Goals & Objectives:
For the last 12 years ADHENO has been implementing community based Integrated Environmental Rehabilitation and Economic Empowerment Project in some of the poorest rural areas in Ethiopia. This project will evaluate the impact and effectiveness of these projects. The objective is to use the results of the impact evaluation to modify the Environmental Rehabilitation project when it is rolled out to additional villages so that the effectiveness of the project and the benefit to rural communities and the natural environment can be maximized.
The proposal is for this evaluation project to be designed and implemented as a partnership between the University of Michigan and the local Debre Birhan University.
Theoretical Justification, Social Benefit, or Significance:
The communities that ADHENO operates in are located in the central highlands and are some of the poorest rural communities even by Ethiopian standards. The Ethiopian highlands are part of the Eastern Afromontane which has been designated as a biodiversity hotspot by Conservation International. It is an area where human impact has degraded the ecosystem for millennia and the result has been falling agricultural yields and chronic food insecurity. The impact of climate change has only exacerbated the problem. Often the ADHENO projects are the only interventions that address the needs of the community. ADHENO implements Integrated Environmental Rehabilitation and Economic Empowerment Projects as a way to help the poorest rural communities adapt to the impacts of climate change while also rehabilitating their natural environment. Some of the impacts of climate change in the project area have been: springs drying up and access to water being more limited, erratic rains resulting in failing crops. Key project activities include:
- Rehabilitating the environment by planting trees (including indigenous and medicinal trees), soil protection measures such as terracing
- Improving the resilience of the agricultural system through irrigation, water conservation, crop diversification etc
- Developing the economic strength of the community especially that of women by developing alternative revenue generating micro-enterprises such as bee-keeping, poultry and small animal rearing, basket weaving, processing traditional spices etc
- Expanding and Enhancing rural education by building additional school rooms, providing books, and sponsoring girls to go to school
- Improved health of the community by implementing de-worming projects as well as building clean water springs
A comprehensive evaluation project is much needed to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of these projects. Such an evaluation is a critical pre-requisite to scaling out these projects to additional rural sub-districts per ADHENO’s 2nd Five Year Strategic Plan, in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of the project. It is expected that key gaps and potential solutions will be identified and these will be integrated into subsequent projects in additional villages leading to improved results such as better survival of planted trees, increased revenue from micro-enterprises, expanded access to clean water etc. In addition such an evaluation will be key to securing additional funding from donor organizations.
The project will require a lot of creative thinking and innovative methodologies to effectively evaluate the effectiveness of all the above project activities over a wide and rugged rural area. Currently there is a dearth of effective methodologies (and implementation of such methodologies) in evaluating the real on-the-ground impact of grass-roots community projects. Thus though hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on various developmental community projects worldwide, the long-term impact of such projects remains questionable. An effective evaluation methodology and project which includes identifying key gaps and recommended solutions, can be a critical tool in improving the effectiveness and impact of such projects. The end result of this can be giant leaps forward in improving the lives of millions of rural poor as well as in rehabilitating the environment.
Specific Activities & Duration:
The scale of the proposed research is such that it can be very reasonably completed as a part-time 16-month project for 3-4 students. This is especially true since the project will be designed and implemented by University of Michigan students in partnership with counterparts from the local Debre Birhan University. Research methodologies required include:
- Surveying the project area and summarizing the key project activities and achievements in ADHENO’s Integrated Environmental Rehabilitation and Economic Empowerment Project
- Designing a comprehensive evaluation program which includes:
- Defining key metrics
- Defining benchmarks to compare project achievements against
- Designing process to gather data on the key metrics including strategies to interact with the local community and survey the area to acquire the required data
- Designing process to interpret and evaluate the data against the metrics
- Define the partnership with Debre Birhan University including outlining the roles and responsibilities of each team member and the timeline
- Identification of key gaps in project implementation of ADHENO’s Integrated Environmental Rehabilitation and Economic Empowerment Project
- Defining recommendations of potential solutions to key gaps based on feedback from the rural community, discussions with experts both locally and in the US, and research on the implementation of similar projects in Ethiopia or other countries.
The proposed research will integrate disparate skills including the following. The success of the project depends on effective integration of these skills among various team members:
- Domain Expertise
- Knowledge of the local geographical area, culture and customs
- Technical knowledge on environmental rehabilitation including: afforestation, water and soil protection mechanisms
- Technical knowledge on local agriculture practices and innovations for improvement including irrigation, water harvesting, terracing
- Technical knowledge about rural micro-enterprises including bee-keeping, poultry, small-animal rearing
- Technical knowledge about rural education
- Project Evaluation Methodology Expertise
- Cross-cultural team building and project management expertise
- Communication Skills – written and verbal
The Domain expertise on the local area will likely come from project team members from ADHENO and Debre Birhan University but students from University of Michigan will also likely have significant contribution around technical knowledge on environmental rehabilitation. Team members from the University of Michigan will contribute significantly in the Project Evaluation Methodology area, and the local team will be the experts on the local topography, culture, as well as agricultural and environmental practices that are well-suited for the local area. Thus team members will have significant opportunity to learn from each other and broaden their skill-set.
Conservation Ecology:Expertise on effective environmental rehabilitation practices including afforestation, land enclosures, and soil and water protection mechanisms is key to evaluating the ADHENO project. This expertise will be a basis for evaluating the effectiveness of the ADHENO projects.
Environmental Policy and Planning: Various environmental policies are made at the global level (such as the Paris Climate Deal) and then filter down to National Environmental policies then local policies. Environmental projects that are implemented at the local level can be more effective if they are linked to national and international policies. Part of this project can be providing recommendations on how to achieve these linkages and how to develop long-term plans at the local level based on these linkages
Behavior, Education, and Communication: A key part of the ADHENO project is educating the community (both in formal school-based environments as well as in informal community groups), and changing behavior such as developing community consensus on how to manage local water supplies (via water committees), and agreeing on restricting cattle grazing to minimize environmental damage. Expertise on behavior, education, and communication is thus needed to evaluate the effectiveness of ADHENO projects in these areas.
Environmental Informatics : To develop a rigorous and data based evaluation of the ADHENO projects, it is critical to possess the skills to gather appropriate data from the field, and to analyze this data by evaluating it against benchmarks, identifying key gaps, and developing recommendations to close these gaps
Sustainable Systems : A key goal in all ADHENO projects is to implement systems that are sustainable and that will continue to provide value to the local community long after ADHENO has left the project area. ADHENO builds sustainability into is projects by: a) partnering directly with the local community to design and implement projects, b) investing in training the local community, c) developing long-term partnership with the local government sector offices and d) building credibility by delivering life-changing projects. Expertise on building sustainable systems can lead to recommendations on how ADHENO can improve the sustainability of it’s projects which is a critical success factor.
This project will have significant career development benefits including:
- Developing knowledge base of a very important ecological area - the Ethiopian highlands are part of the Eastern Afromontane which has been designated as a biodiversity hotspot by Conservation International.
- Develop practical real-world skills in effective conservation methodologies via first-hand view of environmental rehabilitation practices including afforestation, land enclosures, and soil and water protection mechanisms.
- Learn how an integrated approach to environmental rehabilitation is more effective by integrating micro-enterprises, schools, and clean water so as to address the multi-faceted needs of the community
- Gaining new perspective on the impact of climate change and environmental degradation as well as the effectiveness of projects aimed at addressing them by interacting with local farmers and villagers who are living with the problems on a daily basis
- Enhance cross-cultural project management skills
- Develop new relationships and partnerships with staff of a highly-effective local non-profit (ADHENO) as well as a local university (Debre Birhan University). These new contacts can lead to new projects in the future as well as the exchange of ideas.
- Opportunity for creativity in designing a plan on how to connect this localized environmental project to the Global Climate Change Initiative.
- Conferences and Publications: this project will yield meaningful, practical, real-world data and methodologies that will have relevance to other similar rural communities and as such, will be very interesting material to present at conferenced and publish
If the University of Michigan is able to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Debre Birhan University, then Debre Birhan University will be willing to cover the cost of local accommodation and transportation for 3 to 4 students from the University of Michigan.
The final deliverable from this project is an evaluation report that includes:
- A summary of the current state of the key activities of ADHENO’s Integrated Environmental Rehabilitation and Economic Empowerment project based on a survey of the project area
- A definition of the evaluation methodology including:
- Key metrics
- Benchmarks to compare key metrics against
- Process to gather data on the key metrics
- Process to interpret and evaluate the data against the metrics
- Definition of the roles and responsibilities of each team member including Debre Birhan University
- Definition of project timeline
- Results of the evaluation process including key achievements and impact on the rural communities, compare against villages without similar project activity. Identify key gaps in project implementation and areas of improvement
- Recommendations of potential solutions to key gaps based on feedback from the rural community, discussions with experts both locally and in the US, and research on the implementation of similar projects in Ethiopia or other countries.
The evaluation report is much needed and is a critical pre-requisite to scaling out ADHENO’s Integrated Environmental Rehabilitation and Economic Empowerment project to additional rural sub-districts per ADHENO’s 2nd Five Year Strategic Plan. The ADHENO team will integrate lessons learned from the evaluation report (in the form of key gaps and recommendations) into future roll-outs of the Integrated Environmental Rehabilitation and Economic Empowerment project to additional rural sub-districts, so as to maximize the effectiveness of the project. Implementing the recommendations in the evaluation report is expected to lead to improved results on the ground such as better survival of planted trees, increased revenue from micro-enterprises, expanded access to clean water etc.
In addition to using the evaluation report to improve project effectiveness, the ADHENO team is also planning on using this report to secure additional funding for the expansion of the project into additional areas. Rural communities around the project area are constantly asking ADHENO to expand the project into their area but this requires additional funding. A comprehensive evaluation report will help ADHENO to demonstrate the effectiveness of past projects and secure funding to expand into new communities.
- Hsiao-Chin Liu
- Matt Chambers
- Nathan Chesterman
- Julia Entwistle