An Independent Baseline Evaluation of the CommonSensing Project was published in June 2019. Using a mixed-methods approach, the baseline evaluation aimed to establish the project’s entry-level conditions on (a) climate information, (b) food security and agricultural production, (c) disaster risk reduction and (d) climate change. It included an in-depth analysis of documents and outputs produced in the first phase. The evaluation had several limitations, including:

  • Voluntary National Reviews not yet having been undertaken in two of the countries;
  • Communication challenges and lack of follow-up by key informants during data collection;
  • Shortcomings with data collection e.g. limited data on climate financing, data fragmentation between agencies and historical data were not disaggregated by gender or age group; and
  • Limited usage capacity of geospatial and remote sensing data.

Key Evaluation Findings

Climate Information

The evaluation found that the level of technical expertise to use geospatial and remote sensing technologies is limited and varies across the three countries. The survey results show that 60% of the respondents feel that Fiji has adequate technical expertise. Limited data available tends to be fragmented due to the lack of an effective coordination mechanism. While there are several initiatives in all three countries to address the impact of climate change and natural disasters, these initiatives are project-based reliant on external funding and of limited duration.

The geospatial and remote sensing equipment are reportedly outdated and there is no common platform for sharing climate information. The limitations associated with the technical expertise and equipment contribute to the less frequent use of geospatial data for strategic planning. Some 19% of the survey respondents thought that geospatial data is regularly used for strategic planning. On the other hand, overall, 17% of the respondents (Fiji 20%, Solomon Islands 19% and Vanuatu 9%) felt that geospatial and remote sensing data are used regularly for decision-making in their organizations.

Food Security

The evaluation found that all three countries are highly vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, and drought. Food security continues to be a major challenge. More than 80% of the stakeholders who responded to the online survey expressed that food production is a major concern and is significantly affected by natural disasters.

With the severe impact of climate change, the dietary energy supply will further decrease. An average value of food production during 2015-2017 has doubled in all three countries since 2004-2006 on average, but the level of increase in Solomon Islands and Fiji is much smaller compared to Vanuatu and Samoa. Likewise, per capita, food production variability is 16-19% higher for Fiji and Vanuatu, partly because of the difference in the composition of food production mix among the countries.

Disaster Risk Reduction

The evaluation found that 88% of the survey respondents were very concerned about the exposure to economic loss/damage due to multi-hazards (e.g. cyclones), and 12% were somewhat concerned. All three project countries and Samoa have adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and have integrated the framework in their national development and disaster risk reduction (DRR) plans. However, the lack of adequate domestic funding and trained human resources in required numbers continue to pose a major challenge to integrate and implement the framework fully. In most cases, budgetary allocations are along with the sector-specific activities which lack adequate coordination at the national level.

Climate Finance

The evaluation found that the three project countries have been successful in raising funds to address climate change and disaster risk reduction. However, the efforts are mostly at the sector level and are not coordinated. As a result, it is difficult to ascertain the actual amount of climate finance available and utilized. While the definition of climate finance is broad, the understanding among different agencies tends to vary because of ambiguities on fund utilization. Data on the use of geospatial and remote sensing information in accessing climate fund is not available. Ninety-three per cent of the baseline stakeholder survey respondents believed that the CommonSensing Project would help them in accessing more funds., Respondents also felt that their knowledge about accessing climate finance was less than satisfactory. Countries have heavily relied on external funding for climate action due to limited internal funding constraints. Furthermore, due to weak implementation capacity, the available climate funds tend not to be used.

Theory of Change

The evaluation finds that the theory of change for the project is well developed, but it would benefit from clarity in identifying the horizontal linkages across all activities, outputs and outcomes. Also, it would be helpful to demonstrate linkages among all work packages under the project. Furthermore, the theory of change needs to consider common operational realities in the three project countries which would have an impact on project activities, outputs and outcome.

Key challenges facing the project implementation

  • limited time available;
  • limited number of qualified technical experts;
  • the preparation of the application for climate finance from external sources is a time-consuming process; and
  • Climate change initiatives are mostly project based and lack synergies in implementation.

Recommendations

  • Establish an inter-agency technical working group;
  • Incorporate activities in the project design to create a master database of ODA funding;
  • Support the national agencies in accessing relevant data for mapping;
  • Support countries to maintain gender-disaggregated records;
  • Support a social network group of GIS/remote sensing specialists;
  • Continue to conduct awareness-raising for key planners and decision-makers;
  • Update Theory of Change;
  • A lighter midline evaluation; and
  • Expand list of stakeholders.