Documenting lessons for decision makers

Edith Fernandez Baca

By December 2015 the Mountain Ecosystem based Adaptation project in Peru (Mountain EbA) was implementing its final field activities before closing down at the end of March 2016. The project´s main objective had been to strengthen the skills and capacities –at the national, regional and local level- to implement ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) options and reduce communities’ vulnerability, with a particular emphasis on mountain ecosystems. At the same time it aimed at generating solid arguments for an EbA approach, both in scientific as well as in economic and practical terms, and in this way strengthening the countries’ capacity to design and implement EbA measures that will reduce the vulnerability of those living in mountainous areas.

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After almost three years and a half of work, four communities located in the Nor Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve (NYCLR) were now implementing EbA measures: Vicuña management in the wild and the commercialization of the fiber associated with community management of native prairies through the regulation of livestock and of livestock-related activities and conservation and restauration of existing hydrological infrastructure and water management. Likewise, strengthening of capacities to integrate climate change scenarios and select and implement EbA measures at local and sub-national (regional) levels had taken place.

The project team had now to decide how to showcase the evidence and lessons learnt from the project implementation. The team needed to come out with a document that fulfilled the expectations of the Ministry of Environment of Peru (MINAM), Focal Point to the project.  MINAM wanted a document that could be used as reference by decision-makers at regional or local level interested in implementing an EbA approach. The usual final report all projects prepare and that ends up gathering dust in a bookshelf was not an option. This meant the team had to be innovative.

Defining for whom, what and how to document
The project implementing partners and MINAM had a series of meetings to brainstorm and define who the end-users of this document would be and what the content of the document should be. It was decided that the target group would be in first place decision makers at local, sub-national and national level, and in second place project implementing partners, stakeholders, and the donor.  The experience capitalization process would focus on lessons learned using as a starting point the following question: What lessons have we learned regarding sustainability, replicability and scaling-up of EbA measures implemented in the communities to secure the provision of ecosystem services?

With the guiding question identified, the EbA team proceeded to plan the experience capitalization process. An expert consultant on experience capitalization came on-board to help the project team with the process and make sure we achieved the desired final product that aimed to be a guide for all those interested in the subject and in the implementation of similar measures.

Documenting lessons step by step
The capitalization process followed a series of steps to make sure the needed information was available:

  1. selection of documents and data sources;
  2. identifying the participants during the process;
  3. planning interviews with those who have been part of the project or who may provide information;
  4. planning one or more meetings or discussion workshops;
  5. identifying a group of potential case studies to show what has been achieved at different levels; and
  6. defining the process’ final product.

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A detailed review of all documents published by the project, including the initial proposal, the semi-annual or annual reports, the documents generated by the different organizations in charge of implementation, as well as its website was undertaken and a first outline and content of the document was prepared.

This outline was used as input in a face-to-face workshop that brought together implementing partners (UNDP : United Nations Development Programme ; UNEP: United nations Environment Programme; IUCN: International Union for Conservation of Nature and TMI: The Mountain Institute) and national level governmental partners (MINAM and the National Natural Protected Area Service-SERNANP) in Lima to discuss and reach a common understanding of the terms sustainability, replicability, upscaling and pertinence. Finally some initial lessons learned and recommendations under each of these different issues were identified. Generic lessons were left aside and the focus was put on discussing those lessons that were specific to the project and to EbA, analyzing why they gave additional value to this approach.

Data generated in this workshop served to define what type of information was still needed and who should be interviewed to collect it from. The workshop also served to establish what would go into the document. Aside from the description of the project, the importance of a climate change adaptation approach, the expected objectives and results, and the context (both local and national) in which it took place, a selection of case studies to illustrate each of the different aspects of the project through the opinions and testimonies of project participants would be included. Finally, based on all the information gathered, the experience would be analyzed against the selected parameters (sustainability, replicability and scaling-up), lessons would be extracted and recommendations drawn.

A list of people to interview was prepared and interview times coordinated. We needed to collect as much information possible in a week´s time. One advantage that this documentation had was that a capitalization process had already taken place in two of the communities where the IUCN and TMI had been in charge of implementing measures.  Interviews, case studies and a draft version of the final documentation for these two communities were available. This made the rest of the task a little bit easier and the use of time more efficient.

In the field the task was directed towards gathering information from the two remaining communities, the Reserve headquarters and park wardens and the sub-national partners at the Regional Governmental office. In Lima, representatives from MINAM and SERNANP as well as members of the implementing organizations were interviewed. All this information served to complete the picture that had been initially sketched with the project´s documents and publications with the testimonies and view of those directly participating in the project.

As mentioned in the final document itself, the process of gathering information and documenting developed with no major setbacks; maybe the only difficulty was not having enough time for more interviews or to consider more information. Time was an issue from the beginning given that we only had two and a half months before the official closing event where we would be handing out the systematization to key decision makers from different sectors and levels. However, the help and support of all members of the team to facilitate the information gathering was crucial to overcome this issue.

The resulting document is a dynamic, easy to read and the same time analytical document. It does not recount the project in detail; rather it complements what has already been published and disseminated by the project.


The EbA Project was financed by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the Federal German Government and implemented by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (UICN) in association with The Mountain Institute (TMI) as implementing partner.


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CTA is a joint institution operating under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement between the ACP Group of States (Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific) and the EU Member States (European Union). CTA is funded by the European Union.