Development Cooperation Handbook/Designing and Executing Projects/The problem tree

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While identifying the problems and the solutions in international development cooperation is advisable to use the tool called the problem tree and the objective tree. The problem tree moves top downwards, identifying first the major problem, then the factors that determine these problems and then the causes of these factors. The objective tree moves bottom upwards, first identifying the outputs that would directly address the causes of the factors and then identifying the specific objectives that directly address the causes of these factors.)

Problem Tree

The activities that project teams carry out must produce outputs that will empower project beneficiaries to better interact with their communities and utilize project deliverables to achieve the project outcomes These outcomes will enable the communities to tackle the problems identified and produce changes in the factors generating these problems, thereby contributing to the achievement of the project objectives To make the project successful, it is necessary that project teams understand the requirements, needs and problems of the beneficiaries and that the beneficiaries understand the requirements, needs and problems of the communities. If the project team has correctly understood the needs and problems of the target beneficiaries, they will be able to utilise the outputs to empower beneficiaries, i.e. move from outputs to outcomes If the project beneficiaries have correctly understood the needs and problems of the communities, they will be able to empower communities, i.e. move from outcomes to impact Without active contribution of beneficiariers, project ouputs will not be utilised to achieve project outcomes Without active contribution of commmunities, beneficiariers will not be able to utilise outcomes to achieve impact.


The problem tree moves top downwards, identifying first the major problem, then the factors that determine these problems and then the causes of these factors.

The objective tree moves bottom upwards, first identifying the outputs that would directly address the causes of the factors and then identifying the specific objectives that directly address the causes of these factors.

An example of problem tree from the Eugad project

See also[edit]

Issues icon.jpgNational Governments and International Organizations – their commitment to MDGs


Ezra Cornell's first book.jpg in other sections of this handbook