The Integra LEAP III team completed an evaluation of USAID/Zambia’s Community Forest Program (CFP), which had the goal of reducing emissions from deforestation through participatory natural resource management of globally biodiverse and significantly forested landscapes. This performance evaluation had three objectives: 1) Documenting the overall effectiveness of the project in reducing deforestation of biologically significant forest landscapes; 2) Identifying lessons learned from the project – specifically, the strengths and weaknesses of the design and implementation of the CFP, and how they contributed to the project’s successes and challenges; and 3) Assessing the sustainability of CFP results related to forestry conservation.
Integra used a mixed-methods approach, consisting of document review, qualitative data review, key informant interviews (KIIs), and focus group discussions (FGDs). Following the desk research, Integra’s evaluation team, alongside Zambian data collection firm RuralNet, conducted fieldwork in October 2018. To answer the five evaluation questions, Integra conducted 50 KIIs and 88 FGDs across the Zambian provinces of Lundazi, Mambwe, Nyimba, and Rufunsa. Using findings from the desk review and the fieldwork, the team concluded that the CFP was successful in building the foundation layers of capacity necessary to manage REDD+ projects at the national and district levels, and to a limited extent, the local/village levels. CFP also broke new ground in that it was one of the first REDD+ projects funded by USAID to have forest carbon offsets verified and sold, and one of the few REDD+ projects implemented in a dry tropical forest. Additionally, the CFP implementing partner, Biocarbon Partners, was a private African-based company, not a traditional international development implementing partner. The evaluation also produced several recommendations to USAID/Zambia for future programming.