Mauritania converts national policies into concrete action on natural resource management

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A shorter version of this lesson has been featured on the booklet produced by the MDG-F Environment and Climate Change window "Seeds of Knowledge - Contributing to Climate Change Solutions". - Read more about the booklet or download it in English / Spanish / French / Arabic.



Environmental mainstreaming is not just about including environmental issues into policies or plans, but rather the goal is to institutionalize this way of thinking in such a way that it becomes ‘normalized’, not only on paper but also through actions and people habits. The Mauritania JP aimed to institutionalize/mainstream environment through various levels: national; local; and inter-sectoral.

The JP identified that the most challenging issue for decision makers is to design good policies and transcript them at national, regional and local level into concrete interventions on the ground which will benefit local communities. It was not enough to simply have goals on paper. Although many environmental policies and strategic papers were designed since 2000 by the Mauritania Government to meet MDG Goals, little effect was seen on the ground as the degradation of natural resources was still affecting the most vulnerable people that rely on it.

In 3 selected regions (Trarza, Assaba, Brakna), the government of Mauritania supported by 7 UN agencies designed the JP to test how from national environmental policy mainstreaming, it is possible to decentralize natural resource management and implement field related activities to combat poverty. A key component of these field interventions was the integration of natural resource use and income generation/livelihood activities into local plans (Agenda 21) which helped to replicate best practices from the JP field projects to other regions.

With this JP experience, the major lesson learned was the possibility to conduct environmental mainstreaming in such a way that strategic policy actions can be translated into changes at the local level, which when normalized in the government planning processes can be more easily replicated.

Moreover, an additional result of this experience was the normalization also of a ONE UN spirit where 7 UN agencies worked together for better coordination of one goal. Despite initial challenges in working together jointly, the specialized UN Agencies have now affirmed their commitment to continuing this style of programming even beyond the funding window of the Spanish MDGF. An indirect effect of this has also been the realization on the part of domestic partners (national and local actors, beneficiaries) that the cross-sectoral and -government coordination is improved leading to more effective natural resource management and poverty reduction. Improving dialogue and work between all sectors brings change to the most vulnerable and poor areas and successfully reverse the trend of natural resources degradation with more strong policies which result in tangible actions.

In summary, the three take-away lessons from the Mauritania JP are as follows:

Environmental mainstreaming/management can be considered successful, not simply if they appear in policies, but once the norms have been institutionalized and people choose themselves to continue the approach/activities even after the formal end of such a project as the JP. Domestic ownership should be emphasized throughout the project lifecycle through participatory mechanisms to enhance this possibility. In the Mauritania case, all substantive recommendations from strategic documents produced have been used to formulate the Poverty Reduction Strategic Paper 3 (2011-2015) where environmental governance priorities are included. Incorporating poverty and environment issues in the policy document of the country was a successful lesson learnt in terms of environmental mainstreaming and should be continue for the next policy review document by national partners.

  • Best practices from pilot projects at the local level should be included into local planning keys documents, such as has been achieved in the Local Agenda 21’s of the 3 targeted regions of the JP field work. These key documents for local planning can help to orientate future natural resource management, in a way which is not dependent on external help.
  • UN agencies not only improved their coordination mechanisms through the course of this first JP, and have committed to continuing such programming, but more importantly also realized that there is still substantial room for improvement, which will require further planning and coordination for future JP-type work. The active agencies in the Mauritania JP have committed to continue their joint work under the UNDAF 2012-2016 which has taken into account key recommendation of the JP program during its formulation.

Purpose of the activity

The objective of the JP was to ensure that environmental issues are mainstreamed into national the planning processes, and to build on this some concrete interventions are implemented in a participatory way through a better natural resources management in 3 vulnerable regions of Mauritania (Trarza, Brakna, Assaba).

To achieve this objective, the program focused on:

  1. Implementation of a portfolio of participative environmental and poverty reduction projects designed to achieve sustainable management of natural resources, the promotion of hygiene and sanitation, while giving priority to national ownership and sustainable development.
  2. Enhanced national capacity for a better mainstreaming of environmental challenges into the central and decentralized planning processes.

Original issue addressed by the activity

The 3 targeted regions present similar conditions and problems that are : High poverty , recurrent drought, desertification, food insecurity, pressure on natural resources and high level of degradation, hygiene and sanitation problems, lack of environmental infrastructures and lack of socio-economic services, degraded lands, lack of investments and lack of capacities and limited participation to high decision processes. To compound such problems, strategic documents such as the PRSP and other regional policies did not take into account the poverty and environment linkages.

Strategy chosen to address the issue

The government of Mauritania took the opportunity given by the MDGF Joint program under the Environment and Climate Change Window to develop and submit the first JP program of the country with the support 7 participating UN agencies in 2008. The JP project was approved the Secretariat for a budget of 5 millions

Implementation of the strategy

The selection of targeted areas was based on vulnerability surveys of WFP, UNICEF, OSA and Poverty and UNDP–UNEP Environment Initiative studies. The development of the project took a year and was done through a participatory approach with the contribution of various stakeholders (UN agencies, Ministries, civil society).

  • Each component of the JP is implementing by a dual UN agency and focal Consolidation of achievements through other existing program
  • Development of a JP under UN TRAC resources and possibility to capture national funds ( discussion and first draft underway)
  • Reinforcement of field activities with the UNDP SGP and others external resources.
  • High Level Advocacy to replicate the best practices of the program in other provinces
  • The civil Society was also part of the process especially for field activities. UNDP is the lead agency and in charge of liaising the MDTF secretariat.

The management of the project was ensured by the executive board composed by the UN representative, the director of AECID (Spanish cooperation) and the Minister of Ministry of economic affairs and development or representative. This structure is in charge or orienting the major decision of the joint program and its supervision. The executive board meets once a year.

The operational supervision and coordination was under a the Management Committee encompassing all UN agencies focal points, ministries focal points, representative of the civil society and private sector. The committee is in charge the supervision of the JP activities implementations, follow up and regular update on progress. The program has a support team with a P4 international coordinator and monitoring and evaluation local team. This coordination team was in charge of the supervision, monitoring and evaluation, creating synergies between all actors, proposing correctives actions and reporting.

On the field some UN agencies appointed local staffs to implement their activities. Local NGOs were part of the implementation and decision making on the ground.

Results and Impacts

1. Implementation of a portfolio of participative environmental and poverty reduction projects designed to achieve sustainable management of natural resources, the promotion of hygiene and sanitation, while giving priority to national ownership and sustainable development:

  • Reforestation of 750 ha of gum, plantation of 20 ha of mangroves,
  • Stabilization of 600 ha of dunes, protection of rangelands and management of protected areas and continuous capacity development of beneficiaries
  • Rehabilitation of 295 ha of pastures and now protected
  • Protection of socio-economic infrastructures: 65 schools, 14 health center, 490 shops, 60 rural markets, 260 water points
  • Restoration and management 47 00 ha in the delta,
  • 6500 latrines were built, 68 officials trained, 240 regions stopped the defecation in the open air, 634 students, 96 local authorizes and 52 traders on hygiene.
  • The equipment of the water analysis laboratory and the construction of 6 incinerators have improved sanitation and water
  • 6 heath centres equipped with incinerators and 1 health center equipped with health control Kits
  • 28000 persons have now access now to drinkable water
  • 6000 households improved their revenue from this program
  • 16 NGOs and LO are now able to implement project and programs of environment and poverty - Various cooperatives and others local organization developed activities and earned money
  • 5 localities now adopted agriculture on table (hydroponique)
  • 3 water supply were installed in the targeted areas
  • 2 carriers were valued and 2 depressions were managed

2. Component: Enhanced national capacity for a better mainstreaming of environmental challenges into the central and decentralized planning processes.

  • 3 strategic ecosystems were evaluated –
  • 2 EIA were developed in the area of health and rural development –
  • Specifics environmental and poverty indicators were developed for the PRSP - - Agenda 21 developed in the 3 regions -
  • More than 150 experts were trained on EIA and mainstreaming P-E issues into planning process
  • The PRSP 3 and UNDAF 2012-2016 were improved with the inputs of all Strategic studies of this JP - Strategic support to develop the environmental education strategy

Overall, the impact of the project was very visible on the quality of the strategic document such as the new PRSP 3 and the UNDAF 2012-2016 that mainstreamed environment issues as major pillars of those documents but also define propositions reverse the trends and combat poverty in the targeted regions but also at national level.

On the ground local populations approved the project and the impact is visible with all realizations done through the portfolio of project in terms of reforestation, dunes stabilization, income generating activities, health and hygiene improvement and water access as well as the capacity development of local decision makers.


The evidence of the project impact are provided by the strategic reports such as the PRSP 3 and the UNDAF 2012-2016 (see online at but also the pictures of some realizations (see below).

Next Steps

  • A final evaluation was shared and Exit Strategy were developed by the team for a future JP program designing in Mauritania more focused on CC window;
  • Consolidation of achievements through other existing program;
  • Development of a JP under UN TRAC resources and possibility to capture national funds ( discussion and first draft underway);
  • Reinforcement of field activities with the UNDP SGP and others external resources.
  • High Level Advocacy to replicate the best practices of the program in other provinces

Potential replication / application

In the case of Mauritania itself, the approach taken by the JP to translate policies into field activities is already being replicated, both on the part of high-level agencies as well as local communities. During the JP exit strategy meeting, all stakeholders that have participated expressed their commitment to continue such program in the country. Various propositions were accepted:

  1. Continue the program with UN agencies resources committed under the under the UNDAF 2012-2016 with a greater orientation on climate change (see concept note shared)
  2. Continue the program with less than 5 UN agencies and mobilized resources 3. Continue the program with money from the government on the best lessons learnt
  3. Joint program government and UN agencies
  4. Develop a concept and look after a funding window to continue this joint program

All these options are already under discussions at the national level.

In terms of replication to other contexts, the experience gained by the Mauritania JP can be useful to others who would like to enhance the value of environmental mainstreaming, and to go the ‘next step’ in developing concrete interventions, and normalizing the concept. The key factors to consider are:

  • Mainstreaming the environment into policies or strategies is a necessary, but not sufficient, part of ensuring better environmental and natural resource management. Mainstreaming on paper can and must be supplemented by concrete interventions which recognize and counteract poverty-environment linkages. The best practices derived from these field/pilot activities can be used as a basis for further replication.
  • Ownership of the environmental mainstreaming/field activities is also an essential component, to ensure that the concept is normalized and taken up by local partners. This can be achieved by emphasizing a participatory approach throughout the project life cycle.
  • UN agencies themselves must also mainstream and normalize the concept of integrated environmental management. This can also act as a best practice example for other related agencies, such as government ministries or community organizations, to see the benefits of cross-sectoral coordination and collaboration.

Information products

  • Strategic reports of the JP (available on UNPEI website)
  • Movie of UNESCO on mangrove
  • PRSP 3 (2011-2015) and UNDAF 2012-2016 (available on UNPEI website)
  • UNICEF reports (see UNICEF Mauritania Website)
  • FAO reports (see FAO Mauritania website)
  • SGP programs (see reports on SGP websites) and tools , posters available)
  • WFP reports (on their website)
  • Movie on the MDG-F
  • Others reports on the MDG-F website
  • Final evaluation of the JP
  • Exit Strategy document.


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