Community based adaptation projects in Malawi provide template for local responses to climatic threats
In the area around Malawi’s Mulanje Mountain, the felling of trees by informal settlers for use as fuel and in charcoal production has led to deforestation, erosion and landslides. But an AAP pilot project, implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP), is showing how an integrated approach can respond to the effects of compounding natural and man-made disasters.
This is but one of a range of AAP projects and initiatives in Malawi that have been implemented in collaboration with the WFP, of which a series of pilot projects is designed to demonstrate small scale initiatives that can secure the livelihoods of vulnerable communities.
The primary aim of these small scale interventions is to demonstrate adaptation measures that can be locally managed in order to provide a model for large scale investment. The programme has now developed and implemented 21 localised pilot projects across seven districts with fascinating results.
In Malawi’s Lower Shire Basin region, for example, which has experienced more severe climatic changes than anywhere else in the country with flooding, droughts and erosion becoming commonplace, an AAP pilot project has illustrated how changes to irrigation and fertiliser-use practices can render crops more secure and resilient in the face of such threats.
The pilot projects are one half of a two-pronged approach to improving the capacity of local communities to develop adaptation responses. The projects have been complemented by the creation of District Climate Centres, which provide information and assistance so better planning, implementation and monitoring of adaptation-related projects can be undertaken.
The AAP Regional Office has contributed to this work through fund disbursement and an initial field trip.
WFP Malawi Programme Officer Duncan Ndhlovu was one of the key staff involved in the roll-out of these interventions. He kindly shared his insight on the work with The Baobab Coalition Journal.
How was this approach to local adaptation assistance devised? What were the issues identified on the ground and/or in the project’s ambitions that lead to these initiatives being pursued?
A series of planning and appraisal sessions at central and district levels was facilitated, which helped bring us to the decision to design and implement 21 pilot projects. The seven districts for them were chosen as they are some of the districts most vulnerable to disasters and the effects of climate change according to sectoral analysis in the National Adaptation Programme of Action.
The issues being addressed through the 21 projects are very broad. They cover food security, flood protection, flood early warning systems, fisheries production, irrigation, energy saving technologies, forest reserve rehabilitation, woodlot establishment and waste paper recycling.
How were the project activities decided upon? Who was involved in doing this?
Most of the project activities had already been proposed in the country’s District Development Plans or District Development Investment Plans, so when the districts submitted funding proposals to WFP the proposed activities were already in line with what had been identified as needing to be done. The District Development Plans were formulated through a rigorous interaction process with the communities and community leaders across the districts, with the District Executive Committee facilitating the process of developing the District Development Plan. In some districts the villages even have Village Development Plans, which are aggregated into the District Development Plans.
At the community level, implementing partners in each project had to confirm with the selected communities if the proposed activities were still a valid, on-the-ground need.
How, generally speaking, were the projects implemented? What was the typical process?
Government departments at the district level, such as forestry, fisheries, irrigation or agriculture departments, and NGO partners were responsible for facilitating project selection, design, implementation and monitoring. They reported to WFP and the Environmental Affairs Department, WFP’s government coordination counterpart.
WFP has standing field level agreements with the District Councils. All implementing partners at district level are directly accountable to the District Council and each District Council is responsible to WFP as well as the Environmental Affairs Department.
Project funds are transferred from WFP to the District Councils through the District Development Fund before then being disbursed to the implementing partners such as Government technical departments and NGOs.District Procurement Committees were responsible for the procurement of project materials. Where the project materials could not be sourced locally, WFP supported procurement of the materials.
When carrying the work out, the implementing partners would interact with the community on a regular basis to facilitate activity selection, training and implementation.
What kind of difficulties or challenges did you encounter, either in the implementation stage or earlier?
There were three key challenges we encountered: the limited capacity of the District Councils to package project activities into a funding proposal as per the prescribed template, which was developed by WFP and the Environmental Affairs Department, late submission of reports or submission of incorrect or incomplete reports that didn’t follow the proforma, and inadequate monitoring by the district councils.
Also, some of the project activities required a joint programming approach, but this did not happen. And one project [22 projects were initially planned] was suspended due to design issues stemming from one of the key technical departments not being initially involved.
What kind of reporting or M&E process was involved in the interventions? Was the purpose to document best-practices that could then be shared?
WFP and the Environmental Affairs Department developed a format for the reporting of activities and expenses for each project. Implementing partners also provided monthly financial and activity implementation progress reports to WFP and the Environmental Affairs Department through the District Councils.
The Ministry of Economic Planning and Development was responsible for supporting district-level monitoring and evaluation of the projects, including at the local community-level with technical advice provided through the climate centres. The Ministry was also responsible for sharing and disseminating the lessons learned and best practices developed through the projects and the District Climate Centres. The Ministry has trained the project managers on activity output tracking and reporting. Planning for how best to disseminate this information is now underway.
Quarterly progress review meetings involving technical heads at central level and implementing partners at the district level have also provided a good forum to check project progress, discuss lessons learnt and identify areas for improvement at all levels of project delivery. One quarterly meeting has taken place to date.
How were staff from other workplaces involved?
At the national level, staff from the Ministries of Agriculture (Land Resource Conservation), Irrigation and Water Resources, Information, Energy, Forestry, and Local Government participated in project selection and design when proposals were reviewed and funds allocated. This team also played a key role in initial project planning at the central level and at the district level when the project concept was being introduced.
What are the next steps?
The project comes to an end in December 2012. Using the lessons learnt, WFP and its government partners will draft a plan for how to scale-up all of the successful interventions, not only in the pilot districts but also in other similarly vulnerable districts identified in the National Adaptation Programme of Action. WFP will also team up with UNDP and FAO to develop funding proposals to support these scaled-up actions.