Evaluation of REST Integrated Agricultural Development Program
Background The Relief Society of Tigray (REST) and the Development Fund (DF) in Norway have worked together for more than twenty years in rehabilitation and development in Tigray region. In the period 2002-06, they have been implementing the Integrated Agricultural DevelopmentProgramme (IADP) and the Research Project in four woredas (districts or counties) in Central Tigray. The main aim of the IADP is to increase household food security by improving the natural resource base, increasing agricultural production, providing water and health services, and building community awareness and local institutional capacities to manage the resources and facilities in a sustainable way. The IADP works in four drought-prone woredas in the Central Zone of Tigray National Regional State: Ahferom, Werielekhe, Tanqua Abergelle and Kolla Tembien; and is meant to be supported by the work of the Research Project. Purpose/objective The general objective of the evaluation was to critically review the DF-supported activities and to recommend on future directions of the REST/DF partnership.REST and DF had identified the following areas as foci:• Relations between REST and the government• Local organisational development• "Exit" strategies• Local ownership• Gender mainstreaming• Youth work• Strategic priorities to continue the watershed approach• Shifts in emphasis in project components Methodology The evaluation team reviewed the available written material and prepared checklists on key items to be covered in interviews and group discussions. The team visited two DF-supported woredas, as well as a non-DF-supported area and a watershed where REST is not working. In each of the selected woredas, a half-day joint meeting of government and REST staff was organised in order to explain the purpose of the review and to explore the key issues from their perspectives. One day was then spent in the field in each woreda. Visualisation techniques such as Venn diagrams and trend diagrams were used to facilitate wide participation in discussions, particularly with respect to institutional analysis. Before leaving each woreda, the team held a 2-3 hour debriefing session with government and REST staff. At the end of the field work in Tigray, a debriefing was held at REST headquarters in Mekelle about the main findings and recommendations. The team also made joint or separate visits or conducted telephone interviews with key resource persons from relevant institutions. Key findings • The watershed approach of REST is superior to earlier planning approaches• Women are empowered and involved in most activities, but gender mainstreaming is slow within REST as an organisation• Youth are benefiting from improved access to land, training, tools, materials and decision-making, but there is some gender imbalance and a danger of marginalising the non-formally educated• The knowledge of HIV/AIDS have been raised, but there is a slow rate of behavioural change and insufficient attention is given to mitigating the impacts on affected households• REST facilitates the establishment of local management groups and committees, but insufficient attention is given to process and methods of local organisation development• Phasing-out strategies include building the economic power of individuals, households and groups; promoting low-cost technologies; capacity-building; and phasing-out on a component-by-component basis• The research and policy unit provides valuable data to planning, monitoring and evaluation, but there are still weak links to the development activities and other institutions• REST has close working relations with government agencies, especially at woreda and tabia level, and complements and - to some extent - replaces government services Recommendations • The watershed approach could be further strengthened by giving more training to development agents and watershed committees; working in watersheds that cross tabia boundaries; and increasing linkages to input and output markets and off-farm and non-farm activities• REST's gender plan should be implemented and gender mainstreaming should be mainstreamed throughout REST management as well as at the local level• Youth work should give increased attention to capacity-building, enterprise development and gender balance• HIV/AIDS affected households should be better targeted and awareness-raising should be made more effective• A strategy for local organisation development should be worked out• Phasing-out should be done flexibly according to the speed by which communities learn to manage their watersheds, and progress should be monitored after phasing-out• The research and policy unit should be better linked to field interventions and the role of the GIS unit should be reconsidered• REST/DF should focus on building household assets and incomes, and reducing attention to community soil and water activities Comments from the organisation Any evaluation is produced within a very limited framework with regards to the composition of the evaluation team, its time available, its access to information and how it analyses the information received. Furthermore, any social reality can be analysed and presented in many different ways, among which an evaluation represents only one. Hence while this evaluation report may be useful as a tool for general learning, it has limited value as a source of information about the particular projects and partners in question. We urge any reader do consult the partners involved or Development Fund before applying this information in a way that may affect the partners and the project.