Evaluation of the Ylang value chain – Improved Distillation programme

In March 2019, a team led by Pierre JOHNSON, international consultant, with Wassilati MBAE, expert of the Comoros ylang ylang value chain, conducted the evaluation of the 2nd phase of the FY-DAFE programme (2016-2019) of the NGO Initiative Développement, with funding by the French Development Agency, and the French Facility for Global Environment and other backers. This evaluation concluded on the relevance, effectiveness and sustainability of the project in its main objectives, and made recommendations for the third and final phase of the programme (2019-2021).

Context and programme goals

The Comoros Islands, situated northwest of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, is the world’s leading producer and exporter of the best available quality of ylang-ylang essential oil, an important resource for employment and export revenues. Eighty percent of the production and distillation of the flowers is concentrated in the island of Anjouan, particularly affected by development challenges (demography, rural poverty, accelerated deforestation). Little known to consumers, the distillation of essential oils requires significant energy resources, which in developing countries is usually provided by wood. Distillation equipment traditionally used in the Comoros and Madagascar is energy-intensive and dangerous for the operators’ health.

During its first phase (2013-2016), the NGO developed and disseminated through the FY-DAFE programme a model of improved distillation units with a fuel-saving oven (Unités de distillation améliorées à foyer autonome, or UDAFE) in order to reduce the pressure on the wood resource. The second phase of the programme (2016-2019) focused on extending the programme, training the actors, and structuring the value chain according to a fair, competitive and sustainable model. Indeed, one of the lessons of the programme is the limits of a purely technical approach to distillation relying solely on prototyping new, more efficient versions and their dissemination.

Unités de distillation aux Comores

The technical approach is necessary, but the relationships between the different categories of actors, their education level and the distribution of added value largely determine the possibilities of a sustainable, competitive and fair development of the value chain. Training and facilitating a dialogue and consultation process among the different categories of actors in the value chain were also the focus of several components of the programme. The process took several forms under FY-DAFE 2. In addition to these actions in the ylang-ylang value chain, reforestation actions were initiated in a particular area of the island in partnership with Dahari, a Comorian civil-society organization.

Evaluation method and intervention rationale(s)

For this evaluation, we implemented a 360° evaluation approach, starting with a global diagnosis of the Comorian Essential Oil Improved Distillation value chain, and conducting a series of field surveys with stakeholders of the value chain, after reconstructing Initiative Développement’s intervention rationale. Based on these surveys, we were able to rate each of the obtained results, following OECD criteria for development cooperation.

Reconstructing the intervention rationale made it possible to highlight the complementarity of three aspects of the programme: technical (the production and installation of UDAFE, technical training), environmental (reforestation, in partnership with Dahari) and facilitating change across the value chain. The latter component was unexpectedly but fruitfully expressed in a multifaceted way and included setting up a dialogue framework at the sector level, defining best practices for the sector with the NRSC,and implementing the Change Oriented Approach, a highly participatory process, in the Nioumakélé area. The results of these complementary processes, relatively porous to one another, turned out to be positive and sustainable. The programme has thus provided the foundation to build an ylang-ylang inter-branch organization under the aegis of the actors and the competent administrations.

The value chain study conducted by the evaluation team is based on the Value Links 2.0 approach and on an unprecedented and exclusive socio-anthropological analysis of the context of essential-oil production in Anjouan. This aspect of evaluation is innovative because the socio-cultural fabric that contributes to structuring the value chain is often ignored. It is however decisive here because of the importance of traditional relations. On the economic front, our study develops a typical distribution of income per type of actor (distiller, labourer, flower producer and flower picker), providing a basis for a fairer distribution of the added value and a better definition of selling prices at different points of the chain.

The evaluation

With the authorization of Initiative Développement, the main results of the evaluation, in the order of expected results of the FY-DAFE 2 programme, are presented as follows:

1. UDAFE component. The programme fully achieved its goals by installing 41 UDAFEs under the FY-DAFE 2 programme, 35 of which directly. As a result, pressure on the wood resource was reduced for every distillation unit. One hundred training courses, mainly technical, but also in entrepreneurship, were provided to more than eight hundred people. The evaluation team identified new and useful training areas, such as health and safety at work. The new UDAFE generations are successively more efficient in terms of energy efficiency, and their handling requires some support.

2. Reforestation component. The establishment of an effective partnership with Dahari, a local civil-society organization, laid the foundations for sustainable management of the wood energy resource. The wood-energy sector has yet to exist in Anjouan, and wood-energy supply plans for the distillation units remain to be developed. The ylang-ylang essential oil value chain is very dynamic, which raises the question of the sustainability of the wood energy resource despite the effectiveness of the UDAFE.

3. Technical training. Ninety percent of the target in terms of the number of distillers trained to improve the management of their business and the production of traceable quality essential oils has been achieved. Results in terms of the quality and traceability of the value chain are however still mixed.

4. Structuring the value chain progressively according to a fair, competitive and sustainable model is an important goal for the actors of the value chain and the project partners. The activities proposed by ID to achieve this evolved as the programme developed, to integrate the different processes described above. The results are positive and the implemented activities are relatively efficient, and certainly sustainable, thanks to the inclusiveness of the approach.

5. Valuation of the carbon emission reductions due to the project through the contemplated certification scheme did not have the expected result because of the gap between the participatory and progressive approach of the project and the metrics of the carbon certifiers.

Perception by the players involved

The field survey allowed us to compare various actors’ appreciation of the main expected results of the project. At this stage, distillers and exporters are those who have benefitted most from it. The component that was unanimously well appreciated was the one improving the energy efficiency of distillation, followed by the training of distillers and labourers, who valued the training, though a significant turnover prevented all those currently practicing to benefit from it. The results of the “sustainable supply chain” component must become more tangible for the actors in the sector beyond distillers and exporters, particularly for the labourers. The “wood energy resource” component is currently being developed in partnership with Dahari in an area of Anjouan, and will be extended and connected to the value chain in the next phase of the programme.


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