As evaluators, we are often encouraged to collaborate early with projects and programmes, in order to establish baselines, for instance.
The Tool for Agroecology Performance Evaluation (TAPE) is a performance measurement tool that allows us to analyse the transition of agriculture systems towards agroecological practices. This blogpost aims to show how TAPE offers an opportunity for monitoring and evaluation (M&E) practitioners, as well as for programme and project managers, and can contribute to better evaluation of agroecological and related initiatives.
How TAPE works
Agroecology is a holistic and integrated approach to the design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems. It applies ecological and social concepts and principles and presents an overarching framework to guide public policies towards sustainable agriculture and food systems. The ten elements of agroecology are as follows: recycling; responsible governance; synergy; diversity; co-creation and sharing of knowledge; resilience; human and social values; culture and food tradition; efficiency; and circular and solidarity economy.
The TAPE tool can be used in the following steps, both at territorial and farm/household scale, to capture production- and food systems-level information:
Step 1 characterizes a farm or household’s overall sustainability using the 10 elements of agroecology. Quantifiable data for Step 2 are then collected for 10 core performance criteria and performance is assessed using a “traffic-light” system, whereby three sustainability levels – desirable, acceptable and unsustainable ‒ are considered for each sub-indicator.
The final step of TAPE is a participatory analysis of the results (at farm, household or community/territory level), whereby the multidimensional performance (step 2) is reviewed in light of the level of transition to agroecology (step 1) and the context and enabling environment (step 0). Thus, TAPE uses a participatory and well-defined methodological approach to come up with its data and rankings and makes strong linkages between the farm/household and community/territory levels, with implications for governance.
How we can apply TAPE to evaluations
TAPE has the potential to provide valuable and diverse information that can feed into evaluations. The most relevant portion of TAPE for evaluators would be to utilize the results of the participatory analysis conducted in step 3. These results can be used as a baseline for assessing various evaluation questions, help pinpoint project interventions or even help to develop the questions in the first place. It also ties in with the outcome harvesting approach in evaluation, allowing evaluators to reliably identify and assess intervention outcomes in complex settings.
TAPE can also be used:
- to diagnose and compare the performance of different agricultural systems over time, at farm and territorial level. It can thus support the re-orientation of public investment towards more sustainable agricultural and food systems.
- in evaluations associated with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to inform assessments of achievements and to address sustainable agriculture in the context of the SDGs. This includes SDG indicators such as 2.4.1 (sustainable agriculture), 1.4.2 (land rights) and 8.6.1 (biodiversity). TAPE was already assessed and discussed in the evaluation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) support for SDG2 and served as an input to the assessment of SDG2.4.1.
- in evaluating climate change-related interventions in agriculture, making direct use of TAPE’s advanced “climate change mitigation” criterion.
Say that, in a given project, a TAPE assessment found that youth had very limited access to jobs, training and education and favoured migration from agricultural workforce areas. Seeing this result can flag to evaluators that they should pay attention to issues surrounding youth in the project evaluation. Using a TAPE assessment, provided it is well done and comprehensive and representative of the project interventions, can aid evaluators in understanding the complex situation at hand. Similarly, TAPE’s “women’s empowerment” assessment can provide a useful baseline for developing evaluation questions on gender.
Evaluators can also use TAPE directly as a secondary data source in answering evaluation questions. For instance, the “productivity” criterion can provide inputs to answer evaluation questions on effectiveness, provided that the TAPE assessment was also conducted to assess how productivity changed during the intervention in question.
TAPE can further be used longitudinally for baseline data collection, to help pinpoint project interventions based on data and for mid-term and endline data collection to measure change, transition and project efficacy.
An ideal case for using TAPE in project/programme evaluation is when it is already integrated into the project or programme design with sufficient sampling methodology and inference space. In cases where TAPE is conducted only on a number of farms, communities and/or territories of a project or programme under evaluation (so not fully built into the project/programme itself), these can potentially be used as case studies or samples. However, here, the evaluators must first consider the issues of self-selection bias or a non-representative sample.
A practical case
In Mozambique, TAPE was used in the evaluation of Global Environment Facility project results. TAPE indicated that the beneficiaries of the project could advance in their transition to agroecology across all 10 elements, particularly in terms of the co-creation and sharing of knowledge on agroecological practices. In this evaluation, counterfactuals (non-participating households) were added to assess the difference made by the project.
We would like to invite the EvalForward community to participate, via the comments section below, on their experience evaluating the sustainability (environmental and socioeconomic) of agricultural programmes.
Do you think the TAPE tool could be useful in M&E for your projects and programmes?
The author thanks the team behind TAPE at FAO - Abram Bicksler, Anne Mottet and Dario Lucantoni for their inputs, documentation and collaboration on this blog post. Carsten Schwensen of the Nordic Consulting Group also provided important feedback in conceptualizing how TAPE could benefit project and programme evaluations.
Information in the section on How TAPE works is from the TAPE documentation and guidelines.