Final Evaluation of An Phu Integrated Community Development Project, Phase 1, 2000-2004
Background The An Phu Integrated Community Development Project's objective is to "build sustainable livelihoods for the poorest people and communities, with care for a gender-balanced approach". The project has two main components: infrastructure development and community development. Infrastructure development includes five works: two dykes, one school and two electricity lines. Community development includes nine programmes: capacity building for the commune's Women Unions; enhancement of gender awareness; cows and buffaloes for poor households; the Agricultural Promotion Programme; short-term savings and credit; raising public health awareness, micro-initiatives, medium-term credit; and community funds. The project is implemented in five villages in An Phu Commune: Dong Chiem, Nam Hung, Bac Son, Boi Moi and Roc Eo. Purpose/objective The Final Evaluation is aimed to determine the extent to which the project has achieved its goal and to give recommendations for the set-up of phase 2 of the project. Methodology Changes in people's life since 2000 have been assessed through a quantitative survey held among 80 households. Simultaneously, the activities and organisation of Community-based Organisations (CBOs) have been assessed in discussions with village groups. After analysing the results, findings have been verified and additional information has been gathered in meetings with villagers and authorities Key findings Compared with the situation in 2000, the following changes have been assessed in 2005. Improved livelihoods: In the households, the food situation has become more secure since more rice is produced. At the same time, incomes have raised due to increased crop production and animal raising, and to more opportunities for small business development and off-farm employment. The general health situation is improved as fewer people suffer from common diseases like malaria, diarrhoea, and child malnutrition. These changes were more pronounced for better-off households than for the poorer ones. Since project activities concerning public health awareness started in mid-2004, they are unlikely to have a large effect on health by the time of the evaluation. Use of Natural Resources: Between 2000 and 2004 local people increased their application of fertilizers and manure and thereby improved the quality of cropland. However a larger availability of animal dung, increased application of pesticides and the production of more waste also reduced the water quality. The project contributed both positive and negative environmental impact: through setting up the cow/buffalo bank, providing loans for animal raising and training in fertilisation, the project contributed to better cropland quality but also to water pollution. The project Integrated Pest Management (IPM) activity, aimed at reducing pesticide use, is unlikely to have contributed to reducing water pollution by the time of the evaluation because it is not yet widely applied. Empowerment: Women improve their position in the community as they attend more public meetings than beforehand and participate also more actively in these meetings. Women are also more involved in decision taking within the household. The project has substantially contributed to a more gender-balanced decision-making through its credit programme providing women economic power relative to their husbands. Sustainability: The CBOs initiated by the project were effective in implementing the project activities, their main task and responsibility. The members had the capacities for implementation, but lacked those for a more autonomous functioning of the CBO in terms of formulation and planning of activities, and assessment of the results. The CBOs had weak linkages to technical services at local or district level, so they were not able to ensure adequate technical support to the beneficiaries. Project management: The capacities of the local project partner responsible for the overall management of the project have increased during the course of the project, in particular regarding planning, coordination, and reporting and financial management. The results (outcomes) of activities and related benefits for people (impact) are not yet monitored; consequently the partner organisation lacks a clear overview of the project. The partner organisation gradually takes more responsibility in project management, in particular regarding implementation. The involvement of Caritas in this domain has decreased. The linkages of the project to Communal technical services, District organisations and to National Programmes are still weak which tends to limit its effectiveness. Recommendations Project management:• Strengthen the linkage of the project with organizations and technical services in the Commune structure. Also, project coordination at village and Commune level needs to be emphasized as specific tasks for Village Community Development Groups and An Phu Commune People's Committee.• Emphasize capacity strengthening of the project partners at Commune and village level to build up the required capacities for project management, in particular planning, implementation, financial management and reporting.• Give specific attention to support capacity strengthening of the organizations at village and Commune that are not related to the governing administrative structure. An active role of An Phu Women's Union in providing support to the beneficiaries groups and the project management structure might be considered.• Reinforce the M&E system of the project, in particular regarding the assessment of outcomes and impacts.• Strengthen links with the technical services at District level in order to guarantee better technical support, in particular with District branches of banks (VBSP and VBARD), the District Women's Union, the District Health Centre and the Plant Protection Sub-Department.Programmes of the project:• The project should consider a stronger focus on the poor.• Since project activities follow the current trend towards intensified agricultural production, the interactions between economic development, environmental protection and human heath care need further attention.• Monitoring of animals, in particular with respect to incidence of diseases, feeding conditions and fertility status, should step up.• The introduction of veterinary boxes may be considered so that direct and prompt help can be provided.• The project should pay more attention to market opportunities of agricultural products and the skills of beneficiaries to successfully enter the market.• Maintenance of infrastructure has to step up so they may better and for a longer time serve the beneficiaries.• As to further involvement in rural infrastructure, maintain and where possible increase efforts to obtain acceptable quality and life-time of works. Expand adequate control by technical experts during phases of construction and handing over in order to ensure that quality standards are met.• The project could mitigate potential damage of the Ho Chi Minh Highway by awareness raising and prevention concerning HIV/AIDS and drug use. Comments from the organisation The final evaluation of Phase 1 has shown that the project has positively contributed to improve livelihoods and that marginalized people, especially women, have been empowered by the project. The evaluation has also shown that the infrastructure works are of substandard quality and several improvements need to be done. The evaluation results and recommendations will have implications for the next phase of the project, which will include all villages in An Phu Commune.