Western Mindanao Community Initiatives Project

Poverty in the Philippines is predominantly rural and Western Mindanao is one of the poorest and least developed regions in the Philippines. The agriculture sector accounts for over a third of total employment but production is not keeping pace with population growth. Low labour productivity characterizes the sector and a large part operates at subsistence level and is vulnerable to year-to-year weather changes.

About six out of ten people in rural areas depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Fishing is an important sub-sector, mostly at subsistence level. The current Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) identifies Mindanao as an area of strong agricultural potential.

The project area is in a conflict zone. The conflict can be traced to centuries of discrimination, as perceived by the Lumad (indigenous) and Muslim people, that has marginalized them in terms of social and economic development. While a peace agreement was signed between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996, episodes of conflict in 2000 and 2003 have been costly, with the displacement of nearly one and a half million people, including those in project areas.  Despite the armed conflict, tri-communities co-exist in Mindanao (Lumads, Muslim ethnic groups, and migrant settlers from Visayas and Luzon).

The project has four components: (i) Community and Institutional Development, (ii) Natural Resource Management, (iii) Small Enterprise Development and credit, and (iv) Project Implementation. Total project costs were estimated at US$18.15 million of which the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was to finance US$15.54 million (85.6 per cent), including a grant of US$ 0.75 million.

The goal of WMCIP was increased subsistence, higher incomes, better standards of living and greater resilience of livelihood of up to 16,000 farm and fishing households. Twenty one municipalities with 80 barangays ("village" level administrative unit) were pre-identified for inclusion at design stage (later increased to 81). The project was appraised during 1996-97 and approved in 1998, with an implementation period of six years; it became effective in 1999.  The original loan closing date was extended from Dec 2005 till Dec 2006, and now Dec 2007, with project completion 30 June 2007.

This interim evaluation followed the Office of Evaluation's (OE) methodology for project evaluation in assessing performance and impact. Its objective was to develop recommendations for enhancing the design and implementation of new and ongoing IFAD-funded projects, and to facilitate IFAD management's decision on whether or not a follow-up phase of WMCIP should be financed by the Fund. The Evaluation Team visited three of the four provinces covered by the project, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga Sibugay.

Visits to Basilan and Tawi Tawi were not possible due to security concerns.  At the time of the field work, the self assessment by the government, project completion report, and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) final supervision mission report were not available, hampering the evaluation.


Design. The project components were designed to emphasize participatory planning and implementation and covered: community development and institutional capacity building, natural resource management and enterprise development.

It covered three supposedly contiguous sites where the most disadvantaged populations could be targeted, comprising upland areas, agrarian reform lowland areas, coastal areas, and indigenous peoples. Barangay project sites, however, were not contiguous, their wide spread locations making project implementation and supervision difficult. In addition, interconnectivity of upland-lowland-coastal ecosystems was not captured. The design, however, did focus on key environmental concerns that impacted on people's livelihoods: (i) over-exploited land resources, farmed in a haphazard manner, resulting in degradation and loss of soil fertility, affecting production and incomes; and (ii) depleted fish stocks from over-fishing and use of destructive methods and practices, resulting in damage to marine and water resources.

A pilot scheme to address concerns of vulnerable households was introduced in 2003, and expanded in 2005. The credit sub-component of the project was not implemented for three years, the design not being suitable to the needs of the project beneficiaries given the stringent lending policies of the Land Bank of the Philippines'(LBP - the implementing agency), and reluctance of credit conduits to participate in the credit program. Changes recommended by studies commissioned by the government to address the problem were not implemented.

Overall performance. By June 2007, the project achieved or exceeded practically all quantitative targets, apart from some infrastructure provision. Initial project start-up was delayed pending resolution of project management issues (para.18 below), while performance up to mid 2004, when the project was originally due to be completed, was slow. The project has been extended by three years. Over 9,300 poor farmer households and almost 2,400 poor fishermen households have directly benefited, including nearly 3,400 vulnerable households. Nearly 9,000 households are involved in the process of enterprise development. The draft Project Completion Report (PCR) states that households' income increased by 50 per cent to 75 per cent over six years. However, based on a survey conducted by the project in 2007, average annual income of beneficiaries has increased by about 38 per cent since 2005. This was largely due to higher farm incomes, attributable to the beneficiaries' adoption of new agricultural technologies under the project.

Community and institutional development. Involved the mobilization and participation of the community in the identification of development needs and in the prioritization of interventions responsive to the needs of the community. Targets for assisting community organizations were exceeded, and several innovative practices introduced are now considered as good practice. Local Government Units' (LGU) capacity was strengthened and partnerships developed with line agencies. The objective of improved community capacity to plan programs and access funds for the communities' priority projects was achieved.

Natural resource management. In land resource management, over 9,000 farmers were trained in appropriate farming technologies; nearly 8,000 adopted the technologies, conserving approximately 2,405 hectares. Project activities focused on conservation or regeneration of natural resources, new farming technologies reducing production costs and integrating short-term production (crop and animal) and long gestation crops in farming systems. They addressed nutrition, food security, environment protection, and improved productivity. Technologies introduced have been socially and culturally acceptable; training was provided to improve para-technicians' capabilities in transferring technology to other farmers in the community. If more beneficiary barangays had been contiguous, then benefits from the new technologies may have spread more widely.

In marine and water resource management, over 2,300 fishermen were trained in appropriate technologies, such as coastal resource management with built-in environmental protection features. Mangroves were rehabilitated, and artificial coral reefs installed; 289 hectares of municipal waters have been delineated and declared as Marine Sanctuary. The Marine Protected Areas, artificial reefs, and mangrove rehabilitation had positive effects on the marine environment and fish populations.

Indigenous people. The project in partnership with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) helped security of land tenure, facilitating the award of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADCs), and conversion to title (CADT).

Rural infrastructure. Slippage and time over-runs of infrastructure sub-projects occurred due to delay in fund releases, and to LGUs' absorptive capacity. Many sub-projects have not been completed, with over 40 not started; 12 sub-projects will be cancelled. Maintenance is a concern for some of the roads, which are beyond barangay capabilities. Sub-projects were chosen through community consultation meetings as part of preparation of the barangay development plans; however they were not then specifically reviewed to determine their feasibility and environmental viability.

Small enterprise development.  Overall numerical targets were achieved, but there is no evidence that beneficiaries are consistently engaged in enterprises and making reasonable returns, nor that effective government and private research and advisory services for on- and off-farm enterprises were successfully established. The LGUs and Non Governmental Organisation (NGO)s lacked capacity in business advisory services, and interventions did not produce desired results; only a few enterprises have potential. Few beneficiaries availed of credit, with low repeat credit availment. The savings and credit approach, however, was a positive project achievement.  Efforts to redesign the credit component did not materialize. Credit operations moved forwards towards the end of the project, but the project no longer had resources to provide advisory support.

Gender equality and mainstreaming. The proactive approach to include women in barangay and livelihood activities was very evident, with women's associations being formed in all project sites. However, instead of balancing and harmonizing roles of men and women, the project approach resulted in a compartmentalized perspective of gender and development.

Conflict and peace building. Natural Resources Management (NRM) partner agencies, NGOs-People's Organizations (POs), civil society and the armed forces converged in efforts to achieve the project objectives. The armed forces cooperated with civil society in the protection of the Buluan Fish Sanctuary. Support was extended by "leftist" elements in Zamboanga del Norte. In Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay, Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) eaders assisted in maintaining environmental protection of marine sanctuaries, even involving lawless elements (pirates) and the Abu Sayaf.  

Project implementation was slow. Initially there was an impasse between Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and IFAD on the role of NGOs in project management that took 18 months to resolve. In 2003, DAR conducted a comprehensive review of progress and processes and identified implementation problems and measures to address them. In late 2003, WMCIP was mainstreamed into regular activities of DAR Region IX. Withdrawal application processes were slow, resulting in project implementation delays. This seriously affected operations in 2006, and particularly infrastructure projects. DAR and the Project Management Office (PMO) have developed an exit strategy plan designed to ensure sustainability of activities after the WMCIP project is closed.

The project area is part of a conflict zone, which together with the widely scattered location of project sites, presented problems for implementation and supervision. This was not conducive for efficient and effective project management and supervision, and must be recognized as a constraint in operating in such areas. 

Relevance. The project is very relevant to the needs of the beneficiaries and to IFAD's strategic objectives and targeting in the Philippines. It is in line with the priorities of the Government in meeting the basic needs of the poor as embodied in the MTPDP and the Social Reform Agenda, the framework for poverty alleviation. However, the credit program had deficiencies, while the targeting of three different beneficiary groups added to management difficulties of an already complex project – the credit and coastal communities' components could have been excluded.

While the project was targeted at poverty reduction in one of the poorest parts of the Philippines, it recognized that increasing inequality and persistent poverty are concerns for future stability and is thus highly relevant to the needs of conflict-affected communities. It addressed two key objectives of IFAD's crisis prevention and recovery policy: (i) a proactive approach to addressing deep-rooted causes, such as land security and access to resources, services and opportunities; and (ii) a focus on institutional development at the rural level, enhancing local ability to respond to shocks resulting from civil strife and conflict.

Effectiveness and efficiency. The project goal was accomplished, nearly 22,000 households benefiting by June 2007. Physical accomplishments exceeded targets. Incomes increased, but generally remain below the poverty threshold. The small enterprise development and credit component, however, was not very effective. Resource use on most components was good, with almost all loan funds likely to be utilised before project closing, but the three year project extension enabled this.

Performance of partners. IFAD, UNOPS and the government and its agencies performed satisfactorily. IFAD was constrained by having no field presence, and supervision was handled by UNOPS, but IFAD staff should have participated in the Mid-term Review (MTR) field mission. UNOPS fielded well qualified supervision missions and their reports addressed major concerns and provided clear recommendations for actions, with respective responsibilities.

However, for the first half of the project life, UNOPS project personnel changed - there was little consistency of knowledge on project progress during this period, and no follow up on recommendations between missions. The government and its partner agencies have complied with loan covenants and implemented most recommendations of the supervision missions.  Initially project implementation progress was slow, but improved after the project was mainstreamed in DAR in late 2003.

Mainstreaming has raised the likelihood of sustainability. The performance of different NGOs was not consistent, with varying levels of capabilities and experience.  LBP and the Local Participating Credit Institution (LPCI) fulfilled their responsibilities, but LBP could have been more proactive in addressing credit design weaknesses.

Project impacts

Poverty impacts. Overall the project's impact on rural poverty was satisfactory, with improvements in physical and human assets, social capital and empowerment. Agricultural productivity and food security improved. The project had positive impacts on environment, but limited impact on creation of financial assets and in marketing. The project contributed to institutional strengthening at local levels and had a satisfactory impact on policy advocacy.

Sustainability and ownership. Sustainability of WMCIP community-initiated projects and activities is dependent on the capabilities of individual beneficiaries, barangay communities, POs and cooperatives. Capacity building takes time, and will need the continued support of LGUs and other agencies. Mainstreaming activities into regular provincial and regional programs, and continued provision of support activities, is essential for sustainability. DAR has already mainstreamed many activities into its own operations and has indicated it will continue to provide such support and act as the coordinating agency for other government agencies. Partner agencies have also indicated their commitment to the mainstreaming arrangements set out in the WMCIP exit strategy. WMCIP is thus potentially sustainable, with DAR taking a lead proactive role. However, maintenance of some of the rural infrastructure, and particularly farm to market roads, is beyond the capabilities of barangays and will require LGU technical and financial help. Many of the collective enterprises and other agri-business enterprises may not be sustainable due to the absence of effective advisory services. Neither the LGUs nor NGOs have the capability to provide this.

The participatory planning and social empowerment processes of WMCIP were critical in generating ownership of project activities by communities and beneficiaries, which will help in sustainability. DAR and some LGUs, such as the Zamboanga del Norte Provincial LGU, have taken a very active involvement and appear committed to continue their support.

Innovation, replication and scaling up. WMCIP adapted proven procedures for the Community and Institutional Development (CID) component; innovative NRM technologies were adopted, some of which have already been scaled up. But to enhance replication and scaling-up, agricultural production should move beyond subsistence farming practices and be more entrepreneurial – most of the livelihood projects have been on a backyard-scale, with few incentives for innovation. The project was not able to implement a replicable agri-business and market-oriented strategy.

Conclusions and recommendations

Performance Ratings of the WMCIP Project

Evaluation criteria

Evaluation ratings

Project performance








Overall project performance


Rural poverty impact


Physical assets


Food security


Agriculture productivity


Environment and natural resources


Human assets


Financial assets


Social capital and empowerment


Institutions and services




Overall rural poverty impact


Other performance criteria


Sustainability and ownership


Innovation, replication, scaling up


Performance of partners








Government and its agencies


Overall project achievement


Source: IFAD Evaluation Mission 2007

Overall performance of the WMCIP was highly relevant, targetting the poor, and was successful in meeting its targets, although implementation was slow. The project targeted the poorest in 81 barangays in the four provinces; inclusion from 2003 of vulnerable households significantly enhanced outreach and distribution of benefits. Incomes increased, and significant changes at the household level are evident, although poverty remains prevalent. Crop and fisheries production has led to diversification that has improved food security and nutrition intake. Capacity building has been substantial at barangay and LGU levels, with partnerships developed for supporting development activities. The small enterprise development and credit component was not successful. 

WMCIP's focus on indigenous people, and the inclusion of the small grant component - Support Project for the Indigenous Cultural Communities MNLF in the Zone of Peace within the Agrarian Reform Communities (SPICCnZPARC) that addressed concerns of the marginalized ex-combatants, highlights the depth of WMCIP engagement. Most barangays included are within conflict areas (leftist and Islamic groups). It was reported to the evaluation team that WMCIP was "brave" to have worked in these areas and in developing partnerships with its varied stakeholders. WMCIP clearly focused on the Millennium Development Goals of poverty and hunger, gender and equality and empowerment of women, and environmental sustainability. It addressed IFAD's overarching goal of enabling the rural poor to overcome poverty.

While WMCIP has been partly successful, much remains to be accomplished, with some infrastructure and livelihood initiatives still under implementation. The level of poverty at project commencement was high, and while incomes have increased, poverty remains below the threshold in many barangays. However, initiatives are in place in both natural resources and small enterprise development that provide a basis for further development to help increase incomes and improve livelihoods. Capacity at barangay and LGU level has been improved. Agency sustainability mechanisms have been established to help take the WMCIP initiatives further. A follow-on program is needed to take advantage of, and build on this.

Lessons learned and issues arising

The evaluation identifies several significant lessons/issues which have a bearing both on the future of WMCIP, and similar projects that might be pursued. Some of these relate to project design, and particularly the context within which the design is developed, others to project management and implementation, while specific issues have arisen over the enterprise development and credit component. These have been taken into account in the recommendation and sub-recommendations set out below.


IFAD activities should continue to support development in upland areas where poverty remains persistent and IFAD has experience. In particular, it will be desirable to continue working in the WMCIP upland areas of Zamboanga Peninsula 1. This recommendation could be part of a future IFAD-funded project covering two or three other upland regions in the Philippines. Its objectives would be to strengthen ongoing WMCIP activities, address its weaknesses, and help ensure sustainability of benefits. Requirements of coastal communities are different, and thus should be handled under a different project to ensure the required developmental results of those involved in artisanal fisheries.

If IFAD and the Government subsequently decide to undertake a future project focusing on upland areas such as in WMCIP areas then, the following sub-recommendations should be taken into account. These are grouped under recommendation 1.1 clarity of design, recommendation 1.2 project organisation and management, and recommendation 1.3 specific project components and implementation.

Recommendation 1.1 - Clarity of Design

Integrate the principles of a watershed and landscape approach to Natural Resource Management (NRM). For this it is recommended that:

  • In order to promote better control and accountability over resource destructive activities and the flow of positive benefits between communities (e.g. less siltation and improved water quality) within the project area, future interventions should work in a more limited geographic area.  Future interventions should be limited to headwater areas incorporating the principles of a landscape approach (see next bullet) considering downstream effects, but limiting implementation or support to critical uplandreas.
  • Within the upland areas, targeting of project sites should be to the extent possible contiguous for better environmental benefits and incorporate the principles of a landscape approach, which integrates social, cultural, and environmental concerns with the management of the land area, but with special care taken of the possibilities of environmental disturbances beyond the control of the project.
  • A locus for intervention in terms of geographic coverage and beneficiary needs has to be clearly identified during design of a potential second phase - together with the corresponding institutional considerations for the development of improved monitoring and supervision and implementation support arrangements.

Specify more accurately the target groups. Aligned with the Government of the Philippines (GOP) development thrusts and directions, the project design should be in line with the IFAD targeting policy and clear on the poverty level of the targeted groups, and whether to include the enterprising poor and vulnerable groups. WMCIP had a selection guide for vulnerable households and during implementation these were integrated with the KALAHI (Linking Arms to Fight Poverty) program priorities of the National Anti-Poverty Commission at the barangay and municipal level. This approach was useful and should be considered in the design of future projects.

Improved integration of components. In WMCIP, the different project components had impacts on the effectiveness of succeeding components.  For example, technologies under Component 2 had a high rate of adoption of innovations, this being partly attributed to a high rate of awareness resulting from the social preparation initiatives under Component 1. However the links between components 2 and 3 were not as strong (i.e. poor Small Enterprise Development Component (SEDC)). Also, the integration was not consistent across all project areas.  As such, any future operation should build on and improve the implementation of the approach adopted in WMCIP to ensure improved integration and sequencing of components and activities.

Enhance the government's participation in the design process.  In line with the evolving operating model within IFAD, future project design should involve the country program management team (CPMT) and enhance the participation of government, in all levels, in order to improve country ownership, relevance, and partnership.

Recommendation 1.2 - Project organisation and management

Mainstreaming for sustainability. Activities should be mainstreamed into regular regional and provincial operations of all agencies and sustainability instituted from project onset1 . In this regard, clear coordination mechanisms between partner agencies should be established. NRM in particular cuts across institutional mandates of several agencies, and the project design and logical framework should be clear on inputs, activities and expected outputs and impact. To enhance project mainstreaming, coordination mechanisms between the IFAD and the GOP/Executing Agency should be in line with the institutional set ups negotiated and agreed in the project loan agreement, based on a transparent assessment of the needs of the project and the existing institutional capabilities. Clarity of responsibilities is also important if the project covers parts of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as well as Region 9 (e.g. in Basilan).

Project management in conflict zones. Project execution and supervision and implementation support mechanisms need to be flexible, given the constantly changing security circumstances in the region. For example, reliance on local agencies may be necessary. Project management staff must be able to work with and communicate across the varied different groups in conflict areas: at local levels, being indigenous to the area or of the same ethnic group would be advantageous.

Increased IFAD visibility. IFAD needs to make its presence felt more widely during project execution, for example, by ensuring that its policy priorities and declarations (e.g. related to indigenous people) remain areas of focus throughout the project life cycle and undertaking direct supervision and implementation support including participation of the field presence officer.  The continuation of direct supervision and the strengthening of the field presence officer are contingent on available resources allocated within the wider framework of IFAD activities related to field presence and direct supervision.

Screen community initiatives: New community infrastructure projects, while continuing to be selected in a participatory manner by communities, should also be screened by the project for technical and environmental feasibility. Project appraisal mechanisms to ensure objective review and approval of infrastructure projects should be established.

Recommendation 1.3 - Specific Project Components and Implementation

Resources and environment

  • Mindanao conflict and regulation of resource use. Control and development of the region's lands and natural resources has contributed to the Mindanao conflict, particularly in terms of the inequitable use/control of resources. WMCIP made initiatives in peace and development, such as peace zones formation in Basilan, peace process consultation between the government and a splinter local rebel group from the Communist Party of the Philippines, and some training in conflict sensitivity and peace building. Future projects must recognize and support the dynamics of tri-communities (Muslim, Christian and Indigenous Peoples) in conflict areas by bringing these partners together to resolve conflicts and manage natural resources.  This good practice from WMCIP should be continued as conflicts around natural resource use are intrinsically anchored in the diversity of ethnicity, religion and socio-economic and cultural knowledge, structures and practices.
  • Environment. The influx of mining activities within the four provinces poses a clear threat to the sustainability of WMCIP and needs to be kept under review. If there is no IFAD follow on intervention, as part of the mainstreaming, DAR, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and relevant LGU should be involved in this review.
  • Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADCs).  Based on the WMCIP experience working with three communities to Convert their CADCs to Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs)3 , there are two pressing issues that affect the concern for Indigenous People and should be incorporated into future activities; (i) financing of Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plans; and (ii) organizing other IP groups within the region to formally file their respective CADC where viable under Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

Capacity Building

  • Community development (i) Financial support by Municipal Local Government Unit (MLGUs) should be continued for the CDVs to support POs and development work in barangays, in coordination with the Sangguniang Pambarangay (Barangay Council). The financial management capabilities of officers of People's Organizations, Farmers/Fishermen's Associations and Cooperatives should be further enhanced and include provisions for assessing the economic viability of proposed investment activities. In addition, assistance should be provided in establishing market linkages.
  • LGU capacity development. (i) Continue training and technical support to Municipal and Provincial LGU personnel in monitoring and evaluation; and (ii) Continue support to LGUs in assessing and updating of the Sustainable Barangay Development Plans responsive to the emerging needs of the barangays and for fund mobilization.
  • Line agency support and partnership. (i) Line agencies should continue providing technical support to community organizations in pursuing NRM, livelihood and marketing and credit; (ii) Linkage of ongoing and new programs using existing structures such as Barangay Development Team/ Municipal Development Team and Barangay Infrastructure Monitoring Board should be pursued to ensure continuity of institutional development (and avoid duplication) in the identification and implementation of projects funded by other agencies.

Enterprise Development and Credit

  • Market-oriented approach. An integrated approach is needed covering production, processing and marketing, recognizing the importance of market linkages for the rural poor. Capacity-building and investment is needed in activities that are commercially viable in the market. NGOs may not have capabilities in enterprise development and business development services, and if used, need training.
  • Credit. A different credit modality should be sought with other government entities. This should take into account lessons learned from the evaluation of the previously IFAD-funded Rural Micro-Enterprise Finance Program and the recently launched Rural Micro-Enterprise Promotion Project (RuMEPP).  For example, RuMEPP's effort to use the credit funds as a deposit/guaranty in the Small Business Guaranty and Finance Corporation working in partnership with Micro-finance Institutions (MFIs) is a step in the right direction.
    If IFAD and the Government subsequently decide to undertake a future project in coastal areas then the recommendations under 2.1 coastal areas should be taken into account.

Recommendation 2.1 – Coastal areas – These recommendation are only relevant if there is a future intervention related to coastal issues.

Environment. If a follow on intervention continues to work in coastal areas, greater effort has to be made to enhance the involvement of the DA- Regional Field units and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, especially in regard to extending technical assistance to the various land and water resource management technologies.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) – complementarity of two laws, namely RA 7586 and RA 8550, affecting marine and coastal resource management and fisheries in National Integrated Protected Areas Systems (NIPAS), needs to be addressed. The Fisheries Code (RA8550) is more localized and operable at the Local Government Unit (LGU) level. NIPAS requires congressional approval across a vast stretch of protected areas.

1/ As this was an interim evaluation, a key question for the evaluation from the approach paper was whether or not a follow-up phase of the project should be pursued.  Thus, in addressing this question, the evaluation suggests the need for follow on activities.  The evaluation believes that there are opportunities to build on the stronger project activities and to help address some of its weaknesses in order to help ensure sustainability of benefits.  As with the CHARM project area, where IFAD has been involved for more than 20 years, the WMCIP upland areas are a challenging environment and a longer term perspective may be required to ensure impact and sustainability. 

2/ Specifically during design IFAD should consider: (a) the responsibilities between the regional directors and the project managers; (b) the role of other staff of the regional bureaus of the line departments vis-à-vis those who may need to be recruited on temporarily basis; and (c) how to deal with the issues around the implementation of convergence between different line departments (DA, DAR, DENR, etc). 

3/ See Table 1. The logical framework results chain from the PCR.



15 October 2009