Interview: “communities are not only beneficiaries, they are also allies…”

The Tenure Facility is constantly exploring new ways to capture the impact of its partners’ work. Here the Tenure Facility’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Manager Raymond Samndong takes us deeper, and explains what progress was made in 2020.

Why is Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation (MEL) such an important element of the Tenure Facility’s work?

MEL is integral to our mission. We are interested in harvesting the results that the projects are delivering in the field, and in learning from these results.  Also, how we can share them with broader audiences who are working in the land and forest sector, to better understand the important role that Indigenous Peoples play in different ecosystem services, as well as issues related to climate change, biodiversity and food security, and land governance. It also helps with adaptive management, to identify which direction we are taking, whether it is right, what the context is, and whether we are meeting our targets. We learn and can adapt our intervention in the right way. Another very important reason for MEL is that it helps us to understand the perspectives of rights holders, Indigenous Peoples, the communities, the beneficiaries. We need to understand their perspective and values, how we can better capture their ways of doing things, their traditional knowledge, and integrate it.


Is capturing and incorporating the perspectives of the communities we work with part of what makes the Tenure Facility different?

Yes, understanding their perspectives, giving them a chance to be part of the decision-making, is really, really important. This is an added value, and this is what makes the Tenure Facility different. It’s not top down, rather it’s a bottom-up driven development, where the communities are not only beneficiaries, they are also allies, engaged in making it work – because they’ve been doing this for generations, it’s just been difficult to capture the value of what they are doing until recently.


How has MEL been able to evolve in 2020?

2020 has been very challenging and unprecedented. However, with advances in technology, we’ve been able to adapt to provide meaningful support for our partners. We’ve been doing virtual workshops and learning – we’ve been making sure we integrate MEL with technology to create the space to work virtually. A lot has been achieved, with training and capacity development for the partners, supporting them to develop their systems, to develop their monitoring plans, to revise their log-frame, and to develop their baseline data. There have however been some challenges, even with the technology – some of our partners operate in areas with very poor connection and limited power, and some of them haven’t been very used to using these platforms, so it’s been a learning process for them as well.

"We are working with our partners to build their technical capacity when it comes to project implementation and monitoring and evaluation, so we’ve identified solutions to support and strengthen them to capture their results in the most meaningful and effective way,"

- Raymond Samndong, head of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, Tenure Facility

How does the Tenure Facility support its partners to collect data?

We are working with partners to build their technical capacity when it comes to project implementation and monitoring and evaluation, so we’ve identified solutions to support and strengthen them to capture their results in the most meaningful and effective way.  We developed a MEL guide for the partners, which supports them in how to build their MEL system, providing them lots of different ways to monitor their projects in the field. The guide has been designed in a pedagogical fashion, using simple language, where we’ve tried to break down technical concepts with examples which the partners would be familiar with, to illustrate what we’re talking about. There’s a lot of annexes in the guide which provide extra material for the partners, which they can draw on. We’re also open to the partners telling us what challenges they face, so that we can support them in the best way.


What does secure tenure look like, and how do we get there?

We have 13 projects running and they’re not all at the same level, and these projects are based on different tenure instruments (legal frameworks, and community perceptions of tenure security) in different countries. In each context there are different steps that communities have to go through to be granted rights to their communal lands. Based on these different steps, we have categorized four broad phases: the first step is community identification and consultation, which involves FPIC*. The second step is socio-technical mapping, because during the process there needs to be discussion, and sometimes there can be conflict between or within communities. The third phase is validation and submission. After validation by the government the community must submit their application. The last phase, recognition, is more political however, because it goes to the government’s political agenda, and at that level the communities have less control and influence, and the government has its own interests and priorities. It is important that we keep in mind that tenure is not just about having legal and formal recognition of territories. Titling is an important step in a process where we also need to add to communities’ capacity to manage their territory, to follow their own “planes de vida”* to ensure “buen vivir”*, or the durability of land rights, dignity and economic independence for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, given that they are the current protectors and stewards of the land.


How do you get over that last hurdle?

One way the Tenure Facility supports its partners to overcome political bottlenecks is to support the partners to engage with the government from the onset – the authorities have the duty to ensure the tenure rights of communities. We also involve the government in some trainings, because they sometimes lack capacity and have a limited knowledge of the regulatory framework and how they should implement their mandate. Our partners move one step ahead by building this relationship with the government, which gives the government a sense of purpose, encouraging them to support the cause, as well as crediting them as important actors in this work.


What happens with the data that is collected by our partners, and how will it be used moving forward?

Firstly, we use it in reporting the progress and achievements made in the different projects. Secondly, we use it for knowledge development, to scale up and advance indigenous and local community land tenure reforms, more widely. So, we try to share at a higher level. The learning component is very important to the way the Tenure Facility works. We need to demonstrate and disseminate different ways of securing tenure – the different tools we’ve developed, the different experiences we’ve faced and how we’ve overcome challenges, so others can build on our work.



 * FPIC: Free, Prior and Informed Consent is a specific right recognised in the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of  Indigenous Peoples (UNRIP) which allows them to give or withhold consent for any activities on their territories, as well as giving them rights to negotiate the conditions under which projects take place.

Planes de Vida: First adopted by the Misak People of Colombia, the Life Plan is a participatory approach to development planning placing shared culture at its heart, allowing communities to identify what they hold dear, and building for the future by remembering where they have come from.

Buen Vivir: A concept and lived practice which continues to evolve, it roughly translates as “collective well-being”, and champions a new model of ecological commons, that is community-centric, ecologically balanced and culturally sensitive.



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