SANBI’s Biodiversity and Land Use (BLU) Project received a very favorable overall rating of ‘satisfactory’ for its Midterm Review (MTR) that was undertaken between September and November last year, by a United Nations Development Project (UNDP) appointed consultant. The rating is the second highest rating awarded by the UNDP/GEF review process and is a significant achievement for the project at midterm. Ratings were provided against progress towards achieving the five year targets, project implementation and adaptive management, and sustainability. The Independent Midterm Review Report is now available providing key background and information on the review process.

The BLU project was initiated in 2015 to support municipalities in effectively regulating land use and environmental management to ensure that biodiversity continues to provide essential ecosystem services to municipal residents. The BLU project was initiated in 2015 to support municipalities in effectively regulating land use and environmental management to ensure that biodiversity continues to provide essential ecosystem services to municipal residents. The project is currently being implemented by SANBI, together with its partners with funding from GEF though the UNDP.

With the BLU project mid-way through implementation, the MTR was aimed at assessing progress towards the achievement of the project objectives and outcomes, and assessing early signs of project success or failure with the goal of identifying the necessary changes to be made in order to see the project was on-track to achieve its intended results. The methodology used for the MTR emphasized a collaborative and participatory approach ensuring close engagement with the project team, implementing partners and key stakeholders.

In noting the work areas in which the project has been doing exceptionally well thus far, the independent MTR awarded ‘highly satisfactory’ ratings to the project’s work on regulatory processes for land and natural resource use management that incorporate criteria to prevent and or minimize and offset impacts on biodiversity’. The work with municipalities in terms of ‘integrating biodiversity priorities into municipal land use planning, management and decision making; as well as the ‘improved security for biodiversity priority areas’ which include stewardship; and the work that focuses on ‘reducing the pressure on biodiversity through better land and natural resource management practices implemented by private and communal land owners’, also received UNDPs highest rating for reviews.

A key part of the MTR process was to put forward supportive recommendations for the next phase of implementation of the BLU project. Ten recommendations were put forward including the development of a theory of change (ToC) with detailed risks and assumptions underpinning the project’s potential impact and sustainability of the intervention. The ToC aims to be a tool to assist with navigating the hurdles and uncertainty during the next phase of project implementation. Other key recommendations and a core focus for the project is the development of a strategic action plan to meet the 600 jobs target of the Ecological Infrastructure Challenge Fund by project end; as well as the extension of the duration of the BLU project by a maximum of 12 months to ensure sustainability of the project outcomes.

The BLU project has started to address these recommendations in their workplans for the remaining years of project implementation. The recommendations were discussed at the BLU project’s quarterly planning meeting in December with implementing partners. A strategic review session was also held in December with partners and key stakeholders to discuss the findings of the report and find ways of addressing the recommendations. These two meetings served as valuable platforms to share and discuss the MTR report and find ways, as a collective, on how best to take forward the recommendations of the MTR.  These meetings were succeeded by the Project Steering Committee where proposals for addressing the recommendations were tabled and approved.

For more information on the BLU project, please click here https://www.sanbi.org/biodiversity-science/science-policyaction/mainstreaming-biodiversity/biodiversity-and-land-use-proje or email Marilyn Martin-Vermaak: m.martin@sanbi.org.za.

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