RE: The farmer as a key participant of M&E: lessons and experiences from Participatory M&E systems | Eval Forward

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