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Sustainability - key challenges in project implementation: Proof of pudding

Posted by Anirudh Tewari Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Even the roaring success of the market led ‘Siale LIVE' talk show and the Knowledge Market of yesterday, could not stop the ‘Power Point’ from striking back with a vengeance. The alarm bells clanged loudly on how climate change is affecting all of us and this was more serious for the poorest for whom we all are working in a small way. While the coping mechanisms and

adaptive strategies were churned it was an ideal setting for the following session on ‘Sustainability’ and the key challenges that we all face during project implementation.

The joint presentations of Qaim from Pakistan, Jebun from Bangladesh and Dalai from Mongolia gave the following messages:

  • Sustainability is continuation of benefits after project closure.
  • It is more about results i.e. impacts and outcomes.
  • It implies environmental, social, economic and Institutional Sustainability.
  • Social Sustainability is achieved when social mobilization is a means and not an end.
  • Economic activities promoted by projects must be sustainable.
  • Mainstream interventions to achieve Institutional sustainability.
  • Poor sustainability could be a result of both design and implementation.
  • Exit strategy must be a part of the design process
  • Have mainstream organizations as implementing partners rather than Units which exist only for the life cycle. Institutional ownership is the key.
  • Governments replicate and upscale successful project interventions.
  • Local Institutions and communities promoted by the project must be supported by the Government.
  • Quality of social mobilization is very important and needs to be focused upon.

Richard Caldwell from TANGO International shared the results of a desk review in his presentation based on the field studies carried out by them in Philippines, Lao PDR, Vietnam and India on sustainability in IFAD projects:

  • Sustainability is multidimensional.
  • Functional Institutions that are self sustaining - key to Institutional sustainability.
  • Environmental sustainability is achieved when production systems support livelihoods and maintain a stable resource base.
  • Sustainability can be fostered either if it is market drive development or anchored in the communities that focuses on empowerment.
  • Sustainability is correlated to how much of the project design has considered national policies, PRSs and capacities of local organizations.
  • It is proportional to the amount of contact project ahs with the communities
  • Risk analysis and management important tools.
  • Have a sustainability strategy rather than an exit strategy.
  • A strong country presence is an important factor in sustainability.
  • Sustainability should be focused upon during project supervision.

Some of the elements that have emerged based on some successful projects that have proved sustainable in the region are:

  • Sustainability starts at the design stage,
  • it should involves communities,
  • builds capacities of communities in the initial stages,
  • is participatory,
  • uses the mentoring approach
  • Empowers communities
  • Focus on economic transformation and income diversification
  • Do not rush to create outputs
  • Activities should be based on community priorities and;
  • Design modifications as necessary during project life.

The views that emerged during the discussion that followed included:

  • Real picture of sustainability would emerge only if we carry out a post evaluation of projects after 10-12 years of closure.
  • Strong institutions left behind by the project constitute key elements of sustainability.
  • Strong economic foundations and market linkages important factor for sustainability.
  • Build on existing local community organizations and Implementing systems for ensuring sustainability of interventions.
  • A well defined exit strategy ensures sustainability

The crux of the session was that the efficacy of our work is maximized and relevant only when it is sustainable and this issue must be tackled from the beginning of the project life cycle in a systematic manner with a clear strategy. Sustainability of interventions is best achieved when the project interventions and models are replicated (and cloned in some cases); up scaled and owned by local Governments / existing Institutions are market driven and anchored in the communities.

Our moderator, Djadi Purnomo of Indonesia, deserves all credit for moderating a challenging session on challenges, and Thanks to Allison for clicking those lovely photos - some from realy challenging angles.