Evaluation Report of the Vavuniya, Anuradhapura and Puttalam Rehabilitation Project
Background The VAPreP projects cover the three districts of Anuradhapura, Puttalam, and Vavuniya, and have been operational for 15 years. The project focus has been on developing an integrated community development model of relief and rehabilitation to address the war-induced displacement and community integration. Purpose/objective The purpose of the evaluation was to provide a comparative outcome assessment of the integrated community development model piloted by FORUT in these districts. The evaluation should examine the relevance and sustainability of the overall project strategy of creating community institutions, the efficiency and effectiveness of implementation, and the impact of the intervention on the communities. The evaluation should make practical recommendations for both strategy and objectives in the project districts based on FORUT's development goals, particularly in relation to participation, social integration, organisational sustainability and gender. Methodology The primary method of accessing field-based information was through focused group interviews which generally lasted between 2-3 hours per village/ organisation. No pre-determined questionnaire or interview schedule was used to conduct the interview. A two-track approach was adopted to ensure the validity of gender data: General village level discussions and female interviews. Secondary data and project documents such as applications, annual reports and internal assessments were made available to the Evaluation team from FORUT Sri Lanka's head office. Similar documentation available at the local project offices as well as some of the apex bodies of the partner institutions were supplied by project offices. Key findings 1. While the apex bodies/ POs have grown and undertaken a substantial workload of what was earlier carried by FORUT, their economic viability to maintain the current service level is by no means secure.2. A disturbing growth of a substantial proportion of CBO membership who are being marginalised as 'inactive.'3. The field staff is highly influenced by the thin understanding of gender in FORUT's Policy Document of 1998. They seemed unable to comprehend that gender relations means social relationships between men and women. It is heartening to see the new policy document for 2003-2007 espousing a more complex and a better definition of gender and gender relationships.4. The project proposals noted poverty reduction, relief, better quality of life, peace and civil society mobilization as major objectives of FORUT work. But on the ground level, most of the officers were so intent on the specific project that they are assigned, they seemed unaware of these overall objectives.5. Female-only participation does not give women the skills needed to negotiate better positions in other contexts where men are present.6. Hierarchical relations had been developed around the FORUT work in which FORUT officials held the top most tier, the apex body staff the next and the CBO officers the third tier with regard to decisions making, implementation etc.7. Another kind of hierarchy was noticed within the CBOs in which several women consolidated all the powers among them and led the others just the way men and elite who held power in the wider society did. Leadership seemed to rest on traditional criteria such as class position and age.8. FORUT officials as well as some apex body staff held the idea that the people have got into a culture characterised by "no" and "can't." This critical attitude pointed towards a paternalistic top-down development model and evidenced that the above officers did not pay attention to structural conditions, which inspired such thinking patterns among displaced people.9. Except RPDF the other apex bodies do not prepare final accounts and do not get them audited. The available data clearly indicate that their income earning capacity is well below the volume of expenditure. Without FORUT's financial support the sustainability of apex bodies is uncertain. Recommendations 1. FORUT should postpone the localisation of POs this action for at least another 2-3 years.2. FORUT should actively consider each of the alternative plans of POs to attain viability as a supplement to the main source of income generated from the RLF.3. A 'grand inquest' into why around a third of the CBO's membership have gone into a state of inactive hibernation needs to be undertaken with the participation of POs and CBOs.4. The visibly hierarchical relation between Vavuniya project office and that of the two POs need to be drastically modified to re-establish an on-going dialogue between equal partners in development activities.5. A process of capacity building of POs within the realm of financial management should be undertaken systematically during the interim period.6. FORUT needs to stimulate and facilitate the conditions for a continuing dialogue between POs even among projects so that a healthy cross-fertilisation of ideas are allowed to germinate, possibly enhancing the solidarity feeling among members from different localities.7. Seriously consider setting up an internal evaluation cell within its organisation that will first take up the quest of the inquiry into the growth of a substantial inactive membership.8. FORUT should undertake to effectively disseminate its changed perspective on gender to the project offices and POs.9. A comprehensive educational program designed for all levels of FORUT staff on gender and gendered relationships should be undertaken and FORUT/ SL office should conduct these programs.10. More attention needs to be paid and strategies devised to include men and boys in CBO activities.11. Pay attention to minimise hierarchical structuring of the relations among project offices, apex bodies and village organizations.12. Paying more attention to patterns of developing leadership among women.13. Putting more time and effort to attract youth to CBO activities14. Targeting male youth with a view to change women's status in the future.15. It is important to include men and male youth in any program on family planning, contraceptive usage or HIV-AIDS prevention.16. More attention should be paid to prevention of alcoholism and domestic abuse.17. Awareness programmes on budgeting, long term planning and household management and effective domestic communication and negotiation are needed in certain locales. Comments from the organisation Research and findings from this evaluation will be critically examined along side the NIBR evaluation and FORUT's overall strategy adapted in accordance with this review. Due to the tsunami, this process has been somewhat delayed.