In May 2012, USAID initiated a five-year activity (2012–2017) entitled People, Rules, and Organizations Supporting the Protection of Ecosystem Resources (PROSPER). The overall goal of the activity 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 and program components are:
- Expand educational and institutional capacity to improve environmental awareness, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and environmental compliance (Component 1);
- Improve community-based forest management leading to more sustainable practices and reduced threats to biodiversity in target areas (Component 2); and
- Enhance community-based livelihoods derived from sustainable forest-based and agriculture-based enterprises in target areas (Component 3).
EVALUATION PURPOSE AND EVALUATION QUESTIONS
This performance evaluation provides an independent and in-depth examination of the progress and achievements of the PROSPER activity. The evaluation was framed by eight evaluation questions, which the evaluation team used to identify the activity’s specific achievements, performance issues, and constraints. The main questions are listed below:
- Benefits and Beneficiaries
- What is the extent of monetary and non-monetary benefits that have accrued under PROSPER?
- Forest Management
- Do the communities/community members understand sustainable management concepts and how the concepts would apply in their forest management activities?
- Is the PROSPER approach to Community Forestry management working?
- Engagement of Women and Youth
- Have women and youth been empowered as a result of their participation with PROSPER?
- Institutional Capacity, Ownership, and Sustainability
- What are the results in terms of strengthening local institutional capacity, ownership, and the likelihood of long-term sustainability, especially within Government of Liberia institutions?
EVALUATION DESIGN, METHODS AND LIMITATIONS
The Liberia Strategic Analysis (LSA) evaluation team used a mixed-methods approach to its data collection, reviewing available quantitative data and collecting qualitative data relevant to the evaluation questions posed. The approach included:
- Review of documents and data, including existing quantitative data, PROSPER deliverables and reports, and background reports.
- Semi-structured key informant interviews (KIIs) and small group interviews of 77 individuals (18 women and 59 men) at national, local, and pilot locations, including national and local GoL officials, traditional and community leaders, PROSPER and PROSPER partner staff, community forest governance body members, general community members, private sector representatives, current and former USAID Mission and PROSPER staff, and other donors.
- Forty-one focus group discussions (FGDs) that included participants from PROSPER enterprise groups, traditional leaders, along with general community members. About 288 individuals participated in FGDs (130 women and 158 men).
- Direct observation at pilot locations.
The LSA evaluation team used a set of data collection instruments to guide the KIIs, FDGs, and Direct Observation. In total, the evaluation team collected data from 365 individuals (148 women and 217 men).
Site selection and sampling. The LSA evaluation team conducted data collection in Monrovia and at all 11 project locations in Grand Bassa and Nimba counties. At each of the 11 project locations, the team interviewed individuals from three or four towns or villages. In addition, the team interviewed PROSPER staff, partners, and local government officials at central locations in each county. The LSA team used purposeful and random selection methods for data collection locations, key informants, and focus group categories and participants.
Data analysis. The LSA team used the following methods and tools to assist in its analysis of the data: 1) individual assignments of LSA team members for a set of evaluation questions; 2) triangulation of available quantitative data with qualitative data, of qualitative data gathered using different methods, and data gathered at different locations; 3) systematic note-taking practices that included contemporaneous note-taking, regular review and recording of notes by note takers and interviewers, and team review of recorded notes; and 4) use of a Preliminary Findings Matrix to record preliminary findings and conclusions and encourage information sharing, testing of hypotheses, and challenging findings and conclusions by team members.
Limitations on access to data and data quality. The LSA team noted four circumstances that it recognized could impact the quality of the data collected.