Lesson Learned

Peter G. Mulbah, Executive Director, Skills and Agriculture Development Services, Inc. (SADS)

With support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), SADS launched a project in the Guinean Forests of West Africa Hotspot focused on improving and promoting sustainable livelihood activities within communities that will reduce the pressure on protected species. These activities have successfully promoted conservation strategies and messages throughout the Wologizi and Wonegizi protected areas of Liberia.

What was the most important lesson learned?

Making the community’s members feel ownership of project implementation is the most important lesson to be learned.

Describe how you learned this and whether / how you have adapted your approach or specific project elements as a result.

The issue of community ownership during project implementation was one of the great lessons learned. Often, nongovernmental organizations and other civil society organizations neglect community involvement and focus instead on how to implement their various projects independently.

Because communities endure the direct environmental challenges, they should play an integral part in project implementation. When community members feel that they have been marginalized, however, they are less likely to try to participate, and instead expect to see benefits without exerting effort.

In this case, SADS uses a participatory rural appraisal method to get community members involved in the planning and implementation process of sustainable projects. This method considers focus group discussions that bring together all stakeholders (decisionmakers within the immediate community) to solicit their views and impressions.

During this discussion time, stakeholders are given the opportunity to make decisions and comments on project implementation. Their consultation throughout the project life span reduces the tensions, pressures, and demands made by participants to be compensated for work done during the implementation period.

As a result, successful project implementation was achieved through the joint efforts of both the SADS staff and the members of the project community.

Therefore, SADS wishes to signal out that during project design, it is very expedient to consult the beneficiary community’s members so that their voices and grievances can be built into project implementation, another way to ensure sustainability.

- January 5, 2007