RE: Supporting smallhoder agriculture: what are your experiences in using evaluation? | Eval Forward

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