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MID-TERM REVIEW OF AVSI'S SUPPORT TO FARMER GROUPS ( and lessons learned on monitoring of APFS in the context of South Sudan)

Subject/Objective: 

In South Sudan, the farmers supported by AVSI have not seen their income increase much, nor their food security improve considerably – at least not after one year of project implementation. Still, we managed to prove the project’s success and the beneficiaries’ enthusiasm. How come? We realized that farmers focus on consuming and stocking food, leaving little for sale (arguably a prudent choice in a country prone to crises, including hyperinflation); moreover, it is the food security of entire communities that is improving, and less than expected that of the targeted farmers, who share their food with new household members, and with close and far relatives, including with community members (who will reciprocate in case of future harvest failures – a sort of risk reduction strategy). Focusing on more intermediate results, without overlooking the community impact is how we found evidence of the project success. While farmer groups’ production increased remarkably (land cultivated tripled and yields doubled on average), it is the spreading of the newly introduced agriculture techniques in the wholecommunity (in the family gardens of the targeted farmers, and in the fields of other farmers involved in the project as daily workers, as well as other community members) that shows the most outstanding and promising results – not so bizarre for a project aiming at training farmers in open-air, demonstrative fields – and that should be at the core of the project M&E. Moreover, we found even evidence of marked improvements in farmers’ access to land, safety and protection, and asset building (the latter suggesting future income gains and greater resilience i.e. project sustainability). Last but not least, cost-sharing has been remarkable, reaching 1to1 matching levels in the case of ox-ploughing promotion (farmers contributed with oxen and food during the 3-week trainings, while the project provided ploughs and incentives for the local farmer/oxen-trainer) 

Methodology: 

We were able to focus our attention on the beneficiaries’ success, away from the (abstract and oversimplified) notion of the project success, by involving our front-line staff. We took the time to ask our colleagues, those in the field dealing directly with beneficiaries, about the impact THEY SAW WITH THEIR EYES, without confining to the preconceived income-related project indicators. Our staff's suggestions, corroborated by rapid field visits, helped us to gain a sophisticated and realistic idea of our project. Based on this empircal information, we identified more relevant monitoring indicators, and wrote questionnaires that allowed us to show the breadth and depth of the project’s impact, as well as concrete evidence of beneficiaries’ engagement – along with insights for improvement. 

We call this participatory MEAL activity “Practice of Change” (as the Theory of Change get updated based on the reality on the ground). It is crucial to note that the proactive involvement of our project staff, has the additional benefit of advancing very tangibly their professional growth. Our staff gain greater clarity about their objectives and tasks, as individuals and as a group (becomes a result-oriented team), improve their capacity to conceptualize and monitor projects (capacity building toward project management positions) and get very motivated. For the whole organization, the gains are even more immediate, as this practice makes it easier for recommendations to be understood and internalized by the staff, leading to the swift improvement of on-going projects (adaptive management). Finally, by focusing on medium-term changes, rich MEAL works can be developed much before the end of projects, and be used to negotiate project extensions and provide continuity to the most vulnerable beneficiaires. 

Key findings: 

Recommendation: The M&E of APFS projects should focus on the broad (community wide) build up and dissemination of knowledge and the spread of farming techniques from farmer to farmer, within and across farmer groups, from targeted to participant farmers (ex. involved as daily workers), from those involved in the projects to other farmers in the community 

Sample size: 
24 FGs
Assessment Report: 
Assessment Questionnaire: 
Publicly Available
Assessment Data: 
Publicly Available
Contact(s): 
Bruno Nazim Baroni
bruno.baroni@avsi.org
+211 923 809 070 (Mobile)
Operations(s)/Webspace(s): 
Assessment Date(s): 
с 09 Мар 2020 по 13 Апр 2020
Status: 
Report completed
Collection Method(s): 
Structured Interview
Unstructured Interview
Focus group discussion
Observation
Field Interview
Mixed
Population Type(s): 
Other
Cluster(s)/Sector(s): 
Leading/Coordinating Organization(s): 
AVSI Foundation
Location(s): 
Torit
Ikotos