventions by development partners and the government have taken place in this area. The SRL project builds on foundations laid out by these previous interventions. But the building of capacities of local governments and communities does not end here. Building resilient local communities takes time and requires sustained engagement.


4.

Lesson 4: Climate Change Adaptation and Local Governance are an Inseparable Tandem

The SRL project is classified as a “climate change adaptation” project, but it is equally a project about local governance. This project’s contributions in the area of local governance are inseparable from its contributions in the area of climate change adaptation. Working with sub-national governments on the assessment of vulnerabilities, formulation of development plans, preparation of investment programmes and feasibility studies, monitoring and management of infrastructure projects, and so on, is extremely important for strengthening governance at the local level. It is precisely this focus on the governance aspects of climate change adaptation that makes these initiatives more sustainable and efficient.


Findings
1.

Project design:

The project document is well-structured and quite comprehensive in terms of the expected actions that it proposes. It provides a thorough and consistent analysis of the country context and the needs to be addressed, and identifies a clear set of objectives and activities for the project to pursue. Furthermore, the project’s results framework is coherent and provides a good results-chain logic: outputs, outcomes and objectives. Also, indicators, baselines and targets are generally adequate and well-identified.

Furthermore, the project document identifies some of UNDP’s comparative advantages in the area of sustainable development which represent potential for high-impact work. It also provides a thorough analysis of previous and ongoing efforts related to climate change adaptation, especially in the water and agriculture sectors. The project design has benefited from a large amount of information available from these previous initiatives and draws on their experience and lessons learned. It outlines a “Stakeholder Involvement Plan” which lists the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders having a role as partners and beneficiaries of the project and provides a clear and effective set up of the project in terms of management arrangements. Responsibilities, functions and duties are clearly identified and effectively structured.

Overall, risks have been well-analyzed in the project document. One important risk that is not identified at the project design stage, and which with hindsight appears to have been a significant one, is the weak capacity of sub-national administrations (at the district and commune level). While insufficient capacities of extension workers and engineers are taken into account by the project document, the administrative capacities of local governments are not included in the analysis.

While the logic of the project is solid, there are three design aspects which could have been formulated and integrated more adequately into the project document: i) a larger allocation of funding for infrastructure projects would have guaranteed more scale and impact; ii) the sustainability of some of the project interventions, given the small size and weak capacity of local governments, could have received more attention; and, iii) a more thorough analysis could have been conducted of the existing community groups in the targeted locations, their experiences and challenges, and opportunities for strengthening their sustainability. Apart from these challenges, the MTR concludes that overall the project design and strategy has been adequate and, most importantly, appropriate and relevant for the context in which the project operated. Further, for all its strengths in outlining the replication approach, the project document could have benefitted from a dedicated and more detailed section that describes in clearer terms what project aspects will be replicated elsewhere and how the replication process is going to unfold over time. For projects of this nature that are primarily meant to demonstrate institutional and technological solutions, the importance of a replication and upscaling strategy should not be underestimated.


2.

Implemetation:

As far as the implementation is concerned, the project was implemented through the National Implementation Modality, with overall ownership and accountability by the government. The Secretary General of the National Council for Sustainable Development (NCSD) was appointed as the Project Director for SRL, chairing the Project Board which is responsible for the supervision and direction of all project activities. Further, a Project Management Unit (PMU), led by a Project Manager, was established under the NCSD, supported and monitored by UNDP. The PMU has consisted of a strong technical team of professionals, bringing together a broad range of skills and knowledge in the agriculture, water, pasture and capacity building areas. The project’s component related to the sub-national level has been managed by the Secretariat of the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development (NCDD-S), an inter-ministerial coordinating body for decentralization reform. Four NCDD-S technical support officers and four provincial coordinators and finance officers for the two target provinces have been recruited since the second quarter of 2017 and play a crucial role for the livelihoods, planning and investment activities at the national and sub-national level.

The use of adaptive management by the project team was instrumental for dealing with unexpected contingencies, especially the significant delay in kick-starting the project. Through the process of adaptive management, the project strategy was reviewed, the performance indicators at output level and the risks associated with the implementation of the project were updated, a stakeholder engagement plan and the project’s M&E plan were drafted, and the 2017 detailed work plan and budget and the multiyear work plan were developed. Other adaptive actions included the reduction of activities carried out by the “Service Provider” responsible for the livelihood component (working with the targeted communities on the formation of the community/livelihood groups, providing trainings, etc.), the reduction of the number of surveys for establishing the project’s impact and contributions (just having a base-line and end-line), modification of the model for the flow of funds for the implementation of activities at the sub-national level, adjustments to project management arrangements in light of changes in the country’s governance structures, etc. Overall, the project has shown an ability to adapt swiftly to evolving needs and emerging opportunities, which has served it well.

Overall, the project has benefited from a strong partnership between partners involved in the project. The project’s partnership arrangements have included a large number of stakeholders from national and sub-national governments, community and livelihood groups, organizations on the ground, research institutes, NGOs and donor organizations.

The design and implementation of the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system has been adequate. Overall, the project has made good use of the available tools for monitoring, although the project could have tracked more effectively a number of crucial parameters such as co-financing for infrastructure projects, the uptake of outputs (studies, training, etc.) and the degree to which the outputs were serving their intended purpose, the degree to which the capacity of participants in the various training programmes improved, the experience of infrastructure initiatives, the lessons they have generated and the extent to which they get scaled up, etc.

As the leading entity, NCSD has demonstrated strong ownership and leadership in this project. Throughout the implementation process, the essential functions of the national implementing partner have continued without interruption. Good relationships and coordination have been established among the three main parties – NCSD, NCDD-S and UNDP. Also, relations with the sub-national authorities in the targeted locations have been close and productive. Furthermore, UNDP has provided an appropriate level of support to the project team, enabling them to manage the project within the guidelines for NIM projects.


3.

Project results:

As far as the results are concerned, the project has made good progress in a range of areas, especially considering the fact that the start up was delayed significantly, and so was the hiring of the two main contractors (Service Provider and Research Firm for the Survey). The project team has been committed to achieving what was planned to be achieved and has been able to adapt to evolving circumstances and respond effectively to emerging challenges. There are two crucial areas where there is a need for faster progress – the design, approval and construction of infrastructure projects and the formation of the community groups (women, water users, livelihoods, etc.). To some extent these activities are interdependent, because some of the groups will be formed as infrastructure construction gets underway (i.e. water users). The overall consensus among stakeholders is to strive for completion by the middle 2020 and at some point after the end of the current dry season (which is crucial for water infrastructure projects) to re-examine  the need for a potentail extension. This is a sensible approach that is endorsed by the MTR. In the coming months, project stakeholders should prioritize these two areas to ensure that activities are accelerated. The intervening rainy season will make it difficult to complete the water infrastructure projects on time. There are two windows of opportunity for doing this. One is the current dry season that ends early next year and the other is the following dry season. The project team should plan around these two openings to complete the infrastructure projects, and use the rest of the time to focus on the livelihoods activities.


4.

Efficiency:

With regards to efficiency, the budget execution rate stands at 54%, which leaves 46% of the budget to be spent in the remaining one year and a half (assuming no project extension will take place). Given that for 2018 the project was able to spend US$ 1.7 m, it is feasible for it to spend the rest of the budget by June 2020. The project’s administrative costs have thus far constituted about 37% of all expenditures, which is a high rate. There is one important factor that should be taken into consideration here – the project has had minimal expenditure on local and international consultants. For these two categories combined, project expenditure has been about 3%. Most of the work that is typically done by consultants in the case of the SLR project has been done by project staff, especially the experts hired by NSDD-S at the national and sub-national level. The absence of international consultants in this project has been a cost-saving factor, allowing the team to reallocate funds elsewhere. In terms of synergies with other UNDP projects, despite significant connections between the SRL project and some UNDP ongoing projects (CCCA in particular), the potential for stronger cooperation is not fully capitalized. Certainly, there is sharing of information at the level of meetings organized by the CO, but cooperation between the two projects is not strategic and does take advantages of commonalities they share, especially at the sub-national level. UNDP should further strengthen project linkages as much as possible.


5.

Sustainability:

With regards to sustainability, the use of a clear set of performance-based conditions/criteria in the PBCR model to motivate performance and generate co-financing is a strong mechanism for strengthening financial sustainability and scaling up the grant programme in other locations. However, there are two outstanding challenges here. First, some local governments are too small and remote and unable to generate sufficient co-financing. When their real priorities do not coincide with adaptation matters (drought or flood issues), there is usually no money available for co-financing, so they cannot benefit from the financing scheme. Second, it remains to be seen how the financing (PBCR) model could be institutionalized further by integrating it in the financing model through which the Ministry of Finance and Economy allocates and distributes funding to local governments on a regular basis. In the coming months, the project team could look more closely into these issues and examine how it can secure stable contributions from the national, provincial and district levels for communes’ infrastructure plans. Further, getting the livelihood groups to operate on self-sustaining fashion will be a tall order, as they will require sustained support, financially, technically and also politically. Also, questions remain around the maintenance and scaling up of the water infrastructure initiatives pursued by the project. The same argument applies to some of the methodologies promoted by the project. It will take sustained support and several years of engagement before sub-national counterparts can fully internalize the methodologies that were developed with the help of the project into their systems and create the capacities for systematically implementing them.


6.

Gender mainstreaming:

As far as mainstreaming is concerned, the project has had a significant focus on the gender dimension. It has placed women at the center of activities by clearly recognizing that they experience specific challenges in their daily lives which are exacerbated by the effects of climate change. The project has also followed a human rights approach by targeting the most vulnerable groups and regions and addressing the rights of women, people with disabilities, etc. One cross-cutting area where the project could have engaged more actively is the adaptation and implementation of SDGs in Cambodia. The SDG process presents a unique opportunity for integrating climate change adaptation concerns into policy frameworks.


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