To build on previous United States Government investments in the forestry and agricultural sectors, particularly the Land Rights and Community Forestry Program (2007-2011) and the Liberia Forestry Support Program (2011-2012), USAID contracted Tetra Tech ARD in May 2012 to implement a new, five-year program (2012-2017) entitled People, Rules and Organizations Supporting the Protection of Ecosystem Resources (PROSPER). The overall goal of the program is to introduce, operationalize, and refine appropriate models for community management of forest resources for local self-governance and enterprise development in targeted areas of the country. The three primary objectives of the program are:
- Expand educational and institutional capacity to improve environmental awareness, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and environmental compliance;
- Improve community-based forest management leading to more sustainable practices and reduced threats to biodiversity in target areas;
- Enhance community-based livelihoods derived from sustainable forest-based and agriculture-based enterprises in target areas.
September 30, 2013, marked the conclusion of the first full year of PROSPER program implementation. Like many large programs in their first year, PROSPER dealt with some growing pains associated with setting up and equipping three field offices, establishing effective administrative, financial, and logistical support and coordination systems, and orienting and training a team of more than 60 full-time project and subcontract staff (many of them new to community forestry) with regard to USAID-PROSPER’s objectives, technical approaches, monitoring system and reporting requirements. The PROSPER team struggled with a number of other program-specific and contextual challenges in FY13, notably a heavy first-year deliverables schedule, an insufficient number of experienced Liberian technical staff (which in some cases required PROSPER to rotate them from one work zone to another to lead activities and ensure quality control), and a largely dysfunctional Government of Liberia counterpart (Forestry Development Authority – FDA) which was thrown into even greater disarray in 2013 by fallout from the explosive Private Use Permit (PUP) scandal. The scandal revealed deep-seated problems in the forestry sector related to the issuing of timber licenses on community lands and resulted in the dismissal of several senior FDA staff.
Despite the various challenges faced in FY13, the PROSPER team was extremely active and persistent, and ultimately succeeded in executing a high percentage of planned first year activities. PROSPER also attained or exceeded targets for 10 of the 15 results indicators tracked in FY13. Helping to create new attitudes, skills, educational materials, governing bodies, and policies, and catalyzing action with regard to sustainable forest and natural resource management are extremely labor-intensive endeavors in the Liberian context. As a measure of intensity, it is worth noting that during Year 1, the PROSPER team organized 173 meetings and workshops in the program’s target zones, involving more than 6,600 stakeholders (not including an estimated 3,000 persons who participated in the “Make Rights Real” outreach rollout campaign. Twenty-seven percent of the meeting and workshop participants were women. Gender integration is a key facet of PROSPER’s approach, and practical measures for achieving it were defined in a gender integration plan that served as a practical guide to PROSPER teams in activity design and implementation in FY13.
At the national level, PROSPER helped to resuscitate the Community Forestry Working Group – a joint FDA-civil society group – and strengthen its outreach and watchdog capacities. Throughout the year, PROSPER was a frequent participant in high-level forestry sector and land policy review meetings, contributing information, insights and ideas gleaned from practical experience in PROSPER’s 10 field sites. PROSPER staff were regularly consulted for information and advice on forest, land, and livelihoods matters by a wide array of actors and institutions ranging from community organizations outside PROSPER’s work areas to multilateral donors.
While the PROSPER team managed to execute the majority of planned field activities in Year 1, the often frantic pace of the first year caused it to fall behind schedule in the preparation and submission of several report deliverables associated with these activities. In consultation with USAID, the submission dates of several deliverables (#9, Community Forestry Management Handbook , and #27, Year-end education workshop) have been deferred with a view to enable the program to provide better products by integrating additional information and experience gained from Year 2 activities. Nevertheless, PROSPER will tackle an ambitious Year 2 work plan in October 2013 with a backlog of reports to submit, including five for Component 1 (Deliverables 3 and 26, under Activity 1.1; Deliverables 5 and 11 under Activity 1.2; and Deliverable 7 under Activity 1.3).
Throughout the year, Tetra Tech ARD kept USAID apprised of progress made in implementing the FY13 work plan through monthly and quarterly reports that detailed activities carried out, results achieved, indicator targets attained, etc. Those written reports were complemented by regular meetings between the USAID COR, Assistant COR, and PROSPER senior management team as well as joint field missions. The present Annual Report is provided as a complement to the monthly and quarterly reports. It provides a succinct summary of PROSPER’s major achievements in FY13 by component and by activity. The Annual Report also presents several of the important lessons learned during the first year, and the principal strategic adjustments made on the basis of the first year experience.