Rwenzori Mountains Conservation and Environmental Management Project, Uganda. Phase II (2010-2012)
Background: The Rwenzori Mountains National Park (RMNP) in Uganda (990 km2) was established in 1991, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and the RMNP’s high altitude wetlands (224 km2) were enlisted as a Ramsar site in 2009. The Park is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The Rwenzori Mountains Conservation and Environmental Management Project (RMCEMP) was designed to address multiple threats and gaps in park management identified in UWA’s General Management Plan for the RMNP. The purpose of the final evaluation was to assess and review the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability of phase II of the RMCEMP to determine if the Project delivered its intended benefits and impacts and ultimately provided value for money. The evaluation also serves to guide the design of similar projects in the future and contribute to organizational learning and lessons to the WWF network and other stakeholders.Purpose/objective:The long term goal of phase II was: “The Rwenzori Mountains ecosystem, including its biodiversity and water catchment values, is conserved for the benefit of neighbouring and the international communities.” The purpose was: “Biodiversity conservation strengthened through improved management of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, increased benefits to local communities and sharing of documented impacts and lessons by the end of 2012.”The purpose of phase II was to be achieved by delivering three outputs: management of the RMNP further strengthened (output 1), conservation benefits to park-adjacent communities increased (output 2) and results, impacts and lessons documented and shared (output 3).Methodology:The evaluation was commissioned by the WWF Uganda Country Office in collaboration with WWF-Norway and was conducted in November and December 2012. The methods included document review, meetings with WWF staff, field trips, stakeholder consultations in the four project districts using semi-structured questionnaires and field checks in sites of on-the-ground implementation. A self-evaluation exercise was held with WWF staff, UWA RMNP and key district technical staff. A stakeholder workshop presented the initial evaluation results. A re-run of the Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT) was done.Key findings:Overall, the Project delivered well against its targets and with no significant deviation from the logframe beyond what was agreed at mid-term. The contribution to the purpose was considerable in terms of its outputs with improvements in park management and increased benefits to local communities neighbouring the Park, but has been partly compromised by continuing illegal activities within the Park. The focus on documenting and sharing lessons will see much of the impact post-project due to delays in producing the documentation. Stakeholders see the Project as effectively implemented and results are useful to them; stakeholders cite in particular the implementation modality where activities are ceded to and/or actively monitored by stakeholders as contributing substantially to effectiveness. CBOs’ capacities were substantially built. The Project remained relevant to the core rationale for the creation and conservation of the RMNP and to various stakeholders.Nine out of ten main targets were achieved by or will be achieved shortly after the end of the Project. Cost efficiency was generally good even though much lower in 2010 due to implementation delays. After changes in the project team (early 2011) there were substantial improvements. A monitoring plan was developed based on the logframe but focussed on output monitoring while baselines were not adequate and hampered the documentation of achievements. Monitoring reports were basis for adaptive project management.The RMNP management effectiveness recorded by the METT improved by 7% during phase II compared to the target of 5%. This also reflects some support from other sources. The Project improved the Park’s relationships with communities, primarily through Resource Use Agreements (RUAs) but also collaborative boundary management and other activities. The RUAs provide communities with access to resources inside the Park. Non-financial benefits were received by 2,284 out of the 2,898 households signing RUAs. Unexpectedly, 8.2 per cent of people extracting resources under the RUAs sold some of the resources for income, despite the resources only intended for own consumption. RUAs gave many people benefits with moderate investments and appeared to be cost-efficient, for instance compared to bee-keeping. Communities also benefit from revenue sharing with the RMNP (tourism fees). Implementation of the sub-county environment action plans involved tree planting in agro-forestry systems and soil-water conservation techniques. There was no monitoring to document improved productivity.The implementation of the Ecological Monitoring Plan, a key output of phase II, was facilitated by well trained and motivated rangers, and an institutional link was established with the Makerere University and its field station to continue to provide technical support to RMNP post-project. Problem animal control appears to work where fences are maintained. There are several cases of project interventions being replicated by donors such as the Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC), CARE and Ecotrust. There is a lot of community interest in replicating tree nurseries and bee-keeping. The strategic shift in phase II helped stakeholders to focus on key issues and think more carefully about sustainability and uptake.Recommendations:For UWA, the patrolling and enforcement strategies should be reviewed urgently to deal with certain illegal activities recorded during the Project’s mammal study. The greatly improved park-community relations should be maintained, including by extending the RUAs and consider new resources. The improved ecological monitoring needs to be consolidated, including by adjusting ToRs for rangers, possibly appoint specialised monitoring rangers and increase monitoring funding. A climate change vulnerability assessment should be carried out.Key recommendations to districts include to continue technical support to CSOs through the National Agricultural Advisory Services and associated extension services and to help CSOs find new markets for products (e.g. honey and chilli pepper promoted during the Project). The Technical Advisory Committee members and WWF should support the districts in lobbying Government for higher funding to the environment and natural resource sector, support the RMNP in finding partners to meet operational budget gaps (PES, REDD+ etc.), disseminate project results and lessons among practitioners and donors, and, for WWF, improve technical backstopping and procurement processes.Comments from the organisation, if any:Evaluation findings are mainly in line with WWF-Norway’s views. WWF believes the Project has achieved several very important results over its life-time (since 2005), including a very large increase in the Park’s management effectiveness (> 50%) since 2004 and greatly improved park-community relations due to increased benefits for park-adjacent communities.After the Project ended, WWF continues to work in parts of the project area through a separate climate and energy project. Some funding comes from Norad and WWF-Norway.