Sustainable Forests and Coasts Semi-Annual Progress Report: April – September 2013

The present Semi-Annual Progress Report summarizes implementation of the FY13 annual work plan and how the project met or exceeded its FY13 targets established in the updated Performance Monitoring Plan (PMP) approved on August 9, 2013. This report complements the weekly bullets and monthly newsletters that are submitted to the Contracting Officer´s Representative (COR) as well as information presented in the regular planning and coordination meetings that the COR participates in. Key to the project´s ability to complete the FY13 work plan activities and meet its goals is the MAE´s ownership of project technical assistance, which is also an integral part of its internal work plans and goals.

As in past years, in the FY13 the Project´s implementation strategy focused on reducing the following four main threats to biodiversity conservation in six priority sites along the coast of Ecuador: (1) Loss and/or alteration of critical habitats, (2) Climate change, (3) Lack of economic alternatives, and (4) Insufficient institutional capacity for biodiversity conservation. To this end, the project continued to build local capacity to manage Protected Areas, implement climate change adaptation measures, and manage integrated farms. In addition, the project provided tools for communities and local governments to mitigate and respond to climate risks. It also promoted market access for products that support conservation (such as red crab, which depend on protecting mangroves; tagua, which depends on forest conservation; organic cacao produced using environmentally safe practices; and ecotourism). To improve livelihoods it also continued to help people invest their cash-for-conservation payments received for protecting natural forests under the Ministry of Environment´s (MAE) Socio Bosque Program in income generating activities. Lastly, the project continued to work in close partnership with the MAE and provide technical inputs for forestry policy development and to improve protected area management.

To date, the Project has trained 4,435 people, promoted 20 new commercial linkages, and helped communities and families access over $11.6M in cash-for conservation payments for protecting 51,978 hectares. As a result of project technical assistance, over 16,225 people are benefiting economically and over 744,000 hectares of critical habitats are under improved management. Parallel to this, the Project is strengthening six conservation coalitions that serve as platforms for coordinating natural resource management with local public and private sector, and has leveraged over $16.8 million. For a more detailed summary of results to date please see Section 1. Key to the project´s ability to complete the FY13 work plan activities and meet its goals is the MAE´s ownership of project technical assistance, which is also an integral part of its internal work plans and goals.

Especially noteworthy achievements this reporting period include:

  1. Published pamphlets as training materials for promoting good agricultural practices, forestry management, sustainable tagua management, and organic fertilizer.
  2. Strengthened community eco-tourism in Dos Mangas, helping the community develop two commercial linkages with tour operators, and helping the community leverage funding from the local government to improve services, develop promotional materials, and improve trails.
  3. Developed two new commercial linkages for live crab and expanding commercial linkages to increase volume of red crab pulp and also include sales for “jaiba” and crab shells.
  4. Based on the Manual for Protected Area Operational Management and three pilot operational plans prepared for Protected Areas last period, developed nine more operational plans (Reserva Ecológica Mache Chindul, Refugio de Vida Silvestre Manglares Estuario del Rio Muisne, Reserva Ecológica Manglares Cayapas Mataje, Reserva Marina Galera San Francisco, Refugio de Vida Silvestre Isla Corazón y Fragatas, Parque Nacional Podocarpus, Parque Nacional Sangay, Parque Nacional Sumaco, and Reserva de Producción de Fauna Cuyabeno).
  5. Developed a management strategy for the Chongón Colonche Protected Forest and strengthening a coalition of local stakeholders to implement the strategy.
  6. Supported agro-ecological fairs for farmers that support conservation to sell their products.
  7. Began a pilot research activity on growth of crabs in captivity.
  8. Assisted the Isla Escalante mangrove concession coalition file complaints to authorities regarding mangrove deforestation.
  9. Shared experiences and lessons learned in the Socio Bosque Partner´s Event for the Coastal Region to share experiences and lessons learned.
  10. Facilitated an in-country study tour with six communities from the Gran Reserva Chachi to share experiences and lessons learned overseeing forest conservation and participating in the Socio Bosque Program.
  11. Collected and published information on ancestral practices for processing paja toquilla (straw).
  12. Developed/strengthened commercial linkages for paja toquilla and caña guadúa.
  13. Supported the MAE develop plans for creating an incentive program for mangrove conservation.
  14. Supported implementation of the closed crabbing season.
  15. Strengthened mangrove concession management and development of a management plan for the Lucha y Progresso association that is putting together a concession application.

This period USAID conducted a mid-term evaluation of the project, which concluded that the project is on the way to achieving its intended results. The evaluation made three recommendations to the project (document lessons learned and recommendations in a more didactic manner, support continuity of market linkages, and capture lessons learned), which have been incorporated in its FY14 annual work plan.