"Building ME&L systems is resource intensive requiring time and appropriate human capital – which has led to a slower take-off than expected, particularly in the field. However, needs assessments have been undertaken, baseline surveys are underway, and staff are now in place to produce a stream of valuable data, information and evidence by the end of the year."
The importance of ME&L is well articulated in its main objective, to “establish information and knowledge management information systems that enable adaptation, modification and change of technologies and approaches, improvement of efficiency and impacts; and timely communication of lessons and best practices for evidence-based decision-making.”
In short, SAA increasingly must become an evidence-based organization.
This requirement was given added impetus by the need to monitor and evaluate the impacts of SAA’s work by The Nippon Foundation, SAA’s donor, which contracted with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in 2006 to design and implement a five year project aimed at gauging the outcomes and impacts of its investments in two SAA focus countries – Ethiopia and Uganda.
There was a limited use of ME&L outputs from this project – partly explained by the lack of institutionalizing ME&L systems within SAA.
Theme 5 was meant to build on the CIMMYT project to develop a system monitoring inputs, activities and outputs. Thus the main activities at the inception stage were the design of assessment tools and methods, the selection and recruitment of country-level teams, and training and building capacity for the new teams. Thematic coordinators and Program officers have now been hired for the four focus countries – with a total of 12 fulltime staff members.
|Training of enumerators and development agents on data collection in Aleta Wendo Woreda, at Homecho Waieno Farmer Training Center (FTC), Ethiopia|
At the start of this exercise, SAA had no thematic and country log-frames in place – and while the new staff had diverse and varied skills, there were obvious gaps in their ability to take ME&L activities forward. Also, the base year for assessing SAA and partners’ impacts was not defined because of the different length and presence in the four focus countries. Ethiopia and Uganda, for example, had a head start with their experience of the CIMMYT project. Finally, simply having good monitoring and impact assessment reports were not enough – they must be systematically utilised by SAA/SG 2000 teams, and the results applied practically in all programs.
The above concerns were addressed at Concepts and Procedures Workshops, involving Themes 2 and 3, in Addis Ababa last year. These workshops proved to be a turning point for SAA and Theme 5 in particular– not least in identifying a need for training on log-frames for all SAA-SAFE country and thematic management and staff.
Central to ME&L activities are instruments and tools for different surveys and assessments - with adaptation for use in Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and Uganda. These cover subjects such as farmer technology needs and constraints, the training of extension agents and the feasibility of FTC (Farmer Training Centers) enterprises. ME&L is also participating in non-Nippon funded activities such as the World Food Program’s Purchase for Progress (WFP-P4P) in Ethiopia, Mali and Uganda; USAID Markets Project, and N2FIXAFRICA in Nigeria. There are other programs such as AGRA postharvest and INTSORMIL CRSP (International Sorghum and Millet Collaborative Research Support Program) in Mali; and the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA’s) project involving women’s cooperatives and rice in Ethiopia. Farmers and pastoralists’ needs-based interventions are also a vital part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) project in Ethiopia.
A recent study was commissioned by SAA on the ‘Emergence and growth of rice in Africa: the case of Guinea, Mali and Uganda.’ Managed by ME&L, preliminary results show the substantial contribution made by SAA towards rice production in Uganda. These included varietal release and seed multiplication, particularly with NERICA’s input delivery systems, the strengthening of extension service delivery, technology transfer through rice production demonstrations, and the improvement of postharvest handling and processing. The result has been an impressive strengthening of the food chain, through to market linkages and linkages with credit institutions.
In Ethiopia, ME&L activities have been mainly focused on the “Strengthening Extension Service Delivery in Ethiopia” project funded by BMGF – as well as JICA and Nippon Foundation activities. For the BMGF funded activities, a starting point was the status of the FTCs – with the design of appraisal tools and analysis of data and information to present to the main partners, the Ministry of Agriculture, Oxfam America and SAA. A key outcome was the need for financial sustainability of the FTCs in addition to their importance as training and knowledge centers for farmers. To identify the needs of farmers and pastoralists, a needs assessment was undertaken in 52 FTCs in 18 woredas (districts). Indeed ME&L has spearheaded the BMGF project – a highly complex multi-partner operation – with the further development of needs assessment instruments and tools this year, covering areas such as the general agricultural profile of the woreda, agriculture in kebeles (administrative units) – constraints and needs for crops, livestock, postharvest, agroprocessing and marketing; and questionnaires for DAs (development agents) and potential enterprises that would be established at FTC level, as well as questionnaires for the farmers themselves. Supervisors, after the necessary training, proceeded to the regions where they recruited and trained enumerators to undertake the needs assessments in 52 kebeles, 52 FTCs, and 18 woredas in the ten regions of Ethiopia – involving 936 farmers. In total, 166 DAs and 100 enumerators collected the data.
Information was produced for each FTC before the long, meher rains. Further needs assessment reports were produced for FTCs in each woreda and are now being fine-tuned for wide circulation and publication.
|ME&L Stakeholders Workshop in Kano, Nigeria|
ME&L has also undertaken rapid field surveys of Nippon Foundation funded Themes 1 and 2 activities in six selected sites covering the SG 2000 program in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) region and Oromia, in Ethiopia. Technical support has been given to the baseline surveys of the JICA-funded women’s cooperatives.
ME&L began hands-on operations in Mali last year with the collection and processing of baseline data on Technology Option Plots (TOPs) and Women Assisted Demonstrations (WADs). Data was collected under the Initiative Intégrées pour la Croissance Economique (IICEM), 4,000 ha millet, sorghum and maize support program, and FLEPs (Farmer Learning and Extension Platforms) – while the training of CBEAs (Community- Based Extension Agents) and CBFs (Community Based Facilitators) was undertaken in support of the FLEPs. Needs assessment for postharvest handling and agroprocessing in selected villages was also done. A SAA/Mali facts document was produced covering the years 1996-2010.
In conjunction with Theme 2, ME&L has developed proposals for groundnut and fonio value chain assessment in Selingué and Kondogola. With the focus on field activities with WFPP4P, ME&L was involved in the recruitment and supervision of P4P monitoring agents and participated in the mid-term evaluation of WFP-P4P activities in SAA intervention regions in the country. A range of seminars and training sessions have strengthened the monitoring and evaluation base in Mali.
ME&L started later in Nigeria – but significant amounts of information and data that had been collected in 2009 are available. ME&L has participated in a stakeholder identification and analysis survey among academia, Department of Agriculture, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) in Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa and Zamfara, the USAID Markets Project and other collaborators. The results will be used for technical capacity building when needed. ME&L also organized a one day stakeholders’ workshop across a range of actors, including SAA, SG 2000 state coordinators and ADPs’ ME&L Directors for six states. The focus was creating awareness of the SAA ME&L approaches, with SAA also learning about the states’ M&E activities.
ME&L visited the six states to plan the collection of baseline data. Working with stakeholders, ME&L recruited and trained supervisors and enumerators on baseline data collection – with the surveys initially being conducted in Adamawa and Jigawa states.
|Practical training of GPS (Global Positioning System) handling for location and mapping at SAA Mali’s main gate in Bamako|
In Uganda, a one-day ‘baseline tools harmonization workshop’ was held and data collection progressed – the results being available before the end of the year. Needs assessment was undertaken on the agroprocessing and postharvest side to assist in the establishment of a PHELP (Postharvest Extension Learning Platform) in Ntungamo district. This entailed pre-testing the generic needs assessment tools, collecting data from two subcounties, Ntungamo and Itojo, and from parishes within the two sub-counties, eight extension agents and 216 farmers. With the assistance of a questionnaire, the study provided information on the major crops grown; the technologies used, and market access and constraints. ME&L also supported Theme 3 (Promoting Private/Public Partnerships) on the development of inventories of partner associations, entrepreneurs, financial institutions and publicprivate organizations involved in seed, crops and agro-inputs. ME&L also assisted in the organization of the SAA Uganda Planning Meeting 2011, from major stakeholders such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), to smallholder farmers. Progress has also been made in engaging the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, IITA, Innovation for Poverty Action (IPA) and WFP. The result was a ME&L Theme Stakeholders’ Workshop in June. Issues such as standardizing and improving reporting by SG 2000 district coordinators were discussed.
At crop production pre-season training, ME&L focused on data collection, reporting and management skills, particularly basic record keeping. Some 4,864 farmers in Lira, Mukono, Luwero, Jinja, Tororo and Wakiso districts were involved – with half being women farmers.