Sustainable Land and Forest Management in the North Eastern Armenia Mid Term Evaluation

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Evaluation Plan:
2016-2020, Armenia
Evaluation Type:
Mid Term Project
Planned End Date:
12/2018
Completion Date:
12/2018
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
40,000

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Title Sustainable Land and Forest Management in the North Eastern Armenia Mid Term Evaluation
Atlas Project Number: 00081940
Evaluation Plan: 2016-2020, Armenia
Evaluation Type: Mid Term Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 12/2018
Planned End Date: 12/2018
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 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
SDG Target
  • 15.2 By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally
Evaluation Budget(US $): 40,000
Source of Funding: UNDP
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 14,868
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
John Brann International Consultant Brann.Evaluation@gmail.com
GEF Evaluation: Yes
GEF Project Title: Sustainable Land and Forest Management in the North Eastern Armenia Secures Continued Flow of Multiple Ecosystem services (such as water provision, land slide control and carbon storage and sequestration) and Ensures Conservation of Critical Wildlife Habitats Mid-term Review
Evaluation Type: Mid-term Review
Focal Area: Multifocal Areas
Project Type: FSP
GEF Phase: GEF-5
GEF Project ID: 5353
PIMS Number: 4416
Key Stakeholders:
Countries: ARMENIA
Lessons
Findings
1.

EVALUATION FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

IV. Relevance

With respect to relevance, the project is considered relevant / highly satisfactory, as the project clearly supports national priorities related to sustainable forest management, forest and land degradation, and climate change. The project design and strategy were appropriate and relevant, although the project could have increased its relevance by increasing its focus on fundamental change at the systemic level relating to rural fuelwood dependency in Armenia, rather than pilot and demonstration activities that are highly limited in scale. The project also conforms with GEF focal area strategies and priorities for GEF-5. 

A. Relevance of the Armenia Mountain SLM project Objective

i. Relevance to Armenia’s National Priorities and Strategic Goals: As described in the project’s Project Information Form (PIF) (there were no changes at the CEO Endorsement Request stage), the project was consistent with multiple national priorities and strategies. These included the National Forest Policy and Strategy of the Republic of Armenia (2004), and the National Action Programme to Combat Desertification (2002). The project is in line with the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for Armenia, which aimed to enable Armenia to better address the key environmental challenges including climate change and natural resource management. The project contributes to this outcome as one of the projects within the UNDAF period devoted directly to mainstreaming environmental considerations in sector and local-level strategies and plans, and improved sustainable forest management. The project is also in line with UNDP Country Programme (2010 – 2015) National Priority 4: Promote effective management of natural resources in line with sustainable development principles.

ii. Relevance to GEF Strategic Objectives: The GEF has limited financial resources so it has identified a set of strategic priorities and objectives designed to support the GEF's catalytic role and leverage resources for maximum impact. Thus, GEF supported projects should be, amongst all, relevant to the GEF's strategic priorities and objectives. The project was approved and is being implemented under the strategic priorities for GEF-5 (July 2010 – June 2014).7 The project’s objective is directly in line with and supportive of the GEF-5 strategic objectives for land degradation, biodiversity, climate change, and sustainable forest management, outlined in Table 4 below. Table 4 GEF-5 International Waters Strategic Objectives Supported by the Armenia Mountain SLM project.


Tag: Forestry Relevance Global Environment Facility fund Policies & Procedures Country Government Data and Statistics SDG monitoring and reporting

2.

IV. Relevance 

B. Relevance of the Project Approach: Project Strategy and Design

Overall the project strategy and design is relevant to addressing the threats, and barriers identified in the project document. However, there are a couple of minor points worth mentioning about the project design. In terms of operational aspects there are two key issues. First, the project was designed based on the assumption that other partners, namely GIZ, would be providing certain aspects. On the one hand this approach has potential benefits, but ultimately GIZ did not provide the inputs expected at the project design phase. Therefore, one important lesson is that while the design of projects should embrace a partnership approach as much as possible, and build synergies with others’ initiatives, risks to the achievement of expected outcomes increase with the level of dependency on others for inputs. Second, the project design expected to complete the revised and updated forest management plans using third-party external experts, who were to be contracted by the project in order to support Hayantar. However, the limited amount of technical expertise in the country has created a bottleneck in terms of the project producing the necessary number of forest management plans. There are only a few groups of technical experts available to work on the forest management plans, and any one group is only able to work on 1-2 forest management plans at a time. International expertise is too expensive for the project to contract (and would possibly not be able to adequately complete the work, in terms of familiarity with the Armenian forestry context and being able to work in the local language). Thus, another important lesson related to project design is that project designers must consider how expected outputs will actually be completed and by whom, and ensure that there are sufficient resources within the country to successfully complete the expected work in the required timeframe. Alternatively, appropriate budget should be allocated in order to contract expertise from outside the country.


Tag: Forestry Natural Resouce management Relevance Programme/Project Design

3.

V. Project Management and Cost-effectiveness (Efficiency)

Project efficiency is rated moderately unsatisfactory. The project’s adaptive management (execution), communication, local stakeholder engagement, and reporting are strong points. The project team is professional and technically well-qualified. Total financial delivery as of the mid-term review (June 2018) was only 21.6% of total funding, although by the 3 rd quarter of 2018 this increased to approximately 1/3rd of funding. In terms of time, the project is officially approximately 2/3rds complete, considering Prodoc signature in December 2015 as the official starting point. This indicates that the project is well behind schedule. The project may require a 6-12 month no-cost extension due to some delays at start-up, and slower than planned implementation, especially from late 2017-mid-2018, while the forestry sector was being restructured. Many GEF projects receive no-cost extensions of approximately 6 months, so a 6-12 month extension for the Armenia Mountain SFM project would not be highly unusual, but the project should not be extended longer than 12 months in order to ensure overall cost-effectiveness. In addition, unless the project starts making more significant progress by the end of 2018, more intensive and proactive adaptive management may be required, with strong UNDP support, to ensure the project meets its planned outcomes and objective within a reasonable timeframe. 

GEF funding for project management costs is planned at 4.76%, and so far, the project management costs are only 4.35% of GEF-funded expenditures. Financial management procedures are in-line with international norms, and conform to UNDP policies and procedures. Project co-financing is minimal so far at 0.4% of planned co-financing, though this likely relates to under-reporting, rather than low co-financing delivery; actual non-reported co-financing is likely to be higher. UNDP provides adequate oversight as the implementing agency, as indicated by timely and comprehensive reporting, and good guidance on gender mainstreaming.


Tag: Efficiency Global Environment Facility fund Oversight Project and Programme management Results-Based Management Strategic Positioning

4.

V. Project Management and Cost-effectiveness (Efficiency) 

B. Execution (Project Management) The project is executed under UNDP’s National Implementation (NIM) modality, with the Ministry of Nature Protection as the key national implementing partner. In practice, project management is handled by a project manager contracted directly by UNDP, working on behalf of the Ministry of Nature Protection. Project execution is considered satisfactory. The ArmeniaMountain SLM project PMU is characterized by highly professional project management, good technical qualifications, timely reporting, strong engagement of local stakeholders, and transparent communication. To minimize risks to implementation in the second half of the project, the PMU will need to carry out highly pro-active workplanning that incorporates multiple alternatives and innovative back-up options for key activities, in order to achieve the desired environmental outcomes. This might include, for example, revising the budget between activities in order to increase expand activities that are not delayed, and cancel activities that are delayed indefinitely. 


Tag: Efficiency Implementation Modality Knowledge management Monitoring and Evaluation Partnership Project and Programme management Results-Based Management Risk Management

5.

V. Project Management and Cost-effectiveness (Efficiency) 

E. Flexibility and Adaptive Management Flexibility is one of the GEF’s ten operational principles, and all projects must be implemented in a flexible manner to maximize efficiency and effectiveness, and to ensure results-based, rather than output-based approach. Thus, during project implementation adaptive management must be employed to adjust to changing circumstances. In general, the project is being implemented in an adaptive manner, with adjustments to workplanning and budgeting as necessary, depending on the changing national circumstances and context. Budget revisions have been made throughout the implementation period, in accordance with UNDP and GEF procedures, requirements and guidelines. One key area where adaptive management has been required relates to the key project result of producing updated and revised Forest Management Plans. The project design originally envisaged the project contributing to and strengthening Forest Management Plans that were going to be mainly generated with support from another development partner, GIZ. The project contributions were envisioned to be the introduction of ecosystem services concepts, updating monitoring protocols to include biodiversity and other aspects, consideration of climate change factors, and other elements. However, the support from GIZ did not ultimately materialize as envisioned. Therefore, the project workplan has been reshaped and included development of new Forest Management Plans in full scale, which means that UNDP may not have enough resources to complete preparation of all Forest Management Plans in the required format. An even stronger approach to adaptive management may be necessary in the second half of implementation, in order to keep the project moving forward even in the face of difficult or unclear national institutional circumstances. The key for the project will be to remain focused on a results-based approach, and to focus on delivering sustainable forest management benefits. The recommendations in this mid-term review provide some preliminary guidance to support more intensive implementation. 


Tag: Policies & Procedures Project and Programme management Efficiency Global Environment Facility fund Operational Efficiency

6.

V. Project Management and Cost-effectiveness (Efficiency) 

F. Financial Planning by Component and Delivery (continuation)

Actual financial expenditure is well below the planned pace as of the mid-term review. Total financial delivery stands at 21.3% as of June 8th, 2018.8 This is almost exactly the 24- month mid-point after the June 17, 2016 inception workshop. Typically project disbursement does not go in a linear fashion, but there is no question that financial delivery is behind expectations. Figure 4 below shows the project’s originally planned expenditure by year, vs. actual expenditure by year, with the annual financial delivery rate. Figure 5 shows the project’s original planned cumulative expenditure vs actual cumulative expenditure. The project had an audit in February-March 2018, in accordance with the project M&E plan to have an audit “at least in lifetime of project”. The audit report was not available at thetime of the MTR. It is recommended that an additional audit be conducted prior to budgeting and workplanning for the final year of the project (i.e. likely in the 3rd quarter of 2019). 


Tag: Efficiency Global Environment Facility fund Government Cost-sharing Resource mobilization

7.

V. Project Management and Cost-effectiveness (Efficiency) 

H. Monitoring and Evaluation

The Armenia Mountain SLM project M&E design generally meets UNDP and GEF minimum standards, and is considered satisfactory. M&E implementation is considered satisfactory, and therefore overall M&E is considered satisfactory.

i. M&E Design The Armenia Mountain SLM project M&E plan is outlined in the project document, including a budgeted M&E plan in table format (section 6 of the Prodoc, pp. 87-91). The M&E plan describes each of the planned M&E activities, including roles, responsibilities, and timeframe. The identified M&E activities include inception workshop and report, annual progress reporting (APR/PIR), meetings of the Project Board, independent mid-term review and terminal evaluation, project final report, and audit. The project M&E activities were specifically budgeted under Component 3 of the project, including a focus on learning and knowledge sharing. In addition, it was expected lessons would be captured in the various M&E activities and reports, since, for example, they are automatically included in the annual PIR, and Terminal Evaluation. The project M&E plan is appropriately designed and well articulated, and conforms to GEF and UNDP M&E minimum standards. The M&E plan is summarized in a table showing responsible parties, budget, and timeframe for each of the M&E activities, with the total expected budget of $74,500; this was fully and directly budgeted for under the project’s Component 3, which is fully funded with GEF resources. This is adequate for a project of this size and scope, representing approximately 2.4% of the GEF allocation. Having a specific project budget line dedicated to M&E activities is a positive lesson from the project, and represents good practice within the UNDP and GEF global portfolio.

The project results framework is a critical component of the project’s overall M&E framework. The Armenia Mountain SLM project results framework indicators and targets meet SMART criteria, but only at a minimal level. Many of the indicator targets are output-based, rather than outcome focused. For example, the project results framework has multiple indicators with targets focusing on the number of people trained, without clear outcome-level rationale for the target value. One indicator in particular does not clearly fully meet SMART criteria: “Percentage decrease in number of livestock using natural forests for unsustainable grazing practices in targeted forest branches”. In addition, the target for completion of forest management plans may need to be adjusted to reflect the changed baseline context faced by the project (as further discussed in later Section VI.A on Component 1 of the project). In addition, a number of indicators could be consolidated, because they all reflect results to be achieved through the process of revising the forest management plans – for example the first indicator at the objective level, and the second and third indicators under Component 1. This evaluation recommends that the Project Steering Committee consider approving revisions to the project results framework to ensure indicators and targets are fully in-line with SMART criteria, and reflect the baseline context at the time the project started implementation. On the other hand, the project results framework has strong indicators related to assessing the biodiversity impact, with technically well-developed indicators that focus onchanges in population trends for important indicator species, based on clearly specified monitoring techniques. This is another positive lesson from the project. 


Tag: Efficiency Monitoring and Evaluation Policies & Procedures Programme/Project Design Project and Programme management Results-Based Management

8.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes

The Armenia Mountain SLM project has made some progress toward the planned objective and outcome, but the project’s slower-than-planned implementation to this point has so far reduced its effectiveness and progress toward results. When total financial delivery stands at between 20%-30% (see Section V.F on financial management), it is not a surprise that the project’s effectiveness and results thus far are limited. The project’s effectiveness is rated moderately satisfactory. The project activities and outputs should ultimately contribute to the planned outcomes and objective, once more progress is made on implementation. Ongoing national governmental reforms, and the process of national transformation of the forestry sector has led the Ministry of Nature Protection to request the project to postpone or delay multiple project activities. The affected activities include the preparation of forest management plans (a key project output), forest rehabilitation activities, and some work on the forestry sector regulatory framework. The activities and outputs generated thus far have contributed to the achievement of outcomes. The project strategy is technically sound, but has some challenges in terms of the practical implementation, as discussed in previous Section IV.B on relevance of the project approach. In addition, without a larger-scale focus on addressing rural fuelwood dependency it is unclear to what extent the implementation of sustainable forest management plans will be effective. 

Project results / achievement of overall outcomes is rated moderately unsatisfactory. The project is likely to meet 13 of its results framework indicators, while achievement of the remaining 11 indicators is uncertain. Key results achieved thus far with project support include: - Four forest management plans have been updated (for Ijevan, Noyemberyan, Gougarq, and Eghegnut forest enterprises), with the following characteristics: - FMPs use integrated protocols for biodiversity considerations (the HCVF concept), ecosystem services (including non-timber forest products, carbonsequestration, water regulation and other services) and indicator bird and butterfly species to monitor ecosystem changes. - FMPs include forest inventories and corresponding maps, and an assessment of the exact boundaries of the forest enterprises and their sub-units. - FMPs identify and specify management measures for 38,000 ha of HCVF, including protected areas within the forest enterprises. - FMPs identify and map 2,000 ha for multi-use regimes involving NTFPs and agro-forestry. 


Tag: Forestry Biodiversity Natural Resouce management Project and Programme management Results-Based Management Capacity Building

9.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes 

A. Component/ Outcome 1: Enabling environment for the marzes in Northeastern Armenia to plan, monitor and adapt sustainable forest and land management .The first component of the project focuses on addressing the barrier related to deficiencies in the current inadequate planning, regulatory and institutional framework for integrated forest resource management. The total GEF funding planned for the component was $1,175,400 million USD, which was 37.2% of the total GEF funding for the project; the actual expenditure as of June 8th, 2018 was $257,376 USD. The component activities were organized around six outputs. The progress toward results so far for each of the outputs is summarized following the table below. The level of progress toward the results indicators for Component 1 are summarized in Table 9 below.

Output 1.1: Forest management plan guidelines/protocols updated for mainstreaming ecosystem, climate risks and biodiversity considerations into forest management planning in North-east Armenia. The project has a target of developing forest management plans for 11 forest enterprises in Tavush marz and Loris marz (see Figure 6 and Figure 7 below). This target was developed based on initial assumptions about the work to be done by partners, and what the project’s contribution would be. The project contribution was only planned to be incremental to the baseline forest management plans, focusing on adding value related to biodiversity, ecosystem services, and climate change aspects. Since the baseline situation has not materialized as envisioned (i.e. GIZ was not able to make the contributions that had been initially planned), then the project target should be reduced, but with a greater contribution to a fewer number of forest management plans. It may be reasonable to reduce the project target by one-quarter or one-third, to aim for a target of 7-8 completed forest management plans. However, the plans completed by the project should be fully comprehensive, with completed forest inventory for the targeted area, and including biodiversity data, ecosystem services, and climate change aspects. 


Tag: Forestry Climate Change Adaptation Biodiversity Natural Resouce management Effectiveness Policies & Procedures

10.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes 

A. Component/ Outcome 1: Enabling environment for the marzes in Northeastern Armenia to plan, monitor and adapt sustainable forest and land management .(Continuation)

Output 1.1 (continuation) Considering this issue, this evaluation recommendation that the project should provide direct funding to pilot a more self-driven approach to completion of the forest management plans. This should commence with a pilot management plan for a forest enterprise sub-unit, to be completed as a collaboration between the forest enterprise staff, the national forest monitoring center, and any other key relevant national stakeholders (i.e. Bioresources center, etc.). Completing this process and carefully tracking the financial inputs required would be a highly useful exercise to inform future planning for completion of forest management plans. One of the challenges of finalizing the expected forest management plans is that formal approval of the plans depends on official recognition of the exact boundaries of the forest unit area being described. Anecdotally, for the two “marzes” (counties) targeted by the project, there are 40,000 hectares of inconsistency between the forest enterprise management area and the official land cadaster. However, the project should not let this formal barrier be a major roadblock to progress toward outcomes. Even if formal approval depends on government approval of the boundaries, the project should promote draft “provisional” forest management plans that can be implemented prior to official government approval defining the exact forest boundaries. Within the forest management plans there should be an initial clause stating that the management plan is provisional until boundaries are officially approved by the government, but that the forest management plan will be implemented in the meantime based on current common understanding of the area under the responsibility of the forest enterprise. 


Tag: Forestry Natural Resouce management Effectiveness Technology Data and Statistics

11.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes 

A. Component/ Outcome 1: Enabling environment for the marzes in Northeastern Armenia to plan, monitor and adapt sustainable forest and land management .(Continuation)

Output 1.3: Revised forest management plans integrate considerations of biodiversity, ecosystem services, climate mitigation, and community resource use. This work is being done as part of the overall work to complete and implement the forest management plans; see information under Output 1.1 above. Progress on this output is in-line with the overall progress on development of the forest management plans; work has been carried out for 4 of the planned 11 forest enterprises.

Output 1.4: System for effective monitoring and enforcement of forest management plans, including clear delineation of roles and responsibilities of key partners and management of participatory processes in forest development Activities related to this output have mostly been postponed as of the MTR, due to the institutional restructuring in the forestry sector.

Output 1.5: Recommendations for national policy and regulations for facilitating adoption of sustainable forest management practices Under this output, according to the Prodoc, the project planned to produce “recommendations will be provided for considering adoption of approaches” that:- Stipulates the process for identification and setting aside of High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF) in Forest Management Planning; - Develop structures and methodologies for integrating community participatory forestry or sustainable NTFP and agro-forestry systems into the Forest Management Planning; - Define options for assessment of economic services value of ecosystem functions and climate amelioration; - Impact resolutions of Hayantar will be sought to adopt methodologies and criteria for assessing forests and grazing land condition for the purposes of subsequent forest and land use decision making; - Recommendations will be developed for securing additional finances for SFM/SLM investments and aligning the existing financial contributions in the forestry and rangeland sectors to support SFM/SLM practices; - Guidance and resource distribution criteria for allocations – to improve the efficacy of SFM/SLM investments (reduce overlap and redundancy) will be designed; - Regulations for special management in ecological sensitive areas will be put in place, protocols for identification and demarcation of corridors for wildlife movement; - Regulations on identification of ecosystem goods and services that will be mandatory to be addressed in the land use planning.


Tag: Forestry Biodiversity Environmental impact assessment Natural Resouce management Effectiveness Monitoring and Evaluation Policies & Procedures

12.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes 

A. Component/ Outcome 1: Enabling environment for the marzes in Northeastern Armenia to plan, monitor and adapt sustainable forest and land management (Continuation)

Output 1.6: Enhanced capacity for sustainable land and forest management within key agencies and communities The project aimed to carry out a range of training activities at different levels, relating to implementation of SLM and SFM. As of mid-2018, the project had completed the following work, according to the PIR (and validated by the MTR): - 35 persons in total (out of a total project target of 60) from the beginning of project (5 persons at the end of 2017 and in 15 persons in 2018) in Ijevan, Noyemberyan, Artsvaberd, Gugarq and Yeghegnut Forest Enterprises were trained in the use of ecosystem-based planning tools. The trainings were performed by the forest inventory and mapping team staff. The target groups of trainings included forest rangers and district heads, head of branches, chief foresters, as well as members of consolidated local self-governments. Almost all participants were men, as women traditionally were and are not part of forest management in Armenia. These field trainings were beneficial both to the inventory team (e.g. to correct methodological approaches for the assessment of NTFP amount and cost) and the local staff to learn about concentrated locations of NTFP, the methods of sustainable harvest and opportunities for further processing (e.g. agricultural crops processing units in Voskepar, Koghb, Berdavan and other sites). - 50 pasture stakeholders in total (out of a total project target of 100) from the beginning of project (of which 15 were women; in 2018 - 30 pasture stakeholders of which 10 were women) have undergone technical and skills training and development in sustainable pasture management in Ijevan, Noyemberyan, Gugarq an Yeghegnut Forest Enterprises. Additional community training on sustainable pasture management will be done by the pasture expert contracted by the project in mid-2018, with trainings to be held in late 2018 and early 2019. - 190 (of which 70 were women; 60 persons in 2018, of which 60 were women) forest dependents trained in technical skills for sustainable forest resource use in Ijevan, Noyemberyan, Gugarq and Yeghegnut FEs. Forest enterprise staff and local community members were informed and trained in sustainable use of different type of forest ecosystems meaning and use: including water regulation, soil protection, climate regulation in-direct ecosystem values; NTFP sustainable use for current and future generations; opportunities for eco-tourism development and alternatives to fuel wood consumption.


Tag: Effectiveness Gender Mainstreaming Women's Empowerment Communication Knowledge management Institutional Strengthening National Institutions

13.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes 

B. Component/Outcome 2: Investment in demonstrating improved sustainable forest and land management practices to reduce pressure on high conservation forests and maintain flow of ecosystem services

The second component of the project demonstrates on-the-ground approaches to improving sustainable land and forest management within a production landscape covering an area of around 220,000 hectares of forest lands in the forest enterprises. The additional inventory and forest mapping exercises and subsequent revised/updated forest management plans provide the basis to demarcate areas for restricted land and forest use for assigning land use regime to certain areas important for the provision of ecosystem services in the area such as water supply and land slide control, and for priority corridors for wildlife, and areas to be setaside for community resource use and grazing management. The total GEF funding for Component 2 was originally planned at $1,585,499 USD, which is 50.2% of the total GEF funding for the project; actual expenditure as of June 8th , 2018 was $319,882. The component activities are organized around five key outputs. The main progress toward results of these outputs is summarized following the table below. Progress toward results indicator targets for Component 2 are summarized in Table 10 below. 


Tag: Forestry Climate Change Adaptation Natural Resouce management Effectiveness

14.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes 

B. Component/Outcome 2: Investment in demonstrating improved sustainable forest and land management practices to reduce pressure on high conservation forests and maintain flow of ecosystem services (continuation)

Output 2.2: Restoration of forests and pasture lands, and rehabilitation of multiple use forestlands through community forest resource management Activities under this output were planned to include: (i) restoration of 4,932 ha of degraded forests (e.g. burnt forests, past clear-cut etc.) through assisted natural regeneration; by triggering the return of degraded forests to their natural condition, the project planned to restore their ecosystem functions, including carbon sequestration. This is to be achieved through fencing, thinning, limited soil working and limited seeding with native forest species to facilitate rapid natural regeneration of forests. In addition, the project aimed for (ii) Sustainable management of around 1,000 ha of degraded pastures and hay areas in government owned grazing lands to enhance and sustain productivity of these lands and reduce pressure on forest lands for grazing. Finally, the project expected to undertake (iii) Multi-purpose forestry in around 3,000 hectares of forest lands to be brought under sustainable community NTFP production and agro-forestry to reduce forest degradation and enhance economic benefits to local communities living adjacent to the forests.

Forest Restoration: Under the first activity for forest restoration, the project document foresaw the following activities: 1). Fencing of forested areas to prevent cattle access and other possible violations - 52,000 lm in total, which will ensure the protection of 4,932 ha of forests; 2). Regeneration of massively logged beech, oak-hornbeam stands, to ensure normal coppice growth and additional growth of springs at 120 ha - only 2-3 straight and well-developed shoots should be left on stumps; 3). Measures directed to support natural growth and soil amelioration, preparation of platforms of 1m to 1m for partial sowing of seeds, and maintenance at 4,932 ha. The specific rationale for the target value is not fully clear. According to the project team, the target may have been based on a calculation of the resources available for this activity – restoration through coppicing can cost approximately $400/ha, while other types of assisted natural regeneration support can be $70/ha (anecdotally). Officially, according to the Government of RA Decision N684--, from June 27, 2013 the average cost of support to natural regrowth in degraded forest ecosystems is $125/ha and for coppicing the cost is $265/ha (including all linked expenses). According to the project team the full amount of degraded forest is likely to be much more than what is targeted by the project.


Tag: Forestry Natural Resouce management Effectiveness Civil Societies and NGOs National Institutions

15.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes 

B. Component/Outcome 2: Investment in demonstrating improved sustainable forest and land management practices to reduce pressure on high conservation forests and maintain flow of ecosystem services (continuation)

Output 2.2: Restoration of forests and pasture lands, and rehabilitation of multiple use forestlands through community forest resource management (continuaiton)

Sustainable Pasture Management: With respect to pasture management, the project has contracted an expert on pasture management and restoration, who began activities in July 2018. The project has already outlined the 1,000 ha of degraded pastureland through the forest management plan process; the forest pasturelands are spread throughout the forest enterprises. The expert will study the area, and will prepare training materials for local communities. The training is to be conducted partially in autumn 2018, and partially in spring 2019. The expert will also propose rehabilitation measures for the degraded pasturelands. The project identified 1,455 ha of degraded forest pasturelands from the five largest forest enterprises. It is necessary to work on large consolidated areas, because it is not cost-effective to do a small 50 ha area in the middle of nowhere, and then another 20 ha in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, the pastureland to be restored should be consolidated, but the project is at least aiming to work on degraded pastureland in each of the largest forest enterprises. The project aims to do at least ~500 ha in Tavush marz, and ~500 ha in Lori marz. The expert is supposed to recommend exactly which 1,000 ha should be rehabilitated, and through what measures, and provide advice on the measures and methods to be implemented. The projectwill aim for 1,000 ha at a minimum, but if the rehabilitation measures are not too expensive then the project may be able to increase to the full 1,455 ha. Armenia is one of the many countries that has established a national Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) target (see Box 1), linked with the country’s implementation of the UNCCD. The project activities on forest and pasture restoration are contributing to achievement of the country’s LDN target, although the project was developed and began implementation prior to the establishment of the national LDN target. This mid-term review recommends that during the second half of implementation the project produce a short knowledge product (such as a 2- 4 page brochure) analyzing and indicating exactly how the project has contributed to achievement of the national LDN target.


Tag: Forestry Natural Resouce management Effectiveness

16.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes 

B. Component/Outcome 2: Investment in demonstrating improved sustainable forest and land management practices to reduce pressure on high conservation forests and maintain flow of ecosystem services (continuation)

Output 2.2: Restoration of forests and pasture lands, and rehabilitation of multiple use forestlands through community forest resource management (continuation) 

Multi-Purpose Forestry for NTFP Production and Agro-forestry: The project has a target of 3,000 hectares where multiple-use forest management regimes (NTFP harvest, agro-forestry, etc.) should be implemented, with participation of forest-dependent communities. Thus far the project has identified and mapped 2,000 ha for multiple-use regimes during the forest management plan development process for Ijevan, Noyemberyan, Gugarq, and Yeghegnut forest enterprises. In certain areas the project completed calculations on the estimated volume of NTFP production, such as the amount of berries and fruits in certain areas. For example, in one sub-unit the project calculated the amount of forest cherry, walnut, and blackberry, and assessed the potential production of mushrooms and edible plants


Tag: Agriculture Forestry Energy Natural Resouce management Effectiveness Women's Empowerment Civil Societies and NGOs

17.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes 

B. Component/Outcome 2: Investment in demonstrating improved sustainable forest and land management practices to reduce pressure on high conservation forests and maintain flow of ecosystem services (continuation)

Output 2.4: Integrated strategy for management of firewood collection and distribution from forests This output focuses on addressing the specific issue of fuelwood in local communities. For this output the project has an indicator of “Percentage reduction in forest firewood collection areas in targeted forest branches Reduced areas of felling in target state forests”, with a target of 15%. This indicator could be revised to better meet SMART criteria, by being changed to something like cubic meters of fuelwood avoided, or hectares of avoided degradation due to fuelwood substitution. Under Output 2.4 the project contracted a study on firewood consumption in Armenia. The key findings of this study include: - The farmers burning wood for heating the house report to be using from 8 to 20 m3 wood monthly during winter seasons; - Out of 23 farmers interviewed only 3 reported having income from the forest, two of which stated that 20% of their income comes from the wood as they do wild collection of berries and collect wood for heating the house; - In case of increased income farmers would prefer to use gas or electricity as these are more convenient and “sanitary” way of heating the house;  Out of 23 interviewed farmers 7 stated that are interested to energy saving heaters (solar energy). - The farmers stating that will shift to gas or electricity heating systems expect having 5- 7.5 mio AMD yearly income. Some stated that even if the income will increase during winter months by 600K AMD (or 100KAMD per family member) they will consider shifting


Tag: Forestry Natural Resouce management Effectiveness

18.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes 

B. Component/Outcome 2: Investment in demonstrating improved sustainable forest and land management practices to reduce pressure on high conservation forests and maintain flow of ecosystem services (continuation)

Output 2.4: Integrated strategy for management of firewood collection and distribution from forests (continuation) The energy-efficient stoves program is organized with support of a local NGO in the community of Koghb. The NGO designed the stoves based on designs on the internet, and with the support of engineers in Armenia. Once the design was set, a private company was contracted by the project to actually produce the stoves in larger quantities. The company is producing the stoves at an agreed price of 86,000 Armenian drams, equivalent to about $150- $200 USD. A total of 238 stoves were financed by the project and disseminated to needy members of the local community. Each household receiving the stove had to pay 15,000 drams, and these additional funds allowed the project to produce another 40 stoves, for a total of 278. The energy efficient stoves are estimated to reduce fuelwood consumption by 25-30%. This activity should have an impact of reducing forest degradation from wood cutting in some small number of hectares annually. The initial proposal of the NGO that conducted the activity includes estimates on the number of hectares of forest that could be saved, but this could be assessed in more detail now that the activity has been completed. This activity could have a much larger impact if it were possible to replicate and scale it up to a much larger scale. Since the cost of the stove is approximately the same amount that local households spend on fuelwood per year, and the stove is able to reduce wood consumption by 25%, then - if financing were available - a household could have a 100% return on investment in four years. If the government of Armenia or other development partners could establish a financing program for household purchase of these stoves then there could potentially be a large impact for reducing fuelwood use. To better document, communicate and promote the potential replicability of the project’s small-scale activities to reduce fuelwood dependency, this mid-term review recommends that the project conduct a small study to carefully and closely assess the actual likely avoided deforestation resulting from the project’s activities. In addition, the project should revise the indicator relating to “percentage reduction in forest firewood collection…” to focus on the amount of fuelwood use avoided (in cubic meters of wood), or the hectares of forest degradation or deforestation avoided. 


Tag: Forestry Emission Reduction Natural Resouce management Effectiveness

19.

VI. Effectiveness and Results: Progress Toward the Objective and Outcomes

C. Impacts and Global Environmental Benefits

The GEF Evaluation Office and UNDP require a rating on project impact, which in the context of the GEF biodiversity and land degradation focal areas relates to actual change in environmental status (e.g. improvements in status of species or ecosystem, reduced land degradation, land restored, etc.). The impact rating is not highly relevant at this stage of the Armenia Mountain SFM project’s implementation. Few activities have been completed on the ground, and any changes in status of forest ecosystem, forest biodiversity, or forest degradation are unlikely to have been influenced by project activities. The most immediate likely impact level results of the project are likely to be small-scale site-based impacts. For example, the project’s work to reduce local communities’ dependency on fuelwood should have a direct impact on the reduction of fuelwood required for those project demonstration communities and families involved in pilot activities (e.g. energy efficient stoves, biomass briquette alternatives, solar, etc.). These activities are just at the stage where it may be possible to see some impacts during the coming winter, during the main heating season. This evaluation has recommended above that the project conduct a small study to carefully and closely track the likely avoided deforestation resulting from these project activities. 

Although an impact rating is not highly relevant, an impact rating is provided here as required for the mid-term review, and consequently, impact ratings for the project must be assessed as follows: - Environmental status improvement is assessed as negligible; ? Environmental stress reduction is assessed as negligible; and - Progress toward stress/status change is assessed as negligible. 


Tag: Forestry Emission Reduction Biodiversity Effectiveness Impact

20.

VII. Key GEF Performance Parameters

The GEF has 10 operational principles, some of which are inherently covered by the five main evaluation criteria, and some of which are not. The key performance parameters that are not covered previously in this evaluation report are sustainability, catalytic role, and gender mainstreaming. UNDP-GEF project evaluations are also required to discuss the mainstreaming of UNDP program principles; this is covered in Annex 12 of this evaluation report.

A. Sustainability

Sustainability is one of the five main evaluation criteria, as well as being considered one of the GEF operational principles. While a sustainability rating is provided here as required, sustainability is a temporal and dynamic state that is influenced by a broad range of constantly shifting factors. It should be kept in mind that the important aspect of sustainability of GEF projects is the sustainability of results, not necessarily the sustainability of activities that produced results. In the context of GEF projects there is no clearly defined timeframe for which results should be sustained, although it is implied that they should be sustained indefinitely. When evaluating sustainability, the greater the time horizon, the lower the degree of certainty possible. In addition, by definition, mid-term evaluations are not well positioned to provide ratings on sustainability considering that many more activities will be undertaken before project end that may positively or negatively affect the likelihood of sustainability. Based on GEF evaluation policies and procedures, the overall rating for sustainability cannot be higher than the lowest rating for any of the individual components. Therefore, the overall sustainability rating for the Armenia Mountain SLM project for this mid-term evaluation is moderately likely.


Tag: Forestry Natural Resouce management Sustainability Resource mobilization Risk Management

21.

VII. Key GEF Performance Parameters

B. Catalytic Role: Replication and Up-scaling

The project’s work to establish national carbon co-efficients (Output 2.5) through actual sampling and testing of different types of forest in Armenia will have potentially significant catalytic benefits. Having actual co-efficient figures that are accurate for the national context will allow Armenia to greatly improve the accuracy of its national reporting to the UNFCCC, and these co-efficients can be used for calculations for other important activities as well, such as assessing the impact of land use change. It would be potentially highly catalytic if the project is able to make a significant contribution to the development of a National Forest Policy that incorporates sustainable approaches, and elements such as ecosystem services and integration of biodiversity considerations. Similarly, if the forest inventory data collected for the development of the forest management plans is integrated into the national Forest Management Information System, the data will then be able to be used for a range of other catalytic purposes, including reporting on forest coverage at the international level. The project’s work to demonstrate biomass briquetting and energy efficient stoves (Output 2.4) could potentially have a catalytic effect, if the government or other donors or partners ultimately are able to further develop and replicate these technologies at a larger scale. 


Tag: Forestry Emission Reduction Natural Resouce management Effectiveness Sustainability Gender Equality Gender Mainstreaming Women's Empowerment Data and Statistics SDG Integration Civil Societies and NGOs

Recommendations
1

Considering the private sector bottleneck for completing the forest management plans, the project should provide direct funding to the forest enterprises and Hayantar, to pilot a more self-driven approach to completion of the forest management plans. This should include direct collaboration with the State Forest Monitoring Center, which has strong technical capacity related to remote-sensing data analysis. This could begin with a pilot management plan for a forest enterprise sub-unit, to be completed as a collaboration between the forest enterprise staff, the State Forest Monitoring Center, and any other key relevant national stakeholders (i.e. Bioresources center, etc.). Completing this process and carefully tracking the financial inputs required would be a highly useful exercise to inform future planning for completion of forest management plans. This would also help build government forest management capacity, and support sustainability of project activities.

2

This evaluation recommends that the forest management plans should be developed through a comprehensive national stakeholder consultation process, including institutions such as the national forest monitoring center.

3

Even if formal approval of forest management plans depends on government approval of the forest enterprise boundaries, the project should promote draft “provisional” forest management plans that can be implemented prior to official government approval defining the exact forest boundaries. Within the forest management plans there should be an initial clause stating that the management plan is provisional until boundaries are officially approved by the government, but that the forest management plan will be implemented in the meantime based on current common understanding of the area under the responsibility of the forest enterprise.

4

The project team and UNDP should work with other partners and stakeholders to ensure that the work done and the inventory data collected for the FMPs is fully integrated into the FMIS, and the work done under the project is integrated into the development of the NFI.

5

If the forest enterprises are merged, the project should support this process by supporting the merging of the forest management plans as well. This should not be a major effort to completely re-do the forest management plans, but basically the existing forest management plans should be aggregated, without major additional revisions for the current 5-10 year management period.

6

Considering the delays so far, under Output 1.5 the project should tighten the scope of the development of regulations, focusing on the development of only the most critical 2-3 regulations or guidelines planned. At the same time, during the remaining implementation period, the project could lead work on the development of a National Forest Policy; however, this may need to wait until the forest management institutional framework is fully clear following the restructuring process.

7

The project should propose to the Government of Armenia that the State Forest Monitoring Center be shifted to the Ministry of Nature Protection, with an expanded mandate to provide support to all forest management functions. This should include support for the development of forest management plans through detailed analysis of remote sensing data. The State Forest Monitoring Center could also provide a focal point within Hayantar to develop and implement a National Forest Inventory based on new and modern technologies that can be more cost effective.

8

To ensure the capacity development work is as effective as possible the project should conduct a training needs assessment for each forest enterprise as part of the completion of the forest management plan. Then the training for each forest enterprise could be better targeted to ensure that the forest enterprise staff have the necessary capacity to implement the new forest management plans.

9

The work on forest restoration and regeneration is another area (like the completion of the forest management plans) where the project has the opportunity to directly support the forest enterprises, in order to build capacity and long-term sustainability. The project’s approach (apparently due to UNDP requirements) has been to conduct tenders and contract project activities out directly to third parties – NGOs, or private companies. It would be preferable if the project could work directly with the forest enterprises and Hayantar to carry out forest and pasture restoration activities - an approach recommended by this mid-term review. This has been done in other UNDP and GEF projects in other countries (e.g. Kyrgyzstan) and should be feasible in Armenia as well.

10

In the second half of the project, to develop measures for sustainable management of forest pastures, this evaluation recommends that the project integrate new and advanced concepts in sustainable pasture management. In particular, recent research shows that pasture carrying capacity (the number of livestock units a pasture is able to support per unit time) is dynamic and variable from one year to the next, depending on annual climatic conditions. Other recent developments for sustainable pasture management includes the use of remote sensing data, such as satellite imagery, to assess pasture conditions and suitability for grazing.[1]The project should also assess the relevance and utility of the Trends.Earth tool (http://trends.earth/docs/en/) to support sustainable land management outcomes in the context of the project. The Armenia Mountain SLM project should provide information on these tools and methods to Hayantar, and assess the cost-effectiveness and feasibility of conducting a pilot activity on sustainable pasture management using remote sensing technology. In addition, the project should build on direct recent experience in Armenia, such as the work and lessons from the Clima East pilot project in Armenia.

 


[1]For example, see https://www.uidaho.edu/cnr/rangeland-center/projects/space-cowboys; and https://academic.oup.com/jpe/article/9/6/649/2623732.

11

This mid-term review recommends that during the second half of implementation the project produce a short knowledge product (such as a 2-4 page brochure) analyzing and indicating exactly how the project has contributed to achievement of the national LDN target.

12

The project should leverage the livelihood support activities as community-education and awareness raising opportunities as well. The project should install sign boards at fruit, nut, and berry collection facilities in all communities near the targeted forests, such as Noyemberyan and Voskepar. The sign boards should clearly outline the linkage between the project’s objective of sustainable forest management, and the project’s support for local livelihoods. The signboards should also be designed to emphasize the importance of sustainable use of forest resources, and indicate regulations for forest use.

13

To better document, communicate and promote the potential replicability of the project’s small-scale activities to reduce fuelwood dependency, this mid-term review recommends that the project conduct a small study to carefully and closely assess the actual likely avoided deforestation resulting from the project’s activities. In addition, the project should revise the indicator relating to “percentage reduction in forest firewood collection…” to focus on the amount of fuelwood use avoided (in cubic meters of wood), or the hectares of forest degradation or deforestation avoided.

14

The PMU should closely and carefully track actual co-financing, including any in-kind or cash co-financing that is contributed by local stakeholders or local partners that may not have been part of the originally planned co-financing.

15

Now that a gender analysis has been completed, the PMU should develop a brief gender action plan to accompany project work planning, to concretely and specifically indicate the key actions that the project will proactively take to engage women and support gender mainstreaming, as relevant to the project activities and expected results.

16

In approximately the 1stquarter of 2019 the Project Steering Committee should be prepared to consider a possible 6-12 month extension from the currently planned completion of December 2019. Ideally the project would finish in the 4thquarter of 2020, in order to take advantage of the 2020 summer field season for forest and biodiversity monitoring, as well as other activities that are dependent on the summer field season.

17

The Project Steering Committee should consider approving revisions to the project results framework to ensure indicators and targets are fully in-line with SMART criteria, and reflect the baseline context at the time the project started implementation. Some results framework targets are not well-developed, or may need to be revised based on changed circumstances compared to what was expected during the project development phase. For example, the Project Steering Committee should consider reducing the target for forest management plans from 11 to 7-8 plans. The target for the indicator related to the percentage decrease in livestock using forests for unsustainable grazing practices should also be revised to fully meet SMART criteria. This mid-term review also recommends that the indicator related to the percentage of livestock using natural forests should be updated and clarified as necessary in the Armenian translation of all project-related documents, to ensure that all stakeholders and partners have a full understanding of the purpose and goal of the indicator.

18

In order for the carbon co-efficient to be as well established and validated as possible, this evaluation recommends that the process and results for establishing the carbon co-efficient be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

19

To keep the project moving forward UNDP may need to provide support through high level engagement with the Ministry of Nature Protection, in order to find a mutually agreeable path for rapid implementation during the second half of the project. This evaluation recommends that UNDP provide intensive supervision and support for the project to address any further delays of three months or longer.

Management Response Documents
1. Recommendation:

Considering the private sector bottleneck for completing the forest management plans, the project should provide direct funding to the forest enterprises and Hayantar, to pilot a more self-driven approach to completion of the forest management plans. This should include direct collaboration with the State Forest Monitoring Center, which has strong technical capacity related to remote-sensing data analysis. This could begin with a pilot management plan for a forest enterprise sub-unit, to be completed as a collaboration between the forest enterprise staff, the State Forest Monitoring Center, and any other key relevant national stakeholders (i.e. Bioresources center, etc.). Completing this process and carefully tracking the financial inputs required would be a highly useful exercise to inform future planning for completion of forest management plans. This would also help build government forest management capacity, and support sustainability of project activities.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is partially relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Both “Hayantar” SNCO and State Forest Monitoring Center (SFMC) SNCO had certain technical capacities: mapping (including RS application and thematic mapping in GIS environment), field monitoring of illegal logging, authorized cuttings, forest restoration activities, etc. , but they don’t have the necessary capacities to prepare complete forest management plans (FMPs) according to the acting Order of Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) from 2005, with integrated biodiversity, ecosystems services and carbon components. The existing capacities of both SNCOs are extensively used through the preparation process of drafted FMPs. For the new FMPs (for the following forest enterprises) the participation of “Hayantar” SNCO and SFMC will be intensified.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit UNDP SGR portfolio 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
2. Recommendation:

This evaluation recommends that the forest management plans should be developed through a comprehensive national stakeholder consultation process, including institutions such as the national forest monitoring center.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is partially relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The drafted FMPs were presented to “Hayantar” SNCO, Ministry of Nature Protection (MoNP), SFMC still during their preparation phase. Later, when FMPs were circulated for the official feedbacks both “Hayantar” SNCO and SFMC responded with their comments on the base of which drafted FMPs were amended.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit Project Steering Committee “Hayantar” SNCO 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
3. Recommendation:

Even if formal approval of forest management plans depends on government approval of the forest enterprise boundaries, the project should promote draft “provisional” forest management plans that can be implemented prior to official government approval defining the exact forest boundaries. Within the forest management plans there should be an initial clause stating that the management plan is provisional until boundaries are officially approved by the government, but that the forest management plan will be implemented in the meantime based on current common understanding of the area under the responsibility of the forest enterprise.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is relevant and acceptable.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
“Provisional” FMPs were used in autumn 2019 to decide the potential forest restoration sites of 2000 ha degraded forest areas, as a base for UNDP- “Hayantar” SNCO signed “Responsible party agreement” by the mid-October, 2018. The extent of usage of “Provisional” FMPs are much greater and could be specified by particularities of “Hayantar” planned activities for 2019 and the following years.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit Project Steering Committee “Hayantar” SNCO 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
4. Recommendation:

The project team and UNDP should work with other partners and stakeholders to ensure that the work done and the inventory data collected for the FMPs is fully integrated into the FMIS, and the work done under the project is integrated into the development of the NFI.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The PMU has been working with GIZ-Armenia (developer of FMIS) and “Hayantar” SNCO to integrate all data developed within project into FMIS: updated GIS layers, HR satellite images, forest inventory and all other relevant data. The agreement is on the ground and will happen once drafted FMPs are approved. PMU is keen to develop NFI and contribute with all primary and processed data.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit UNDP SGR “Hayantar” SNCO 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
5. Recommendation:

If the forest enterprises are merged, the project should support this process by supporting the merging of the forest management plans as well. This should not be a major effort to completely re-do the forest management plans, but basically the existing forest management plans should be aggregated, without major additional revisions for the current 5-10 year management period.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The forest sector reforms that started in late 2017 unfortunately does not have any clear framework and action plan. PMU has initiated a workshop on 6th of July, 2018 and invited MoNP and all relevant national and international forest sector stakeholders to got clear picture of developments. Unfortunately until now there are not any clearances and hints on future organizational and management structures of national forest authorities. Despite this un-clear situation PMU has all relevant electronic data on drafted FMPs to merge and/or aggregate them.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit “Hayantar” SNCO 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
6. Recommendation:

Considering the delays so far, under Output 1.5 the project should tighten the scope of the development of regulations, focusing on the development of only the most critical 2-3 regulations or guidelines planned. At the same time, during the remaining implementation period, the project could lead work on the development of a National Forest Policy; however, this may need to wait until the forest management institutional framework is fully clear following the restructuring process.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Under the output 1.5 the project so far has developed “Forest carbon stock measurements” guideline, which was tested for northern and north-eastern Armenia forest ecosystems and is ready to be formalized. The second guideline on “Effective monitoring of FMPS” already is discussed with MoNP, SFMC and “Hayantar” SNCO to be conducted in 2019. Still in the beginning of 2018 PMU initiated amendment to National Forest Code (2005), i.e. prepared and processed through the required procedures “State Forest Service” legal act to support establishment of “State Forest Service” as a second major organizational unit of “State Forest Committee”, apart of “Hayantar” SNCO. Unfortunately this was not further developed due to political changes in the country and an-known future of “forest reforms”.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit UNDP SGR 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
7. Recommendation:

The project should propose to the Government of Armenia that the State Forest Monitoring Center be shifted to the Ministry of Nature Protection, with an expanded mandate to provide support to all forest management functions. This should include support for the development of forest management plans through detailed analysis of remote sensing data. The State Forest Monitoring Center could also provide a focal point within Hayantar to develop and implement a National Forest Inventory based on new and modern technologies that can be more cost effective.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The status of “SFMC” still is un-clear. It is previewed large organizational restructurings after extraordinary parliamentary elections of 9th Dec. Independently to these developments PMU convinced UNDP SGR to support the transfer of SFMC to the MoNP. Meanwhile PMU contracted SFMC (for October-December, 2018) to monitor and support on-going degraded forest restoration activities conducted by “Hayanatar” SNCO on 2000 ha forest areas in 6 FEs. PMU involved SFMC staff in all its capacity building activities for the project life duration.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit UNDP SGR Ministry of Nature Protection 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
8. Recommendation:

To ensure the capacity development work is as effective as possible the project should conduct a training needs assessment for each forest enterprise as part of the completion of the forest management plan. Then the training for each forest enterprise could be better targeted to ensure that the forest enterprise staff have the necessary capacity to implement the new forest management plans.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is partially relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The capacity building for the forest enterprise staff was and is obligatory part of ToR designed for the activities to daft FMP. The contractor is obligated to train staff of local forest enterprise and involve this staff in forest inventory, mapping and FMP drafting activities. Beside this, PMU organized separate training on field computers and GPS applications in forestry, where were invited local forest staff from 4 forest enterprises. After trainings and testing of knowledge all 4 FEs were equipped by field computers and GPS receivers. The capacity upgrade for local FE staff is continuous task for PMU.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit UNDP SGR 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
9. Recommendation:

The work on forest restoration and regeneration is another area (like the completion of the forest management plans) where the project has the opportunity to directly support the forest enterprises, in order to build capacity and long-term sustainability. The project’s approach (apparently due to UNDP requirements) has been to conduct tenders and contract project activities out directly to third parties – NGOs, or private companies. It would be preferable if the project could work directly with the forest enterprises and Hayantar to carry out forest and pasture restoration activities - an approach recommended by this mid-term review. This has been done in other UNDP and GEF projects in other countries (e.g. Kyrgyzstan) and should be feasible in Armenia as well.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The PMU succeeded to have “Responsible party agreement” between UNDP and “Hayantar” SNCO to conduct forest restoration of 2000 ha degraded forest ecosystems in 6 forest enterprises. The forest staff of 6 FEs and locally hired 500 people were involved in the scale activities. The PMU is working closely with all 6 FEs and “Haynatar” SNCO to make activities effective and also valuable for local community members. It is planned to continuous this collaboration in 2019 and extend such agreement for the specially protected areas, e.g. Dilijan NP.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit UNDP SGR 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
10. Recommendation:

In the second half of the project, to develop measures for sustainable management of forest pastures, this evaluation recommends that the project integrate new and advanced concepts in sustainable pasture management. In particular, recent research shows that pasture carrying capacity (the number of livestock units a pasture is able to support per unit time) is dynamic and variable from one year to the next, depending on annual climatic conditions. Other recent developments for sustainable pasture management includes the use of remote sensing data, such as satellite imagery, to assess pasture conditions and suitability for grazing.[1]The project should also assess the relevance and utility of the Trends.Earth tool (http://trends.earth/docs/en/) to support sustainable land management outcomes in the context of the project. The Armenia Mountain SLM project should provide information on these tools and methods to Hayantar, and assess the cost-effectiveness and feasibility of conducting a pilot activity on sustainable pasture management using remote sensing technology. In addition, the project should build on direct recent experience in Armenia, such as the work and lessons from the Clima East pilot project in Armenia.

 


[1]For example, see https://www.uidaho.edu/cnr/rangeland-center/projects/space-cowboys; and https://academic.oup.com/jpe/article/9/6/649/2623732.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is partially relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The project forest and communities degraded pasturelands expert has been using the degraded pasturelands identification “Guideline on summer pasturelands monitoring in Armenia” tool developed within GIZ IBIS project and “Technical Reference 1737-7 of Ecologial site Inventory, Colorado, 2001, NSTC, BLM ‘’. In both documents for the identification of degraded pasturelands extensively were used RS technologies. Beside these guidelines and RS PMU with project expert has had more than 10 field visits to prelimenary identified pasturelands and conducted rather detailed field investigations on the status and potential treatment means.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit UNDP SGR 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
11. Recommendation:

This mid-term review recommends that during the second half of implementation the project produce a short knowledge product (such as a 2-4 page brochure) analyzing and indicating exactly how the project has contributed to achievement of the national LDN target.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The PMU will develop a short knowledge brochure analyzing and indicating the project contribution to the national LDN target.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
12. Recommendation:

The project should leverage the livelihood support activities as community-education and awareness raising opportunities as well. The project should install sign boards at fruit, nut, and berry collection facilities in all communities near the targeted forests, such as Noyemberyan and Voskepar. The sign boards should clearly outline the linkage between the project’s objective of sustainable forest management, and the project’s support for local livelihoods. The signboards should also be designed to emphasize the importance of sustainable use of forest resources, and indicate regulations for forest use.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The PMU installed sign board on “Ardvi” passive solar green house with the clarification of this unit for the reduction of green house gases, decrease of fuel-wood extraction from the surrounding forests due to provided alternative source of income. It is in the designing phase the signboards for Met Parni briquetting facility; Indicator bird and butterfly sites, Voskepar solar drying facility. The PMU will put more efforts also to design and install the relevant signboards in Koghb, Ijevan, Koti and Bagratashen communities with clearances on usage of solar panels/water heaters as substitution to firewood consumption in kindergarten, improvement of healthy environment and promotion of carbon sinks. The education and public awareness component is obligatory for all local level activities: forest inventory, pasturelands management, degraded forest restoration and livelihood programs.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
13. Recommendation:

To better document, communicate and promote the potential replicability of the project’s small-scale activities to reduce fuelwood dependency, this mid-term review recommends that the project conduct a small study to carefully and closely assess the actual likely avoided deforestation resulting from the project’s activities. In addition, the project should revise the indicator relating to “percentage reduction in forest firewood collection…” to focus on the amount of fuelwood use avoided (in cubic meters of wood), or the hectares of forest degradation or deforestation avoided.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is partially relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The PMU already completed one joint study on potential effects of introduced hail-nets for Tavush region. In November two different studies were initiated to study the effectiveness of introduced energy-efficient ovens and solar panels/heaters, as well as the outcomes for the introduced microgrant program for Teghut and Haghartsin villages. The amount of substituted firewood and saved forest as a result of functioning of briquetting facility in Mets Parni also will be assessed by mid 2019 after having production data.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/09/14]
Project management unit UNDP SGR Ministry of Nature Protection 2019/12 Completed Action is completed History
14. Recommendation:

The PMU should closely and carefully track actual co-financing, including any in-kind or cash co-financing that is contributed by local stakeholders or local partners that may not have been part of the originally planned co-financing.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is partially relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The PMU will take necessary steps to track actual co-financing (both in-kind and cash) for all stakeholders in involved in project activities (MoNP, MoA, “Hayantar” SNCO, WWF-Armenia and CNF).
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit UNDP SGR 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
15. Recommendation:

Now that a gender analysis has been completed, the PMU should develop a brief gender action plan to accompany project work planning, to concretely and specifically indicate the key actions that the project will proactively take to engage women and support gender mainstreaming, as relevant to the project activities and expected results.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is partially relevant and acceptable.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The corresponding ToR is submitted as a part of UNDP-Armenia LTA contracted “International gender advisor” to work out gender action plan with the SMART indicators to increase the PMU efforts towards gender mainstreaming.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/04/14]
Project management unit UNDP SGR 2019/03 Completed International gender advisor provided gender action plan and draft list of engendered indicators. The SMART indicators to increase the PMU efforts towards gender mainstreaming were also provided. History
16. Recommendation:

In approximately the 1stquarter of 2019 the Project Steering Committee should be prepared to consider a possible 6-12 month extension from the currently planned completion of December 2019. Ideally the project would finish in the 4thquarter of 2020, in order to take advantage of the 2020 summer field season for forest and biodiversity monitoring, as well as other activities that are dependent on the summer field season.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is partially relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The Project Steering Committee will be prepared and supported by all necessary documents and justifications to consider a possible 12 month no-cost extension from the currently planned completion of December 2019. Project no-cost extension will be applied upon confirmation from the GEF along with project work-plan and budget revision to plan activities and allocate funds for the period till end of Q4 2020.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/04/14]
Project management unit UNDP SGR Project Steering Committee 2019/03 Completed The supporting documents and justifications to consider a possible 12 month no-cost extension of SLM/SFM project from the currently planned completion date of December 2019 are prepared, discussed and agreed with senior management and project steering committee members (no-cost extension, revision of work plan and budget allocations). History
17. Recommendation:

The Project Steering Committee should consider approving revisions to the project results framework to ensure indicators and targets are fully in-line with SMART criteria, and reflect the baseline context at the time the project started implementation. Some results framework targets are not well-developed, or may need to be revised based on changed circumstances compared to what was expected during the project development phase. For example, the Project Steering Committee should consider reducing the target for forest management plans from 11 to 7-8 plans. The target for the indicator related to the percentage decrease in livestock using forests for unsustainable grazing practices should also be revised to fully meet SMART criteria. This mid-term review also recommends that the indicator related to the percentage of livestock using natural forests should be updated and clarified as necessary in the Armenian translation of all project-related documents, to ensure that all stakeholders and partners have a full understanding of the purpose and goal of the indicator.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is partially relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The draft of revision of project results framework with clarifications on certain indicators will be prepared by PMU and presented to Project Steering Committee meeting. The revision will touch the following indicators: number of revised FMPs, the percentage decrease in livestock using forests for unsustainable grazing practices, percentage of livestock using natural forests.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit UNDP SGR Project Steering Committee 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
18. Recommendation:

In order for the carbon co-efficient to be as well established and validated as possible, this evaluation recommends that the process and results for establishing the carbon co-efficient be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The article titled “Piloting a national forest carbon inventory in north-east Armenia” is already drafted. It’s planned to submit by Q1-Q2, 2019.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History
19. Recommendation:

To keep the project moving forward UNDP may need to provide support through high level engagement with the Ministry of Nature Protection, in order to find a mutually agreeable path for rapid implementation during the second half of the project. This evaluation recommends that UNDP provide intensive supervision and support for the project to address any further delays of three months or longer.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2021/02/22]

The recommendation is partially relevant and acceptable. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The UNDP SGR and PMU are working tightly with MoNP to rapid the implementation of project activities for the second half of 2019. The revised work plan and budget will be presented to Project Steering Committee meeting by the end of December, 2018 to seek the executive body support to rapid the project activities.
[Added: 2018/12/18] [Last Updated: 2019/12/28]
Project management unit UNDP SGR Project Steering Committee 2019/12 Completed See uploaded Final Management Response updated in December 2019 History

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