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Evaluation report

2009 Lesotho: The Evaluation of the Home Gardens



Author: Sechaba Consultants. Institution: Ministry of Agriculture

Executive summary

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Background:

Food security affects OVCs more than other population groups and has resulted in chronic malnutrition. The latest national survey estimates stunting at around 40% which is considered to be critical and is closely associated with extreme vulnerability and poverty. It against this background that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other stakeholders have been implementing food security interventions in Lesotho and Home Gardens Project (HGP) is one of those. The HGP is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) through the Department of Field Services (DFS).
The HGP started in 2002 as the Home Gardens Initiative (HGI) funded by UNICEF and implemented by the Ministry and Local Government (MLG). The HGI provided garden tools and kitchen sets directly to OVCs. A kitchen set consisted of pots, bucket, knives, spoons, mugs, and plates. At this stage the National AIDS Commission (NAC) through District HIV/AIDS Forums and District Administrators were involved in identifying beneficiaries. The direct delivery of garden tools and kitchen sets was stopped because of property grabbing by OVCs relatives and caregivers. A new approach which involved channeling garden tools and kitchen sets through community-based organizations was adopted. It was decided that Support Groups (SGs) were the best community-organization which can be used to assist OVCs as they were already assisting People Living with AIDS (PLWAs) and OVCs. The HGI was in 2005 transferred from MLG to MAFS. It is not clear why the initiative was transferred from MLG to MAFS. Under MAFS the initiative became to be known as the Home Gardens Project.

The objectives of the project are as follows
• To strengthen the capacity of the OVC, youth groups and communities.
• To increase the knowledge and transferable skills on issues such as cultivation, conservation, agricultural and environmental issues.
• To increase knowledge and skills of OVC, parents, caregivers and communities to cope with the emerging challenges compounded by food shortage.
• To promote entrepreneurial and innovation skills among children and communities.
• To promote self-sufficiency and to alleviate the burden of food purchase so as to concentrate available income on other pressing necessities.

Purpose/Objective:

• To assess the process, relevance, efficiency and effectiveness of the garden tools, and seeds distribution as a food availability promotion mechanism especially for the OVC.
• To assess the effectiveness of the existing targeting mechanisms of the OVC including the delivery mechanisms.
• To determine the numbers of the OVC reached with this intervention, and the difference made in their food security situation. Has the initial project objective been realized? Has there been improvement of food diversification?
• To document lessons learnt from the implementation.
• To conduct a desk review of other existing interventions promoting food security and identify best practices.
• To explore opportunities for collaboration and partnerships with other stakeholders involved in food security.
• To determine whether the project was driven by the need on the ground, and what the communities or beneficiaries perceptions are relation to the project (quality, relevance etc). This evaluation should also seek input from communities in terms of what could work better.
• Based on the findings, to recommend strategic choices to be considered in relation to food security interventions.

Methodology:

Review of related research
Interviews with key informants and members of the support groups/youth clubs
Focus Group discussions

Findings and Conclusions:

The following are conclusions made from this evaluation:
Project organization and management is weak and not well coordinated. There are no proper project documents between UNICEF and MAFS. The distribution of garden kits to the targeted beneficiaries is haphazard as a result some garden kits are distributed and delivered to some of the people that they were not intended for. There is also poor communication and coordination at the implementation level among staff and relevant stakeholders, this leads to lack of support from their part.
There is lack of proper project monitoring and evaluation system. The Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the Department of Planning and Policy Analysis (DPPA) of MAFS revealed that they were not aware of HGP as such it is not included in MAFS project monitoring system. On the same note, the Monitoring and Evaluation section of UNICEF reported not being involved in the monitoring of this project.
The beneficiary targeting mechanism is poor and confused. It is difficult to get the criteria used in selecting beneficiaries as this differs from district to district e.g. in some districts they say the selection is done by MAFS and UNICEF, while in other districts they say the number of members of beneficiaries is the criterion used.
The Supply Unit of UNICEF is doing a good work of selecting the garden kits suppliers as is done through competitive tending, the problems starts when these kits are being distributed. The communication between the suppliers and the staff at the district is not good as a result some suppliers get to deliver when they are not expected.
Training of beneficiaries is one of the positive aspect that has been achieved by the project. The Nutrition Assistants of MAFS trained SGs and YFCs throughout the country on topics such as, HIV/AIDS, breastfeeding, nutrition, vegetable production, poultry and pigs rearing. The part that was not done though planned for is the update and review of educational materials and facilitation of excursions for youth groups.
The overall project impact is limited based on the reports from the beneficiaries which indicated that they received vegetables once a year while some reported receiving them once in two years.

Recommendations:

1. The project should continue but must be re-designed in terms of signing a Memorandum of Understanding between UNICEF and MAFS. The Memorandum of Understanding should entail the following:
• The roles of each agency involved in the project
• Beneficiaries’ role
• The period of the project
• Other stakeholders involved in the project
• Geographical coverage of the project
• Which Department/Division within implementing agency is to manage and coordinate the project
• The reporting structure and frequency
• Agreed monitoring and evaluation system
2. The project should continue within MAFS but must address the issues raised in 1 above.
3. If UNICEF decides to partners with other organizations involved in similar activities, UNICEF should select the partners by requesting for proposals and organizations be selected on merit based on the qualities of interest to MAFS and UNICEF.
4. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security should improve communication between the DFS and District Agricultural Offices
5. The project should concentrate its efforts in selected districts in which other organizations with similar interventions do not operate or seek to partner with others to increase coverage.
6. Local authorities (Chiefs and Councilors) and MAFS staff at Resource Center level should be involved in the facilitation and selection of beneficiaries
7. Selection criteria of beneficiaries should be uniform. Selection criteria should be developed which should prioritize beneficiaries according to activeness and need. For instance selected SGs should have gardens and the quantities of garden kits be supplied according to membership and size of gardens. With regards to OVCs child-headed households be given priority followed by double orphans and then orphans and lastly vulnerable children.
8. Verification of beneficiaries should be undertaken prior to distribution of garden kits
9. Training on vegetable production and other related topics be provided to selected beneficiaries before being supplied with garden kits
10. Local authorities (Chiefs and Councilors) be advised to allocate communal gardens next to water sources if possible
11. The project should include fencing material in garden kits as encroachment by livestock is considered a major problem
12. OVCs should take part in project activities like producing vegetables as the current practice of giving them vegetables leads to dependency syndrome
13. The project should include more schools in its activities as schools reach more beneficiaries easily.
14. Competitions be held for best performing secondary beneficiaries in terms of producing more vegetables and assisting more primary beneficiaries on a regular basis as a way of motivating them
15. Excursions and study tours for secondary beneficiaries to best performing groups and clubs to learn from each other be undertaken
16. The project staff should have regular meetings with beneficiaries so as to be appraised of problems encountered and ways of solving them found



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