Landscape approach to management of peatlands aiming at multiple ecological benefits

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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: 0082884
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
Mandatory Evaluation: No
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.

Element

Rating

Basis for rating

Relevance

HS

Project was highly relevant to all stakeholders and to Belarus development priorities

Stakeholder involvement

HS

All key stakeholders were identified and effective means to ensure their involvement and participation included.

Management Arrangements

HS

Standard management arrangements were applied and from experience in Belarus appropriate.

Budget and duration

HS

Budget was sufficient and duration was longer than is typical for such projects (typically 4 years not 5). Given the objective of the project was a long-term policy change with major implications to future land use, and that pilots involving natural systems are potentially vulnerable to seasonal variations in climate, this was a very sensible decision.

Monitoring and evaluation and Project Strategic results Framework

S

The M&E procedure is standard for UNDP/GEF projects and the plan contained in the project document fully adequate. However, as discussed in the MTE and in this TE, the SRF had some limitations in terms of the indicators.

Overall Rating for Project Design

S

Limitations in the SRF indicators means project design had some minor shortcomings.


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: 2018/01/28]

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: 2018/01/28]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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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