The Tonga Rural Innovation Project (TRIP) began in May of 2012 and has just recently reached its mid-point, with the project scheduled for completion in June of 2017.
In light of this timeline, and as part of agreed upon implementation reporting responsibilities, the lead implementing agency MORDI Tonga Trust (MORDI TT), together with the IFAD has just recently conducted a joint Mid-Term Review (MTR). The purpose is to review the performance of the TRIP and its progress in the achievement of the project objectives, with a view towards recommending changes or a reorientation that could faciliate project improvement.
The Midterm-Review was undertaken by a large team with representation from all major stakeholders related to the project. The Review included visits to project communities in the project areas in the island groups of 'Eua, Ha'apai, and Vava'u from the 29th of May to June the 34th, 2015. Main findings of the Mid-term Review were presented to the government of Tonga at a meeting of the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) chaired by the Ministry of Finance and National Planning on the 5th of June 2015 in Nuku'alofa.
The TRIP Midterm review covers the three main components of the project: Community Development, Business Developmentand Project Management. The MTR provides recommendations under each component and covers Fiduciary and Sustainability aspects of the project.
Main findings of the MTR:
*The TRIP has already achieved almost all of the outputs and outcomes it had set for itself at project design.
*The TRIP Community Development Component has two main output targets, they are the number of community development plans formulated and the number of sub-projects realised from the plans. TRIP has exceeded expectation and has achieved 118% and 73% of the targets for each output, respectively. Other outputs have also met expectations, including the ability of the project to mobilise other resources and the improvement of planning skills of 4000 adults and young people.
*The project appears very likely to exceed expectations with regards to the Community Development component's expected outcome of 'enhanced community capacity for sustainable planning and action'. The MTR found evidence that enhanced capacity for planning and action is widespread throughout the communities it visited. It was also found that the capacity and confidence amongst Town Officers and District Officers has been significantly enhanced. Overall, the project is making a significant contribution to improving local governance in the outer islands of Tonga through collaboration with local government and staff officials.
*The Government of Tonga has already requested that the project assist in scaling-up its work to increase outreach nationwide. Community developed plans have now been aggregated to make District Plans as well as Island Development Plans. These are consolidated documents that reflect people's needs, as defined in a fully participatory process. The review found that the project has had a major impact on policy and local governance through its collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
*The implementing agency, MORDI TT has a very dynamic management team, identifying and successfully implementing numerous other strategic partnerships with NGOs, the private sector, several development partners and other government agencies. These innovative initiatives have given communities access to a wide range of resources and opportunities for further development.
*The review noted challenges related to the design of the Business Development Component. There is limited demand for financing businesses in the outer islands and a lack of evidence that the access to grant funds is leading businesses to expand. The MTR recommends that the project re-programme the funds to component 1 where they would be more likely to achieve greater impact.
*With respect to the Project Management component, it was found that while project management is highly effective and results-oriented with respect to the achievement of intended outputs and outcomes, the project is facing significant challenges with respect to planning, reporting and administration. The MTR recommends the preparation of a Progress Report to record project progress to date, the finalisation of the Annual Workplace and Budget Procurement Plan for 2015-2016, and greater work ensuring monitoring and evaluation systems are fully implemented and monitored.
Overall, the conclusion of the MTR team show that partners, stakeholder, and community members experiences working with the project were overwhelmingly positive. At its mid-point, TRIP it is having a major impact on rural communities and the institutions working with them, throughout Tonga.