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Implementation Completion Report (ICR) Review - Conservation Of Medicinal Plants (GEF)

1. Project Data:   
ES Date Posted:
Project Name:
Conservation Of Medicinal Plants (GEF)
Project Costs(US $M)
 5.07  5.37
Sri Lanka
Loan/Credit (US $M)
 4.57  4.57
Sector, Major Sect.:
Agricultural extension and research, Forestry, Central government administration, Law and justice, Other social services,
Agriculture fishing and forestry; Agriculture fishing and forestry; Law and justice and public administration; Law and justice and public administration; Health and other social services
Cofinancing (US $M)
L/C Number:
Board Approval (FY)
Partners involved
Closing Date
06/30/2003 06/30/2004
Prepared by: Reviewed by: Group Manager: Group:  
George T. K. Pitman
John R. Heath Alain A. Barbu OEDSG

2. Project Objectives and Components:

a. Objectives
To conserve globally and nationally significant medicinal plants, their habitats, species and genomes and promote their sustainable use in Sri Lanka.

b. Components
Expansion of in situ conservation though the establishment of five Medicinal Plant Conservation Areas (MPCAs). Planned US$2.07 million, Actual US$1.12 million (54%). Baseline date would be collected and Village Action Plans developed. Undertake growth, yield and harvest studies to assess sustainability and compile individual community action plans to develop an overall conservation strategy for each MPCA. Additionally, an Ayurveda dispensary, including production and processing, apprenticeship training and an information center, would be established in a selected community of each MRCA.

  1. Expansion of cultivation and conservation. Planned US$0.46 million, Actual US$0.95 million (206%). Establish two new plant nurseries and upgrade three existing nurseries to ensure maintenance of important germoplasm and planting materials for private and public nurseries, support research on propagating important medical plants, undertake research on field planting techniques in home gardens and plantations and disseminate the results.
  2. Information and Institutional Support. Planned US$2.54 million, Actual US$3.30 million (130%). Promote an appropriate legal and policy environment through studies and recommendations for regulations to protect medicinal plant genetic resources, their products and traditional knowledge, including intellectual property rights. Establish an information network on medicinal plants and undertake formal and informal training to facilitate knowledge dissemination, including mass awareness campaigns.Establish an impact monitoring and evaluation system and provide support for project management, coordination and advisory functions.

c. Comments on Project Cost, Financing and Dates
Completing and transferring project activities to viable local institutions required a year's extension.

3. Achievement of Relevant Objectives:

The project objective was substantially achieved but with several shortcomings.

4. Significant Outcomes/Impacts:

A new National Policy on Sri Lanka Systems of Indigenous Medicine and an action plan to implement it was completed - it is still undergoing review by government. Government's commitment to the indigenous medicine sector was affirmed through increased budget allocation for commercial scale cultivation of medicinal plants.
  • Government recognized that medicinal plants and their indigenous use was an issue of Intellectual Property Rights and legislation regulating this subsector was approved by Cabinet but awaits enactment by Parliament until agreement is reached on which ministry will be responsible.
  • A national database on indigenous medicinal plant resources and traditional records compiled from the project's surveys and research was established at the Bandaranaike Memorial Ayuvedic Research Institute.
  • Four Medicinal Plant Conservation Areas were established covering 74,000 ha (vs the 12,000 ha planned).
  • Village Action Plans for 39 villages led to increased adoption of sustainable conservation practices.
  • Conservation Area Management Committees proved to be viable and plans are underway to register them as nonprofit making enterprises.
  • The Ministry of Indigenous Medicine was strengthened and is able to provide consistent support for community cultivation and conservation.
  • The Department of Ayurveda's ability to cultivate and conserve medicinal plants was significantly strengthened.

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

Government was ambivalent about the importance of indigenous medicine and project ownership was jeopardized by frequently changing ministerial affiliations (five ministries and five ministers) and a high turnover of counterpart staff (5 Secretaries, 4 Commissioners of Ayurveda and 4 PMU directors). These changes caused uncertainties over goals and objectives, required time to rebuild managerial knowledge, and caused delays. As a result, a professional managerial culture and lines of recognized authority were not fully developed and there is not yet a coherent strategy for the sector.
  • The substitution of NGO expertise to mitigate the Department of Ayurveda's managerial flux and weak technical expertise in biodiversity failed to build the department's capacity and reduced local ownership.
  • The number of MPCAs was reduced from 5 to 4 because of inter-agency conflict over territorial jurisdiction. In part this was the result of inadequate consultation during project appraisal to identify needed cross-support from other agencies.
  • Development of village micro-level plans for medicinal plant conservation tended to be top-down and not fully inclusive thus reducing local initiatives, and villagers in consequence put greater emphasis on income-producing and community-building activities.
  • Monitoring and evaluation was biased towards social sustainability and covered the scientific aspects of the project inadequately.
  • Appraisal appears to have been too idealistic with insufficient attention to the realities of implementation for a project that cut across several established sectors and required high rates of local participation. This appears to have been corrected after mid-term review.
  • 6. Ratings:ICROED ReviewReason for Disagreement/Comments
    SatisfactoryModerately SatisfactoryCoherent sector strategy still under development. Also Annex 5 rates all achievements as "modest" on the ICR's four-point scale.
    Institutional Dev.:
    Bank Performance:
    Borrower Perf.:
    Quality of ICR:

    7. Lessons of Broad Applicablity:

    It is important to build a broad national constituency for biodiversity conservation projects that cut across traditional ministerial boundaries before project approval. This becomes imperative when some elements - such as medicinal plants - may appear irrelevant to western-oriented health agencies.
    • Do not substitute external expertise for deficient local capacity at the central and local levels. Paying inadequate attention to building and sustaining in-country capacity undermines project ownership and adversely affects outcomes.
    • Monitoring and evaluation needs to be comprehensively tailored to all project objectives and components - a standardized approach may only yield only partial results.

    8. Audit Recommended?  Yes

              Why?  There have been four other GEF projects on medicinal plants. An assessment of this project in a cluster with these projects could lead to some valuable lessons and insights. Alternatively, an assessment of this project could contribute to a sector-wide evaluation of the GEF approach to biodiversity conservation.

    9. Comments on Quality of ICR:

    Extensive and very thoughtful. Very useful discussion of transitional arrangements and the future of medicinal plants subsector in Sri Lanka. However, the main text and Annex 1 refer to "objectives" whilst the PAD makes it clear there was only one objective.

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