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Topic:Environment and Natural Resources
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From the Great Wall of Trees to Sustainable Management of Landscapes

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IEG visit to Weinalem Watershed in Raya Azebo, Tigray Regional State, Ethiopia, Oct 2019, Photo credit: Bekele Shiferaw
Lessons from Watershed Management Programs in Africa Lessons from Watershed Management Programs in Africa

Scaling the Great Green Wall?

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View of the Fada Great Green Wall site, showing millet farms in the middle of acacia plantations. Credit: Nick Parisse, Dawning
As the recent One Planet Summit pivoted international attention to issues around climate and the protection of ecosystems, global leaders were eager to point to examples of successful efforts to protect and restore nature. While many efforts to stem environmental destruction have failed – and failed spectacularly – one effort, the project to plant trees across the Sahel known as the Great Green Show MoreAs the recent One Planet Summit pivoted international attention to issues around climate and the protection of ecosystems, global leaders were eager to point to examples of successful efforts to protect and restore nature. While many efforts to stem environmental destruction have failed – and failed spectacularly – one effort, the project to plant trees across the Sahel known as the Great Green Wall, has achieved many of its envisioned technical and environmental goals. But while there is much talk of taking this successful ecosystem protection effort to scale, backed by announcements at the summit of new investments totaling US$14 billion, there is a need to learn much more about the science behind the initiative, its differentiated impacts and their costs; including the social impacts on the resource-dependent poor. Along with the achievements, there are valuable lessons to be learned about what is working and for whom that can help guide the planned scale-up. The Great Green Wall and the World Bank Decades ago, several African Heads of State envisioned, and eventually lent their support to, the development of a Great Green Wall: a large belt of trees that stretches across twelve states of the Sahel. The concept of the Great Green Wall was developed to combat land degradation and desertification of the Sahel, a concept that has grown in importance as the threats posed by climate change intensify. Twenty-one African countries have signed on to the initiative, along with at least 11 international partners; including the African Union, European Union, and the World Bank. The World Bank has played a contributing role over the past two decades through the Sahel and West Africa Program in Support of the Great Green Wall Initiative (SAWAP), a programmatic approach using $1.2 billion from World Bank projects and $106 million of Global Environment Facility financing “to expand sustainable land and water management in targeted landscapes and in climate vulnerable areas in twelve West African and Sahelian countries”. The Independent Evaluation Group has evaluated a number of the projects under the SAWAP umbrella, including in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger and Togo. Some of these evaluations included site visits and extensive discussions with government counterparts and local community members to deepen understanding of the overall impact of the Great Green Wall project and Bank support for it. Our findings point to some important issues to consider when designing future projects. {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/Data/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/CtzIkAJJubA.jpg?itok=V0fim1IG","video_url":"https://youtu.be/CtzIkAJJubA","settings":{"responsive":0,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":1},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (854x480, autoplaying)."]} The World Bank’s support for the Great Green Wall has been successful from a technical perspective. Earth observations (satellite imagery, drone footage) combined with site observations support this view. Vegetation has been successfully established, land has been rehabilitated through large commitments of labor for soil works, and the density of trees and shrubs have increased dramatically at rehabilitation sites (although observations at older rehabilitation sites suggest that these technical successes may be short-lived, due to limited funds for upkeep and necessary maintenance). Most notable amongst these positive effects is the large swaths of degraded land that have been reclaimed in critical watersheds in Ethiopia. However, a precise understanding of the change in vegetation cover across the Sahel, attributable to donor investments in the Great Green Wall, has been limited because of an underinvestment in measurement (e.g. a normalized difference vegetative index to measure the change in vegetation, recommended through a regional project by the World Bank at the beginning of the SAWAP, was never implemented). And, importantly, none of the World Bank projects estimated the effect of changing rainfall patterns on the greening effects. The misestimation of the role of rainfall variability as the key parameter affecting vegetative cover and agronomic productivity has a long history in the African drylands. Many unqualified statements have and continue to attribute Sahelian greening entirely to the actions of farmers. But in a region grappling with food insecurity, persistent violent conflict, and rural poverty, environmental gains supported by investments in the Great Green Wall must also benefit the poor. Just prior to the coronavirus pandemic, there were 30 million food insecure people in the Sahel, and that number continues to grow. This large cohort consists of farmers, agro-pastoral, and nomadic populations – all of whom engage in traditional land-use arrangements that provide mutual food and livelihood benefits. In these settings, even the most degraded land has value: these are important areas of passage and grazing for livestock, particularly during the rainy season, and are sources of wild plants and wood gathered by women. But the use of area enclosures – a land management practice that seeks to restore degraded land by excluding livestock and humans from openly accessing it in the short to medium term – runs the risk of exacerbating vulnerability; and in the absence of good land governance, possibly causing harm. Some policymakers point to the possibility of benefits “trickling down”, but given the very moderate economic benefits of many of the SAWAP projects, that is unlikely to play out. Increasing the value of degraded land, as was done by the Great Green Wall initiative, changes the decision-making calculation of land users – with enhanced farm value, these lands can be predated upon by elites, and can lead to encroachment by non-traditional farmers which risks displacing the local population. Such was the case in sites visited by IEG in Niger, where land was effectively restored, but where parcels were also sold outside of the community, in areas that lacked good land governance. Predation also occurs as a result of decisions to support crop agriculture alongside tree planting. While land restoration activities took place on communal land, the introduction of “inter cropping” facilitated individualized claims on community land. A lesson learned is that such projects should be designed with an understanding of customary, flexible tenure arrangements and the coping strategies of vulnerable resource users who access degraded lands as a social safety net. And, importantly, that emphasis should be placed on ensuring that clear, enforceable land-use agreements are in place prior to land restoration activities, to protect the land-use rights of the most vulnerable. Because land restoration mainly benefits those that have access to land, some women and youth are especially disadvantaged in the Sahel. In Niger, a very large number of women are forced to fend for themselves and their families because their husbands and sons have migrated to other West African countries, such as Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, to look for work. This migration is often associated with a lack of access to arable land, especially for male youth. Projects that support land and resource restoration can ensure that women and youth benefit by addressing participation barriers, linked to social and cultural norms. For example, since in some conservative areas, some women’s participation in cash for work programs is prohibited, programs must propose alternative income generating options to ensure equity. The Great Green Wall has proved to be an effective approach to reclaiming land in a region coping with disproportionate impacts of climate change. Yet rather than delivering social benefits, the planned scale up could run the risk of increasing communal tensions without careful attention paid to unintended consequences. Evidence on the impacts of the investments on both the land and communities needs to be studied carefully as a first step to ensuring the Great Green Wall leads to equitable, inclusive and sustainable development.     Stakeholder interviews in Niger were conducted in collaboration with DAWNING. Pictured at top: View of the Fada GGW site, showing millet farms in the middle of acacia plantations. Credit: Nick Parisse, Dawning

Bhutan CLR Review FY15-19

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This review of the World Bank Group (WBG) Completion and Learning Review (CLR) covers the period of the Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) FY15-19, as updated in the Performance and Learning Review (PLR) dated May 8, 2017. Bhutan is a small, land-locked, lower middle-income country. Between 2015 and 2019 the annual real GDP growth has varied between 6.2 percent and 3.7 percent. The country’s Show MoreThis review of the World Bank Group (WBG) Completion and Learning Review (CLR) covers the period of the Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) FY15-19, as updated in the Performance and Learning Review (PLR) dated May 8, 2017. Bhutan is a small, land-locked, lower middle-income country. Between 2015 and 2019 the annual real GDP growth has varied between 6.2 percent and 3.7 percent. The country’s economic growth was bolstered in recent years by investments in hydropower. Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is now only ten percent below the threshold for upper middle-income countries. Between 2007 and 2017 the poverty headcount ratio (measured at the US$3.20 poverty line in 2011 purchasing power parity terms) dropped from 36 to 12 percent of the population. The CPS noted that Bhutan needed to sustain macroeconomic stability while creating a business environment to promote private sector growth and job creation. The hydro-led growth had created some short-term macroeconomic imbalances, which called for careful management of fiscal and monetary policies. At the same time, it was critical to provide a better investment climate that would be more conducive to private sector development, diversification of the economy and job creation. Also, Bhutan’s large stock of natural capital called for increasing its sustainable contribution to the economy, while protecting the environment and human well-being. Related challenges included rapid urbanization, low agriculture productivity, limited infrastructure, difficult topography, and vulnerability to disaster and climate change. The 2020 Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) confirmed these development challenges.

Niger: Community Action Program and Community-Based Integrated Ecosystem Management Project Phase I and II (PPAR)

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The World Bank has played a key role in helping Niger to further its rural decentralization aims. The World Bank has supported the implementation of the rural code throughout its history. It approved the Natural Resource Management Project (1995–2003) to help Niger jump-start the code implementation and followed it with the Community Action Program (2004–20), a three-phase adjustable program loan Show MoreThe World Bank has played a key role in helping Niger to further its rural decentralization aims. The World Bank has supported the implementation of the rural code throughout its history. It approved the Natural Resource Management Project (1995–2003) to help Niger jump-start the code implementation and followed it with the Community Action Program (2004–20), a three-phase adjustable program loan designed to empower local governments and communities to progressively achieve their collective local development aims in a participatory and sustainable way. This Project Performance Assessment Report assesses the first and second phases of the Community Action Program (CAP-1 and CAP-2). Ratings for the First Phase of the Community Action Program are as follows: Outcome was moderately satisfactory, Overall efficacy was substantial, Bank performance was satisfactory, Borrower performance was satisfactory, and Quality of monitoring and evaluation was modest. Ratings for the Second Phase of the Community Action Program are as follows: Outcome was moderately satisfactory, Overall efficacy was substantial, Bank performance was moderately satisfactory, Borrower performance was satisfactory, and Quality of monitoring and evaluation was substantial. Lessons from both projects include: (i) Land and resource restoration projects should support—and make evident how they are supporting—existing customary flexible tenure arrangements to ensure distributional benefits among resource users and to mitigate conflict risks. (ii) The success of natural resource restoration depends on the extent to which private or communal resource users are compensated over reasonable, short-term time frames for abstaining from using those resources until the long-term public benefits of resource restoration are achieved. (iii) Projects that support land and resource restoration can ensure that women benefit by addressing participation barriers linked to social and cultural norms. (iv) Socioeconomic and anthropological analyses, conducted before project elaboration, can support the gender aspects of production and marketing better.

Brazil: National Biodiversity Mainstreaming and Institutional Consolidation Project and Sustainable Cerrado Initiative (PPAR)

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Brazil is the most biodiverse country in the world, holding an estimated one-fifth of all known flora and fauna species. It also contains a wide range of climate types in seven major biomes, including the vast Amazon and now largely depleted Atlantic rainforests, the Cerrado savanna (which covering 2 million square kilometers is second in size only to Amazônia), the semiarid Caatinga, the world’s Show MoreBrazil is the most biodiverse country in the world, holding an estimated one-fifth of all known flora and fauna species. It also contains a wide range of climate types in seven major biomes, including the vast Amazon and now largely depleted Atlantic rainforests, the Cerrado savanna (which covering 2 million square kilometers is second in size only to Amazônia), the semiarid Caatinga, the world’s largest Pantanal wetlands, and an extensive coastline. The National Biodiversity Mainstreaming and Institutional Consolidation Project (PROBIO 2) was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Its project development objectives were (i) to promote mainstreaming of biodiversity at the national level in key public and private sector planning strategies and practices, and (ii) to consolidate and strengthen institutional capacity to produce and disseminate relevant biodiversity information. The project development objectives of the Sustainable Cerrado Initiative (GEF Cerrado) were to enhance biodiversity conservation in, and improve environmental and natural resource management of, the Cerrado in Brazil’s territory through appropriate policies and practices. Ratings from the National Biodiversity Mainstreaming and Institutional Consolidation Project are as follows: Outcome was satisfactory, Overall efficacy was satisfactory, Bank performance was moderately satisfactory, and Quality of monitoring and evaluation was modest. Ratings for the Sustainable Cerrado Initiative are as follows: Outcome was moderately unsatisfactory, Overall efficacy was modest, Bank performance was moderately unsatisfactory, and Quality of monitoring and evaluation was modest. Lessons from the project include: (i) A critical element for the success of projects that seek to promote the mainstreaming of biodiversity across sectors, both public and private, is strong ownership and active participation across the project’s life by the institutions involved. (ii) A firm up-front understanding of the underlying political, economic, and territorial contexts of the geographic area in which a project is seeking to establish new or expand existing protected areas is essential to properly gauge the possibilities of achieving such an objective. (iii) Experience in Brazil (and elsewhere) has shown that government commitment to project objectives and design can shift significantly over time due to changes in administrations, both at the federal and state government levels. (iv) Learning from environment projects that use concessional financing, both successful and unsuccessful, can have policy implications that extend beyond the original project’s intentions.

Lao People's Democratic Republic: Nam Theun 2 Hydroelectric and Social and Environment Projects (PPAR)

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The Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project (NT2 HPP) was a major undertaking in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) when the country’s energy sector was nascent, the overall economy was transitioning from central planning to greater market orientation, and private participation was limited in the energy sector. The NT2 HPP was developed primarily to export electricity to Thailand to boost Show MoreThe Nam Theun 2 Hydropower Project (NT2 HPP) was a major undertaking in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) when the country’s energy sector was nascent, the overall economy was transitioning from central planning to greater market orientation, and private participation was limited in the energy sector. The NT2 HPP was developed primarily to export electricity to Thailand to boost economic growth in Lao PDR in support of the implementation of the country’s Growth and Poverty Elimination Strategy. The project was also designed to be catalytic—a model to guide subsequent exploitation of the country’s extensive hydropower resources. Ratings for the Nam Theun 2 Hydroelectric Project are as follows: Outcome was satisfactory, Bank performance was moderately satisfactory, and Quality of monitoring and evaluation was substantial. The NT2 HPP—given its scale, complexity, and significance—provides many lessons for consideration in future hydropower development initiatives: (i) A project design to capture more comprehensive development outcomes from hydropower, as recommended in the World Bank’s Water Working Note “Directions in Hydropower: Scaling Up for Development,” needs to balance its ambitions with the corresponding implementation capacity, particularly as it relates to experience with environmental protection and social development that may exceed the capabilities of many hydropower developers (World Bank 2009a). (ii) Strategically catalytic interventions, such as the NT2 HPP, can lead to transformational impacts when there is a commitment to and capacity for implementing follow-on actions such as replicating and mainstreaming its features. In the NT2 HPP, power financing through a PPP was catalytic in helping to develop the sector and fueling export-led growth. (iii) Bank Group (and other IFI) participation, including the use of guarantees, can be instrumental in mitigating risks and enhancing the private sector’s confidence to mobilize in nascent markets with unexploited potential and scalable investment opportunities. (iv) A government’s adherence to its commitment to implement a sound development strategy may be a more significant driver for achieving broader poverty alleviation outcomes than earmarking revenues for specific expenditures that are fungible within a general budget. (v) Hydropower can produce sizable global environmental benefits in terms of combating climate change, although the negative impacts that can arise from greenhouse gas emissions from storage reservoirs should also be accounted for.

Jamaica: Hurricane Dean Emergency Recovery Loan (PPAR)

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Jamaica is highly exposed to natural disasters. The negative impacts on economic development and social well-being are exacerbated as approximately 82 percent of Jamaica’s population lives within 5 kilometers of the coast, increasing the relative vulnerability of residents, major infrastructure, and the housing stock. Hurricane Dean made landfall in Jamaica on August 19, 2007, causing economic Show MoreJamaica is highly exposed to natural disasters. The negative impacts on economic development and social well-being are exacerbated as approximately 82 percent of Jamaica’s population lives within 5 kilometers of the coast, increasing the relative vulnerability of residents, major infrastructure, and the housing stock. Hurricane Dean made landfall in Jamaica on August 19, 2007, causing economic losses of roughly $329 million. The hurricane resulted in significant and extensive damage to primary and early childhood schools, community-based health clinics, and parochial and agricultural feeder roads in directly impacted parishes. In the aftermath of the hurricane, Jamaica’s Ministry of Finance confirmed that the recovery would require financial support from multiple sources, both national and international. In that context, the government of Jamaica approached the World Bank to support reconstruction works in poor communities affected by Hurricane Dean. The general aim was the reestablishment of prehurricane living conditions in these communities through the implementation of specific local infrastructure projects that would directly improve the conditions of the most vulnerable populations. Given the ongoing emergency, the World Bank and the government of Jamaica agreed to sign an emergency recovery loan to expedite the disbursement of resources. Additionally, the World Bank and the government of Jamaica agreed that the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) would be the implementing agency. Ratings for the Hurricane Dean Emergency Recovery Loan are as follows: Outcome was moderately satisfactory, Risk to development outcome was moderate, Bank performance was moderately satisfactory, and Borrower performance was satisfactory. Lessons from this project include: (i) Using existing agencies with a proven track record can be an effective approach for implementing emergency response projects. (ii) When designing rehabilitation works, close consultation with users can ensure the provision of better services. (iii) Expectations need to be managed as there are limits to how much progress can be made on disaster risk reduction or emergency preparedness under an emergency operation.

Ukraine Country Program Evaluation (Approach Paper)

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Ukraine has significant economic potential, but over the past decade economic growth has been slow and highly volatile. A lower-middle-income country with a population of 44 million and a per-capita gross national income of $2,660 in 2018, Ukraine is endowed with a well-educated and entrepreneurial population, vast areas of fertile land, other natural resources, and a geographic location at the Show MoreUkraine has significant economic potential, but over the past decade economic growth has been slow and highly volatile. A lower-middle-income country with a population of 44 million and a per-capita gross national income of $2,660 in 2018, Ukraine is endowed with a well-educated and entrepreneurial population, vast areas of fertile land, other natural resources, and a geographic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.2 Ukraine aspires to join the European Union (EU), but after decades of stagnation, income per capita remains far below that of its neighbors and comparators. The primary goal of this Country Program Evaluation (CPE) is to assess the development effectiveness of World Bank Group support to Ukraine between fiscal years (FY)12 and FY20. A key focus of the CPE will be to examine how well the Bank Group adapted its support to Ukraine’s changing circumstances over the evaluation period and helped build resilience in the face of major crises. The CPE is also expected to provide strategic insights for the preparation of the next Ukraine Country Partnership Framework (CPF), scheduled for FY22.

Evaluation of the World Bank Group’s support for electricity supply from renewable energy resources, 2000–2017

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Pictured above: Ain Beni Mathar Integrated Combined Cycle Thermo-Solar Power Plant. Photo credit: Dana Smillie / World Bank
This evaluation assesses the performance of the World Bank Group (WBG) in its support to electricity production from renewable energy resources in client countries over the period 2000 to 2017.This evaluation assesses the performance of the World Bank Group (WBG) in its support to electricity production from renewable energy resources in client countries over the period 2000 to 2017.

Ethiopia: Sustainable Land Management Project I and II (PPAR)

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Serious long-term degradation of communal areas and farmlands results in substantial losses to the economy. The combination of fragile soils, steep slopes, agroclimatic conditions, environmentally unsustainable intensification of agriculture, and traditional cultivation techniques practiced by smallholder farmers in Ethiopia over many decades has led to excessive soil erosion and land degradation Show MoreSerious long-term degradation of communal areas and farmlands results in substantial losses to the economy. The combination of fragile soils, steep slopes, agroclimatic conditions, environmentally unsustainable intensification of agriculture, and traditional cultivation techniques practiced by smallholder farmers in Ethiopia over many decades has led to excessive soil erosion and land degradation. Two sequential projects were designed and implemented to achieve the SLMP’s objectives. Sustainable Land Management Project Phase I (SLMP I) introduced SLM practices in selected areas of the country to rehabilitate previously uneconomical and unproductive degraded areas within 45 critical watersheds situated in six regional states. SLMP II sought to scale up this support by expanding the geographical coverage to 135 watersheds and continued addressing poor farmland management practices, rapid depletion of vegetation cover, unsustainable livestock grazing practices, and land tenure insecurity. SLMP II also sought to integrate new activities targeting land productivity, deforestation, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Ratings for the Sustainable Land Management Project I are as follows: Overall outcome is satisfactory, Risk to development outcomes is moderate, Bank performance is moderately satisfactory, Borrower performance is moderately satisfactory, and Quality of M&E is negligible. For Sustainable Land Management Project II, they are as follows: Overall outcome is satisfactory, Overall efficacy is substantial, Bank performance is moderately satisfactory, and Quality of M&E is modest. Lessons from these projects include: (i) Watershed management programs can lead to significant land restoration outcomes when appropriate structural and biological measures are introduced to treat the affected landscape with active participation of the local community. (ii) Area closures are relevant for the restoration of degraded lands but require increased investments for alternative supply of forages to convince the local communities to forgo livestock grazing and other benefits during the process of natural regeneration. (iii) Farm productivity growth requires arresting both the on-site and off-site soil erosion to prevent the degradation of farmlands and enable investments in modern farm inputs. (iv) Effective demonstration of upfront economic and livelihood benefits is fundamental for smallholder farmers to protect and maintain the SLM practices introduced on their lands through project support. (v) In drought-prone areas, small-scale irrigation is the key enabler for translating the benefits of land restoration into reduction in household vulnerability to climate shocks through income diversification and protection against droughts. (vi) Market-oriented agroforestry interventions (for example, Acacia decurrens) that provide sustainable income for smallholders can be vital ingredients in creating incentives for the adoption of biological measures for land restoration and improving household resilience to climate shocks.