External Evaluation of the Pilot Project Combaya of Norwegian Mission Alliance in Bolivia
Background Between 2000 and 2002, MAN-B implemented a Pilot Project in the Municipality of Combaya, with the purpose of supporting a sustainable development process that is comprehensible in the communities, based on a participatory planning process. In 2003, based on the experience acquired in the pilot project, the Development Plan Inter-Andean Valleys (PDIVI) was prepared, execution of which started in 2004, in two cantons of the municipality of Sorata. The popular participation mechanism had a considerable impact in the municipalities through the allocation of fiscal resources and the establishment of project formulation mechanisms, with participation and control of the population. Within this framework, the Pilot Project of Combaya and the Development Plan Inter-Andean Valleys gave priority to projects to strengthen and materialise participation of the community and communal organisations in basic project administration whereby the community assumes responsibility and the Municipal Government and MAN-B are cooperating entities. Both plans structure regional demands in programs and projects that are compatible with the AOP and MDP of the Municipality, mainly with programs emphasising economic, human and spiritual development. Purpose/objective In this context, NMA-B has decided to carry out an external evaluation of the Pilot Plan Combaya and the Development Plan Inter-Andean Valleys, with the objective of having a clear idea of the scope, strengths and weaknesses of the plan. Methodology The evaluating team adopted the following methodological sequence: gathering and analysis of secondary information, design and application of the survey, evaluation interviews, field work and evaluation workshops. One of the important aspects for the survey consisted in training local surveyors, aimed at obtaining more reliable information from beneficiaries. Key findings Having received financial support, training and technical assistance from the Pilot Plan Combaya and the Development Plan Inter-Andean Valleys - called the Plan - communities in the covered area have attained very important concrete results between 2000 and today, within areas of education, health and agricultural development. These achievement are closely related to a process for organisational strengthening with intense training that the communities have gone though. The plan is adequately organised at the different levels, thus contributing to attaining the plan's objectives; nonetheless, the Plan still faces some challenges. Firstly, a solution must be found urgently for the intermediate level (LDOs) in Sorata, as the communities have problems finding a solution independently and expect assistance from NMA-B. Secondly, CODEMCO must be vitalised to avoid that the council's success exclusively depends on one person. Therefore, we propose to revitalise the organisation, making sure that all elected members of CODEMCO comply with their roles and functions and to give the CODEMCO treasurer powers as a signatory. The Plan's approach is highly participatory, both in the planning stage and during execution of the projects. The communities themselves plan and execute works and activities. The role of NMA-B's team is mainly a facilitating role, which does not only cover funding, but also training and technical assistance. Together, the Plan and NMA-B have strengthened the link between the MG and the communities; besides, they helped to raise funds from the MG for the communities. In spite of these achievements, one of the big problems for the projects is that the MG does not provide its contribution as per the agreed timeframe, implying serious delays. Hence, there is a need to improve coordination between the two entities aimed at ensuring timely disbursals. Recommendations Creation of the administrative committees and CODEMCO have ensured the existence of fundamental instances to achieve communal ownership and sustainability. However, it will be necessary to enhance ownership of these LDOs by the MG to guarantee sustainability. Besides, we should underline that sustainability of the administrative committees and of CODEMCO is doubtful if they cannot start parallel fund-raising processes to promote independence and self-sufficiency of these entities. Likewise, the plan must reinforce operation and maintenance of the projects to ensure sustainability. A plan for operation and maintenance of the drinking water and irrigation systems must be prepared, charging a minimum tariff for using these services. The content of the projects must be adapted to a project profile that contemplates evaluation parameters. The Plan has a planning mechanism at the overall level and at the community level, which has many strengths as regards the generation and formulation of projects in a highly participatory manner. However, this system lacks an initial socio-economic and technical analysis to enrich the methodology for prioritising projects. Moreover, it is necessary to include socio-economic and technical reporting on the scope, achievements and impacts of every project or activity as from the planning phase. The information is insufficient due to a lack of outcome indicators in the planning, follow-up and evaluation phases. Before starting an intervention in any area, it is important for MAN-B to first establish a baseline to measure success or failure of the intervention in the future. MAN-B must strengthen its team's capacity in this sense and include this element in its planning system.