Trends in forest ecosystems and their services in Senegal
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One objective of the UNEP component within the Senegal JP on Forest eco-taxation is to help build or strengthen national capacity in the area of “forest biodiversity assessment”. To achieve this, the UNEP team chose to establish working groups within each of the three implementing partners. These working groups are guided by a scientific panel in charge of reviewing findings and facilitating communication with policy makers. The justification of this design was to ensure the ownership by national partners and also the quality of the delivery.
After nearly completing the initial work, one can easily state that this process could have delivered more relevant results if it had been better implemented. For example, some of the members of the working groups were not fully involved in the work, and we found a situation where, a scientist with relevant background and experience on a specific topic area such as “land degradation assessment” was not involved in the assessment of conditions and trends of forest within the same institution and with the similar framework. Issues such as this had not been anticipated by the JP and therefore reduced the quality of work performed by the working groups, and led to drawbacks in the final outcome. Along the way, there were clearly some missing actions and insufficient commitments to build on existing or previous experience.
To ensure continuity and the use of existing relevant capacity within partners’ institutions, it is necessary to request effective involvement in the working group of those “internal experts” with previous experience relevant to the subject matter.
In sum, based on the lessons learned during the Senegal experience, we advise that when conducting similar assessments: partners should be selected in a competitive process; the log frame shouldn’t identify specific partners against financial allocation; and lastly, UNEP should improve in its “quality assessment” of the delivery through assistance and effective backstopping of implementing partners from the early stage of their assignment.
Forest ecosystems in the country have been subjected to various forms of destruction, many of which are anthropologically induced, consequently establishing non-sustainable trends.
The main purpose of this activity was to conduct an assessment of the “conditions and trends” of forest ecosystems and their services in Senegal. The outcome of this assessment would help design “policy tools as eco-taxation” for a better management of those resources.
There is an urgent need to monitor “changes of forest ecosystem” for effective management. The lack of regular baseline survey necessary for the appreciation of these changes was the current situation and also one of the main justifications of this activity.
There are two types of fundamentals gaps: one is the lack of accurate information needed for appropriate monitoring of the forest ecosystem and their services which are in significant decline; the second concern is the lack or insufficient capacity to ensure the regularity of this assessment.
Strategy chosen to address the issue
- The setting up of working groups and a scientific panel made of national experts with diversified and relevant experience on their subject matter.
- Arrangement to bring in “international expert” to strengthening these working groups and guide the scientific accuracy.
Implementation of the strategy
The first step of the implementation was the identification of the working group members following with the identification and setting up a national scientific assessment panel.
The following step was the development and validation of the overall work plan and methodology.
The crucial step was the core assessment under the review of the scientific panel couple with the expected backstopping of the international expert.
Personal network were mainly used to identify and set the initial arrangement for a backstopping of working groups by international scientist.
Regular working sessions with working groups was used as approach to guide implementation and group delivery, and also reduce dependency on “individual consultant”.
Validation of the findings by the scientific assessment panel was also set as a key to guide quality and ownership by the national counterpart.
Challenges and Innovations
The main challenge in this work is due to a reliance on “scientific expertise” comparing to the traditional development project. To achieve the joint objectives of strengthening national capacity and ensure good quality of the assessment, we chose to set a design which could facilitate a peer review process of the findings. The innovation here, is the organization of the overall assessment around “thematic working groups” being guide by a “scientific panel made of national scientists” and this is an improvement from the traditional design of the solely validation by a task manager. Using this design, we believed to be empowering national bodies on the findings of this project.
Results and Impacts
There is a better understating of the Sub Global assessment framework by the partner institution. There is still a widow for improvement as far as the use of some specific tools is concern (Trade-offs assessment, multi scale assessment, composite biodiversity index such as IBI).
The lack of the backstopping from an international scientist to the working group resulted to an output of an average quality with some critical concern.
- File:Technical summary of the evaluations of the conditions and trends of forest ecosystems and their services in Senegal.docx;
- File:Terms of reference of the scientific assessment panel and official appointment ministerial note.docx.
To address the issue of insufficient quality of the results obtained, the next steps is to implement a complementary assessment with focus to the:
- “Up scaling” from the project sites to the decision making scale level.
- Improving the overall quality of the initial work with more relevant data on forest trends.
- Close monitoring of this complementary assessment by the specialized UNEP unit (Biodiversity unit).
There is a window for replication of this experience in other countries with similar background. It should be done with corrective measures to both ensure the national ownership and capacity building and mostly the quality of the delivery. Based on our experience in the Senegal JP, we recommend the following when others are replicating a similar activity on forest ecosystem assessment, to be considered already at the activity design stage:
- The identification/selection of national partners should be made with all the existing guidelines. For example, one of the guidelines could be a clear identification of the available relevant expertise within the organization, and engage the partner’s institution of their involvement to ensure good matching with the requirement of the work.
- It might be more efficient to select/identify partners’ institution trough a competitive process, rather than solely through personal networking. Generally, national based institutions are used to the process of competitive grant. In this case, competition might be close to a small sample of national institutions. And since, proposals are mostly from individual scientist working under the umbrella of their institution, it could be more efficient to have relevant scientist being on charge of the expected work.
- In the project log frame, it is rather good to have financial allocation against activity without a specific name of a partner institution. It is a serious challenge to stop working or change an implementing partner in the context where expectation has been raised due to the budget already allocated in the project log frame. Commitment in the implementation of the work is also less optimal than in a case were selection of implementing partners is being conducted through competitive selection process.
- As supporting agency, UNEP should improve in its “quality assessment” of the delivery through assistance and effective backstopping of implementing partners from the early stage of their assignment.