Lessons Learned

Sufficient time for planning, inception, implementation and phasing out stages:
The project planning and inception phases were allocated sufficient time. However, the timelines for implementation and phasing out activities appear to be insufficient. The implementing bodies and affected communities are lagging behind in view of the implementing procedures. Also, responses to seriously mismanaged rangelands and herd development require implementation timeframes far exceeding the project lifetime. The project will have to support the Ministries of Forestry and Land Reclamation and Agriculture and Food Security to strengthen existing or planned programmes in this regard. Project timelines should be reviewed at this stage to ensure successful implementation and a transition to sustainability. While the project activities were planned in such a way that they are institutionalized into the respective district departmental portfolios, the lessons to be drawn out of the screening and demonstration studies would be most useful if they took place well inside the project timeframes.

Financial sustainability beyond the project and funding lifetime: This is a recurring development hurdle. In this project, the first and second phases are mainly focused on assessment and analysis, whilst the third phase will address policy integration and issues of sustainability. At this stage, donor agencies and associated government ministries will need to link the project with long term budgetary commitments. Nevertheless, for a project of this nature it is essential that the Government is involved from day one, there is full government buy-in and support at all political and administrative levels (up to this point the project has been successful in achieving this), and that this leads to long-term budget allocations (this remains to be achieved).

Sustainable implementation at community level: It is critical that there is full involvement and buy-in of the community which is intended to be the beneficiary, from day one. This project has had strong engagement with the communities during the first phases, but momentum towards full participation in implementation needs to be accelerated. Communities must be allowed sufficient time to engage with the programme, understand its objectives and feel empowered to start implementing, with measurable and sustainable results evident before programme end. In the current situation, the community implementation of the project activities has lagged behind and is happening too close to project end. It would have been better if this stage of the project was reached with at least one year to go on the project timelines to facilitate more engagement of the communities.

A systems-based approach which transcends sectoral interests: It is particularly important that all relevant and affected government ministries participate, are adequately briefed, and show commitment to achieving the project purpose based on collaboration. Climate change resilience building will be most effective when approached in an integrated systems-based manner. Within the context of agricultural and rural development, urban- and rural focused authorities must find improved ways of collaborating to develop the necessary value chain for agricultural inputs and outputs and create a market economy at district and ultimately national level. This project was conceptualized along these lines; the real test will be the actual building and strengthening of supportive infrastructure and financial mechanisms, to link the rural economy into a modern urban-driven market economy.

A high degree of reality in devising feasible activities and outcomes rooted in the local context: This is one of the core strengths of the project. The focus on communitybased adaptation strategies should ensure that science-based responses are embedded in local knowledge, practices and circumstances (both biophysical and socio-economic), are understood, wanted, and implemented by the farmers participating in the project and lead to improved livelihoods.

Avoidance of "hand-outs" (grants) in favour of credit mechanisms: Many development projects based on grants have failed, and have fostered the development of a “hand-out mentality” not just in Lesotho but many other developing countries in the region. The granting of credit which requires re-payment, on the other hand, tests the commitment and practical orientation of a farmer. It links closely with long-term sustainability. The project favours this approach, which is supported by the farmer participants in all three pilot sites, as found during the baseline interviews. However, implementation of the pilot adaptation demonstration requires some support to farmers in order to reduce the risk factors on them. This is the additionality cost of demonstrating adaptation initiatives. In addition, if the choice of farmers participating in the project would adopt a criteria of those who can afford to test the recommended technologies, it would run the risk of being perceived as a project for those who have the means. It thus takes a medium to long term efforts to wean the mentality of the farmers from grants to independent implementation.

Objective monitoring and evaluation: Success needs to be measured and documented if it is to be scaled up to other communities; conversely, upscaling of mistakes and absence of benefit should be avoided at all cost. Monitoring and evaluation procedures have to be undertaken concurrently with project implementation processes. The first phase of this project included baseline studies which were also validated – these provide the basis for future M&E and evidence of positive change. This is a key component which should not be compromised by financial or time constraints.  We have also followed up with the on-farm demonstrations from which the upscaling efforts will be based.

last updated:  Wednesday, September 12, 2012