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  • Apr 10, 2017

Seeing the Wood from the Trees: Effective M&R for the Forest Investment Program

Sandra Romboli 

Monitoring project performance is challenging at the best of times.   When it comes to tracking the performance of investments in forestry and it can be even trickier. This is because of the long term nature of investments, the complexity of outcomes and variety of stakeholders in the sectors.  

Fortunately a number of countries are forging ahead to address opportunities and share experiences on these issues under the Forest Investment Program – a $723 million funding window of the CIF, which provides direct investments to benefit forests, development and the climate.

Over the last year, six pilot FIP countries have been engaged in a stocktaking review to look at how monitoring and reporting is managed in their country level FIP programs.  The pilot countries cover a diverse mix of contexts including Brazil, Burkina Faso, DRC, Ghana, Indonesia, Lao PDR and Mexico. Last week, these countries* gathered in an M&R Validation workshop to take stock of their experiences. The discussions also included partner multilateral development banks and donors - and most excitingly, information sharing with new countries of FIP financing including Mozambique and Ivory Coast.

Since 2008 the CIF has been supporting the FIP pilot countries to develop Monitoring and Reporting (M&R) systems.  These M&R systems are unusually designed in that they are country driven with stakeholder participation at the core.  One of the key tenets of the FIP M&R is to achieve as much integration with the national Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) systems, driven by the principles of country ownership, stakeholder engagement, mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) and ‘learning by doing’. Each year, monitoring data is collected and updated through consultative country processes, culminating in a national participatory workshop taking programmatic look at the results.  This approach not only helps to ensure the timelines of data collection, but also the relevance of information collection to evolving country contexts.

A major takeaway from the stocktaking review and validation workshop, points to the benefit of the country-driven FIP M&R approach to achieve important mainstreaming and to capture information on transformational change within and outside of the forest sector. Many FIP countries have their FIP M&R indicators integrated in their national M&E systems, making data collection easier. For example, in DRC the FIP monitoring system is aligned with the Ministry of the Environment’s monitoring and evaluation system.  Mexico is reporting their FIP GHG emission reductions aligned with their submission to UNFCCC. In Ghana, FIP indicators are integrated at the ministry level within the National Development Plan. Also, in Ghana the FIP indicators are a subset of the national MRV data. Going forward, the country driven nature of reporting should continue to grow.

The M&R approach also supports national capacity building – which is critical in many of the low capacity contexts where investments are most required.  One of the most important channels for this is through the FIP M&R annual workshops, which provide a unique platform for a diverse range of stakeholders to convene. For example, in DRC thanks to the FIP workshop, the government engages with the private sector and the civil society to speak about innovative forest management at the same time.  In Burkina Faso, the preparation of the FIP report engages a wide range of actors and spurs a sense of ownership of the data-collecting tool. Through a country driven approach, capacities on M&R are built at the country level, and complementary is established between global goals and country requirements.

Of course, the stocktaking review and validation workshop also pointed to a number of challenges that lie ahead. Some of the countries reflected on the high frequency of reporting requirements - especially for GHG Emission Reductions; the high number of questions to answer in the FIP annual workshops and the differing information requirements from stakeholders – including the need for a stronger blend of quantitative as well as qualitative narratives from first hand country experiences.

The validation workshop focused on strategies to overcome these constraints. One immediate step is to reduce the number of questions for the reporting themes. We believe that sometimes the simpler is the better, and that too many overlapping questions was an unnecessary burden for FIP countries to report on.

The discussions also opened the door for better information sharing protocols involving the MDBs, as they already work with project information collected directly from FIP countries. This possibility to collect data from MDBs should avoid a double reporting burden for FIP countries.

Going forward, these lessons are now devised to help put in place more efficient and useful M&R systems at the country level. Effective country level M&R systems are critical to tracking of performance, the provision of accountability and, above all, to improve ongoing decision-making through learning. Showing evidence of these achievements is the core to our work at the CIF, so we are continuously thriving to improve the M&R system.

For more information on this review, please contact: Sandra Romboli at sromboli@worldbank.org

*DRC was not able to join the workshop but shared their country experiences through in-depth interviews and a presentation prepared by the country delegates.