This mid-term evaluation has three objectives:
- To review the progress made in achieving the STEWARD III objectives;
- To identify critical mid-course program changes necessary to ensure sustainability of the program; and
- To the extent possible within the constraints of time and budget, identify lessons for consideration in future programming.
Intended users include USAID/West Africa, USFS-IP as the implementing body, and the Implementing Partners of STEWARD.
STEWARD III is a forest conservation and sustainable livelihoods project working in trans-boundary priority zones in the Upper Guinean Forest ecosystem, occurring in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire. It is the third iteration of the STEWARD program. STEWARD I was characterized as a design phase, and STEWARD II as a pilot phase. STEWARD III is intended to be the implementation phase. Its goals are to:
- Conserve biodiversity and improve rural livelihoods in critical trans-boundary landscapes in the Upper Guinean Forest ecosystem;
- Produce harmonized policies and legal frameworks for natural resources management (NRM) in a regional context; and contribute to national strategic plans on climate change in the Mano River Union states; and
- Promote resiliency in the face of climate change.
STEWARD III is implemented by the US Forest Service’s International Program (USFS-IP), which has a history of excellence in technical assistance to USAID through a Participating Agency Partnership Agreement (PAPA). It is worth noting that prior to STEWARD the USFS-IP had not managed large projects in the developing world.
STEWARD III is a complex program, involving multiple funding streams (including biodiversity, adaptation, sustainable landscapes, and WASH funding). Each of these carries specific implementation criteria and reporting requirements. The project is managed through six concurrent sub-agreements, which are functionally separate cooperative agreements. This would pose a sufficiently challenging management task under ideal circumstances, yet the difficult physical and institutional environments in the STEWARD states of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire make it even more demanding. These are among the world’s poorest countries, near the lowest rungs of the development ladder in terms of life expectancy, income, and education. All four countries have a recent history of civil strife, and they are in the midst of the world’s worst-ever Ebola epidemic. The World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators for 2012 (the most recent year available) rank all four countries in the lowest quartile of all nations in the areas of government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption In short, these are very fragile states.
STEWARD III began in June, 2011, and became fully operational in 2012. In the course of implementation it has faced some serious challenges, including a series of personnel changes, financial fraud, and a major public health crisis. It has also made some important accomplishments in the face of challenging circumstances.