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Implementation Completion Report (ICR) Review - District Upland Development And Conservation Project

1. Project Data:   
ES Date Posted:
Project Name:
District Upland Development And Conservation Project
Project Costs(US $M)
 2.2  2.2
Loan/Credit (US $M)
 2.0  2.0
Sector, Major Sect.:
General agriculture fishing and forestry sector, Sub-national government administration, General education sector, Health, Other social services,
Agriculture fishing and forestry; Law and justice and public administration; Education; Health and other social services; Health and other social services
Cofinancing (US $M)
L/C Number:
Board Approval (FY)
Partners involved
Closing Date
09/30/2002 09/30/2003
Prepared by: Reviewed by: Group Manager: Group:  
John R. Heath
Peter Nigel Freeman Alain A. Barbu OEDST

2. Project Objectives and Components:

a. Objectives

"The overall development objective of the project is the adoption of more intensified agricultural practices by farmers in the pilot areas as a means to improve the livelihhoods of local communities while at the same time conserve the biodiversity of a high priority protected area" (Project Appraisal Document)

The project covered three zones of the Nam Theun watershed, targeting various villages inhabited by ethnic minorities.

This project was supported by a Learning and Innovation Loan and its objective should be evaluated in terms of what it is reasonable to expect from such instruments.

b. Components

(i) Agricultural Support (Expected cost, US$0.7 million; Actual cost, US$0.7 million). This component was applied to three villages. It provided information and developed simple technologies to intensify production of paddy rice and home garden food crops, as to domesticate non-timber forest products.

(ii) Social Support (Expected, US$0.2 million; Actual, US$0.2 million). This component was applied to fifteen villages. It provided hygiene information and basic health facilities and supplies, as well as literacy and numeracy training, especially for women.

(iii) Conservation Support (Expected, US$0.3 million; Actual, US$0.3 million). This component was applied to six villages. It entailed training in village-level resource planning, awareness raising campaigns, and patrolling and monitoring.

(iv) Institutional Strengthening (Expected, US$1.1; Actual, US$1.1). This was intended to improve the technical and managerial skills of staff at the provincial, district and village levels.

c. Comments on Project Cost, Financing and Dates

It took longer than expected to build up trust and win the support of villagers for the proposed approach, helping to explain why implementation took four years, rather than the three years projected at appraisal .

3. Achievement of Relevant Objectives:

The project objective was highly relevant. The communities involved are recognized as the poorest in the country and their welfare is linked to the adequate conservation of biodiversity. The objective can be broken down into three parts:

(i) Intensify agriculture (Partially Achieved). Between the baseline survey (2000) and 2002 there is evidence of a modest adoption of intensified agricultural practices. The area of settled rainy season rice grew from 37 ha to 47 ha, the area of settled dry season rice increased from 8 ha to 15 ha, and the number of village vegetable gardens increased from 103 to 185. But there is no indication in the ICR of the level of yield and output increases.

(ii) Improve rural livelihoods (Partially Achieved). Between 2000 and 2002 school attendance rates for 6-14 year olds increased from 33 percent to 83 percent (it is not clear what share of this increase was accounted for by girls). It is not clear if health outcomes improved or if food security was significantly enhanced.

(iii) Conserve biodiversity (Partially Achieved). Here results were mixed, the area under shifting cultivation increasing for pure rice (from 8 ha to 21 ha)--contrary to project objectives--but falling slightly for mixed rice (87 ha to 78 ha).

4. Significant Outcomes/Impacts:

  • This was the first project in Laos to have a Special Account established in the province rather than the capital. The provincial goverment now has a good understanding of how to manage procurement and other aspects of World Bank projects.
  • Two risks identified at appraisal--illegal hunting and in-migration to capture project benefits--were successfully contained, first, by strengthening patrolling and monitoring and, second, by reaching agreements with villagers on administrative boundaries and engaging in village-based land use planning exercises.
  • Health initiatives seem sustainable, with volunteers in 15 villages able and willing to continue their antenatal, postnatal and hygiene programs with limited support from district officers.

5. Significant Shortcomings (include non-compliance with safeguard features):

  • Sustaining the education initiative is more problematic because the Department of Education has been slow to provide the necessary incentives to Non-Formal Education Workers based in the villages.
  • Vaccination campaigns for animals may cease owing to lack of support from district and provincial agriculture offices;
  • There was little significant capacity-building of district and provincial agriculture offices because there were few few incentives for staff to cooperate; staff from these offices were not very committed to the project.
  • It was difficult to find provincial and district officers willing to relocate to the isolated villages, reducing the expertise on hand in the communities.
  • The ICR sheds no light on the cost efficiency of the various initiatives pursued under the project, conceding that there is no data to establish whether this was the lowest-cost approach to conservation.
  • 6. Ratings:ICROED ReviewReason for Disagreement/Comments
    SatisfactoryModerately Satisfactory(OED uses a six-point rating scale that is not available to ICR authors). The three objectives identified were each only partially achieved and the amount of learning was probably quite modest.
    Institutional Dev.:
    ModestModestThere was little enhancement of, or cooperation from, the provincial and district agriculture offices; without this long-term impact may be limited.
    LikelyUnlikelyThe limited cooperation from local government reduces the prospects for sustainability; although there were significant achievements under the conservation support and social support components it is not clear that the project came up with a new, viable model that can be replicated elsewhere.
    Bank Performance:
    Borrower Perf.:
    Quality of ICR:

    7. Lessons of Broad Applicablity:

    • The success of pilot projects (and of operations supported by Learning and Innovation Loans) hinges on the quality of learning that takes place and the testing of the project process, rather than the physical results that are obtained.
    • To be successful, pilots need to be preceded by some analysis of institutional constraints and the prospect that lessons learned will feed into the design of government programs.
    • Modest investments in health and education facilities can be more powerful ways to win the support of communities than agriculture and conservation initiatives, which take longer to establish and may produce less palpable results; but whether better health and education equip communities to manage their natural environment better is unclear.

    8. Audit Recommended?  No


    9. Comments on Quality of ICR:

    The outcome data in Annex 1 uses a set of well-chosen indicators that were easy to monitor. Also, there is data for three years which is commendable. However, there are no health outcome indicators, or anything relating to food security. In addition, it is not clear if the data is based on the whole population in the villages targeted or a sample. The ICR could have assessed more rigorously the value added by this project: how much learning really took place?

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