Members of the Executive Board and senior staff of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have travelled to Morocco from 18 to 22 May 2015 to visit the Fund's project in Al-Haouz Province and meet with high-level government leaders. Oscar A. Garcia, Director of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) was one of the high officials who accompanied the delegation, following the publication of a project performance assessment (PPA) of the Rural Development Project in the Mountain Zones of Al-Haouz Province, a project that was conceived as a pilot intervention for the development of especially disadvantaged mountain zones. The project aimed to strengthen the local management and development capacity of mountain populations to boost their income, raise their standard of living and increase their food security while ensuring sustainable use of natural resources.

The evaluation highlighted how the overall project achievement was rated as satisfactory, given the high relevance of objectives and the enormous challenges farmers face in the mountain areas of Al-Haouz. The project contributed to an increase in living standards and to several capacity-building initiatives in planning and management.

The PPA's objectives were to assess the project's overall results and to generate findings and recommendations for the implementation of ongoing and the design of future operations in the country. The evaluation recognized that the most important approach introduced through the project was the participatory preparation of local development plans at thedouar (hamlet) level. The "douar approach" and subsequent plan was to be the focus of a significant shift in power towards the inhabitants of thedouars. This process included the participatory identification of beneficiaries' priority needs, the establishment of numerous grass-roots associations and organizations, and the strengthening of the capacities of district technical  services.

The PPA also made several recommendations looking at IFAD's future engagement in Morocco, such as: (i) the need to ensure that any future  participatory process feed into the communal planning process; (ii) the need to support the Sustainable Development Strategy for Mountain Areas; (iii) the need for establishing methodological, administrative and financial aspects prior to committing to partnerships in order to minimize delays in establishing agreements and subsequent delays in the implementation of project activities; and (iv) give  special attention to  agricultural extension and training of farmers over an extended period of time, to allow them to acquire solid technical skills and know-how.

The ten members of the Executive Board who visited the project are representatives from Canada, the People's Republic of China, the Dominican Republic, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the French Republic, the Republic of Indonesia, the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Korea, the Swiss Confederation and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

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