Sunday, May 25, 2014

Going beyond terrestrial PAs

We had decided to limit the evaluation to terrestrial PAs so as to narrow the scope and the nature of the system we are dealing with. However, from interviews in the past week, I have realized that it is worth giving attention to areas beyond terrestrial PAs at a national scale, especially in Uganda. I am sharing this with you in case you find the same issues in your countries, which is quite likely.


I discovered that in Uganda, wetlands are not a part of the PA system. Yet a GEF MSP just finished last year with the aim of creating a new category of PAs--community conservation areas or CCAs--that would place wetlands within the national PA system. An entirely different agency is in charge of wetlands, so it was a good thing I saw this in the project documents and decided to interview that agency, otherwise this story might have been lost. Obviously, none of the other agencies thought to mention it as this was not under their jurisdiction. At present, the Wetland Management Division is in the process of getting a Wetlands Act passed that will classify wetland areas as protected. The other interesting thing I learned was that this MSP that was implemented in 6 communities (considered successful) was a replication of an SGP project in one of the PAs that we will be visiting. The government is now planning to scale up the project by developing an FSP (with cofinancing perhaps from Japan) that will further promote this approach in wetlands across the country.

Areas Outside PAs

Again, we had decided not to include projects that deal mainly with mainstreaming biodiversity conservation in production landscapes. But what everyone keeps saying is that forest cover and biodiversity are decreasing OUTSIDE PAs. And in fact, there are more wildlife and forests outside of the PAs. Another recurring response here is that with the population still expanding, eventually it will be hard to protect the PAs  once people have used up all the resources outside. Here are some video clips on continuing challenges in Uganda's PA system, from my interviews with the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Fortunately, GEF's more recent projects here involve landscapes and corridors. The project implementers (UNDP and NGOs) sound very optimistic about the outcome, but the terminal evaluation and government tell a different story. The main concern is that livelihood options offered as well as payment for ecosystem services do not provide enough of a long-term incentive to private forest owners to preserve their forests and the biodiversity in it. This seems to make it critical to know the state of biodiversity outside the PAs as well. The TE, for example, said that deforestation actually accelerated during the GEF project, and the reviewers attributed this to unmet promises made to the private forest owners.

My personal concern is that if they're relying on payment for ecosystem services ($27.50 USD/ hectare/ yr, which is not much in itself), what will happen when the money runs out? Who will keep paying the people? The other thing about that is that when you motivate people with money, they will always want more and more. Not because they're greedy (though there is that, too, for some) but because prices of basic necessities will keep going up (and fast!), and the alternative economic incentives for the forest will then grow higher and higher compared to what they are getting paid. It will just be a race to the bottom, a bidding war of who pays the highest price for which use. I personally believe that changing people's mindsets is the key so that the motivation driving conservation is the conviction that forests are important to their future and need to be protected; paying people to secure their own future seems to me like cultivating a feeling of entitlement, i.e. all these foreigners should pay us because they have the money and we're the poor victims. Already these people expect to be paid just to show up to a meeting. But hey, what do I know. I just hope the people who invented Payment for Ecosystem Services know what they are doing and are considering the long-term effects on people's character and attitudes, not just on climate change.

The good news is that a follow-up REDD project that is not funded by GEF (because the government of Uganda did not want to fund it) has taken lessons from the GEF projects on how to make Payment for Ecosystem Services more successful. For example, as part of the revised approach, they are establishing village banks as a source of capital, especially for emergencies, which was the biggest reason people who joined the scheme would cut their forests.

All in all, the story of GEF support in Uganda is a good one. However, the main driver seems to be tourism--if an area has the qualities that can earn revenue, it also attracts support from government, NGOs and donors. Not just that, but it tends to be able to fund itself as well in terms of infrastructure and enforcement. If an area has NO touristic value, then good luck to the wildlife there. Will update this hypothesis after I go visit the PAs.

I saw the same thing in my limited experience in Indonesia--everyone seems to be flocking to the same PA when providing support, to the total neglect of the neighboring one. This appears to be the "Matthew effect", common in complex systems (basically most of real life): For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. (Matthew 25:29). In the meantime, in your respective countries, why do you think some areas attract so much support, while others hardly get any support?

Global PA Survey

Request from Stephen to fill out a quick survey on PAs. Please send this out to all your PA contacts in the countries where you are doing your study so their team can get data on as many PAs as possible! This analysis will contribute not just to the GEF evaluation but also to the larger, long-term global study they are doing.

We have set this up a short survey monkey questionnaire to get information on numbers of staff.  It is formatted in a way that requires standard answers.   This is the Task Forces standard short questionnaire that we trying to send to hundreds of protected areas. The links are below. If you could collect this information on-line for each protected are it would be most helpful.  It only takes 5 minutes per park.   We also have it in French and Spanish

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Prepping for interviews

I just wanted to share what I've been doing so far on the interviews. As I mentioned in a separate post, I've been giving short presentations to key informants prior to asking questions so that they know where we are coming from when we ask the questions. A common misconception is that we are here to evaluate the GEF projects; the presentation is meant to emphasize that impact evaluation asks different questions from project evaluation. It seems to be a good way as well to draw out concerns and questions. The presentation is here if you want to have a look. You can modify and use it if you want. I will probably also present this as an intro during the debriefing/ validation meeting with stakeholders at the end of the country visit.

Also, I have been sending out the list of interview topics separated according to stakeholder group and a two-page brief on the evaluation along with the letter asking for interviews from key informants. This helps them get a better idea of what GEF is, why we're interviewing them, and what about, and they generally come very prepared, with relevant documents as well. You can find the folder of interview topics and the 2-pager brief on the evaluation here, ready to send with your invitation email.

What about you, any tips and tricks to share on preparing for and conducting interviews?

Some midstream clarifications on using the data collection instruments

Tim was asking me some questions about the templates, and I thought it might be helpful to post my reply to him here, since he's probably not the only one with those questions.

Why are the questions repetitive?

As mentioned in the Guidance Note, the sections in the templates are intended to be redundant so as to ensure that different aspects of a phenomenon are covered by asking the same question in different ways. However, it CAN get tedious to fill out the tables when certain things come up again and again.

For example, the category of "threat reduction" in the country template (document 3A) under the Environmental Change table (Section IIA), may identify "decline in poaching" as a reduced threat, with "improved enforcement activities" as a contributing factor. "Improved enforcement" might also show up in the table for Change in Capacities, if the improvement in enforcement occurred during the period that GEF support was present. It may also show up again in the Timeline (Section IIB) if this improvement in enforcement started as a result of a specific event or driver, and then again under Management Inputs (Section IIIA) if law enforcement training and equipment were provided as a specific contribution of one of the actors.

To avoid the exercise from getting too tedious, you can either a) copy and paste whatever you've already typed into the boxes where the answer might also be relevant, or b) provide a reference such as "See non-GEF factors in Environment Change, 'threat reduction'" in boxes where the information is also relevant, to avoid repeating the information. The point is, do whatever makes sense for you--the bottomline is that you are able to capture all the information that you have collected.

Let me know if this helps. Have you found a better way to make the process easier? Please share your experience  in the comment box below!

Change starting when?

Another question that may be common is: from when do we start assessing the change? There are two sub-sections assessing change, Section IIA - Direct Changes and Causes and Section IIB - Indirect Change and Causal Pathways.

The first, Section IIA, is meant to document changes that occurred during the period of GEF engagement. So it's important to know when GEF support began and when it ended, and then ask what the state of things  was before this period, and what the state of things is at present or immediately after support ended. The change may not always be a result of GEF support (or not only of GEF support), and this is exactly what we want to find out. GEF support may have funded certain activities that are expected to lead to that change, but asking this question will help us see if indeed it was those specific activities that directly contributed to it.

The second, Section IIB, is meant to document longer-term changes, so we can see if GEF did indeed contribute to major change, or if the events were already headed in that direction anyway. This is where GEF contribution will be more nuanced, as we know that there are so many other larger actors and drivers shaping the sequence of events in a specific context. Perhaps GEF provided the last extra push needed for conservation to be prioritized rather than economic gain. Perhaps GEF came in to lend some sort of credibility when other donors were having second thoughts about continuing their support for PAs in the country. Perhaps the momentum for change started way back when the country gained its independence. Perhaps some other donor or even government would have provided exactly the same kind of support. These are the sort of things that will not emerge unless we look at the long view and ask the question "what might have happened had GEF support not been present?"

What do we do with the Preliminary Analyses?

The Preliminary Analyses forms (document no. 4A, B and C) are meant to help synthesize the information organized in the templates as a bridge between data collection and the analyses that we are going to be doing in June. So filling out the 5 sets of preliminary analyses (PA system + 4 PAs) is very important, as these are what we will be presenting to each other during the calibration workshop.

The country and PA templates will continue to be important as references that we can use to clarify data as needed during discussions, as well as compare answers to specific categories across the countries and PAs. So it's likewise important to make sure the information in the tables is well-presented and understandable. We also plan to aggregate information organized in the templates (quantified, as much as possible) as evidence in the report to support our findings and recommendations.

Below is a flowchart of how the different documents feed into each other. You can click on it to make it larger.

Hope this helps and do share your thoughts below!

More from Indonesia

Here's another Indonesia update that Tim requested me to post on his behalf.


To follow on from Jeneen’s description of Indonesia, the car trip to North Buton was completed at a painstaking 16 km/hour average over 100 kms along a road which in some cases is actually washed by the sea at high tide. Arriving there on the Friday morning meant that the offices of the KSDA and Forestry Departments were locked as staff had not returned following the national public holiday on Thursday. However we did find people at the district planning office (BAPPEDA) and the district Environment Office whose head was the ex-head of the Forestry Department. For him, we obtained a quite different impression on the state of pressure on the forest reserves from that of Lambusango.

Firstly, the north of Buton Island is relatively flat and access to the forest is relatively easy – quite the opposite of Lambusango. Secondly there are numerous landing/loading places for timber illegally extracted from the reserve and production forests. And thirdly, since the district was newly formed in 2007/8 by dividing one district into two, the local Government has been very much concerned in establishing new government structures and units. There has been a mini boom in construction which has given employment to many workers and contractors (and a demand for timber). However, the efforts in protection of the forest and law enforcement have been poor. Everyone seems to know that illegal timber extraction is taking place with either disregard or involvement on the part of authorities. In particular there is a black tropical hardwood (gito gito in local language) which only comes from the reserve and is in high demand from either Kupang or Surabaya. We actually passed three trucks loaded with this at night on our way to North Buton.
There is very little NGO activity relating to conservation per se, but a local NGO called APDK with whom we met described the AusAid support at village level under the Australian Community Development and Civil Society Strengthening Scheme (ACCESS Phase II) in the areas of small scale credit, education, health, water, sanitation, etc.

There has been little (if any) spill-over of the experience in Lambusango, the neighbouring district. There is a low perception of environment matters, and our Head of Environment knew nothing of the Community Forest Management Forum established under the GEF/Operation Wallacea project. However, there is no clear felling of timber in the reserves or forest areas, as trees are selectively felled (spotting), and there is no pressure on animal or bird populations due as there is no significant trade.

After repeating the 100 kms road journey and spending the night in BauBau, we returned to Jakarta on the Saturday morning.

This week is mostly concerned with meeting the main NGO actors in Jakarta. I received yesterday the full data from WWF on the RAPPAM exercise for all of the 50 national parks in Indonesia. This is useful for the evaluation since it compares the results of the 2010 survey with that of 2004, and thereby provides a great deal of insight on change in Indonesia on all aspects of the status, threats and management of the habitats and population in the National Park system. Whilst this is only a subset of the PA system (Indonesia has over 650 PAs), it gives a good view of the overall situation.

The plan for the next field trip starting Sunday for 6 days is North Moluku (GEF) and Ambon (non-GEF). As Jeneen has described, all travel in Indonesia is by air and expensive.

Monday, May 19, 2014

First encounter in Uganda

The story in Uganda seems quite different from Indonesia, as here, GEF was attached to a World Bank loan that radically restructured the way national agencies managed protected areas. In one of the PAs we will be visiting, GEF also supported the very first trust fund in Africa that apparently has been replicated in other countries, and is planned to be scaled up to the entire country by other donors. So I'm really looking forward to doing this country case study. An official from the Uganda Wildlife Authority was very helpful in coordinating interviews with other government agencies as well as within PAs, so my schedule is really packed here, and in fact we're still getting in touch with bilateral donors and NGOs and trying to fit them into the schedule.

Agrippinah and I had our first interview today with the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities. Before we started, I gave a presentation on what the evaluation is about, why we are doing it, and what we are doing in the country. This is because just like in Indonesia, they have a misconception here that we are evaluating the projects. So I explained the difference between impact and project evaluation, and our framework of assessing outcomes and then tracing what factors led to these outcomes. They had quite interesting questions afterwards about the methodology, and how we would separate GEF's impact from the others'.

I tried to record a video post-interview for the first time (in Indonesia, I didn't understand what they were saying so was more hesitant about taking videos), as you can see below. Took less than a minute, but the result is very effective I think for supporting the final report as well as promoting the evaluation among different audiences.

Our itinerary during my stay here:

May 19-26 Interviews at national level
May 27 Travel to Bwindi
May 28-30 Interviews in Bwindi and Buhoma
May 31 Travel to Kibale and Itwara
June 1-6 Interviews in Kibale and Itwara (non-GEF)
June 7 Travel to Budongo (non-GEF)
June 8-11 Interviews in Budongo
June 12 Travel to Kampala
June 13 Debriefing meeting with stakeholders -- presentation of preliminary findings for verification

Friday, May 16, 2014

The week in Indonesia

While I was in Indonesia, Tim and I were able to interview one national-level stakeholder, who was from the Directorate General of Conservation Areas in the Ministry of Forestry, and also cover one GEF-supported PA. The week before, we had met with different groups to finalize the PAs to be visited. But it was only during the interview that the people who would be coming with us during the field visit from the Ministries of Forestry and Environment were finally identified so we could book the plane tickets. This was in the afternoon of Monday, and we were targeting to leave early Tuesday morning. To top it off, although Tim and I had decided over the weekend to do a PA that used a private-public partnership model,  the GEF unit staff said during the meeting that it would be better if we went to the sites where the stakeholders were already informed about the evaluation (in fact they were a bit upset that we were thinking of doing the other one that wasn't in the original project list that they received from us). So at that very last minute, we had to change our itinerary as well. I will not go into the sordid details of trying to book a flight for 5 people that was leaving in less than 24 hours, but suffice it to say, I finally got tickets at 930 am when we were supposed to be at the airport by 10 am. What makes the PA visits complicated in Indonesia is that because it is the world's largest archipelago,  you have to fly everywhere, and this particular PA entailed two flights plus a two-hour drive, which by Indonesian PA standards is not too far.

For domestic flights, we had to contact BCD Travel instead of AmEx. Thankfully they had a 24-hour service which was very functional (much more than I can say for AmEx). Instead of getting an interpreter at very short notice, we decided instead to have one of the staff in the GEF coordination unit to translate for us during the trip. This turned out to be a good idea as he had enough background to interpret things in context, and we didn't have to bother with getting a contract done, etc. Below is a summary of my impressions of what we found out during my week in Indonesia:

1) At the national level, GEF seems to be irrelevant as far as terrestrial PAs go. First of all, there is no GEF project at the national level supporting the PA system. The government is very keen to fund their own way as much as they can, but still depend on donors, especially WWF, to do wildlife monitoring and research. International NGOs and other countries have been very influential in shaping how the PA system is managed.

2) At the GEF-supported PA, while nobody knew what GEF was, and this was an MSP so the funding was really very small, the community leaders did say that people became more aware about the importance of preserving the forest because their water supply improved as a consequence of rehabilitating the areas surrounding the PA. Now nobody even uses firewood for cooking. They have started planting nutmeg which both discourages illegal logging and provides income to the communities. A common theme, though, seems to be that the NGOs that have been executing GEF projects do things that are counter to the government's way of doing things. So while the over-all outcome in terms of biodiversity and socioeconomic improvement has been good, the NGOs have ended up being kicked out of the area due to these unresolved differences.

Tim went on another 6-hour drive to visit the comparable non-GEF PA, Buton Utara, while I went back on the two-hour drive and then two flights (6-hour trip) to get back to Jakarta and catch my plane to Uganda.

Below are some of the photos I took to document the evaluation.

Power outage during meeting at Ministry of Forestry while we were deciding where to go
Interview with one of the kecamatan (very local level of government) that was part of the community  forum supported  by GEF
Welcome sign to the protected area of Lambusango in Buton Island, South Sulawesi
Community leaders in another kecamatan, owners of the house we stayed at. Communities have been benefiting from scientific tourism activities that were part of the GEF project run by Operation Wallacea. 
Pearl culture was one of the forms of livelihood introduced  to relieve pressure from timber harvesting.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Revised and Additional Tools

As I mentioned in my last email, the revised templates can be found here. I have also uploaded the contacts database to this folder, so you can just open the Excel file and filter using the dropdown menu according to your specific country. In addition, I've uploaded the METT that we will be filling out for each PA here. Tim and I will be meeting with the Ministry of Forestry this afternoon and hopefully have a final list of PAs to visit, which we are very, very close to having. Hope to see the rest of you on this blog!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Choosing protected areas to visit in Indonesia, and itinerary starting to come together in Uganda

Today we had a good meeting with the GEF coordination unit at the Ministry of Environment and a few other people to finalize the selection of the PAs. They had a complete list of possible sites and matching non-GEF ones, including the travel time and route to get to each one. It seems, however, that we essentially only have two choices. However, both of them are relatively successful and being carried on beyond the GEF project. Both are also MSPs. The other two choices are unsuccessful GEF projects, and yet their circumstances are so different that they would probably not provide a good comparison. One is a very old MSP in Aceh, which has since been overwhelmed apparently by the Asian financial crisis, decentralization policies, and the tsunami, among other things. The other one is an FSP that is more of a rural development project by the Bank, with the PA management portion of it funded by GEF. Apparently it is such a failure that according to the TE, the areas that received more funding saw higher deforestation. It seems like a good case to investigate, and yet it's so different from the other choices that it would not be comparable. What do you think?

We will hopefully see the Ministry of Forestry tomorrow (still waiting for confirmation) and find someone who can go with us to one of the PAs next week at short notice. It seems if we can bring only one person, it would be from there, because they are in charge of the protected areas and would need to connect us with the provincial-level Ministry of Forestry. Also still looking for an interpreter to come with us at short notice, since we don't want the forestry people to be doing it for us and risk a conflict of interest. We also went to the World Bank to try to get the administrative things sorted out. Apparently there is no longer a visiting missions unit that can assist us, so an official email from HQ would need to be sent to the Environment unit asking them to assist us with cash advances for the flights, accommodations and per diem of the people who will be coming with us to the PAs.

Today I also got a draft day-by-day itinerary for the Uganda visit. They will be having a meeting on Friday to finalize it with everyone who is involved in scheduling interviews and arranging the trips to the PAs and such. All in all, that is progressing well as they are very much on top of it, and I will continue to keep in touch with them as I count down to my trip to Kampala.  I will strive to post regular updates like this, and perhaps we can all do it so we can share any issues that come up that others may be able to learn from or help with.

Monday, May 5, 2014

My Next 40 Days and Tools for the Road

And so it begins. I thought I would be gone for a month and a half, but it didn't hit me till the night before I left (when my family pointed it out) that I would actually be gone for exactly 40 days. Religious scholars are very well aware of how 40 is a significant number, especially in Jewish, Christian and even Muslim traditions, as a period of testing and waiting resulting in radical transformation. We shall see then what 40 means for me. I certainly look forward to a transformation, as long as it's not into an even more stressed-out person :P

My itinerary for the next 40 days:

May 5-6   Travel from Washington DC to Jakarta via Narita
May 7-16  Fieldwork in Indonesia
May 17  Travel from Jakarta to Entebbe via Doha
May 18-13 Fieldwork in Uganda
May 14 Travel from Entebbe to Washington DC via Amsterdam

The instruments for data collection can be found here, and the latest versions will always be available at this link as they are updated.