Mount Elgon Regional Ecosystem Conservation Programme
The Mt Elgon Regional Ecosystem Conservation Programme (MERECP) is jointly funded by the Governments of Norway and Sweden. MERECP is supporting a trans-boundary ecosystem initiative under the auspices of the East African Community (EAC). MERECP started in 2006 with a total funding of NOK 34.2 million (approximately USD 6 million) initially for a period of 4 years and executed by the IUCN East Africa Regional Programme. The project had a number of problems with regards to institutional arrangements, planning and implementation. A Mid-Term Review, which took place in 2008, recommended a re-design of MERECP. Since July 2009 the MERECP re-design phase is being executed by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC). The main task of this End Review mission of MERECP was to measure outcome and impact; efficiency and effectiveness of this re-design phase which has been operational for more than 2 years. The End Review mission took place in the second half of September 2011 and reported back to a wrap-up meeting at the LVBC offices in Kisumu on the 3 October 2011. The main problems identified by the Mid-Term Review included: (i) low ownership over the project with national governments and the EAC; (ii) a high level of administrative costs and a high percentage of project budget spent on coordination and meetings; (iii) a low percentage of project funds (less than 20%) reaching the main beneficiaries (local communities); and (iv) low level (50%) of work plan and budget execution.The re-design phase put the ownership squarely with EAC by housing MERECP with LVBC. It also aimed at putting ownership with national governments and funds to protected area management institutions (PAMI) and Districts now passed through Treasury and thereafter disbursed and monitored by Focal Point Ministries. Also the re-design phase took an approach of direct funding to community based organisations for the establishment of Community Revolving Funds (CRFs) as well as directly involving them in natural resource co-management forestry activities such as establishment of livelihood plantations and enrichment planting. The PAMIs were put in the driving seat, managing MERECP work plans and budgets. The End Review Team’s (ERT) assessment concludes that the direct funding approach is very promising and has created positive dynamics of collaboration and conflict resolution between PAMIs and local communities. Local communities are experiencing the direct impact on their livelihoods of the CRFs and tree planting activities. These activities are instrumental in re-enforcing co-management models of the Mt Elgon Ecosystem. There seems to be a good gender balance and representation in the programme delivery Both the LVBC and the PAMIs rightfully claim ownership over MERECP. MERECP has inspired other such trans-boundary initiatives within the region such as Trans Boundary Water for Biodiversity and Human Health in the Mara River Basin Project and the Lake Chala-Jipe and Umba River ecosystems of Kenya and Tanzania. Also under the re-design phase, despite less funds being channelled through Districts, the Districts on the Uganda side are actively involved and supportive of MERECP in its direct support to local community groups. However, work plan implementation and budget disbursement is still only 50% of what was planned. The ERT finds that funds passing through government Treasury of Uganda and Kenya clearly pose a big challenge to effective project implementation. Also the Focal Point Ministries are not the line ministries of the PAMIs and this does not favourably enhance ownership and supervision in the right places. Communication lines for planning, funds requests, disbursement and reporting are unnecessarily long and complicated under the present institutional arrangement. The ERT concludes that the present institutional arrangement is not effective and more direct funding lines should be established with the otherwise semi-autonomous PAMIs. Also the ERT founds that under present arrangements auditing and of use of MERECP funds is difficult and insufficient. LVBC should establish more effective financial monitoring systems. The ERS clearly supports the general view of all project partners and stakeholders that there should be a second phase of MERECP. Noting what has been achieved over the past 20 years in improving ecosystem health and co-management on Mt Elgon, the ERT takes a long-term perspective and makes a number of concrete proposals for an exit of a project mode of funding. The ERT proposes that the CRF model developed by MERECP can form the basis for the setting up of an Elgon Community Conservation Fund (ECCF). It is envisaged this fund will provide annual direct funding to the Mt Elgon management institutions and local communities to maintain collaborative management arrangements and for compensation of avoiding deforestation and forest degradation. Furthermore, MERECP should be a catalyst to ensure that the Mt Elgon Ecosystem is a successful pilot able to demonstrate the delivery of sub-national reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) strategies in Uganda and Kenya. It could be also be pilot for testing monitoring, reporting and verification systems at the ecosystem level as well as act as an institutional and financial mechanisms (such as the proposed ECCF) for channelling carbon finance.Finally, the ERT begins to present the case for setting up of an investment fund for a largescale land husbandry initiative in the Mt Elgon Ecosystem as a means to conserve and protect this important water catchment and diverse agricultural landscape
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