Paul L. Mendy

Paul L. Mendy

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist
IFAD/AfDB/IsDB co-funded Gambia National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project - Nema Chosso
Gambia

More about me

I am a Gambian living and working in The Gambia.

I am passionate about nationalising the Evaluation Profession in The Gambia and playing a lead role in strentgthening the Gambia Evaluation Association.

I have more significant experience in M&E for international donor funded projects in The Gambia, within the agriculture and natural resources sector. Currently working as with the Nema PSU in the Gambia, which manages the implementation of the biggest multi-donor financed prgram by IFAD, AfDB and IsDB with counterpart funding by the Gambia Government.

Capacity building for M&E actors in any development initiative are critical for the achievement of national and global development goals.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for bringing on this topic.

      Indeed, I agree with you that one of the positives of the Covid-19 pandemic is that it allows for increased participation of local consultants in evaluation given travel restrictions on international consultants. The use of local consultants is without a doubt less financially costly. The increased opportunity for local consultants contributes to strengthening local capacity in evaluation. 

      In my case, in The Gambia, the project completion mission on the IFAD-funded National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project (locally called Nema Chosso) was held with a combination of both local and international consultants, where the latter carried out the onsite fieldwork and direct consultations with project beneficiaries, staff, and stakeholders, whilst the international consultants (with the exception of a couple from Dakar (Senegal) carried out their assignments (mainly desk review and virtual exchanges with the project team and local consultants). The arrangement provided consultancy opportunities for at least three local experts who would not have had the opportunity, otherwise. The quality of the outputs was considered very good, enriched by the mix of local and international expertise. I must hasten to add that the opportunity contributed greatly to enrich the capacity/skills of the local consultants through a friendly feedback mechanism which was put in place by the Team Leader. This was evident in the rather numerous comments/observations made on some of the reports prepared by the local consultants.

      The IFAD Country Director and team directly managed the assignment through the Consultants' Team Leader, who, fortunately, was based in Dakar like the IFAD Team for The Gambia. The Country Director reviewed agreed milestones of the assignment and recommended to the project when payments were due. Payments were done locally through the project's Special Account through Bank Cheques (for local consultants) and Transfers (for the international consultants).

      Thanks,

      Paul

       

    • Prof. Tinsley,

      I salute you for sharing a very interesting perspective on M&E reporting, which you refer to as "Appeasement Reporting" and how it promotes donor support but gravely compromises beneficiaries and the country's impact. Indeed, the concerns highlighted are fact in many cases albeit there are some situations where this might not so bad, thanks to a certain level of ethical considerations and social responsibility to the M&E profession and considerations for one's legacy.

      Several pieces of literature have discussed the need for effective inclusion of smallholders in value chain development models in the agriculture sector as a critical conduit for sustainable poverty reduction efforts. Devaux et al. (2018) lament weak linkages between value chain actors especially with the smallholder producers; Zylberberg (2013) on the absence of appropriate legal and policy especially to protect the smallholder in the value chain; Miller and Jones (2010) and Onyiriuba, Okoro and Ibe (2020) harp on the key challenge of limited access to agricultural financing; Helmsing and Vellema (2011) elaborate on the role of governance in value chain development, which I find critical in sustaining farmers' cooperatives. On models for inclusive smallholders, the cooperative society approach is one of several other approaches or models including but not limited to public-private partnership (PPP) and public-producer-private partnerships (4Ps) the latter being keenly promoted by IFAD. Wassie, Kusakari and Masahiro (2019) have key concerns over the potential for conflict and exclusion of the poor even in the cooperative society model, especially as relates to unequal access to land. The authors however acknowledge that cooperatives are viable, at least in improving the welfare of members.

      This thrust of my observation on your article on appeasement reporting is this: Whereas access to productive land is a challenge, it is important to note that the average method of calculating output distribution across the total membership of a cooperative is flawed, as the high tonnage of production and sales reported would have been driven by the few that have greater access to land. I think we need to factor as well that the cooperative members derive non-monetary benefits in terms of opportunities for group sales, bulking produce, storage, all of which offer increased chances to attract higher prices and avoid gluts in the market, thereby improving the welfare of members. Other latent benefits such as timely access to inputs on credit basis, legal protection through enabling legal and policy environment made possible by the engagement power of the cooperative with the policy decision-makers that be, also exist for members. In essence, I think there is more to measuring the impact of project innovations on beneficiaries than just units of production and sales of produce. There are also non-monetary benefits which when considered might just change perspectives.

      The fact remains, stringent criteria for M&E reporting and efforts to stay away from "Appeasement Reporting" are critical. Innovations exist that target inclusion of smallholders in value chain development but I agree that more needs to be done in this area, as sustained uptake and adoption after the project end remains an issue. This brings into consideration the need for exit strategies of projects and programmes to be inbuilt in the project design and to form part of negotiations and reflected in the Financing Agreements with clear exit actions, resource requirements and responsible actors specified including especially government ministries, departments and agencies. Where this is absent, as it is still absent, the likelihood of sustainability of project initiatives, innovations and impact remain challenged.

      Thanks again for your insights.

      Paul

       

      Reference

      Devaux, A. et al. (2018) ‘Agricultural innovation and inclusive value-chain development: a review’, Journal of Agribusiness in Developing and Emerging Economies. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 8(1), pp. 99–123. doi: 10.1108/JADEE-06-2017-0065

      Helmsing, A. H. J. and Vellema, S. (2011) Value chains, social inclusion, and economic development contrasting theories and realities . New York: Routledge.

      Miller, C. and Jones, L., (2010) Agricultural value chain finance: Tools and lessons. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Practical Action Pub.

      Onyiriuba, L., Okoro, E.O. and Ibe, G.I., 2020. Strategic government policies on agricultural financing in African emerging markets. Agricultural Finance Review.

      Wassie, S.B., Kusakari, H. and Masahiro, S., 2019. Inclusiveness and effectiveness of agricultural cooperatives: recent evidence from Ethiopia. International Journal of Social Economics.

      Zylberberg, E. (2013) ‘Bloom or bust? A global value chain approach to smallholder flower production in Kenya’, Journal of agribusiness in developing and emerging economies, 3(1), p. 4–. doi: 10.1108/20440831311321638

       

    • It is great sharing the experience of IFAD and from earlier organization with us, Alexander. Your insights are enriching. My short reaction on the following comment of yours:

      Drawing from all the above, I observe the synergies between KM, communications and evaluations to be strongest in those organizations that have a field-centred, project-based nature, as opposed to those whose primary purpose is to facilitate, support and build capacity in areas related to policy making

      I agree that based our experience at the Nema Chosso project, it is easier to collaborate and synergise our efforts to promote project communications and visibility. The case of the Nema Chosso Visibility day in the late 2019 was a typical case in point. Organized in partnership with the central projects Coordinating unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, and existing projects under the Ministry we showcased key successes and experiences, like never seen in the sector. 

      However, despite the participation of the policy makers in the sector, there is little evidence if any to show about how project initiatives and lessons feed into policy.

      My question then is, what initiatives and good practices exist to promote this critical but missing link in our efforts to strengthen the impact of development on smallholders? For instance, within  IFAD, how much are the logframes of country Strategy programmes taken into account during project level implementation and how are experiences shared with policymakers and governments? Most often than not the country strategic opportunities programme (cosop) exists and stops at higher government level engagements. Any examples of project level indicators being anchored to the country strategic opportunities programme (cosop) and how are these tracked, measured and reported to influence policy?

      I can tell that we in Gambia under the new ROOTS Project are putting up plans to get this going, as part our ToC and Logframe analysis for identification of core and specific indicators in preparation for the Baseline study. I hope share our experiences some time around the MTR period.

      Thank you all for your thoughts as I look forward to more experiences. 

      Paul

    • Dear Ravinder Kumar,

      Thank you for your thoughts on the approaches being proposed to better utilize KM in the evaluation and vice-versa. You are right that there are key challenges to succeed with the proposed harmonization efforts.

      I think what is fundamental to appreciate is the meaning and purpose of KM within an organization or project/programme unit, and I like very much the way Davenport & Prusak (1998) put it: They define Knowledge as “a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information.” This definition clearly presents an inextricable relationship between Knowledge Management and Evaluation. The purpose of KM is to “...provide a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information”. As such, KM is critical to M&E and the reverse is also true. Like you rightly said, Evaluation data can be used by KM to process knowledge for the organization.

      Under the climate resilience incremental financing of the Nema Chosso projects, funded under the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) window of IFAD, we are required to develop knowledge products on best practices, approaches and experiences in implementing climate change adaptation initiatives, one of which has been shared in my initial intervention.

      How did we develop the said knowledge products? Based on quantitative data on the interventions (outreach and size of the scheme) M&E identified key implementing partners, stakeholders and beneficiaries of selected interventions, such as mangrove restoration, woodlots and agroforestry, compost making structures, etc. The objective was to share experiences, expectations, key successes and challenges. The participants were grouped according to their interventions (beneficiaries, implementing partners and stakeholders of each activity) to exchange and present on their key conclusions on each of the themes: experiences, expectations, key successes and challenges and lessons learned. The next activity was to identify key beneficiaries and intervention sites for follow-up qualitative data collection, which was recorded on video using a prepared questionnaire. This task was done in partnership with the KM Officer. The findings from these two exercises were then compiled and processed into short narratives with photos as presented. It was then the task of KM to disseminate the publication to the target audience using appropriate channels of communication, as would have been defined in the KM and Communications Strategy of the project. I encourage you to read the Knowledge Product publication shared already.

      This is a case where the KM and M&E Unit have worked in close collaboration and resulted in a successful outcome. I think it possible if stakeholders understand and appreciate the meaning and purpose of the KM and M&E, from the perspective discussed. Yes, the two are different in terms of their roles and skill sets; however, their ultimate objectives complement each other. The processes to develop KM products also require input from M&E, as has been discussed. For this change to happen, I think it should start from the point of design and well articulated in the PIM or POM and KM and EValuation Strategy of the Project to guide implementation. As is always the case, the all-important political will is critical to ensuring its smooth implementation, especially by way of supporting capacity building initiatives to ensure not only the KM&E Unit but the rest of the project and its key stakeholders, are brought to speed with the new dispensation.

      Once again, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope this additional comment helps further the discussion.

      Paul

      Reference

      Davenport, T.H. and Prusak, L., (1998), Working knowledge: How organizations manage what they know. Harvard Business Press.

       

       

       

       

    • M. Diagne Bassirou,

      Thank you for sharing your experience on how KM and M&E operate together to advance the ultimate objective of projects which is to deliver results and communicate those results to the widest possible stakeholders, beneficiaries and the public.

      Your proposition to organize KM and M&E under one Unit is admirable. Under my project, Nema Chosso, the two functions are under separate units and we have learned some hard lessons for doing this. The functions of KM and Communications are assigned to one Officer, which has proven ineffective as the capacities for KM on one hand, and Communications on the other, are require different skill sets. Whilst the Officer is relatively strong on learning he is not so strong in the capitalization of what is learned and is also not well skilled in communicating lessons and good practices.

      This is where the project team has to come back to the M&E Team, with technical assistance by a consultant specialist in M&E, KM and Communications to help. As a lesson learned, the M&E System for a follow up project to Nema Chosso is being designed to merge to the two units into one, with provisions to engage a specialized technical partner to support communications.

      I also want to appreciate your suggestion that the job of KM & Communications requires wide consultations and engagement with all members of the project team. I want to add that engaging and involving key partners and beneficiaries is also crucial to obtain needed qualitative data and information for evidence-based results, planning and decision making.

    • Dear Emma,

      Good topic for discussion. Please find my contribution below:

      Nema Chosso Project in The Gambia – Experience on Farmer’s role in PM&E

      The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is the financier of the National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project which is locally called Nema Chosso in The Gambia. The goal of the project is to reduce rural poverty through sustainable land and water development and management practices. The project targets rural smallholder women and youth and invests in the promotion of two commodity value chains: Rice and Vegetables. Women and youth are the principal producers of these crops, which are also the staple foods in The Gambia. The project provides investments to finance approved interventions as requested in a Request for Assistance Form. Communities, Groups and Individual farmers submit their requests through the local government authorities and regional agriculture directorates across the country. These authorities are responsible for reviewing and appraising the requests and upon completion of the appraisal/feasibility submit recommendations for intervention to the Project Management Team for assistance.

      The Nema Chosso Project has succeeded in mobilizing beneficiaries (farmers) to participate in monitoring and evaluation of project activities, outcomes and impact and this has proven to be effective. Here is what we did:

      1. Once a community or group has been selected for intervention or support, the project sets off to conduct a sensitization meeting on the specific deliverables which the intervention entails.
      2. During this sensitization meeting, beneficiaries (farmers) are made aware of their role in ensuring the anticipated project benefits are realized for their own good;
      3. At this meeting, the project team emphasizes the fact that once the intervention is completed and formally handed over to the community, it is their role to ensure continuous operation and maintenance.
      4. The role of beneficiaries (farmers) in sustaining the project support outcomes are thus established.
      5. In order to facilitate the effective participation of farmers in the project, the Department of Community Development is engaged by the project to conduct training on group management, governance and sustainability.
      6. Such training (5 days) culminates in a selection (or election) of what we call Village Farmers Associations (VFA) for each of the beneficiary communities.

      The key role of the VFA is to lead the coordination of the community for effective participation in the project implementation, key among which is the monitoring of the performance of the contractors and consultants to ensure the activities and outputs actually lead to the project objectives. Once the VFA is established, all project staff and stakeholders are instructed to use the VFAs are as entry point for further development initiatives under the Nema Chosso Project.

      The project recruits a consultant for the supervision of all works. The Consultant, like all implementing partners of the project, is sensitized as to the existence of the VFAs and is required to ensure they participate in the monitoring of the delivery of works. It is stipulated in the contract and further emphasized during the handover of intervention sites to contractors that the VFAs, when dissatisfied with the contractor’s performance or quality of work, shall have the powers to stop the works and report such issues to the project through the project’s regional staff. The Project M&E Team keeps a database of the VFAs and ensures they join and participate in fieldwork monitoring.

      A VFA comprises 12 members, 6 of them women and 6 men. Most of the farmers in rural Gambia are women and youth. The training by the Department of Community Development guides the communities in the formation of VFAs. The guide the selection process to include the youth in the VFAs. The VFAs are supported by the project with further training specific to the monitoring mechanisms in place, and channels of communication with the Project’s regional structures. Data collection templates on yields and incomes are provided with training on their application. The project’s regional structures comprise a Regional Coordinator, two Focal Points for rice and horticulture value chains and a conservation field assistant to provide technical support in land development and conservation civil works.

      Further on building the capacities of beneficiaries to effectively do PM&E, they’re provided functional literacy training for the first 2 years of the project to enable the illiterate ones to do basic record keeping and data collection. Each beneficiary community identifies 30 members to participate in the functional literacy classes. What is interesting here is that the functional literacy lessons are delivered in their languages of mother tongue and this enhances quick absorption and uptake of literacy skills. These skills allow farmers to record minutes of meetings and those are well-read out in their typical languages by their members during subsequent meetings. This ensures ownership of decisions reached.

      Nema Chosso Project involves beneficiaries (farmers) in outcome and impact assessments. We use the Outcome Harvesting method to assess the project's effectiveness and this the approach places the beneficiary at the centre of the process, providing relevant quantitative and qualitative data and information on how the project is changing or contributing to changes in their livelihoods. Project beneficiaries (farmers) are engaged in important studies/surveys such as the IFAD results and impact management system (RIMS) baseline and end-line surveys. They have also participated in validating the survey findings and results.

      Key challenges

      • Literacy levels are low and this impedes full participation in M&E, hence the initiative to provide functional literacy training
      •  
      • Young women often leave their communities of origin due to marriage; this often requires replacing them with new ones who would often lack the same enthusiasm and commitment to the project
      •  
      • When project contracts delay, which is often the case, members of VFAs are first targeted for criticism by the rest of the communities thus creating distrust and suspicion

      Key lessons:

      • Beneficiary participation in M&E significantly ensures project effectiveness and relevance
      • Beneficiary participation in M&E ensures quality project deliverables
      • Capacity building is crucial for effective participation for beneficiary participation in M&E
      • When project achievement data are generated by beneficiaries they validate such data and take full ownership of successes.

      Thank you

      Paul

    • Hello All,

      Thanks for initiating discussions around the theme women and agriculture. It is very important to the realization of poverty reduction and climate resilience for smallholders especially in developing countries.

      Under Nema Chosso Project funded by IFAD in The Gambia the target group is defined as women and youth and this defines clearly what the key activities of the project should be; ie rice and horticulture commodities and commercialization through rural entrepreneurship.

      So the lessons learned are as follows:

      1. To better reach out to women smallholders it is important to target the key commodities women most engage in in agricultural production;

      2. Providing support for women to access capital is a catalyst for transformation of women in subsistence agriculture. Through a matching Grant scheme women beneficiaries have purchased tractors and providing important services (land preparation) around their communities, providing youth employment and generating significant incomes.

      3. An innovative model called agricultural value chain interaction platform by the project has orchestrated the emergence of women and youth enterprises along the rice and horticulture value chains. Through the interaction platform information about key opportunities for entrepreneurship are discussed and shared so interested beneficiaries are supported to start and nurture business enterprises. This is complemented with some limited value chain financing.

      Thanks. I am available to share more information on the experiences of the Nema Chosso Project in The Gambia , for which I am M&E Specialist and also working significantly in knowledge management and capitalization.

      Best regards

      Paul L Mendy
      Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist (Asst. Project Officer)
      AfDB funded P2RS Gambia Project 1
      IFAD funded National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Programme (Nema)

       

    • Dear EvalCommunity,

      My take on the topic "Enhancing funding and service delivery in Agriculture: Any Ideas?" is simply as follows:

      Citizens, donors and other stakeholders should develop a mechanism to enforce the implementation of the several accords and agreements that our governments sign up to, in letter and spirit.

      As rightly alluded to by some members already, there are countless protocols of agreements which African governments have signed up to; yet very few, if any, are adhered to. In an earlier topic, I have mentioned that Government's should meet their financial obligations to help projects to deliver. This is evidently lacking everywhere in my part of the world. Government counterpart contributions, which our governments actually sign up to, as a precondition for the project approval, end up realizing insignificant disbursement levels, much to the detriment of the project objectives. At the national level, how many African governments allocate 10% of their national budgets to agriculture, as prescribed under the Malabo Declaration? Simply, very few, if any?

      As a result of the above, commitment on the part of governments is questionable and this creates situations where governments do not take project managers and steering committee members to task. After all, most Project Managers and Members of the Steering Committees are fundamentally members of the same government. You wonder then who will hold who to account!

      My take then is that governments are not serious about enhancing funding and service delivery in agriculture, and, unless this is reversed, no meaningful achievements will be realized in the sector. Donors and Citizens, as well as civil society and interest groups, including the press, should take interest in the developments in the sector. In my country, the private press, in particular, would not cover an activity organized by projects unless they're being paid. I think this is wrong. The press should cover and follow project delivery across all stages, without due regard for collecting related fees. After all, how much fees do they collect from covering politics, daily? On the part of donors, why should they compromise the disbursement by local governments, after these disbursements have been committed to planned activities and should be contributing to the project development objectives and goal?

      Thank you!

    • Hi Richard,

      I wish to share with you reactions from my colleague project staff, pertaining to your observations and comments on the Farmer Cooperatives which were supported by our project in The Gambia. It reads as follows:

      Dear Paul

      Thanks for sharing.

      Very interesting reading and insights on cooperatives from a competitive business model standpoint. The writer has made some assertions to be true, based on the historic characteristics of cooperatives. However, I feel he/she is using a 'one size fits all' assumption and not seeing the innovative approach that can be adopted in enabling rural cooperatives and producer organisations to thrive as sustainable business enterprises. In the past cooperatives had a negative connotation because they were initiated and managed by the state. Producers were forced to become members and were obliged to sell their products through the cooperative marketing organisation.  In many countries, these organisations were used by the elite as vehicles for individual or partisan political enterprises. The state domination, low efficiency and even fraud that accompanied many of these organisations has led to a deep distrust among producers of any collective organisation. To reduce some of this distrust, the word ‘cooperative’ is no longer used in some countries, even as collective organisations are now reappearing. Governments had tended to address some of these problems by temporarily assigning trained officers to help manage the cooperative business, but this approach hasn't worked very well. It has only created more cooperative dependency on outside support, and I guess this is were the writer's argument is focusing on. However, rural cooperatives and producer organizations do not only play a crucial role in the eradication of hunger and poverty, in the promotion of social harmony and in the achievement of more equitable economic growth, but also view their activities as a competitive business model that will uplift them from poverty and not necessarily sink them deeper as he/she asserts.  The key elements of our strategy therefore as a Government project includes promoting rural producer organisations (POs) and developing their entrepreneurial capacities to help them become more profitable. The bottlenecks (administrative costs) that the writer points out is worth noting, but in our present context, especially within the Nema cooperatives, these are not so huge that they will be consumed by the overall financial benefits. This is why the entrepreneurial skill and business development training is crucial - something that was missing before. Nonetheless, the detailed cost benefit analysis will still be useful as a guide to evaluate the business success within cooperatives.

       

      Just my pennies worth...in summary!

       

      Regards

      Banky

      BDO

    • Hi Richard,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences on the sustainability issues to look out for in smallholder farmer cooperatives, as per my set of comments on this forum.

      I find your insights interesting and I have already shared with the Project Management Team for their reactions, which I will happily share as I receive them.

      If nothing much, I can assure you that some of the lessons and arguments shared in the links will be used to inform our exit plan with the Cooperatives.

      Best regards

    • Dear Richard and all,

      At the IFAD funded Nema Chosso Project in The Gambia, we are trying to make a difference in smallholder agriculture by pursuing the 4Ps of IFAD, i.e. Public-Private, Producer Partnership building, as a strategy for empowering the smallholder to participate effectively and sustainably in agriculture value chains.

      Our approach is that we formed smallholder farmers' communities into clusters, engaged a consultant to conducted an assessment of their potential in terms of their capacity to form a cooperative and participate in the agriculture value chain, as well as key challenges and opportunities to promote processing and marketing, being the upstream VC activities, which are highly under-developed. Thereafter, we provided training using local experts in topics such as group management and leadership, record keeping, basic bookkeeping and financial management, the cooperative approach and how to manage farmer cooperatives. Gambian smallholder farmers have had some good and bad experiences about farmer cooperatives and so we made sure the assessment exercise went further to identify possible causes of the collapse of the former cooperatives, which, to a large extent resulted from political interference and influence of local but powerful stakeholders at the community level. The diagnostic exercise identified key lessons, which we used to strengthen our approach.

      Once the cooperatives were formed, the project provided support in terms of membership passbooks, as well as linking them to a public agency which supplies fertilizer to farmers on behalf of Government. This linkage allowed the cooperatives (6 of them) to negotiate deals with the dealer and agreed on credit buying of fertilizer with the project providing collateral. The project went further to pay upfront 50% of the total cost of fertilizer for the smallholders' cooperatives, so they only owed 50% of the total cost of fertilizer they received from the dealer.

      The 50% paid by the project is a grant. This is to allow the cooperatives to sell the fertilizer at cost (i.e. with margin) to their members and beyond, and use the proceeds to defray the remaining 50% owed to the dealer and save the balance in their bank accounts, which the project facilitated them to create with local banks near them. By the end of the first season, all the cooperatives were able to pay up their loans with the dealer. We repeated this for the second year running and after the cooperatives had paid up again, they reported average savings in excess of US$200,000.00.

      In addition, the project provided each of the 6 cooperatives production equipment (e.g. tractors, power tillers, transplanters, harvesters) and processing equipment (e.g. milling machines and threshers) so as to boost production and processing capacities. Each cooperative developed a management framework for their equipments. The equipments will be managed by youth groups residing within the same communities on a commercial basis and providing vital services to the members of the cooperative at a reduced cost, thus creating access to smallholders for increased production. Processing equipment would also follow similar arrangements, so that post-harvest loss is reduced and value is added for increased incomes.

      After the first two years, these cooperatives are have obtained the capacity to operate as economic operators who can buy produce in bulk, process and package these and then sell to bulk buyers in the city. Interesting performance figures are already beginning to emerge. Now that the equipment are provided we can expect greater success. The challenge now is to closely follow and monitor the cooperatives to ensure financial proceeds are judiciously managed and that all members are well informed and participate in decision making, key features which are typical of cooperatives. We are also cognizant of the need to keep the cooperative principles working at full force: for instance, non-members should have no say in the affairs of the cooperative; all members have equal power and control. These ensure community leaders do not use their influence to break down the cooperatives as they did in the olden days.

      You can access a story on this initiative by the Nema Chosso Project on the link below: https://mansabanko.gm/six-cooperatives-supported-by-nema-chosso-generat…

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences on the possible follow up initiatives to sustain these cooperatives.

      Paul

         

    • Hello Richard and Colleagues in the Community:

      Thanks for initiating discussions on this very important topic. Smallholder agriculture is being pursued as the critical conduit for transformative agricultural development and realization of SDGs related to poverty alleviation, rural wealth creation and reduced impact of climate change. It is thus relevant that we have an exchange on how Evaluation can drive the attainment of results for smallholder agriculture.

      The National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project, which I work for, is a consortium of three smallholder agricultural projects being managed under one Project Management Unit. These projects are financed by IFAD, African Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank. Key value chains covered are rice, horticulture and livestock and major activities are land development infrastructure for upland and lowland cropping including rice and other cereals, horticulture production, commercialization of smallholder agriculture  and increased livestock production and productivity. I wish to share just a few examples of how we have used or are using evaluation to improve results:

      1. Community or Group v Individual targeting: establishment of smallholder ruminant schemes for rural households. After the first year of the schemes, we conducted an assessment of the effectiveness of the schemes and one pronounced result showed that individually owned schemes were doing better than the community or group owned schemes. Qualitative field questionnaire prepared and used targeted both beneficiaries and non beneficiaries and it was interesting some of the reasons advanced to determine likelihood of sustainability of each set or category of the schemes, including commitment, team work, joint ownership, etc. These findings of the assessment enabled the project team to review the targeting strategy for the schemes. Another important finding concerns the identity of the key actors in the schemes. It emerged that even though the women and youth were not targeted as direct recipients of the schemes, as they were not household heads, they participated more effectively in the upkeep and management of the schemes.

      2. We conducted a similar evaluation of the rice and horticulture schemes and the results were not different. Land ownership issues and cultural  factors emerged as key at dwarfing the project’s efforts to encourage women and youth inclusion in smallholder agriculture. Women form the majority of lowland rice and horticulture producers in my country but they don’t own land and so do not make the decisions at the household. Factors to help drive youth inclusion in smallholder agriculture were also identified including lack of access to productive land, capital to engage in upstream value chain activities such as processing and marketing. With questions designed to have respondents propose their solutions evaluations like this can help proffer initiatives to address key challenges of smallholder agriculture.

      The SHARP tool by FAO is an effective one to assess the resilience/vulnerability levels of smallholder farmers and provide important leads or indicators to support planning and decision making. Use of PRA tools like the Seasonal Agricultural Calendar, Most Signification Change (MSC) analysis and the Community Resource Map can be used to do these kinds of evaluations. Interesting results emerged, as highlighted above, which I wish to recommend for anyone interested.

      Once again thanks Richard for this topical issues. I look forward to reading more stories and experiences from the rest of the community.

      Best regards

      Paul Mendy

    • Dear Mr. Javier Guarnizo,

      Thanks for sharing your experience in development project management, especially on the key pointers to achieving effectiveness.

      My take on the pointer about Government Ownership is that it usually stops at the level of the signing of the Financing Agreement. African Governments (for what I know) have often not lived up to the promise of making their counterpart contribution, for instance. In fact, they have often generally failed to honour the Malabo declaration of allocating 10% to Agriculture in their national budgets. We have seen projects struggle to receive regular and timely disbursements of local government funding (GLF). So it is one thing for Government to sign up to a development project but I think it is quite another to use that as a guarantee of its continued commitment to the course.

      Based on your experience, I would like you to further share with us, how donors can hold governments to live up to their commitment, at least to ensure the committed contribution is disbursed 100%?

      Another point of concern I have is, how can government ownership, as expressed in the signing of the Financing Agreement and disbursement of counterpart funds (let us suppose this is the case), be translated to beneficiary ownership, which I think is the ultimate result of the project?

      Thanks, it's interesting reading from you, Sir.

    • Hi Carlos,

      Thank you for outlining quite some interesting action points to aid the achievement of improved development project performance.

      One of your actions which really catches my attention is the use of lessons learnt from previous interventions in the domain/country to design new or follow up projects or programmes, which is indisputable. However, my experience is that this is not being done, which is why we are experiencing recurring project failures, especially in our part of the world (West Africa in general and my country, The Gambia in particular). I think the issue of not using past lessons to inform future programming is "cultural and institutional" about Africans (generally speaking). As such it requires a paradigm shift in terms of national development policies and programmes, but also a shift in orientation on the part of the personnel who participate in or influence development project designs and appraisal.

      I think there should be proactive actions in place (documented and signed as part of Financing Agreements) to change the ball game. For instance, actions such as making it mandatory for projects to develop and validate key lessons, innovations and good practices experienced during program implementation  could help on the one hand; and then, ensuring that new design/appraisal missions make reference to and use of those lessons/innovations/good practices to inform future interventions could help the situation.

      Another of your proposed actions I want to react to is the one on the Project Steering Committee (PSC) Meetings. My experience is that PSCs are not effective at what they are set out to do and this is for the following reasons: (i) members of PSCs are often not knowledgeable about the project they are "steering" (most have not laid their hands on the project design/appraisal report); (ii) these are generally civil servants occupying top positions in their Ministries or Departments and so do not have time to add value to the project; (iii) PSC meetings are usually well attended for the sitting allowances members will collect rather than the job they're tasked to do, which is to critically review project implementation and provide directive for improvement. For instance, is it feasible that a PSC meeting held in just 3 or 4 hours can do justice to the task?

      So, my conclusion is that people's orientation must change to realise the good promises of project management and the institutional and legal frameworks governing projects should be revisited to bring about effectiveness in project implementation. Here, beneficiary awareness to the point that they are conscious of their right to hold project management units and concerned ministries to account, is critical. One's commitment to the profession of project management (across its core areas) should come to light in what actions one takes in project implementation, bearing in mind that development projects are meant to transform the lives and livelihoods of nations, communities and societies for good. Social engineering to bring about transformational change amongst the citizens is key. Nationalization and empowerment of M&E is also critical to this: perhaps set up Ministry of Evaluation to coordinate evaluation of development projects/programmes effectiveness across the country is one of several options for consideration. Strengthening of civil society organizations and promoting their inclusion in the implementation of development projects can help a lot in sustaining development outcomes as well as holding governments to account for the resources invested in projects.

      Thank you 

    • Hello everyone. I am so happy to be back on the forum, after some while offline.

      My take on the topic, what can we do to improve the quality of development projects is as follows:

      1. Recruit a project management team which possesses the requisite capacity (both as individuals and as a team) to deliver development projects: Project Management Professionals are few and far between in many least developing countries, and even whereas possessing this qualification does not necessarily guaranty quality delivery, coupled with experience, motivation and commitment, it does serve as a recipe for success. The 9 Project Knowledge Areas are critical for project management success and should not be underestimated.

      2. Recruit a Project Coordinator/Director/Manager who has the technical skills and qualities of a level-5 Leader: The role of a Project Team Director/Coordinator/Manager is to lead the team towards achieving the project results. Equipped with results-based management skills, a project team leader is crucial for quality development project performance.

      3. Conduct procurement in a professional manner - follow due process and pursue principles of fairness, efficiency, and quality: Corruption, as alluded to by earlier contributors, is inimical to progress. Corruption at the project level mostly happens within the framework of procurement. Where this is curbed, one can be optimistic that project delivery will be effective - contract management will be robust and deliverables will be of high quality. The reverse is catastrophic and that, unfortunately, is what has contributed to the failure of most development projects.

      4. Effective stakeholder analysis and management throughout the project life cycle: This will ensure smooth implementation, promote ownership and guarantee sustainability. But, very importantly, the continued utilization of the outcomes by beneficiaries is likely to be achieved. Otherwise, we have seen projects which end at the completion of construction works; for instance, markets built but not utilized beyond the project life. Often these projects are brought to communities by some influential retired civil servant or politician, usually without due regard for the interests and influences of other actors within society and so the project ends up as a white elephant.

      5. Quality Monitoring and Evaluation System: It is one thing to have in place a good M&E Framework with all the ingredients like quality data collection, good participation of beneficiaries, management willingness to make use of the M&E reports to support decision making, etc; however, it is quite another very important thing to have in place the personnel to drive the system and bring in the necessary energy and innovation to make it functional and relevant. Quality M&E system requires continuous capacity building for all stakeholders at different levels, including end-users of the M&E reports.   

      6. Project Sustainability Plan and Exit Strategy: One of the reasons for the lack of sustainability of many projects in my country (The Gambia), is the lack of a sustainability plan and exit strategy. Projects phase out without proper hand over of interventions to existing institutions or structures for continuity. These institutions or structures need to be well prepared (capacity building) to take over the management and operationalization of project outcomes which must be carefully identified and appreciated with the involvement and input of the beneficiaries who are the end-users of the facilities. Implementing a sustainability plan/Exit strategy is a painstaking effort but if carefully done can guarantee development project success.

      With these in mind I think the quality of development project can be improved.

      Thank you.

       

       

    •  Hi Emile,

      How to measure food and nutrition security is a critical one which must be effectively addressed if we must adequately determine the effectiveness of the huge investments in this area and track the global efforts in achieving the respective SDG indicators.

      As for us at the Nema Program in The Gambia we use three mechanisms, namely: 1: Number of hungry months in a year per household, 2: Amount of rural income and 3: Food and nutrition security scores provided by the National Nutrition Agency which publishes these data annually.

      The number of hungry months is counted as the number of months in a year when farming households run out of stock of food they produced by themselves and have to resort to other means to acquire food for the family. In other words it is the number of months in the year when rural farming households have to buy rice from a shop. In The Gambia in a baseline study of 2013/14 revealed that this was at 5 months on average and the project target was to reduce this to two months by the project end.

      Rural incomes are measured by the Bureau of Statistics and Planning and it compares the average annual incomes generated by rural households as compared to urban dwellers. Let me however state this one is particularly very difficult to define and as such we have tried as much as possible to avoid using this method.

      The annual data produced by the National Nutrition Agency is promising one except that the agency needs to be well funded to conduct the survey in regular frequency. This has been a challenge over the years hence it’s not been entirely depended upon by projects.

      In terms of general challenges food and nutrition data collection have cultural implications as Gambia rural dwellers hold this information dear to their heart, it relates directly to their prestige and so do not willingly give it out to. Aside from that other methods of measuring yield and productivity data are costly as it requires field presence of extension service personnel to ensure local secretaries record yield accurately. Extension coverage is very low in Gambia hence the data recorded by local community based secretaries can be subject to quality opinions. Then there is also the disharmony in food and nutrition data reporting requirements by the various players and donors. This does not help the situation either. And finally the capacity of evaluation staff to collect and report on food and nutrition security is not up to scratch in many developing countries, Gambia being no exception.

      Looking forward to hearing your stories too!

    • Hello all,

      Greetings from Banjul, The Gambia in West Africa.

      Not have had much free time to interact with the group since and I’m happy to weigh in on this topic of discussion, which is on the differences between achievements and activities, as inquired by Bintou Nimaga.

      My take is that the definition of achievement depends very much on what type of performance indicators one is monitoring and measuring at the time. There are process indicators which are concerned with the level and quality of implementation of activities. In a similar manner the achievements at output level are defined and measured according to output achievements. Likewise outcome and impact level achievements.

      What needs to be very clear at this point however is that projects and programs are measured at the higher level of results and this concerns outcomes and impact. Monitoring and Evaluation is less concerned with activities and outputs. It is often easy to count how many boreholes one project has drilled and installed but quite important is how many beneficiaries are drawing water from the borehole and how much difference that is making in terms of the time saved in water collection and free time created for women and girls to redirect their energies into something productive; how this access to water is contributing to reductions in incidences of diarrhea and water borne diseases in the community? How much additional incomes are communities generating from the increased access to water to water their backyard vegetable produce?

      From the foregoing one can distinguish achievements from activities and this can be related to the results chain of the project or program.

      Hoping this does not add to more confusion.

    • Dear Mesfin,

      Thanks for sharing your experience and tools for participatory M&E and especially how these are applied in conflict environments.

      I have also interacted with both tools (Resource Mapping and Institutional Mapping) as well and the experience is quite similar with yours.

      Almost all of the projects under my PMU (Program Management Unit) are contributing to resilience building to climate change effects with specific focus on food and nutrition security.

      In order to measure and track resilience levels of our target population we conducted a study called Resilience Profile Analysis using a software pioneered by FAO called SHARP tool (Self-evaluation and Holistic Assessment of climate Resilience of farmers and Pastoralists) to do data collection and analysis. 

      The field exercise was conducted in two phases, 1 field data collection using the questionnaire contained in the Sharp tool, and 2; a detailed exchange with the study groups to understand the socioeconomic and other factors which underpin their resilience scores. To conduct the second phase of the study, we applied different Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) tools including Community Resource and Institutional mapping as well as the Community Farm calendar. 

      Each of these tools helped us understand the real dynamics of the communities studied: the way the community is organized, their main activities in a year including social and economic activities, the resources they have to share (or don’t have), and their location within the community as well as the different institutions which interact with the community and for what purpose. They community could literally draw their village map from this exercise!

      This exchange, as it was related to resilience building, revealed some good lessons about how the community members live and relate with one another, especially when disaster struck. In fact, for one of the communities which actually experienced flooding in the previous year, the study revealed that unity and care among community members are important contributors to resilience. It also reveals that where a community uses shared resources for their livelihoods, this strengthens everyone’s resilience levels. And, from another perspective, an analysis of the institutional map brought to the table key concerns of effectiveness and sustainability of the different initiatives which were supported or driven by some of the institutions operating in their communities, thus orchestrating an emerging spirit of community ownership and accountability on the part of stakeholders and driving the spirit of sustainability. Emerging Behavioral change became apparent.

      In essence l, therefore, I want to emphasize that climate change is in fact like a conflict zone and development work in resilience building does have some similar experiences as working in conflict zones. Also, I can observe that some the tools could be borrowed and applied between and among the two situations, albeit the focus could be tweaked depending on the sociocultural context and time. I encourage you to interact with the SHARP tool by searching the internet so you can be familiar with the key indicators or resilience, which I can appreciate can be related to the key development concerns in conflict zones (http://www.fao.org/in-action/sharp/en/)

      Thoughts!

      Paul Mendy

      The Gambia

    • Dear Kebba and all,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the following important questions:

      1. Could we develop capacity through evaluations?
      2. Could evaluations help in capacity development?

      For both questions #1 and 2 my answer is YES, we can and do develop capacities through evaluations. A typical case in point is that each time I conduct an evaluation for a training session, consultants or service providers request for a copy of my evaluation report and the tool itself. They note that the tool has the potential to help them improve their preparedness, delivery and follow up support. 

      Besides this feedback, it’s a given that the purpose of evaluations is to identify gaps, improve planning and inform decision making. In terms of capacity building, evaluations help us identify further training needs areas and provide mechanisms for better and more effective delivery of capacity building actions and means of tracking results or impact.

    • Thanks Dorothy for sharing this link. I find it interesting and useful.

      My projects fund several training activities and tools like this help to enrich my perspectives for evaluating the training activities to ensure effectiveness, relevance and sustainability.

      Currently, I use a standards template which pursues to measure/evaluate the extent to which the training concept, plan, implementation and evaluation measures post-implementation meet the prescribed standards. The tool adopts a highly transparent and participatory manner in that all stakeholders involved in the training activity are evaluated within the same premises and time through somewhat of a focused group discussion. The process is simple as it only requires respondents to answer Yes, No or Not Quite and since it is participatory, it allows for further insight into the evidence to justify the responses. For instance, an evaluator can probe further to understand why the scores. It is flexible as it allows for one to introduce some ranking or grades e.g. Yes = 10, No = 0 and Not Quite = 5, depending on the specific needs of the evaluator and user.

      In essence, the key indicators to measure, as suggested in KirkPatrick's Model, are more or less found in the tool which I am using:  According to the Kirkpatrick's Model, it focuses on four points: 1) the degree to which participants find the training favourable and relevant to their jobs (Reaction); 2) the degree to which participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence and commitment based on their participation during the training (Learning); 3) the degree to which participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job (behaviour); and 4) the degree to which targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training and the support and accountability package (Results).

      It's interesting the points of convergence here... Here you can find the tool I am currently using for this exact purpose: https://dgroups.org/?nprypl28

       

    • Sometime in 2018 my project collaborated with West Africa Rural Foundation (WARF) which is a regional NGO specialist in building capacity for rural development initiatives, in order to do Outcome Assessment using the Outcome Harvesting concept. Outcome Harvesting happened to be a pretty new concept, at least for our case in The Gambia.

      In order to embark on the exercise we first exchanged on the details of implementation modalities and key partners to engage in the exercise. Outcome Harvesting is a highly participatory approach and stakeholders involve all parties to the project, including beneficiaries. The process requires both quantitative and qualitative data to provide evidence of outcome achievements.

      Given that the tool has not been applied in the country before, or that it’s relatively new, we appreciated the fact that the target participants in the exercise should first be trained on the concept. As such we devoted the whole of the first working sessions to do an introduction of Outcome Harvesting, it’s rationale and approach to the point that our target participants were comfortable using it to identify activities which contribute to specific outcomes going backwards from the outcome level to outputs. 

      During the second round of the same assessment, this time targeting another set of outcomes, our technical partner (WARF) decided the was no need for the first working session on the introduction of OH, given that this was the second series. However what we did not pay close attention to was that this series involves a whole new set of participants who have no idea about OH. So we went straight into the session and by the time we got to the group presentation on the OH exercise, we saw clear evidence that this second group did not do as well as the first group. The linkages between the outcomes and the initiative which brought them about was weak, thus requiring more evidence generation.

      The purpose of sharing this experience is to provide evidence that for participatory evaluation to be effective the evaluators capacity should be built first. This also points that there is no short cut to capacity building and any attempts to do so will have a negative effect on the quality of results.

      I also want to add that not just the participants should have their capacities built but also the client. In my case, we spent some good time sensitizing  the Project Director and entire senior staff of the project. If findings of Outcome Assessment must be used I think the client is in better position to implement and appreciate the findings if they’re partners in the implementation of the tool.

      Just my thoughts please, thank you.

      Paul Mendy

      National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development Project

      Gambia Evaluation Association