Landscape approach to management of peatlands aiming at multiple ecological benefits

Report Cover Image
Evaluation Plan:
2016-2020, Belarus
Evaluation Type:
Final Project
Planned End Date:
06/2017
Completion Date:
06/2017
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
20,000

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Title Landscape approach to management of peatlands aiming at multiple ecological benefits
Atlas Project Number: 00082884
Evaluation Plan: 2016-2020, Belarus
Evaluation Type: Final Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 06/2017
Planned End Date: 06/2017
Management Response: Yes
Focus Area:
  • 1. Environment & Sustainable Development
  • 2. Others
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2014-2017)
  • 1. Output 2.5. Legal and regulatory frameworks, policies and institutions enabled to ensure the conservation, sustainable use, and access and benefit sharing of natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystems, in line with international conventions and national
Evaluation Budget(US $): 20,000
Source of Funding: GEF
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 15,200
Joint Programme: Yes
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Mark Anstey Mr manstey1@googlemail.com
Sergei Gotin Mr sergei@gotin.org
GEF Evaluation: Yes
GEF Project Title: Landscape approach to management of peatlands aiming at multiple ecological benefits
Evaluation Type: Terminal Evaluation
Focal Area: Multifocal Areas
Project Type: FSP
GEF Phase: GEF-5
GEF Project ID: 4468
PIMS Number: 4419
Key Stakeholders: Ministry of natural Recourses and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus, National Academy of Science of Belarus, RUE "Belgiprovodkhoz"
Countries: BELARUS, REPUBLIC OF
Lessons
1.

1. Building on past experience and ensuring continuity of direction / institutions i.e. maintain momentum: The greatest asset this project had was that it built directly on the experience of the designers and participants of the previous Peatlands MSP project and maintained the momentum established by that project to push forward the key issues, concerns and interests that emerged from that project. The continuity of stakeholder involvement and the involvement of key scientific institutions and individuals, as well as key stakeholders, played a critical role in the project success. UNDP and the executing agency are to be commended for their pro-active commitment to developing this project in such a timely manner and effectively building on the previous projects results. The value added of doing so cannot be under estimated and in this respect the project can be said to be highly cost effective as a result.

 

2. The Peatlands Inventory Website: The online publishing of the full inventory data for the peatlands inventory is an extremely valuable resource and tool for all institutions, both state and private sector (as well as the public in general). As stated on the opening page “the database will facilitate the organization of the sustainable use of peatlands in the development of land use plans, development of network of protected areas, action plans, rare species”. The open access to this data is a good example of how to maximize the benefits of such data and ensure its full application. As such it is a positive lesson learned and the approach needs to be built on in future similar initiatives.

 

3. The caretakers (warden) system approach to public / Protected area cooperation and collaboration: Based on the evidence gleaned from the TE mission the PA caretaker/warden concept piloted by Birdlife Belarus and further supported by the project is effective and has a reasonable chance of being sustainable. This is therefore a good example of such public / state cooperation and has the potential for both replication to other PAs but also application to other aspects of environmental management and monitoring.

 

4. Ecosystem service evaluation: As discuss in previous section the use of the Ecosystem service approach to try and place economic values on such services was a valuable new approach tested by the project – this has proved that if applied in the right way it can provide data of potentially great benefit for sound decision making by all sectors. This experience and the lessons learned from its initial application need to be noted when further developing such approaches and seeking to mainstream into wider economic planning.

 

5. Private sector co-financing: Another innovative achievement that should be learned from and pursued further in the future is the project’s success in identifying and accessing considerable private sector co-financing for a specific project site and for building an effective cooperative relationship with the donor during implementation of activities funded. The lessons from this should be applied when seeking such co-financing in the future.

 

6. Use of international consultant with both the linguistic capacity and deep experience of the mindset and operation/approaches of post-sovietcentralized government systems such as still exist in Belarus: This is an important lesson in the appropriate application of technical assistance – i.e. technical assistance that brings something new but tailors it in a way that best meets the specific conditions and circumstances of the country. The NPS is a good example of this and a good lesson for future such policy level technical assistance provided by UNDP projects.

 


Findings
1.

4.1Project formulation (design)

4.1.1 Project relevance

The project document does not explicitly describe in any section the specific linkages between the project and national policy, strategic plans, and obligations under relevant conventions (CBD, FCC, CCD, etc.). Historically, UNDP/GEF project document contained sections on this (country Ownership: Country Eligability and Country Driveness) but it is noted that in the latest template for UNDP/GEF project documents (January 20166) this section is no longer required.

In any case the project clearly targets crucial policy issues of national and global importance such as land degradation, peat fire risk, energy requirements, and climate change. The project assists the Belarus Government in its efforts to address these issues through its policies in these fields, such as the National Strategy on Climate Change, National Action Program to Combat Land Degradation, the National Strategy and Action Plan for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity. The project also relates to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention of Biological Conservation.


Tag: Natural Resouce management Relevance Policies & Procedures

2.

The project is well-aligned with the country priorities, specifically with four programmes of the Government of Belarus: i) Scheme of Rational Use and Protection of Peat Resource in Belarus through 2010, coordinated by Cabinet of Ministers (indeed, one of the primary outputs of the project will be the update of these “schemes” for each of the peatlands over 10ha : the previous (but less detailed) classification of peatland that was produced in 1990 and which was valid until 2010), ii) Protected area support and expansion program for the period 2008-2014, supervised by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, iii) The State Program on the Reconstruction of Drainage Facilities for the period 2011– 2015, implemented by Belmeliovodkhoz, and iv) The State Program on the Development of the Forest Sector for 2011-2015, implemented by the Ministry of Forestry.

A key component of the project addresses the potential for Belarus to accurately report on the carbon fixation functions of peatlands in the country and the impacts project supported activities (such as re-wetting of degraded peatlands) can have in this context. In addition to improving the accuracy of its reporting this has significant potentially benefit for development of carbon trading initiatives, but this latter aspect was not within the scope of the project.


Tag: Natural Resouce management Relevance

3.

4.1.2 Implementation approach (design and strategy)

The MTE provides a detailed and in-depth assessment of the project design and strategy which is supported by the findings of the TE mission – in summary these are:

  • Root causes are addressed: The project design with its identified objective and outcomes is relevant to counter the root causes of the threats and the barriers to achieve effective management of peatland within Belarus (see Table 2 from MTE below)
  • the landscape approach is appropriate: a). peatlands are not spatially discrete and it is necessary to consider connectivity (one of the key concepts of landscape approaches), b). no single initiative by any single organisation can hope to achieve the long-term conservation. Thus, it is necessary to implement a variety of initiatives – including the relevant stakeholders – to work in a cohesive way to address the many factors that threaten peatlands. The project addresses peatlands issues on a landscape scale 1). Via the strategy that brings together various key stakeholders involved in land use, ii). By piloting (or re-piloting) various approaches to reversing degradation and addressing root causes of degradation.
  • Built on past projects: The project builds on and from a number of different initiatives and lessons from these are well incorporated: most pertinently, two previous UNDP-GEF projects  “Renaturalization and Sustainable Management of Peatlands to Combat Land Degradation, Ensure Conservation of Globally Valuable Biodiversity, and Mitigate Climate Change (PIMS 1750)” and “Catalyzing Sustainability of the Wetland Protected Areas System in Belarusian Polesie through Increased Management Efficiency and Realigned Land Use Practices (PIMS 2894)”. Lessons from these and other projects have been incorporated into the design.

Tag: Protected Areas Programme/Project Design Sustainability

4.

Analysis of the Project Strategic Results Framework:

As assessed in the MTE the SRF is adequate in that it provides a sound, detailed and logical description of the project and its contents and the means by which to evaluate progress towards results. Limitations of the SRF identified by the MTE included:

  • Indicator parameters / assumptions: in a number of occasions the indicator measured parameters are assumed to be indicative of conditions that should lead to global environmental benefits of effective biodiversity conservation, enhanced carbon stocks, sustainable land management, and sustainable forest management. Indeed, the risks and assumptions column of the PRF focuses on the risks but does not analyse the assumptions.
  • a relatively large number of indicators: When disaggregated, the PRF has a total of 20 indicators (one at the Objective level, 13 associated with the first component and 7 associated with the second). This means that a relatively large amount of effort will be expended collecting the data despite the fact that some of the indicators should, logically, lead to the achievement of other, higher level indicators (see MTE Para. 46 for more detail). This only really matters if collecting all this data proved difficult/unmanageable in practice and based on the findings of the TE it was not a problem. However, as an issue of project design worth considering for future projects it is useful to highlight as something to be avoided in future. The MTE indicated 28 indicators (3 at objective level, 16 for 1st component and 9 for 2nd component – The TE team based their figures on the PFR in the Project document as no changes to PFR were made at the inception phase. It is not quite clear where the figures mentioned in the MTE are based on.
  • There are site-specific biodiversity indicators that appear ambitious and so vulnerable to complex, stochastic events and parameters:  should any one target not be achieved by the EOP, it would be difficult to attribute this to the activities carried out by the project. Visa versa if the targets are hit, it would be similarly difficult to attribute such a “success” to the activities of the project. In summary, this renders the indicators virtually meaningless.

Tag: Biodiversity Programme/Project Design Results-Based Management

5.

4.1.3 Quality of Monitoring and Evaluation (in project design)

The project M&E design was standard for such projects and well developed and described as well as sufficient resources allocated. The only weakness in the design aspect of the Project M&E relates to the issues raised elsewhere in this report and the MTE regarding the strength of indicators used.

 


Tag: Monitoring and Evaluation

6.

4.1.4 Country ownership/Driveness

There would appear to have been a very high level of ownership and commitment to the project, not just in the scientific circles from where the main authors originate, but also the state nature protection bodies, and even more importantly, the main economic user of peat i.e. the peat extracting industry. This is to a large part a legacy of the previous peatlands MSP and the relationships and understandings that were created during that time. It seems therefore that all key stakeholders were keen to have the project and showed strong commitment to its results (particularly the NP||S) from the start. The only exception in this context is perhaps the Ministry of Agriculture which in the context of the project is still it seems a rather reluctant and uncommitted player (see more on this in results section in regard to the “deep ploughing Pilot activity).

Direct evidence the TE team had of the commitment of all parties (with the exception of the Ministry of Agriculture) was gained in meetings with 2 Deputy Ministers in the MNREP in which both were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the project results, the Beltopgas Director (peat extraction design institute) who strongly supported the project for the NPS and related documents, the Deputy Minister of Forestry who informed about already adopting the Black Alder pilot approach, etc


Tag: Ownership Country Government Civil Societies and NGOs Private Sector

7.

4.1.5 Stakeholder participation

Stakeholder analysis is carried out within the Project Document and the main stakeholders are identified, with a broad description of their mandate, as well as their identified role and responsibilities within the project.

The project is engaging with a large number of stakeholders, both at a central level but also with the appropriate people and organisations in the areas in which the pilots are taking place. The contact with stakeholders is taking place on a number of different levels:

a. The PB has broad representation from both the governmental and non-governmental sector (although PB membership is predominantly governmental)

b. The WG is a forum specially established for the project and its effectiveness as a tool for engendering communication among the stakeholders is now proven. The membership of the WG has been carefully selected to ensure its optimal functionality.

c. Many of the stakeholder organisations that are not formally included in the PB or WG are directly involved in the implementation of the project – either as NIM partners or as contractors.

d. At a more local level and with respect to the pilot sites, all the appropriate stakeholders are involved – from the local authorities to agricultural enterprise leaders, protected area managers, etc.


Tag: Women's Empowerment Civil Societies and NGOs

8.

4.1.6 Replication approach

There is no explicit replication strategy in the Project Document (although there are brief notes on replication potential on each of the pilots in Annex 3 of the Project document).

It is the strong opinion of the TE Team that any project that contains a significant “piloting” or “demonstration” aspect must then automatically have dedicated follow-on output/s or at least activities, that address ensuring these pilots have their real intended impact i.e. that they are adopted, scaled up and replicated. The world is full of wonderful pilots and demonstration activities that never went further than isolated events during the project timeframe because insufficient effort was then targeted to ensuring they were know about, their benefits understood and replication facilitated. Equally true is that some pilots of quite dubious real feasibility or impact were replicated because it suited some vested interests to support them and there was insufficient basis to properly evaluate their real viability. It is easy during a project implementation for the focus of attention to be poured into getting pilot activities underway on the ground and by their nature they are new and often problematic activities to successfully pursue in practice. This often leads to implementation blindness- i.e. so much effort and attention goes into carrying out the pilot activities in the field that the equally (if not more) important task of evaluating, documenting and then disseminating/supporting replication gets forgotten or no time is left before the project termination.


Tag: Programme/Project Design Project and Programme management

9.

4.1.7 Cost-effectiveness (of project design)

The project document has a well-developed section on cost-effectiveness based on coherent justifications and lessons learned from previous projects and similar developments in the country. In particular, the project is closely targeted to the enactment of a NPS in the simplest but most effective manner possible in the context of Belarus while at the same time ensuring it is based on solid data and full stakeholder participation via the WG.

The pilot activities to test/demonstrate in the field the ways and means by which to implement the NPS in practice are suitable scaled and involve the close involvement and cost-sharing / co-financing of activities by partner organizations. In summary, the project is arguably a cost-effective design in order to reach its objectives and the national/global expected benefits.


Tag: Effectiveness Resource mobilization

10.

4.1.8 Sustainability

Sustainability of the project results depends most critically on the successful development and approval of a long term national peatlands strategy, and crucially that the strategy has wide support and commitment of all the stakeholders involve, and that it is based on sound economic reasoning. The project design convincingly argues this case and includes out puts and activities that realistically build towards this situation.

The area of perhaps some concern in the project design re. sustainability is insufficient focus of effort towards ensuring replication of new approaches, technologies and techniques via dedicated replication/dissemination/scaling up output/s or activities. As mentioned elsewhere, good practice in any project with substantial “pilot” or “demonstration” activities/outputs would require some dedicated additional activities/outputs devoted to their effective documentation, dissemination and replication.


Tag: Communication Programme/Project Design Sustainability

11.

4.1.9 Linkages between project and other interventions within the sector

The project had strong linkages with numerous past and ongoing projects and initiatives from donor, NGO and government sources. The project document describes these in depth and in practice they proved to be an accurate portrayal of reality. These included:

  • The ICI project titled “Restoring Peatlands and applying Concepts for Sustainable Management in Belarus-Climate Change Mitigation with Economic and Biodiversity Benefits”.
  • The ICI project was built on the foundation of a recently completed UNDP-GEF MSP on peatland conservation and sustainable management focusing on peatlands subject to peat mining. The GEF MSP developed the management framework, and accompanying regulations and methodological guidance for re-wetting mined peatlands. However , the scope did not include exploring carbon market opportunities, and it was oriented at innovative testing of restoration in practice and on setting methodological and policy foundations for the country. The fundamental scientific analysis underpinning the generation and monitoring of carbon emissions from restored peatlands and the opportunities for tapping into carbon markets for these emission reductions were, however, implemented through subsequent financing from ICI that built on the success of the GEF MSP.

Tag: Climate Change Adaptation Recovery

12.

The primary national implementing agency for the ICI project is the same as that in the UNDP-GEF MSP namely, the National NGO BirdLife Belarus. Other partners include Ministries of Forestry and Environment, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Michael Succow Foundation, KfW, Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology, and Greifswald University (Greifswald, Germany).

The focus of the GEF MSP and ICI work has been on mined peatlands. In contrast, the present GEF FSP proposal aims at addressing peatland management needs in agricultural and forestry peatlands, and triggering a shift to landscape-scale management. This is critical as the threats to peatlands derive from multiple sectors, and a holistic multi-sectoral approach is needed to address development pressures. The project will use the MRV developed by the ICI funded project, but will adjust it to the new agricultural and forestry biotopes, allowing agricultural and forest peatlands to enter the same carbon mechanism as created with ICI support.


Tag: Agriculture Forestry Biodiversity Ecosystem services Partnership Civil Societies and NGOs

13.

4.1.10 Management arrangements

The project management arrangements followed the normal UNDP set up with the executing agency being the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection (MNREP). This was appropriate as the key project result/output was the National Peatlands Strategy and Outline for Direction of Use up to 2030 which it is their mandate to present to government and to monitor implementation of.

An executive Board, chaired by the MNREP and including a suitable cross section of the main players/stakeholders, including an NGO (Birdlife Belarus) was mandated to oversee the implementation of the project. A Project Implementation Unit (PIU) was directly responsible for implementation.


Tag: Communication Oversight Project and Programme management Coordination

14.

4.2.1 Management and coordination

The project implementation arrangements have been described in the previous section. Overall, it appears to have been effective and, in particularly, the WG that was established under the project.

The PB has met 7 times during the full project implementation, and only 4 times since the MTE. The PB functions but only to a certain level. Attendance of and participation in PB meetings has tended to be a little erratic with some member organisations either sending delegates or not attending at all. Nonetheless, the PB has remained relatively functional and taken decisions when necessary.

The PIU was established with recruitment, first, of the Project Manager on 01 March 2013 (see Table 5). There have been two changes to the PIU since it was established: the first Administrative and Finance Assistant (AFA) left having been in place for two years. She has subsequently been replaced. The explanation for her departure was personal and there was nothing untoward that drove her to depart the project. Her replacement did not have her experience and thus was reliant on support from her, as well as the Project Manager and the support staff within UNDP-CO but it seems grew effectively into his position and performed well.


Tag: Change Management Oversight Project and Programme management

15.

Unfortunately, it is very clear from the subsequent events that the project did indeed suffer limitation in regard to the effectiveness of PR/communications support post the changes. This was almost inevitable given the PR specialist was: a). located elsewhere, b). was no longer directly responsible to the PM and had other significant duties apart from the project. In addition, the new PR specialist had of course no background knowledge of the project and so under the conditions mentioned above, was placed in a very difficult position in terms of providing the project useful support. Though there were of course theoretical justifications for the new policy applied by UNDP (in terms of ensuring continuity and coordination of messages, and increasing the potential capacity by concentrating it into one unit, etc.) in the view of the TE Team this arrangement was fundamentally flawed from the outset – the bottom line was that the project lost a full time PR specialist, gained only the partial time of someone whose direct responsibility was not to the project, and on top of this the GEF had to pay for it.

From interviews with the PM, the staff of other projects, representatives in MNREP (GEF Focal point), and the head of the PR/communications unit in UNDP (the previous project PR specialist) it is clear now in hindsight that the new arrangement needs to be reviewed in terms of better engagement of a PR person in the project’s communication architecture, generate project-related content, increase accountability to the project team. From the interview with the Head of the Unit in UNDP it is clear that the UNDP management has identified that this new approach has not worked out as hope, and has generated some unfortunate repercussions from donors and the beneficiary institutions. As a result, the way in which the unit will operate in the future is to be reformed.


Tag: Challenges Change Management Communication Project and Programme management

16.

Apart from this issue the management arrangements for the project appear to have worked effectively and in particular the support of the Energy and Environment Team Leader in UNDP CO was commended by both the project and the national executing agency.

Modalities for contracting of work (mix of institutions/contractors and individual consultancies) has been used intelligently, balancing various factors apart from only cost effectiveness such as accountability, continuity and the limitations presented by single state institutions responsible for certain kinds of work.


Tag: Effectiveness Operational Efficiency Project and Programme management

17.

4.2.2 Financial management

Following the project start- up revisions were made (and accepted) to the planned budgets for both 2014 and 2015 but post MTE annual budgets have not required significant adjustments except to respond to increases in funds resulting from acquisition of Coca Cola Co-financing. Changes made in those early years all appear to be well justified, relevant and not substantive (see MTE).

Financial oversight of the project is provided by the PB (which approves each annual workplan and budget); there was further financial control and oversight within UNDP.

Delivery has been good in all years up to 2016 (averaging 95% ) and with 4 months still remaining post TE mission the project has reached 70% delivery in 2017 and is expected to achieve full delivery by September 2017.

The project has significant co-finance and the project has kept good information on its expenditure (see Table below). The majority of the co-finance is in-kind with the exception of the Coca-Cola Foundation.

As can be seen from the table total co-financing is estimated to have actually exceeded the original planned amount in the project document by 26%. This was largely due to the project successfully accessing new cash co-financing from the Coca Cola Foundation – this is a highly significant example of accessing private sector co-financing which in Belarus has not been in the past a typical achievement. It is unfortunate that shortly after UNDP made a corporate decision not to seek or except funds from Coca-Cola but this did not affect existing agreements and so did not impact the projects cooperation with them.


Tag: Government Cost-sharing Private Sector Financing Human and Financial resources Service delivery National Institutions

18.

One less positive aspect of financial management that should be mentioned relates to the “support services” provided by UNDP which are described in Annex 9 of the Project document. Though these were in line with standard UNDP practice and agreed in the project document (see section on Management arrangements and Annex 9) there was a perception amongst a number of those interviewed both in projects and the National Execution agency that cost recovery through the charging by UNDP for the support services was unclear. This perception appeared to stem from various factors:

a). The price list for the cost of services has changed numerous times (at least 3 during the project duration) and this occurred without any discussion or justification to the national counterparts (i.e. was not discussed in PB meetings).

b). The “support services” system was not well understood from the outset by the national partners and, though detailed in the project document and applied in previous projects. The fact that it has now drawn attention is perhaps a reflection of the growing experience of the national execution agency which wishes to understand better the details of such issues, whereas in the past they were focused much more on the specific funds available for activities in the projects

c). Further to the previous point, there was knowledge that UNDP receives an “implementation fee” from GEF and this was confused with the direct support services to the project – i.e. there was the feeling that fee already covered these services.

d). The overall concern on these issues was exacerbated by the situation that transpired with the PR/communication specialist in this and other projects


Tag: Challenges Coordination Operational Services

19.

Monitoring and evaluation

The project’s M&E framework is similar to the majority of UNDP-GEF projects with USD 37,000 allocated for project monitoring. As is appropriate for a project with a focus on the reductions of carbon emissions, a significant emphasis was put on the measurement of emissions using a number of different techniques (as indicated in the project’s Result Framework). Finally, as is also appropriate for a multifocal area project, the project used the appropriate tracking tools, including the METT (for tracking the effectiveness of protected area management), the PMAT (for monitoring land degradation), the Climate Change Monitoring Tool and the SFM/REDD+ tracking tool (see annex).

The MTE was organized in a timely and effective manner and completed in mid-2015 as was required. The MTE was largely very positive and raised no major issues of concern or requirements for change of direction. Based on the MTE a Management Response Matrix was developed and periodically updated.


Tag: Effectiveness Global Environment Facility fund Monitoring and Evaluation

20.

4.2.3 Identification and management of risks (adaptive management)

The project document contains an adequate and relevant assessment of the main risks faced by the project of which only one was considered Medium, none were considered high and the majority were considered low. The Medium risk identified related to the possibility that different stakeholders from different sectors (environmental, peat extraction, agriculture) would not be able to sufficiently cooperate to develop a meaningful NPS. The project worked very hard to mitigate this risk and due to the changes in mindset initiated in previous project/s and the efforts made by the project, this risk did not prove in reality to be a problem. This is not to say that all stakeholders are equally “on board” as it is clear that the Ministry of Agriculture is till something of an “outlier” in the current situation. However, this was firstly not such a sufficient problem that it prevented the NPS being effectively developed, and secondly has roots so deep that it would be impossible at this time for the project to significantly change.

Apart from the risks identified in the project document the project obviously faced some unforeseen risks and challenges but none of these had major impact and the project was in almost all cases effective at adapting and overcoming them. Some examples of such adaptive management include:

  • The project has adapted and crafted the NPS process in a way that has best fitted the conditions and circumstances in Belarus in order to facilitate adoption and maximize practical application
  • Sites selected in the project document for the establishment of new zakazniki and agreed at that time proved in some cases difficult in practice due to opposition from local authorities – the project was effective in adapting to this challenge and either reaching compromises with the authorities concerned or identification of alternative sites that were more acceptable but still met the required values and criteria.

Tag: Challenges Risk Management

21.

4.1Results

Attainment of outputs, outcomes and objectives

Outcome 1.1: Policy framework and institutional capacities for a landscape approach to peatlands management are in place.

At the time of the MTE the initial 3 (out of 4) outputs that were intended to lead to this outcome were already successfully achieved (i.e. establishment and functioning of the cross-sector Working Group, the development and approval of specific criteria and methodologies for assessment of peatland status, functions and services, and Comprehensive inventory and database of Belarusian peatlands). Based on that existing work the Strategy for the Conservation and Wise use of Peatlands had already completed drafting and was in the process of stakeholder review after which it could be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers for final review and approval.  The classification of peatlands across the country is was well under way and finally culminated in the Outline of the Distribution of Peatlands per Direction  of Use until 2030  which was submitted as a supporting document to the Strategy.

The process leading up to the status as of the MTE is described in detail in that report so will not be repeated. However, the TE team would like to emphasize two aspects of the Strategy and Outline development that we feel were not fully highlighted in the MTE report and are of some importance.

  • The suitability of international consultant employed to advise on the Strategy development and its supporting documents: It would appear that the consultant recruited for this task was partially done so on the basis of being a fluent Russian speaker, having deep practical experience of governmental systems in ex-soviet countries, plus wider international experience. This was very important in that the individual chosen was in a position to help craft a document that fitted the administrative and governmental system of Belarus and to know how to best argue the case for its need. This was an important factor in the final highly satisfactory result and it is a credit to the PM and UNDP E&E Unit that they both sort and found such a qualified consultant.
  • Importance of the Outline of the Distribution of Peatlands per direction of Use until 2030  (“peatland schemes”). This is the instrument that has the most impact in terms of converting the strategy into practical changes in peatlands land use in the next 10 years and is the aspect of the Strategy work most highly valued by almost all stakeholders interviewed. In essence, this is what makes the Strategy actual and applicable on the ground by all the different stakeholders and removes much of the basis for past conflicts over use and minimizes the real likelihood of unsustainable use.

Tag: Site Conservation / Preservation Policies & Procedures Results-Based Management National Institutions

22.

Outcome 1.2: Landscape approach to conservation of peatlands piloted through a network of wetland PAs, buffer zones and corridors in the Poozerie landscape

This outcome was expected to be achieved through the implementation of 3 individual outputs of which two addressed strengthening the protection of peatland habitats and species and one at improved and cost effective biological approaches to addressing a key threat to peatland ecosystems - pollution from agricultural runoff.

The 1st output (1.2.1: Development of a core conservation areas system at peatlands) addressed both the strengthening of the protection management of existing Ramsar sites (Yelnia and Morochno republican zakazniki), the establishment of 11 new regional reserve (Oblast zakazniki) and a suite of additional measures to test approaches / strengthen protection.


Tag: Biodiversity Ecosystem services Protected Areas Site Conservation / Preservation

23.

The establishment of these protected areas at the oblast level has been a pragmatic approach that has avoided the more time consuming and more risky approach of trying to establish Republican level zakazniki that would have required more layers of central level review and agreement and approval at the Presidential level. In addition, by establishing zakazniki as opposed to national parks or zapovedniki, there is possibility for continued use of the areas by local communities for the harvest of natural resources (e.g., mushrooms and berries).

To monitor the state of the new Local Zakazniks established on peatlands under this output, a network of local protected area wardens/ caretakers was planned to be formed with the involvement of NGOs. The idea was that the local caretakers would be responsible for reporting problems to local authorities, and territorial Control Agencies of the Ministry of Environment and to the State Inspection Services for Animal and Plant World Protection. They could also act as go-betweens with local communities and PA authorities on PA management.  This aspect of Output 2.1.1 faced some initial barriers and at the time of the MTE had not yet been started as a result of a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications. Fortunately these were resolved and  an agreement (contract) was concluded in 2015 with the key environmental NGO in Belarus - Akhove Ptushal Batskauschyny (Birdlife Belarus) and based on their existing experience 10 new reserves were targeted to introduce the warden / caretaker approach (8 original Pas with wardens plus 10 new-total of 18 reserves with warden system in place ( Naliboki Forest - 9 persons; Sierviec - 12 persons; Sporauski - 8 persons; Svislac - 10 persons; Zvanec - 14 persons; Bog Dzikaja, a portion of the Bielaviežskaja pušca National Park) - 14 persons, Almany Mires - 9 persons; Turauski Luh - 12 persons; Floodplain of the Sož River - 18 persons; Vyhanašcanskaje - 14 persons. The total number of wardens equals 120 people). The wardens compiled 50 visit reports and 12 statements of threats, over 45 violations of nature conservation law were detected and information about these violations was sent to the corresponding authorities for taking response measures. In interviews with the contractor, beneficiaries (i.e. PA staff) and wardens themselves the TE team found that approach was largely working well so far (with the inevitable minor problems of some people dropping out and some people being a bit too enthusiastic, etc.) and overall seen positively by local people, PAs and local authorities.


Tag: Protected Areas Biodiversity Natural Resouce management Site Conservation / Preservation Communication Civil Societies and NGOs National Institutions Agriculture

24.

Output 1.2.2: A network of environmental corridors designed and created in the Vitebsk Oblast's Poozerie landscape.

One of the most significant reasons for the loss of biodiversity and the reduction of the range of ecosystem services has been the reduction of the size and fragmentation of wetlands and especially peatlands. The creation of a network of ecological corridors aimed to help maintaining the continuity of the natural environment. Thus, as part of the implementation of the Project, the National Centre for Bioresources of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus developed the regional environmental network of Viciebsk Poozerie. The process for developing this network included:

  • Analysis of the the spatial distribution and isolation of the habitats of various animal and plant species in Viciebsk Poozerie and the need for establishing a single space to ensure their existence was estimated.
  • the most important PAs serving as the centres for biodiversity conservation, and floodplains, forests, mires, and urban green belts act as environmental corridors were identified
  • based on the analysis of the distribution of PAs (mainly at peatlands) and the presence of linking landscape elements, a map of the centres for biodiversity conservation and environmental corridors connecting the most significant protected areas was made.
  • Restrictions of economic activity for environmental corridors were developed and agreed. Proposals were developed on protection regimes and the use of natural resources within the corridors of the environmental network that were further agreed with district executive committees and interested ministries and agencies.

Tag: Biodiversity Ecosystem services Wildlife Conservation

25.

The output was intended to demonstrate an improved approach for addressing an important threat to peatland ecosystems (and water quality generally), namely polluted run off from agricultural land use areas (phosphates and nitrates causing anthropogenic eutrophication and degradation).

In brief, the approach tested was to utilize biological process (reedbed) filtration instead of the usual pond system (that basically just addressed settlement of sediment but did not change pollutant levels much). Specifically, the project constructed a system for the water discharged from Travy reclamation system to the territory of Zvaniec fen mire to test if it had an improved impact on pollutant levels compared to the storage pond of the Arechauskaja reclamation system. In the case of the project site (Rožnaje) there was a large waterlogged shallow place with sedges and reeds, while at the control site (Arechauskaja ) reeds only form a narrow strip along the bank of the storage pond. Levels of pollutants at the discharge points were monitored to compare the effectiveness of the two approaches. The construction of the settling facility was completed in 2015, and in 2016, a special analysis of its performance was conducted. Monitoring studies allowed the making of the following preliminary conclusions:

  • when water passes from Travy reclamation system through the project constructed Rožnaje settlement facility the overall water salinity decreases from 300 mg/l down to 200 mg/l.
  • the storage pond (Arechauskaja), despite considerable amount of water, affected water salinity only slightly (water salinity at the inlet is 450 mg/l, and at the outlet it is 400 mg/l),

Tag: Agriculture Ecosystem services Water resources

26.

Outcome 2.1: Sustainable use of peatlands in agriculture

The outputs to achieve this outcome were implemented on peatlands drained for agriculture.

Output 2.1.1: Re-wetting of approximately 4,311 ha of degraded drained peatlands formerly used in agriculture

Building on the past experiences of previous projects with re-wetting areas drained for peat extraction, etc. activities under this output aimed to demonstrate how such approaches could also be applied to peat areas drained originally for agriculture but which are no longer economically productive. Land falling under this category is a substantial area in Belarus (approximately 139,000 ha.).

There are obviously biodiversity and carbon balance benefits from re-wetting. However, in order to persuade all stakeholders (particularly Ministry of Agriculture and Oblast/rayon authorities, etc.) other significant economic benefits have to exist for replication on a wide scale to be viable – thus other benefits envisaged from re-wetting agricultural peatlands include:

  • Reduction of fire risk – this is probably the main benefit supported by all stakeholders and justifies removal from the existing use. Apart from losses and degradation caused by deep peat fires in drained peatlands they cause significant economic losses as a result of prevention/control measures required and impacts of smoke etc. on health, visibility, tourism, etc.
  • Cranberry production – the development of natural cranberry bushes on the re-wetted agricultural peatlands at least provides some alternative economic value from the land and thus an incentive for some reluctant parties.

 


Tag: Agriculture Natural Disaster Biodiversity Water resources Impact

27.

 Replication: The results of this pilot have been documented (though with the limitations on economic data mentioned above) and presented to key stakeholders. According to the project (see draft final report) the Government plans to make an inventory of reclamation works and detected inefficiently drained peatlands will be subject to environmental rehabilitation based on the project's experience (part of the NPS). The likelihood of replication appears high as the issue of degraded unproductive drained peatland agricultural land is widespread and known risk of it catching fire well recognized. This together with other benefits, the existing experience from this and previous projects of re-rewetting process and the fact that it is part of the NPS, makes this approach likely to be upscaled and replicated.


Tag: Sustainability Reconstruction

28.

Output 2.1.2: Conversion of arable peatlands to meadows for mowing or pasture

The rationale for the pilot, as defined in the Project document, was as follows: “this output aims to reorient degraded peatlands classified as arable lands to meadows (perennial grasses) for mowing or pasture. Historically, over 1 million ha of peatlands were drained in Belarus for agricultural use, but only 861,000 ha remain today, with the rest being classified as anthropogenically degraded land. This was mainly due to degradation of the peat layer because of irrational use (ploughing and arable crops cultivation). In response, Belarus adopted the Law on Melioration in 2008, which prohibits ploughing and arable crops cultivation on peat soil less than 0.5 m deep to prevent its degradation. However to implement this law in practice and enable landowners to stop arable crop cultivation on degraded peatlands, they need to be supported in identifying an alternative use for this peatland”.

To promote alternative sustainable use of drained peatlands, the Belarusian Melioration and Water Enterprise (Belmeliovodkhoz) is undertaking efforts to reorient peatlands land use approaches from arable crops cultivation to sowed grasses by designing plans for internal land development for 30 landowners. The project will collaborate with this effort to pilot conversion of arable land to meadows for pasture or mowing at two pilot sites (see Annex 3 for details and selection criteria for the F2 pilot sites). Technical and financial assistance will be provided for re-classification of 495 ha of arable peatlands to grasslands

The project has successfully undertaken activities to achieve this output through co-financing and technical advice provided to the Sporovo OAO (collective farm), and Beryozovskaya MTS OAO of Biaroza District of Brest Oblast on the ameliorated peat soils used formerly for field crop rotation. Peat soils were converted to meadows at these agricultural companies, total area 495 hectares.


Tag: Agriculture Crop production Livestock Natural Resouce management Effectiveness

29.

Output 2.1.3: Demonstration of sustainable peatland use in agriculture through testing and demonstration of deep layer ploughing of agricultural peatlands:

The rationale presented in the project document for this pilot activity was as follows:

  • Peatlands represent over 60% of the farmland in more than 30 commercial farms. This high share makes it impossible to avoid cultivation of grains and corn in peatland areas.
  • To prevent the loss of organic matter and CO2 emissions, the project will pilot deep layer ploughing over 100 hectares of peatlands with a peat layer thickness not exceeding 1 meter.
  • The testing of this method at a site in Polesie has shown that deep layer ploughing facilitates the formation of an artificial fertile soil layer reducing the exposure of peat to the atmosphere and thus protects it from fires, wind erosion and rapid mineralization that leads to loss of organic matter and CO2 emissions. At the experimental field, peat layer thickness was 97 centimeters in 1964 and 90 centimeters in 2006. In comparison, at the control field, where the traditional ploughing techniques were used, the peat layer depleted from 97 to 40 centimeters over the same forty-year period.
  • Under this output, the deep layer ploughing method will be tested on an industrial scale  in a field of at least 100 hectares.

Tag: Agriculture Ecosystem services Natural Resouce management Site Conservation / Preservation Sustainability

30.

Outcome 2.2: Restoration of approximately 2,027 ha of forest peatlands in the Poozerie landscape.

The project document defined this Outcome as aiming to demonstrate restoration of degraded, drained forest peatlands to their natural condition. The background to this was that the Ministry of Forestry had already stated that 24,000 ha of forestry drainage systems should be withdrawn from exploitation because they are inefficiently drained, are no longer useful for forestry and most importantly are affected by fires, and that natural peatlands should be restored in these areas. On this basis, the selection of pilot sites was possible and three pilot territories covering a total area of 2,027 ha were selected pre-project.

These pilot areas were all drained forest peatlands that have been declared as inefficiently drained (see Annex 3 of the project document for details on the F3 pilot sites). The plan was that the project will re-wet degraded forested peatlands and the re-wetting will in time eliminate birch and willow shrubs, but will restore the growth and regeneration capacities of black alder and pine. Logging at re-wetted forested peatlands is planned to be withdrawn. The project intended to also introduce alternative sustainable uses in these re-wetted forested peatlands, as they will no longer be used in forestry. The project document contained in its Annex (see Annex 8 of project document) an estimation of economic benefits to local people). Finally, this outcome also piloted regeneration of black alder forests at two pilot agricultural peatlands where re-wetting is already planned (under Output 2.1.1).


Tag: Forestry Natural Resouce management Reconstruction

31.

Output 2.2.1: Carbon fluxes assessed and carbon management projects designed in degraded, forested peatlands

Activities under this output were primarily related to the detailed design of the forest sites re-wetting and work necessary in order to assess carbon fluxes at the sites. Scientific rationales for the environmental rehabilitation of pilot territories were developed, which include the distribution of vegetation communities at pilot sites, whose areas were used for the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions. This work appears to have been carried out very competently by the Institute of Experimental Botany of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.


Tag: Forestry Emission Reduction Reconstruction

32.

Output 2.2.2: Re-wetting projects in degraded, dry black alder and pine forests implemented

This output focused on the actual implementation of the re-wetting of the drained forest areas that were no longer productive for forestry purposes based on the design works carried out under Output 2.2.1.

As part of this activity 3 raised bogs (3,457 ha) disturbed by hydrological forest amelioration were selected for rehabilitation. Based on work done under 2.2.1 Belgiprovodkhoz developed construction projects, which were implemented by construction organizations. In addition to the 3 sites under this output similar works were done at Jelnia bog with its system of channels ( 7,800 ha) - see Output 1.2.1.

Results: Due to the closure of channels on all raised bogs the water approached its natural level (near ground level), which according to the predictions of experts on peatlands will result in the gradual restoration of sphagnum mosses and the entire peatland ecosystem. After the increase of water levels peatlands were no longer considered fire-hazardous. The project document contained in its Annex (see Annex 8 of project document) an estimation of economic benefits to local people).


Tag: Forestry Reconstruction

33.

Output 2.2.3: Pilot project on regeneration of black alder forests on degraded agricultural peatlands implemented

The rationale for this pilot as stated in the project document was as follows:

Because of past drainage and forest clearing, large areas of agricultural landscapes that were formerly covered with native black alder forests are now deforested. Today, owing to a decline in agricultural productivity, it is expected that a considerable share of these degraded, drained agricultural lands will be removed from agricultural use under the State Program on Conservation and Use of Meliorated Lands. However, subsequent usage of these withdrawn lands is still to be defined.

Thus, in short, the aim of this pilot was to provide an example of a possible subsequent use by piloting methods for regeneration of black alder forests at degraded agricultural peatlands. Based on this the project implemented in 2014-2015 together with Lida Forestry activities to test a method of restoring black alder forests on degraded peatlands previously used in agriculture (202.9 ha) that were transferred to the forestry.


Tag: Agriculture Forestry Natural Resouce management

34.

Outcome 2.3: Readiness of government for implementation of carbon projects in agricultural and forest peatlands enhanced

The final outcome of component 2 of the project is primarily GHG scientific and monitoring related and aims to:

a). continue to work to prepare Belarus for participation on both the voluntary and regulated carbon markets,

b). to monitor biodiversity parameters at pilot sites.

Outputs 2.3.1, 2.32 and 2.33: These Outputs can be summed as - Existing peatland MRV methods adjusted and operationalized for previously unaccounted biotopes at open agricultural peatlands, forest peatlands, and results fed into Belarus peatlands carbon trading mechanism

In brief, the project has working to develop national capacity to quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes using recognised methodologies – including Measure, Report and Verify (MRV) methods. The overall aim, of course, is eventually to participate in the voluntary and regulatory carbon markets. Indeed, as highlighted in the MTE report, the majority of components associated with the project have significant potential within carbon markets – through reducing emissions (e.g., in the restoration the peatland forests and re-wetting other, degraded peatlands, as well as the conversion of intensive agricultural areas to meadows), and carbon sequestration (within the black alder plantations as well as a further net sequestration of carbon within the restored peatlands).


Tag: Forestry Emission Reduction Capacity Building

35.

Output 2.3.4: Monitoring and reporting on biodiversity parameters (status and changes in water level, vegetation communities, and biodiversity) at pilot sites (BD funding)

Under this output, pre-restoration and post-restoration monitoring of the pilot sites was planned in order to the impact of the project on biodiversity. Monitoring was performed by experts and specialist organizations contracted by the project under the guidance of the Project Scientific Coordinator.

A summary of monitoring performed includes:

  • Changes in vegetation type combinations in degraded peatlands before and after re-wetting of drained agricultural peatlands (Output 2.1.1) and drained forest peatlands (Output 2.2.2), as observed from repeat satellite images and during field surveys;
  • Changes in the numbers of indicative bird species in degraded peatlands before and after re-wetting of drained agricultural peatlands (Output 2.1.1) and drained forest peatlands (Output 2.2.2), through measurement along permanent migration routes and head counts;
  • Changes in indicative bird species populations in sections of the drainage systems where arable land has been converted into meadows (Output 2.1.2), through measurement along permanent migration routes and head counts;
  • Changes in Curlew, Grouse and Capercaillie populations in degraded peatlands before and after the improvement of the displaying grounds and removal of overgrowth from the open bogs (Output 1.2.1);
  • Changes in water level in degraded peatlands before and after re-wetting of drained agricultural peatlands (Output 2.1.1) and drained forest peatlands (Output 2.2.2), as observed through field surveys.

The SRF Indicator for this Output was “ Improvement in biodiversity indicator species at pilot sites” and baseline and target were changes in values from baseline table. This indicator does not actually measure success / failure of the Output i.e. it does not measure if the monitoring was done effectively per se, but rather is measure of if the various Outputs related to improved conditions and protection were effective.

The updated baseline table from the project document SRF including status of biodiversity indicator species at EOP is provided below. It is noteworthy that despite the very short time period involve and the rather ambitious targets, some very significant positive changes in values for indicator species were recorded. Almost all indicator species showed a positive change (blue and yellow highlighting) and a large proportion met or exceeded targets values.Only the species Numenius arquata (Eurasian Curlew) was not recorded at all either before or after project activities.


Tag: Agriculture Forestry Biodiversity Natural Resouce management Wildlife Conservation Monitoring and Evaluation

36.

4.3.2 Replication, mainstreaming and catalytic role.

The primary outcome of the project is a national policy document and practical peatlands category/use plan that will guide peatlands conservation and wise (sustainable) use until 2030. By bringing all stakeholders together, building on past experiences and demonstrating practical means to implement the strategy the project has been highly successful in mainstreaming peatlands sustainable use into national level development planning until 2030.

In doing so the project, and the previous projects, have played a crucial catalytic role – this is little doubt that without this and previous project support - to highlighting and identifying the key issues, identifying practical means to address them, bringing initially antagonistic stakeholder together and showing them the possibilities for win-win solutions, and ensuring that this momentum was converted into a realistic and stakeholder driven policy instrument – the current policy and prospects for peatlands in Belarus would be little different from the past. As numerous stakeholders commented during the TE mission, just having constructive meetings between many of the stakeholders would have been virtually impossible 10 years ago and achieving a genuine agreement and commitment of all key parties to the NPS would have been fantasy. This, and the past GEF financed projects, can be said therefore to have played a very significant and valuable catalytic role in the context of peatlands conservation and sustainable use in Belarus and an example of how important such assistance can be.


Tag: Site Conservation / Preservation Policies & Procedures National Institutions

37.

 Pilot Projects replication: Most of the pilot / demonstration activities undertaken by the project have a reasonable chance of replication (see section below on sustainability for more details). In the case of the re-wetting pilots, these were in many ways just variations on an existing theme – i.e. they were taking the experience from past projects and events (particularly re-wetting undertaken in the previous GEF MSP project in former peat extraction areas) and showing they could be applied in other land use areas (agricultural degraded drained peatlands and forestry degraded drained peatlands). In this context, they were fairly risk limited especially as rewetting addresses a key problem that has high profile – i.e. reducing risk of peat fires. Thus, it is considered these pilots are likely to be replicated especially as they are specific measures included into the NPS.

Other pilots were dealing with more innovative issues and as such were perhaps more valuable but also more open to risk, and also more in need of dedicated efforts / systematic planning to encourage replication. The Black alder planting on degraded peat lands had a high possibility of replication if results in the field were positive because of the close involvement of the key stakeholder i.e. Ministry of forestry and in the field the Lida Leshoz. This has been borne out by events as there was evidence during the TE evaluation that the Ministry of Forestry is already taking significant steps and making investments itself to replicate the experience. The “deep ploughing” pilot, apart from other issues (see below) was always a more doubtful item in terms of replication because the main stakeholder involved is the least open, least committed and most tightly bound by current centralized command management (i.e. the Ministry of Agriculture). The water purification pilot, though much more positive in terms of results, is also unclear in terms of stakeholder ownership and commitment to wider replication.

Results and products of the Revised GESTs activities: These are considered highly likely to be utilized in the future and could play an important catalytic role in furthering the possibilities for Belarus to access and benefit from GHG and carbon trading opportunities in the future – this would greatly strengthen the objectives of the NPS as it would provide additional economic justifications for the approaches and plans it contains.


Tag: Natural Resouce management Project and Programme management Sustainability

38.

Prospects of sustainability

The Terminal Evaluation assessed the sustainability of the activities and results of the project, considering the different facets of sustainability.

Institutional Sustainability:

All institutions involved in the project (or almost all)– notably the MNREP, MF and ME – are stable, sustainable institutions. Unlike in other countries, reshuffling government departments is not an issue with the GOB. Therefore, at the republican level, at least, institutional sustainability is assured. The only exception might be the Ministry of Agriculture as clearly this is essentially dysfunctional at the present time and there has to be a small risk at least that it will be subject to major reform in the near / mid future. Certainly, this is required but perhaps realistically is not likely to happen unless major economic pressures precipitate significant reforms.

Similarly, the regional and district level executive committees are robust and sustainable institutions and their sustainability is considered high.

One area of potential concern is perhaps the continuity of the continued involvement of the scientific institutions that have been involved in the project. Their role in the process of monitoring, design works assessment / EIA is a less clear one and apparently subject to change as they are no officially mandated to fulfil these roles (they have to tender for such activities and may or may not always be involved).


Tag: Oversight Ownership Sustainability National Institutions

39.

The Terminal Evaluation assessed the sustainability of the activities and results of the project, considering the different facets of sustainability.

Financial Sustainability:

The fundamental question for the financial sustainability of this project is whether the primary product i.e. the NPS and Outline on Use 2030 is going to be adequately financed by state institutions and generate sufficient economic benefits to ensure the main stakeholders remain committed and supported of approaches and actions it contains (at national, oblast, rayon, agricultural enterprise/leshoz and local community levels). In terms of the first part of this question (state financial support) it is considered highly likely that the state, having reached a decision at the Cabinet of Ministers level, will meet the various costs involved. The main risk in this context is the ongoing economic status of the country and therefore the availability of funds in state budget. Though the Belarus economy may certainly be facing significant challenges it seems safe to assume based on the past 20 years that it will not collapse any time soon to the extent that major shortages of funding for implementing the NPS would occur. Furthermore, many of the NPS contents are related to either limiting real costs that exist today (i.e. fire prevention and control of drained peatlands) or improving productivity of degraded drained peatlands either by re-wetting it and utilizing for cranberries, tourism or hunting, or increasing effectiveness of its conservation and use (perennial grasslands, etc). Thus, even with if there were to be challenges at a national economic level there would still remain economic incentives for the NPS implementation.


Tag: Water resources Human and Financial resources Sustainability

40.

Social Sustainability:

In the context of Belarus, the project has included a significant amount of focus on building local community involvement and social sustainability ranging from establishment of protected area boards that include local representation, the establishment of warden / caretaker system with locally interested people, the support to cranberry collection, etc. The project general has looked to balance improved protection of peatland ecosystems and high value species with maintaining or improving economic productivity, including those to local communities. This includes impacts of benefits to women in the relevant local communities in terms of improvements in income generation options and decision-making roles in bodies related to peatlands use and conservation. There are however still many unknowns in terms of how in practice the wide scale application of measures envisaged in the NPS will impact local communities and particularly the main rural economic activity – agriculture. With the agricultural sector remaining essentially un-reformed at present there are risks that increasingly dysfunctional agricultural enterprises will impact social sustainability generally in rural areas including peatlands. In this context, the social sustainability is considered at Moderately Likely.


Tag: Agriculture Protected Areas Site Conservation / Preservation

41.

Environmental sustainability:

None of the approaches piloted by the project appear to entail risks in terms of negative environmental impact, and, on the contrary have significant environmental benefits. If the NSP and Outline for Directions on Use 2030 is implemented and these practices become widespread the ongoing environmental sustainability of the project results will be high. There is the slight risk that changing the hydrology of one area (re-wetting) may have unexpected negative impacts for the hydrology of adjacent areas (drained peatlands used for agriculture for example) – however, the experience of this project (and past projects) has shown such unexpected impacts can be mitigated by a gradualist approach and have not in practice been a major issue. The only caveat in this scenario is the impact of climate change which may alter water availability (rainfall) and evapotranspiration rates and shift ecological ranges of species and habitats northwards. As peatlands are highly sensitive to water balances the impact of even minor climate shifts could be severe and the resulting impact on carbon emissions very negative as they dry out. Equally shifts north in species ranges could result in PAs no longer covering the ranges of habitats and species they were intended to conserve.

On balance, it is assumed that though foreseen climate change (1.5 to 2 degrees rises in next 40-50 years) will very likely occur, these will not sufficiently impact water balance or species ranges to the extent that existing peatlands are heavily affected or PAs cease to provide effective coverage. In conclusion, the environmental sustainability is considered Moderately likely.


Tag: Climate Change Adaptation Environment Policy Water resources

42.

4.4.4 Project Impact

The project impact can be assessed based on whether it reached its outcomes and thereby the overall project objective, and if it has achieved the global environmental benefits described in the project document.

This was a very ambitious project and its outcomes and overall objective were challenging. However, it has been extremely successful in, not just carrying out effectively the outputs, but in ensuring those outputs culminated in long term outcomes that have changed the development trajectory of Belarus in terms of peatlands sustainable use and conservation.

Most significant in this context is of course the NPS and the Outline for Directions on Use to 2030 – as described in previous sections this was developed in a way that was intelligent and carefully crafted to the specific reality and mindset of the Belarus conditions and with the meaningful involvement and commitment of all key stakeholders (with perhaps the exception of the Ministry of Agriculture). As a result, the NSP and Outline were not just approved by government but is already deeply embedded in the plans and approaches of most of the key stakeholders. It rests largely on win-win approaches and sound economic justifications. As a result, it is one of the best examples the TE Team have seen of a policy document developed with the support of GEF funds and has a high probability of achieving real impact at a national and landscape scale on peatlands in Belarus.


Tag: Agriculture Biodiversity Natural Resouce management Site Conservation / Preservation Impact

Recommendations
1

As highlighted in both the MTE and this report, the project indicators were not in all cases “fit for purposes” and were either somewhat meaningless or failed to capture progress towards impact (rather than just progress with process). Greater attention in future project documents on the inclusion of indicators that can best measure in a meaningful way both process and impact is essential.

2

TE TEAM suggest that any project with substantive pilot or demonstration components needs specific dedicated activities / outputs that address the 2nd phase aspects (dissemination, support to upscaling).

3

The need to try and better measure and identify key factors that bring changes in awareness, understanding and changing mindsets.

4

Project should focus in its terminal months on PR and communications in order to ensure the key messages of its achievements and their implications are effectively disseminated.

5

Support to implementation of the National Peatlands Strategy and Outline for Directions of Use 2030: The obvious area of opportunity to follow up on this project is moving from policy development to policy implementation. Be critical of the results of the economic valuation of the peatlands (that is being carried out by the Institute of Natural Resource Management) and devise a strategy to ensure it influences policy effectively; this is linked with the fact that low awareness of the ecological and economic importance of intact peatlands has been identified as a root cause of threats to peatlands in Belarus.

6

The project had a very high level of ownership and a very impressive level of involvement and commitment of almost all stakeholders. Thus, in this context the TE Team has little to add. The only major exception would have to be identified as the Ministry of Agriculture.

7

The one rather unexpected management challenge that emerged during the project was the decision by UNDP to implement its centralization of the PR/communications specialists under a CO based unit. It is without question that the full impacts and ramifications of the approach used to do this were probably not thought through sufficiently. This is an experience the UNDP CO can perhaps learn from and avoid in the future.

8

The caretakers (warden) system approach to public / Protected area cooperation and collaboration: Based on the evidence gleaned from the TE mission the PA caretaker/warden concept piloted by Birdlife Belarus and further supported by the project is effective and has a reasonable chance of being sustainable. This is therefore a good example of such public / state cooperation and has the potential for both replication to other PAs but also application to other aspects of environmental management and monitoring.

9

Transparency and complete clarity on issues related to GEF fee’s received by UNDP and support service charges, etc: Based on the feedback received during the TE mission there exists some concern within the MNREP over lack of clarity on the issue of the GEF fee received by UNDP, the support service charges made to projects, use of project funds for UNDP CO based staff, etc. It is suggested that in the future more efforts to explained these issues fully is made at the outset of every GEF funded project and the opportunity to periodically review any concerns is ensured in PEB meetings.

1. Recommendation:

As highlighted in both the MTE and this report, the project indicators were not in all cases “fit for purposes” and were either somewhat meaningless or failed to capture progress towards impact (rather than just progress with process). Greater attention in future project documents on the inclusion of indicators that can best measure in a meaningful way both process and impact is essential.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/01/28] [Last Updated: 2020/12/31]

The MTE recommendation regarding the indicators was discussed with all the key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Environment and the National Academy of Science, and it was recommended that this would not be for the best of the project to change the set of project’s indicators. Nevertheless, some of the indicators, indeed, failed to capture progress towards impact. For the future projects, the proposed set indicators should be better thought of so that they can capture projects’ progress at the outcome and impact levels.

Key Actions:

2. Recommendation:

TE TEAM suggest that any project with substantive pilot or demonstration components needs specific dedicated activities / outputs that address the 2nd phase aspects (dissemination, support to upscaling).

Management Response: [Added: 2018/01/28] [Last Updated: 2020/12/31]

Fully agree. Currently, all UNDP projects in the E&E area document properly the results of their pilots and facilitate, to the extent possible, replication and scaling-up projects’ successful experience. When practical, actions on pilots’ results documentation and replication should be included into a project document at the project designing stage (e.g. preparation of technical manuals, study-tours to and trainings at the pilot territories, training workshops and seminars).

Key Actions:

3. Recommendation:

The need to try and better measure and identify key factors that bring changes in awareness, understanding and changing mindsets.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/01/28] [Last Updated: 2020/12/31]

Changes in population awareness, understanding and mindsets do not usually happen over short period of time and require constant intervention over several years. In some cases, information/data on the changes in public awareness and mindsets is not readily available and gathering the relevant information is time and resources consuming. However, the TE TEAM suggestion to try to identify the key factors that changed the public and decision-makers perception of the peatland ecosystems value appears reasonable. Such an assessment can be planned for one of the future projects dealing with peatlands ecosystems (e.g. the Wetlands project).    

Key Actions:

4. Recommendation:

Project should focus in its terminal months on PR and communications in order to ensure the key messages of its achievements and their implications are effectively disseminated.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/01/28] [Last Updated: 2020/12/31]

Fully agree.

Key Actions:

5. Recommendation:

Support to implementation of the National Peatlands Strategy and Outline for Directions of Use 2030: The obvious area of opportunity to follow up on this project is moving from policy development to policy implementation. Be critical of the results of the economic valuation of the peatlands (that is being carried out by the Institute of Natural Resource Management) and devise a strategy to ensure it influences policy effectively; this is linked with the fact that low awareness of the ecological and economic importance of intact peatlands has been identified as a root cause of threats to peatlands in Belarus.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/01/28] [Last Updated: 2020/12/31]

Future projects in the area of peatlands management should focus on implementation of the national policy with respect to conservation and sustainable use of peatlands ecosystems. It appears reasonable to conduct a review of the National Peatlands Strategy and Outline for Directions of Use 2030 in 5 years identifying any issues with the Strategy implementation and suggesting correction measures. Less ‘receptive” sectors, such as agriculture and peat mining industry should also be targeted and invited/involved in future peatlands conservation/sustainable use activities, including awareness raising and promotional activities.

Key Actions:

6. Recommendation:

The project had a very high level of ownership and a very impressive level of involvement and commitment of almost all stakeholders. Thus, in this context the TE Team has little to add. The only major exception would have to be identified as the Ministry of Agriculture.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/01/28] [Last Updated: 2020/12/31]

The Belarusian Agricultural authorities, particularly, the Ministry of Agriculture, have always been “difficult” among partners focusing mainly on obtaining as much agricultural production from land as possible and paying, in practice, little attention to the associated environmental issues.  Nevertheless, UNDP Belarus has been and will be trying to involve them in our environment related activities.

Key Actions:

7. Recommendation:

The one rather unexpected management challenge that emerged during the project was the decision by UNDP to implement its centralization of the PR/communications specialists under a CO based unit. It is without question that the full impacts and ramifications of the approach used to do this were probably not thought through sufficiently. This is an experience the UNDP CO can perhaps learn from and avoid in the future.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/01/28] [Last Updated: 2020/12/31]

The costs and benefits of the centralization of the project PR/communications specialists under a CO based unit have been discussed intensively with the UNDP Belarus CO, Ministry of Environment, project teams and communication specialists.  It was agreed that the project PR/communications specialists should be deeper involved in the project’s activities. A new modality of PR/communications specialists functioning to provide better services to the development projects should be proposed and implemented. All the parties concerned should be involved in this process.

Key Actions:

8. Recommendation:

The caretakers (warden) system approach to public / Protected area cooperation and collaboration: Based on the evidence gleaned from the TE mission the PA caretaker/warden concept piloted by Birdlife Belarus and further supported by the project is effective and has a reasonable chance of being sustainable. This is therefore a good example of such public / state cooperation and has the potential for both replication to other PAs but also application to other aspects of environmental management and monitoring.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/01/28] [Last Updated: 2020/12/31]

More time is required to evaluate the effectiveness of the public caretakers system proposed and created by the BirdLife Belarus and supported by the project. Evaluation of the caretakers system should be conducted within one of the projects aiming at biodiversity conservation, e.g the recently started Wetlands project.

Key Actions:

9. Recommendation:

Transparency and complete clarity on issues related to GEF fee’s received by UNDP and support service charges, etc: Based on the feedback received during the TE mission there exists some concern within the MNREP over lack of clarity on the issue of the GEF fee received by UNDP, the support service charges made to projects, use of project funds for UNDP CO based staff, etc. It is suggested that in the future more efforts to explained these issues fully is made at the outset of every GEF funded project and the opportunity to periodically review any concerns is ensured in PEB meetings.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/01/28] [Last Updated: 2020/12/31]

The UNDP CO intensively work with national counterparts, particularly, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Environment etc. to explain the issues of CO support to projects implementation, including the direct project cost (DPC) principles and rules. There is some progress with the national counterparts understanding the DPC issues and the necessity for UNDP to fully recover the costs associated with the UNDP support to the development projects implementation. The UNDP CO will continue this discussion with the national counterparts and donors responding to all the questions from the partners.  

Key Actions:

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