I am part of a team at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) that is currently developing a survey-based tool to support the monitoring and evaluation of farm production sustainability, in alignment with the principles of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) and the SDGs, particularly SDG 2.4.1 on sustainable agriculture.
The tool is geared towards agriculture extension agents, project developers and implementers, and M&E practitioners. Its goal is to assess the sustainability of farm production in smallholder settings, help identify areas for improvement, and monitor change over time.
In view of the finalization of the tool, I would like to invite members, and particularly those of you involved in the collection, analysis and reporting of data related to agriculture, rural development and food security, to share comments and experience on the following:
1.Striking a balance between depth and length of assessment: monitoring and assessment exercises based on interviews and farm surveys can put significant burden on respondents, for example diverting time that would be otherwise allocated to other activities. Respondent fatigue due to lengthy interviews/surveys can also result in lower quality of data collected, and therefore in lower reliability of results. On the other hand, a shorter assessment may result in a level of depth that is insufficient to design effective interventions.
- How can the burden on smallholder farmers be reduced during M&E assessments?
- What are the best ways to incentivize farmers to take part in the survey (e.g. non-monetary incentives, participation in survey tailoring, in presentation of results)?
2. Making findings from M&E assessments useful to farmers: considering the burden on farmers resulting from M&E exercises, it is key to ensure results are meaningful and accessible to them. This is in fact an explicit objective of the M&E tool we are developing. The assessment seeks to provide an indication of sustainability strengths and weaknesses that can be used by e.g. extension agents to help farmers identify targeted practices that can increase overall sustainability of production.
- Based on your experience, what could be the most effective ways to communicate results from the sustainability assessment to farmers (e.g. field visits and peer learning, technical information workshop)? What kind of communication materials (e.g. briefs, leaflets, others) are most appropriate to support knowledge sharing events?
- Do you have experience in comparing results among farmers in a participatory way? What method have you used to do this? Was it effective?
- How can the results be used for non-formal education of farmers (e.g. to raise awareness and/or build capacity on ways to increase farm sustainability)?
Given the specific expertise of the EvalForward community in applied M&E processes, we welcome members that are interested in taking part to the review of the tool to reach out with a brief message outlining their current affiliation and area of expertise to: Reuben.Sessa@fao.org and David.Colozza@fao.org