RE: How to use Knowledge Management to strengthen the impact of Evaluation on smallholder agriculture development? | Eval Forward

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.




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