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Lao People's Democratic Republic Oudomxay Community Initiatives Support Project

26 мая 2011

Completion Evaluation

Introduction

In 2010, a completion evaluation of the Oudomxay Community Initiatives Support Project (OCISP) was conducted in Lao PDR. The main objectives were: (i) to assess the performance and impact of the project; and (ii) to generate findings and recommendations useful for ongoing and future agriculture and rural development projects and programmes in Lao PDR.

The main evaluation mission was conducted in August-September 2010. A final learning workshop was organised in December 2010, to take stock of the evaluation findings and prepare the Agreement at Completion Point (ACP).

This ACP, which has been facilitated by IFAD's Office of Evaluation, sets out understandings between IFAD (Asia and the Pacific Division) and the Government of Lao PDR (Ministry of Planning and Investment) of the evaluation findings and recommendations, and their proposals to implement them. The recommendations agreed upon will be tracked through the President's Report on the Implementation Status of Evaluation Recommendations and Management Actions.

A new country strategic opportunities programme (COSOP) is currently being developed (January 2011) between IFAD and the Government of Lao PDR and this will be followed by the formulation of a new project. It is foreseen that IFAD future programmes will continue to invest in the Northern and Southern provinces. This will allow IFAD to build on lessons learned and scale-up successes in order to ensure impact and sustainability. 1

Main evaluation findings

The project was managed well but implementation was uneven because of problems with the agricultural and natural resource management (ANRM) component and delays with the rural financial services component. Rural infrastructure development was the most successful component, meeting or surpassing all its output targets. The institutional development activities in the community development and institutional strengthening components were also successful. Village participatory planning was established and fed into district planning and budgeting for service delivery. Good project management and coordination was achieved, with a significant increase in the capacity of project implementers. Overall, OCISP was implemented within the planned period, with high levels of disbursement.

As a broad based rural development project, OCISP was successful.

Through the investment in rural infrastructure, it brought the target population in remote villages closer to markets and services and gave them much greater access to safe water, with undoubted health benefits. The construction of school dormitories increased enrolment rates in primary and secondary schools. The village savings and credit schemes (VSCSs) mobilised village savings and provided funds for small agricultural and trading enterprises. Villagers' wellbeing was also improved through health, nutrition and adult literacy programmes, village communications and cultural villages.

The process of participatory village planning was strengthened, so that villagers were more able to agree their priorities and be more confident in negotiating them with district government service provides. Women's wellbeing and access to decision-making processes improved.

OCISP was also successful in building the capacity of the government agencies to fulfil their mandates and roles within the framework of the Lao Government's decentralisation policy. Training, technical assistance and guidance from supervision missions played an important part in this process, but capacity was also built through learning by doing. Although initially there were difficulties in establishing the right processes and procedures, they were overcome and project staff became more confident in their abilities to do the work. OCISP acquired a reputation for successful implementation amongst government and donors.

However, the main purpose of the project was to improve the livelihoods of the villagers by developing improved and sustainable agricultural development and natural resource management in areas where shifting cultivation and opium production had been reduced. In this respect, the project was much less successful. The main economic alternative, which was widespread in the province, not just in the target villages, was maize cultivation. The main driver of this development was the private sector, although the project did contribute by providing seed and extension advice, roads infrastructure and savings and credit schemes. The project's other contribution was the expansion of lowland rice production through the construction of irrigation schemes and paddy rice expansion; but this could only benefit a small proportion of the target population because of the limited availability of valley bottom land. Apart from a few other small initiatives in the growing of fruit, vegetables and non-timber forest products (NTFPs), and even fewer activities with livestock and fish farming, no significant alternatives were developed for the upland areas, where other alternatives than maize were needed. Very little activity was undertaken with respect to natural resource management.

Agreement at Completion Point

All of the evaluation report's recommendations are deemed acceptable and feasible by the Government of Lao PDR and IFAD, and will be implemented in the future. The paragraphs below provide some details on the nature and on the implementation arrangements, including assigned responsibilities and timeframes as applicable for the main recommendations and derived sub-recommendations.

Consolidate successful interventions in existing project villages. Consolidating project interventions in order to improve sustainability should include: (a) improving the capacity of villagers to manage their own VSCSs while continuing to strengthen and supervise the recently established district and provincial microfinance institutions; (b) strengthening the Agricultural Technical Service Centres; and (c) monitoring the maintenance of rural infrastructure, linking it to district services for major repairs and finding ways to increase the commitment of resources from government departments at all levels.

Partners involved, but not restricted to, implementing the recommendation: Ministry of Planning and Investment, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Public Works and Transport, WFP and IFAD.

Follow up: This effort will be primarily Government led and will include the establishment of a road maintenance fund. The Government will need to identify other activities to respond to the remaining sub-recommendations in the coming months. WFP will support the government in responding to sub-recommendations (a) and (c) through the Cash for Work and Food for Work Programme. IFAD will support the Government as appropriate.

Timeframe: starting from 2011.

Focus on improving ANRM through explicit focus on the uplands, addressing deficiencies of the agricultural extension system, including a broader range of partnerships and identifying relevant implementation modalities. The main consideration for any future project in Oudomxay must be to address issues related to ANRM. Ultimately, any improvement in the livelihoods of villagers will depend on the development of sustainable economic alternatives. There are physical limits to the development of lowland rice production, land use planning policies have limited the amount of land available for upland agricultural production, and maize cultivation is not sustainable in the long run without measures to offset declining soil fertility. Any future ANRM strategy should focus more explicitly on the uplands and include: (a) agricultural intensification; (b) agricultural diversification; (c) increasing livestock productivity through forage planting; (d) improved harvesting of NTFPs; (e) a value chain approach that will strengthen the links between farmers, transporters and traders; and (f) participatory land and forest management and awareness raising on villagers' rights to use and manage natural resources.

Any new project that focused primarily on ANRM would have to address the deficiencies of the agricultural extension system, not only increasing resources and capacity building but also improving institutional management and commitment. The extension system also needs to be much more focused on innovation. Extension officers and researchers need to work together to identify problems and find solutions for upland agriculture and natural resource management. The new ANRM component should include a broader range of partnerships, including private sector operators, research institutions, the National Agricultural and Forestry Extension Service and training establishments. Government departments that have an interest in the sector could also be involved, such as the National Land Management Authority and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. The primary responsibility for project management, coordination and decision-making should continue to be located in the provincial and district planning offices, with oversight from the local Steering Committees, but a mechanism for accessing advice from relevant national line ministries should also be established.

Partners involved, but not restricted to, implementing the recommendation: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, National Land Management Authority, IFAD, WFP.

Follow up: Recommendations will be addressed by the new COSOP and the programme covering Oudomxay and Sayabouly.

Timeframe: 2011-2015.

Incorporate more remote ethnic villages. Any new project should focus explicitly on the more remote ethnic villages; however, the range of activities should be considered carefully. OCISP already found that it was difficult to work in these villages; transport was time consuming and there were few staff with knowledge of ethnic languages. Any future project should combine quick wins through the provision of rural infrastructure with longer term development of agriculture and natural resource management. The community development approach should be more narrowly focused on these two areas, building local participatory capacities to interface with project implementers. The broad based Community Development approach with a proliferation of implementers and activities might not be cost effective in the more remote areas.

Partners involved, but not restricted to, implementing the recommendation: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, National Land Management Authority, WFP and IFAD.

Follow up: Recommendations will be addressed by the new and the programme covering Oudomxay and Sayabouly.

Timeframe: 2011-2015.

Build knowledge management for wider scaling up. OCISP provided a good source of lessons learned that could be useful for other projects, government policy-makers and donors. However, little time or resources have been available to take advantage of this. A future project should systematically build in a fully resourced knowledge management component, which analyses the lessons from OCISP and future project experiences, produces knowledge products, and organises dissemination activities with links to other projects, researchers, policy makers and beneficiaries.

Partners involved in implementing the recommendation: IFAD, Ministry of Planning and Investment and other related Ministries.

Follow up: Recommendations will be addressed by the new and the programme covering Oudomxay and Sayabouly. In addition, use of the Information and Knowledge Management Unit (IKMU) within the Department of International Cooperation, MPI (the Grant Support already available through IFAD to MPI), will be used for this purpose.

Timeframe: 2011-2015.

Signed by:

Mr Somchith Inthamith

Director General, Department of International Cooperation

Ministry of Planning and Investment

Lao People's Democratic Republic

6 May 2011

 

Mr Thomas Elhaut

Director, Asia and the Pacific Division

Programme Management Department

International Fund for Agricultural Development

15 March 2011


1/ IFAD, Lao PDR Pre-COSOP mission: 5-16 December 2010.

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Lao People's Democratic Republic Supporting community initiatives to replace shifting cultivation (Issue #78 - 2011)

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