Mt. Elgon Regional Ecosystem Conservation Programme (MERECP) appraisal report
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A consultancy team of four persons, contracted by Norad, made during April-May 2002 an external review of the programme proposal ”Mt. Elgon Regional Ecosystem Conservation Programme” (MERECP) prepared by IUCN-EARO. The proposal is partly based on two recent national projects dealing with the Mt. Elgon area in both countries. The MTTI/UWA in Uganda, and KWS/MENR, FD and Mt. Elgon County Council in Kenya will be the main responsible national institutions involved in the MERECP. EAC will constitute the regional umbrella for the programme. National and EAC commitment to the MERECP is outlined, and relevant legislation is discussed. Issues relating to the regional approach, with needs for harmonisation of policies, field activities, research and monitoring, are discussed. Coherence with Norwegian development policies is also outlined. The programme structure is explained, with Norad as external donor, a Programme Steering Committee led by EAC, a Programme Managemnt Unit, and with IUCN as technical facilitator and responsible for the financial flows. IUCN will subcontract institutions at various levels, including NGOs and CBOs, to perform programme activities. The MERECP will have an inception phase of about six months during which more detailed activity plans, budget outlines, recruitment of staff, purchase of equipment, and establishment of an agreed work plan will take place. The general outline of the programme, as well as the participatory process behind its development, is commended. However, the budget proposal has not been developed in the same participatory manner, and it is recommended to revise the budget outline. More resources should generally be spent on field activities, and less resources should be spent on general support to EAC, to IUCN, and to salaries for recruited staff. A major challenge will be to effectively harmonise the programme into a truly regional effort, and to avoid that the implementation phase will be split into a small regional component and two national components. It will also be a challenge to develop a regional integrated ecosystem management plan for Mt. Elgon. It is recommended that more focus is set on the knowledge gaps and the needs for more research activities in the MERECP, both in terms of collating what has already been done, and in terms of biodiversity monitoring, ecosystem functioning, and the various interactions between the forest ecosystem and the socio-economic and socio-cultural issues. Research needs might be discussed in a workshop where relevant stakeholders and institutions are invited. The complicated institutional set-up of the programme, as well as the significant differences between the two countries, are considered to be major risk factors for the success of the MERECP. The collaborative management component will be a particular challenge, as Kenya so far has no official provision for such schemes. Some appropriate indicators for assessing the success of the programme are given in the proposal, but a more complete set of such indicators remains to be developed. To foster a better sense of local responsibility and ownership to the programme, it is recommended that IUCN’s prominent role is gradually phased out, and given over to local bodies over the 4-5 years’ programme period. It is also recommended that the programme activities as far as possible are integrated into mainstream activities like district plans and DEAPs. The issue of corruption is identified as a major concern to the MERECP, and various ways to curb the problem are discussed. For example, funds will basically not pass through central government agencies under the programme, but through IUCN. The long term sustainability of MERECP will to a large extent be dependent on the ability to integrate programme activities into mainstream, national and regional activities, and the ability to find ways of future funding of successful activities. Increased revenue from tourism and from well managed forest plantations are particularly promising alternatives in this regard. It is important that local authorities are given better incentives than today, so that a major share of revenue accumulated locally also is retained locally. Human rights aspects, including resettlement issues; socio-cultural and gender aspects, and the HIV/AIDS problem are discussed in the programme context. It is probable that some of the projects being developed under the Nile Basin Initiative in the Mt. Elgon area will directly overlap with the MERECP. It is recommended that these efforts are co-ordinated through a continuous liaison system to avoid duplication of efforts. Also for other relevant donor-supported activities in the area it is important to develop effective collaborative routines.