Impact evaluation of HANAs project underway

The impact assessment of High Altitude Northern Areas (HANAs) projects implemented by Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) with US$4.08 million grant from the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund (TF014705) to the Kingdom of Bhutan for the Sustainable Financing for Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resource Management Project (P127490) is underway.

A Monitoring & Evaluation team led by the Director/CEO are visiting all the High HANAs project sites in February and March 2019, to evaluate and document key impacts of the project in terms of biodiversity conservation and livelihood enhancement, while achieving the set targets of the implemented project/s.

The projects are evaluated based on the evaluation criteria as specified in Monitoring and Evaluation Framework Policy of BTFEC. The questions for the evaluation are derived from the specific outcomes outlined in the project document, and the Implementation Completion Report (ICR) submitted to BTFEC. The projects are evaluated based on the following criteria, but not limited to:

  1. Relevance – How is the BTFEC grant suiting to priorities and needs of grantees?
  2. Effectiveness – To what extent that the project objective is achieved or will be achieved?
  3. Efficiency – How the project outputs or project activities have been achieved using resources in a most cost effective/efficient manner?
  4. Impacts – What were actual difference that project interventions have produced to beneficiaries?
  5. Sustainability – What is the state of project interventions after BTFEC financing is withdrawn?

The evaluation team meets the grantees, project beneficiaries, and representatives from local government. Specific evaluation questions are asked to these stakeholders through semi-structured interview and their responses recorded. While the project beneficiaries answers open-ended questions to highlight key impacts of the project.  The team also visits project sites and verifies both direct and indirect impact of the project. The outcome of the evaluation will provide direction for future projects funded in similar mechanism.

The Sustainable Financing for Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resources Management project (SFBCNRM/”the project”) was designed to help BTFEC better implement this and future strategic plans and to increase its effectiveness such that it could better support its conservation objectives and create a sustainable positive impact for the country’s environment.

The objective of the Sustainable Financing for Biodiversity Conservation and NRM project was “to improve the operational effectiveness and institutional sustainability of the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation.”  Project design assumed that more modern, transparent and efficient grant making would create a more effective trust fund, thus putting BTFEC in a stronger position to support measures for enhancing protection of Bhutan’s critical ecosystems and biodiversity.  Increased capacity and improved systems at BTFEC would lead to funding of grants and projects that were better aligned with Strategic Plans working to improve the productivity and sustainability of agricultural lands, alpine meadows and ecological services as well as the livelihoods of the people and the local economy.  In addition, funding would look to enhance the management of existing forests, reduce deforestation and prevent the loss of critical habitats and ecosystems.

Improvements to BTFEC’s effectiveness would be primarily undertaken through support and activities under Component 1 of the project, which focused primarily on introducing improvements to BTFEC’s:

  • Grant selection criteria,
  • Procedures for the evaluation and assessment of the impacts of its grants;
  • Transparency;
  • Accountability; and
  • Financial management.

Component two, focusing on improved conservation in the high altitude northern areas (HANAS) would benefit in turn from the improved capacity building supported by Component one, particularly with regard to monitoring and evaluation.  Finally, Component three, on mainstreaming of conservation and sustainable forest and natural resources management would benefit from achievements and lessons learned under Component two.  Thus the outcomes of Component one would enhance those of Component two and the successful outcomes of Component three would lead to success in Component three.

Located between 3,000 and 5,000 meters in altitude, the alpine and sub-alpine meadows and temperate broadleaf forests in HANAS support a globally important biodiversity. Three of Bhutan’s ten PAs are located in HANAS and they are ecologically linked to the PAs in the mid-hills and duars (foothills) especially by animal migrations and hydrological processes. HANAS has globally significant natural habitats for charismatic and iconic species such as the tiger, snow leopard, takin, blue sheep and several species of hornbills, pheasants and large raptors. Ecologically, the high altitude ecosystems maintain critically important ecological links to ecosystems lower down the mountains and far beyond Bhutan’s southern borders. The river systems that originate from the glaciers and water towers of Bhutan’s mountains sustain biodiversity as well as human lives and livelihoods in the mountains, the Gangetic Basin and the mangroves of the Sunderbans mangroves.

It is estimated that around 65,000 people (roughly 10% of Bhutan’s total population) live in HANAS. The temperate broadleaf forests and other alpine ecosystems are under threat from patterns of agricultural cultivation, livestock grazing and growth and development of towns. Despite the small number of inhabitants in the HANAS region, demand for resources in the subsistence-based rural economy contributes directly to deforestation through the increased consumption of fuel wood. Areas under cultivation were increasing with the most suitable land already under agriculture and the potential for additional allocations to agriculture is likely to encroach on forests that lie immediately above the remote villages. About 90% of the rural households own livestock and their dependency on PAs, alpine meadows and surrounding forests for grazing livestock adversely affects the various HANAS ecosystems. This is further compounded by the fact that alpine meadows – the traditional grazing grounds in the high mountain areas – are rapidly degrading and becoming infested with weeds, forcing herders to move their livestock into surrounding PAs, corridors and forests for grazing.

The SFBCNRM project focused on enhancing the impact of BTFEC financing for improving conservation management of the HANAs landscape in Bhutan (including protected areas and associated methods, forests and agricultural systems).  This element has been implemented through 14 projects, all under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF). Primary emphasis has been devoted to supporting the three Protected Areas that make up the HANAS landscape: Bumdellng Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS), Wangchuck Centennial National Park (WCNP), and Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP). The majority of projects (11) were implemented by the Wildlife Conservation Division (WCD) of the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) where a project coordination unit was established, with one additional being managed by the Nature Conservation Division (NCD) of DoFPS in Thimphu. Two additional projects were implemented by the National Biodiversity Center and the Department of Livestock, both within the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF).

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