2012 East Timor: Joint Programme Promoting Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security in Timor-Leste Final Evaluation
Author: Sergio Lenci
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The Joint Programme on Promoting Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security in Timor-Leste (from now on also referred to as “the Programme” or JP) was approved in 2009, the Programme Document (ProDoc) was signed in September and the funds for the first year of implementation were released on 13 November of the same year. The initial duration of the Programme was 36 months, until 13 November 2012, however, the Secretariat of the MDG-F approved a no cost extension until 31 March 2013.
The JP involves four different organizations of the United Nations: WHO, WFP, FAO and UNICEF who acts as the lead agency. The total budget is 4,030,000 USD of which 3.5 million USD is funded by the MDG-F and 530,000 USD by the Government of Timor-Leste. The main national counterparts of the Programme are the Ministry of Health (MoH), the Ministry of Education (MoE), the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Environment (MCIE), formerly known as the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce, and Industry (MTCI).
The JP design has been articulated in a set of expected outcomes, outputs and activities that are meant to tackle the issue of malnutrition mainly from three different but complementary angles: i) nutrition and health services; ii) behavioral changes related to infant and young child feeding practices, and child care; iii) production and distribution of micronutrient rich food at community level and at school combined with nutrition education.
This final evaluation was conducted as part of the requirement of the MDG-F Secretariat M&E strategy. In this context, UNICEF commissioned the evaluation to an independent international consultant. It serves the purpose of institutional accountability on the quality of the JP design, the implementation process and the contribution to results. On the other hand, it also serves a purpose of institutional learning in trying to identify critical factors that can be distilled in terms of lessons learned for future programming. The basic unit of analysis of the evaluation is the Joint Programme in connection with: a) the country context; b) the MDG and the general objectives of the MDG-F thematic window; c) the UN reform process.
The evaluation process included a desk review and a three week country mission to Timor-Leste, during which interviews and focus groups with stake holders at national and local level where conducted.
Findings and Conclusions:
There is wide consensus among the stakeholders consulted as well as documentary evidence suggesting that the Joint Programme capitalized on and added value to previous advocacy efforts of the UN system in Timor-Leste. In so doing it contributed to give greater visibility to the issues of food and nutrition security and to strategically place them in the Government agenda as part of the national development priorities.
The JP proved to be highly relevant and has been successful in demonstrating what can be effectively done to reduce food and nutrition insecurity along a set of integrated policy and strategy lines. Its integrated approach was well conceptualized but not equally well translated into operational planning and synergies on the ground, particularly as related to the interplay between food security and nutrition security. In this connection, the added value of the joint intervention could have been better exploited.
These limitations are mainly due to design constraints as well as to challenges faced during the implementation. The evaluation also revealed that greater emphasis on technical cooperation by the UN organizations and greater investment by the national government are needed for sustainable food and nutrition security outcomes.
i) While continuing to address malnutrition from the point of view of humanitarian assistance, which is justified by the current country context, place greater emphasis on long-term technical cooperation and capacity development in the areas of: a) health; b) education; c) rural development and d) agriculture.
ii) Continue to strengthen national leadership of development intervention and inter-institutional coordination on the Government and the UN side.
iii) To start immediately exploring additional sources of funding to ensure the continuity and consolidation of the processes set in motion or supported by the JP.
iv) Support the implementation of the local purchasing strategy of the School Feeding Programme by strengthening the productive capacity of farmers groups so that they can become local suppliers to the Government.
v) In connection with the above, and in light of the need to prioritize the allocation of limited resources, it is recommended to reallocate to farmers groups any funds currently allocated to the School Gardens that have not been committed.
vi) To further support the production of iodized salt so as to consolidate the entire production chain and ensure that sufficient quality standards are met for local producers to become providers for the iodized salt currently imported and distributed by WFP as part of its food basket items.
vii) For similar programmes in the future, it is recommended to put more emphasis in analyzing gender related factors that influence nutritional status of the target population and to address them from an operational point of view during implementation.
Based on the findings and conclusions of the evaluation, some lessons can be distilled in the following broad areas: a) Policy; b) Governance; c) Management and d) Resources.
Policies addressing behavior and health related factors are relevant for nutrition security in Timor-Leste. Similarly, humanitarian assistance in the form of supplementary and therapeutic food distribution will probably play an important role in the country for still some time. However, the findings of the evaluation also suggest that a greater emphasis on addressing structural factors, including income-generating activities at the local level, might need to be more directly addressed to generate sustainable nutrition outcomes.
The evaluation revealed that the NSC and PMC can work effectively as a platform for political dialogue between the UN and the Government and for inter-institutional coordination among the different actors involved on both sides. However, the evaluation also revealed that the governance of the JP could have benefited from a more decentralized approach, in particular from establishing coordination mechanisms at the district level too.
Related to the above, another important lesson of this evaluation has to do with the approach to monitoring, as a key dimension of results based management. Monitoring of the JP was focused on budget delivery and on verifying accomplishments in the implementation of activities from an almost exclusively quantitative point of view. Although, reportedly some discussions where held, there is no written evidence of any qualitative analysis of the JP as a whole, cutting across its different components and sub-components and addressing issues of continued relevance, potential effectiveness and sustainability from a more systemic perspective.
The findings of the evaluation clearly show that much greater resource allocation is needed to achieve sustainable food and nutrition outcomes.
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