Nearly all of Malawi’s electricity is generated by hydropower on the Shire River—a 402 km (250 mile) river stretching from Lake Malawi directly into Mozambique’s Zambezi River. Sedimentation and aquatic weed infestation of the river pose a considerable threat to Malawi’s power production. Weeds and sediment lower the water levels of the river, and their accumulation in reservoirs reduces the amount of water that can be held there. This means less power can be generated by Malawi’s hydropower plants. According to a 2014 study, sedimentation in the reservoir at the Nkula hydropower plant resulted in a nearly 70 percent loss of capacity. Weed and sediment can also cause damage to machinery and equipment, resulting in costly repairs and inefficient power generation.
Poverty is also a key driver of deforestation in Malawi, leading to further sedimentation and aquatic weed infestation of the river. Extremely high levels of poverty and an inaccessible electricity grid has led most Malawians to rely on biomass—such as charcoal—to cook their food, heat their water, and light their homes. Many families and communities cut down trees to earn income by producing charcoal. This reliance on wood and charcoal has led to devastating, rapid deforestation across the country. Deforestation results in increased erosion, reduced soil fertility, flooding, river sedimentation, and an environment that increases aquatic weed infestation—not only threatening an already food insecure country, but also decreasing the ability to produce hydropower electricity. Poor land management practices and rapid deforestation contribute to a cycle of continued food insecurity and yet more deforestation.
During compact development, MCC conducted a baseline environmental, gender, and social assessment of the Upper and Middle Shire River Basin. 24 The assessment identified “hot spot catchment areas” that whittled down large geographic areas that contribute most to soil erosion of the Shire River to smaller areas disproportionately affecting hydropower generation. The identified hotspots had high potential for erosion combined with very rapid land-use change, such as the conversion of forested hillsides to agriculture. This helped MCA-Malawi identify seven areas in the Upper Shire and ten in the Middle Shire province where communities could benefit from compact-funded activities. 25
The baseline assessment also identified gender-based inequalities that affected access, control, and use of natural resources in the Upper and Middle Shire River Basin. According to the study, among the poor in Malawi, women face a variety of gender-based constraints as farmers and managers of natural resources. For this reason, it was critical to understand their livelihood strategies. In particular, the baseline assessment revealed that even under matrilineal systems that are predominant in this geographic area, decision-making power on land usually lies with men who have greater control over the assets. The baseline work in the Upper and Middle Shire included the development of an action plan for both provinces that spelled out a combination of environmental and natural resource management activities—like conservation agriculture and forestry—as well as social and gender interventions that, if used in combination, could target the specific needs of given communities. Over the long-term, these action plans provided a strategic vision for how to reduce sedimentation and ensure a positive shift to environmental management practices, based on capacity building skills in natural resource management and social and gender empowerment.
The objective of the Environmental and Natural Resource Management (ENRM) Project was to mitigate the growing problems of aquatic weed infestation and excessive sedimentation in the Shire River Basin to reduce the costly disruptions to Malawi’s hydropower generation. The compact was designed to reduce blackouts caused by invasive weeds entering the turbines and sediment that reduces the water retention capacity at the dams, by investing in the mechanical removal of weed and sediment in the river basin and implementing better environmental and natural resource management in upstream areas, tackling the source of the sedimentation. Over the long-term, the project was designed to reverse the degradation of the Shire River Basin and improve the sustainability of hydropower generation in Malawi by maintaining the quantity and quality of water in the Shire River. This approach aimed to enable a long-term, sustainable, and institutional foundation to Malawi’s power sector, supporting the compact’s infrastructure and policy investments.
The ENRM Project included three main activities, reflecting a strategy that addressed both the causes as well as the symptoms of poor land-use management. The Weed and Sediment Management Activity addressed the symptoms, the ENRM Activity addressed the causes, and the Social and Gender Enhancement Fund (SGEF) Activity ensured equitable participation of all stakeholders to maximize results.
Weed and Sediment Management Activity
To mitigate the impact of the weeds and sedimentation, this activity supported the purchase and use of large-scale equipment, including a dredger, weed-harvesting equipment, conveyers, and disposal trucks. The activity also constructed environmentally-appropriate disposal sites for the weeds and sediment and designed an associated Sediment Management Strategy, in line with international best practices, for EGENCO to manage as part of their operations and maintenance. financially sustain the operation and maintenance of such activities, costs were built into the electricity tariff to fund EGENCO’s long-term strategy.
MCA-Malawi initially procured two dredgers under the Sediment Management Strategy, one for the Kapichira power plant and a second for the Nkula plant. MCA procured two harvesters, two conveyors, and two tipper trucks. Due to the contractor’s inability to deliver the dredgers in time, MCA had to re-procure the dredger, using more standardized specifications. A single dredger was purchased for Kapichira.
Originally, EGENCO was supposed to supply the disposal area based on the designs provided by MCA-Malawi’s Sediment Management Strategy. MCC and MCA-Malawi viewed this as a long-term operational strategy that EGENCO would need to expand. Unfortunately, due to the liabilities inherited from the unbundling from ESCOM, EGENCO was not in a financial position to build the disposal area immediately. MCA-Malawi took over the implementation of the disposal strategy and hired a firm to build the landfill for the disposal area, the pipeline and the associated civil works at Kapichira. Since this work was taken over from EGENCO very late in the compact, it was not completed before the end of the compact. Following closeout, MCA-Malawi’s successor agency, MMD, and EGENCO provided management and oversight of the activity with the support of a supervising engineer, and the work was completed in late 2019. Once completed, the disposal area is expected to allow the dredger to be used for the next twenty years, or the expected operational life of the dredger.
The Weed and Sediment Management Activity interventions were designed to ensure that the mechanical removal of weeds and sediments from the Shire Basin did not produce environmental harm to local communities, or in the case of the sediment, downstream. Weeds are harvested and disposed in a former quarry where they are allowed to dry. This is an improvement over the former approach used by EGENCO of disposing of these weeds in a forest reserve where there was a forest fire risk from the debris as well as potential for the seeds from the hyacinth to be washed back into the Shire River.
ENRM Activity and Social and Gender Enhancement Fund Activity
While the dredgers and weed harvesters tackled the consequences of poor land management, the ENRM Activity was aimed at addressing the root causes of this problem by reducing environmental and natural resource degradation, promoting more sustainable land use practices, and enhancing rural incomes. Critical to addressing these root causes, the Social and Gender Enhancement Fund (SGEF) Activity also addressed gender barriers that limit decision-making authority from women at the household level.
The Malawi Compact funded grants to eleven NGOs that had proven experience in administering activities that improved natural resource management and gender equality. These grants were designed to serve as a pilot program, providing proof of concept that a grant mechanism could mobilize and target resources to arrest soil erosion and improve land management in Malawi. MCA-Malawi anticipated the pilot would be continued by the Environmental Trust, sustainably funded through a Payment for Ecosystem Services mechanism described below. MCC would evaluate the impact of the grants to gather lessons learned and best practices in changing environmental and social behaviors in natural resource management.
The grant program provided two funding windows: a window for Environment and Natural Resource Management and a second window under the Social and Gender Enhancement Fund (SGEF). The SGEF recognized that poverty and gender-based inequalities contribute to poor land management practices. Applicants were encouraged to apply to one or both of these windows. In practice, all grantees took an integrated approach that promoted improved land management techniques while also targeting the economic and social needs of men and women to enhance their engagement and adoption of such practices. The grantees worked with the communities in targeted areas to plant trees, improve agricultural practices, use techniques to slow soil erosion, and promote gender equality.
Under the ENRM funding windows, grantee activities were designed to improve livelihoods while reducing soil erosion. The types of projects allowed under the program included those that funded:
- Support to communities in policy and legislation application and in improving their participation in environment and natural resources management decision making;
- Management and sustainable utilization of forests and promotion of individual woodlots, tree planting and management;
- Piloting, demonstrating, and promoting on-farm soil and water conservation measures, sustainable crop techniques, and agroforestry;
- Initiatives to reduce demand for and improve sustainability of wood energy use; and
- Projects to stabilize and enhance rural incomes, employment, and businesses.
The SGEF funding window enhanced the ENRM funds with targeted efforts aimed at ensuring that women and men benefitting from the grants gained increased knowledge about the sustainable management of land and natural resources. This was done through a range of different strategies to integrate both ENRM and SGEF goals by NGOs, such as:
- REFLECT Circles and adult literacy: All grantees used REFLECT Circles to enhance communication between women and men and equip communities in the targeted areas with the knowledge to improve land use and watershed management practices. 26 This methodology created a high level of awareness from women about their particular roles and challenges accessing and managing natural resources. MCC and MCA-Malawi developed a manual in Chichewa and English to help facilitators integrate natural conservation and gender equality issues in their discussions. In addition, grantees facilitated capacity building activities for REFLECT Circles’ facilitators to strengthen their skills. The discussion within the REFLECT Circles raised environmental problems that contributed towards electricity generation disruptions and how they affected women’s livelihoods. Through compact support, 448 REFLECT Circles were created and 526 REFLECT Circle facilitators (297 women and 229 men) were trained. Furthermore, 411 facilitators received certified training provided by the Department of Community Development and were added to the Government payroll due to the high demand from the target communities to keep these groups operational after the compact ended. 27
- Leadership and assertiveness training for women: All grantees promoted leadership and assertiveness training for women from the impact areas, helping them to identify their leadership styles and apply new knowledge, skills and tools learned through the trainings. Participants received feedback and refined their skills through role playing and practice. Grantees encouraged women to enroll in local committees and structures in order to capitalize on the knowledge gained through the programs. The project trained 4,222 women on leadership and assertiveness.
- Training on gender equality for leaders: Training of traditional leaders was a critical component of SGEF activities. The training was designed to encourage participants to use their authority to influence the promotion of women’s rights and increase women’s opportunities to have decision-making power and leadership in land management issues within their communities. Women leaders also received training under this project, resulting in increased participation of women in different committees and creating a high level of awareness and confidence among women leaders. A total of 7,436 community leaders were trained in gender equality issues, out of this total 3,264 men leaders participated in trainings promoting gender equality. 28 The significant number of men trained had important positive effects on gender equality since they already have existing platforms, structures, and social networks through which they influence other men and their communities. For instance, leaders trained by one grantee have ensured that women have equal participation in village structures.
- Village Savings and Loans (VSLs): Through the ENRM project, grantees supported VSLs with training for facilitators and agents in ENRM issues and gender-sensitive approaches, as well as guidelines for strengthening the integration of ENRM consideration in the VSL schemes. Grantees used funding to build the capacity of the VSL groups, agents, and members to promote a savings culture, introduce micro-loans for sustainable income generating activities, and reduce the reliance on the charcoal business. To support the technical capacity of grantees, MCA-Malawi produced a manual in March 2018. This marked the first time VSLs in Malawi had a manual integrating both ENRM concepts and gender equality principles into their operations. The participation of women was remarkable across all VSL groups, and the positive outputs in terms of access to capital and savings demonstrated economic empowerment for women. Savings achieved by women members of VSLs were used for sustainable income-generating activities and other household needs such as schooling fees, inputs for agriculture, and house improvements. A total of 907 VSL groups composed of 21,491 women and 5,605 men were supported.
- Training on business and marketing skills for women: Improving literacy and numeracy skills is the first step to strengthen women’s capacity to manage household assets and increase income-earning opportunities. Grantees complemented REFLECT Circles and VSL activities with trainings focused on business and marketing skills. With compact support, grantees trained 5,421 women and 3,328 men on business skills and marketing.
- Promotion of alternative income generating activities: Grantees implemented activities to reduce the dependence of poor families on the charcoal trade by introducing them to new and sustainable income-generating opportunities. These alternative income generating activities both promoted the goal of adoption of sustainable agricultural practices and provided opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty by launching new businesses while improving women’s decision-making power over key productive resources.
The SGEF reached about 73,676 people in the Upper and Middle Shire River Basin (49,477 women and 24,199 men). Eight out of the eleven grantees achieved and exceeded the targets stated in their proposals before the first year of implementation. Across all grantees, women participated more than men in the SGEF interventions.
Because MCC can only fund compact activities for five years, the ENRM Activity also included the establishment of an environmental trust (the Shire BEST Trust) as part of a longer-term strategy to help the Government address the drivers of poor land natural resource management. Setting up the Trust—with the lessons learned from the pilot grant program—would continue sustainable operations of similar projects in the future. The Trust is intended to be a public-private partnership, where private sector partners in Malawi could provide funding, such as through their corporate social responsibility programs. MCC also supported a Payment for Ecosystems Services (PES) scheme—an international best practice—through the inclusion of a small fee within the energy tariff. 29 Therefore, Malawians would be helping to sustain the Shire Basin every time they turn on a light, and ensuring that same light stays on in the future. The Shire BEST Trust is intended to be a long-term partnership between government and private stakeholders dependent on electricity from hydropower and/or with a long-term stake in maintaining water availability from the Shire River.
At the completion of the compact, the Trust was in its very early stages of development—it had been legally registered, had established a board of key stakeholders, and had its core governance manuals in place. The Trust Board will work on providing the minimal requirements to sustain the Trust and to effectively use the PES financial resources generated from the tariff implemented in late 2018. This includes supporting the new board of Trustees, developing a Strategic Plan and Business Plan, assisting the Trust in hiring a firm to implement grant activities, and providing them with some initial fundraising materials to use with potential donors. Since the tariff was implemented after compact end date, the Trust board members had to finalize the operational stand up of the Trust using all the documentation developed during the compact. MCA and MCC worked closely with them to also identify other bridge-funding opportunities to assist them during this transition period to more long-term funding through the PES. As of early 2020, the Trust had signed a Payment for Ecosystem Services agreement with EGENCO and money was flowing from the tariff through EGENCO to the Trust. The Trust is still pursuing opportunities for funding from other donors but is operational with a coordinator and its own offices.
MCC has commissioned a rigorous, independent performance evaluation of the ENRM Project to determine how the overall project and individual activities help to improve the efficiency of hydropower generation and reduce costly generation disruptions. The ENRM Project evaluation will answer the following overarching questions:
- How has land use along the Shire River changed during the ENRM Project?
- If the Project activities were expanded throughout the area, how would the activities affect sedimentation in the Shire River based on alternative modeling scenarios? How would reductions in sedimentation affect hydropower production based on the alternative scenarios?
- Based on the results of each activity’s evaluation, which implementation factors supported or hindered the effectiveness of the ENRM Project overall?
- How did ENRM Project implementation vary from what was planned, and why?
- How did these changes in implementation affect overall outcomes?
- Did the ENRM Project achieve its targeted intermediate and final outcomes and contribute to higher-level compact objectives? Why or why not?
- Were there any unintended consequence of the program (positive or negative)?
- Based on the results of each activity’s evaluation, what are stakeholders’ perceptions of sustainability of outcomes achieved under the ENRM Project, and why? What could or should be done to increase sustainability?
To address the first two research questions, the evaluation will include a remote sensing analysis to examine land use changes over time in the Shire River Basin. The evaluator will also model how changes in land use management affect sedimentation rates in the Shire.
The performance evaluations of the ENRM and SGEF grant facility and the Shire BEST Trust will examine activity implementation, achievement of results, and longer-term sustainability. The performance evaluation of the ENRM and SGEF grants will include in-depth qualitative case studies with five grantees to examine activity implementation, changes in sustainable land management practices, changes in gender roles and household decision-making, and sustainability of results. Lastly, the evaluation of the Weed and Sediment Management Activity will include an interrupted time series analysis to estimate impacts of the activity on the operations and productivity of the hydropower plants. Specifically, the evaluation of the Weed and Sediment Management Activity will address the following questions:
- How was the Activity implemented?
- Was the Activity implemented as planned? Why or why not?
- Which implementation factors supported or hindered the effectiveness of the Activity?
- Did the equipment purchased perform as expected in terms of the quantities of sediment dredged and weeds harvested?
- To what extent did the Activity restore active storage at the hydropower plants during the compact and after it ended?
- Did the new weed harvesters and dredgers affect power plant operations during the compact and after it ended?
- To what extent did the equipment change power generation?
- How did the use of the equipment and related improvements vary by hydropower plant?
- How do the power plants ensure appropriate maintenance and repair of the equipment provided under the WSM activity?
- What are stakeholders’ perceptions of the sustainability of outcomes of the Activity
Status of the evaluation:
|Baseline/Interim||Data collection completed in November 2018.
Report released in
|Endline||Data collection expected completion in 2021.
Report expected in 2022.
The Key Findings of the 2018 Interim Evaluation of the Environmental and Natural Resources Management Project include:
Weed and Sediment Management Activity
- Dredge delivery was significantly delayed or canceled because of poor contractor selection and performance. By compact closeout, the weed removal equipment and one dredge were delivered, although the dredge was not yet in use.
- Due to equipment delays, the project has yet to show a reduction in disruptions to hydropower generation.
- Malawi’s Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO) and the government have committed funds to complete implementation of the WSM Activity.
ENRM and SGEF Grant Facility
- The grant facility was successfully implemented but was constrained by a three-year intervention window and cost-reimbursement contracts that slowed grant implementation. The grant-making process sometimes relied on subjective criteria and undocumented decisions.
- The grant facility exceeded several of its targets but did not have the resources or capacity to monitor key outcomes like farming practices.
- The lack of early agreement between MCC and MCA-Malawi on the trust structure, a focus on implementing the grant facility, and poor contractor performance resulted in trust operations not being launched before compact closeout. It is uncertain if the environmental trust will be launched and sustained in the coming years.
The interim evaluation of ENRM also included in-depth qualitative case studies with five grantees under the ENRM and SGEF Grant Facility. Key Findings include:
Implementation of case study grants
- All five case study grants were established through community buy-in and in partnership with government agencies and local leaders.
- All five grants used participatory, hands-on ENRM training methods, which were appreciated by community members.
- The evaluation found widespread adoption of ENRM practices in sustainable agriculture and forest restoration for all five grantees, as well as participation and adoption of ENRM activities by women.
- Village savings and loans (VSLs) were popular and succeeded in increasing women’s economic empowerment and participation in financial decision-making in households.
- VSLs and Reflect Circles, a participatory approach to adult learning and social change, supported change in decision-making in households, in the division of labor in households and on farms, and in community leadership.
Overall outcomes and sustainability
- Grants were found to be more effective when environmental practices and gender equality activities were integrated.
- Participants were confident that grant activities would be sustained because of the benefits gained from adopting ENRM practices and participating in VSL groups, such as higher yields and economic empowerment.
Learning from the Evaluation:
MCC has identified the following programmatic and evaluation lessons based on the Interim Report for Evaluation of the Environmental and Natural Resources Management Project of the Malawi Compact.
- Program implementers should be identified and selected based on the expertise and experience needed to translate complex programmatic details and due diligence analyses into well-targeted and effective activities.
- Project teams within MCC and the MCA should be sufficiently staffed to draw on expertise from key sectors such as gender and social inclusion and environmental performance, while not overburdening team members who have broader responsibilities for cross-cutting work.
- Planning for long-term sustainability of interventions should be a focus from the start of program design and implementation, with particular efforts directed towards establishing or capacitating institutions that will exist beyond the compact.
- Carefully consider whether to use a grant facility as opposed to other implementation modalities in order to achieve project objectives.
- Integrate social and gender-focused activities within the context of overall ENRM interventions.
- Align the promotion of sustainable land management practices with the economic incentives of beneficiaries.
- Interventions attempting to change long-standing norms and practices must be supported with the in-depth strategies, expertise, and tools needed to effect such changes.
- Evaluations of grant facilities pose unique challenges for evaluations and may require a different approach for evaluation design.
- The selection process for awarding individual grants under a grant facility does not adhere to equivalent standards for documentation and due diligence as used for conventional MCC projects, and rarely have program logics and clear targets that facilitate evaluation design and planning.
All reports from the Environmental and Natural Resources Management Project evaluation are located on the MCC’s public Evaluation Catalog.
Key Output and Outcome Indicators
|Activity||Indicators||Baseline (2012-2013)||End of Compact Target(2018)||Actual Achieved (06/2018)||Percent Complete|
|Project level||Electricity not generated due to weeds and sedimentation (Megawatt hours)||4,640||2,320||10,094.3||-235.1%|
|Weed and Sediment Activity||Dredged material placement area constructed at Kapichira||N/A||31 May 2018||Not achieved||Not achieved|
|ENRM Activity||Leaders trained on natural resource management issues||0||6,745||7,751||114.9%|
|Social and Gender Enhancement Fund Activity||Number of women who enroll and complete leadership training||0||2,787||4,222||151.5%|
|Community members participating in operational Village Savings and Loans (VSLs)||0||19,245||27,096||140.8%|
Explanation of Results
The Weed and Sediment equipment was delivered much later in the compact than originally intended, in part due to difficulties with the performance of the contractor, but also related to the need to holistically manage the disposal of waste material, particularly large quantities of sediment. The harvesters were commissioned and will be put to use during the rainy season from November to March. It is during the rainy season when mats of weeds tend to dislodge and clog the turbines of the hydro-plants. Production of the weed harvesters, though, could be impacted by the move of the installation at Liwonde to the other side of the river when the new World Bank-supported weed harvesting crane and boom are installed. The MCC-funded weed harvesters will work in tandem with the World Bank project.
Similarly, the dredger was delayed and ultimately delivered and assembled at Kapichira post-compact (November 2018), although it initially could not be launched due to low water levels in the head pond. With the delays in the completion of the dredged material placement area, the dredge may not be used to its full potential during the first rainy season when more sediment accumulates. The real impacts from the equipment will most likely be seen when the capital dredging starts during the 2019/2020 rainy season, as well as some dredging during the dry season before that when the disposal area is ultimately completed. In light of the overall challenges and delays under the Weed and Sediment Activity, the figures for “Actuals Achieved” at the end of the compact for the key outcome shown above is not reflective of the compact’s impact. The significant increase in electricity not generated observed at the close of the compact was primarily due to greater siltation at the Tedzani hydropower station during that time period. As with the broader infrastructure investments, MCC will be monitoring the long-term changes in hydropower efficiency and production during the post-compact period.
The small grants work exceeded many of its targets, according to grantee reporting. The surpassing of targets may be related to various factors, but is likely due in part to the shifting of additional funds to a number of the better-performing grantees during the second and third years of grant implementation. Additionally, it is possible that grantees exceeded training targets by recruiting larger numbers of participants to attend their training sessions. As shown in case studies among selected grantees, the interim evaluation showed adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, including by women. Moreover, participants in SGEF activities reported more equitable division of labor on farms and in households, an increase in the number of women participating in household decision-making, and increases in community leadership opportunities for women. The integration of social and gender-focused activities within ENRM interventions was highlighted as a contributor to adoption of improved land management practices. In addition, a key facilitator of results was the direct benefits that participants experienced from adopting targeted activities, such as higher yields and increases savings and loan opportunities.During the post-compact period, MCC will continue evaluating the long-term behavioral change coming out of the grant activities and the sustainability of these interventions among case-study grantees.