Navigating with Data to Increase Income and Food Security
How to stay in control of your results? In the Strengthening African Rural Smallholders program (STARS) ICCO Cooperation has agreed on some very explicit targets with MasterCard Foundation, who funds the program (2016 – 2020). So we need to stay on top of results, not for the sake of donor reporting, but for strengthening our ability to deliver what we promised.
As a first step we translated our narrative program strategy into Intervention Results Chains. These graphically show our intervention logic by making it explicit how one step leads to the next, like a series of dominoes, connecting program activities to ultimate beneficiary impact in a more complex way than traditional LogFrames can. Each step is then connected to indicators that serve to monitor our progress to the end goal: the impact we wish to see. Working with results chains allows for adaptive management: if change at lower levels in the results chain does not materialize, then the foreseen impact cannot be expected and the strategy need to be revised. We stay in control by knowing whether our interventions are working or not.
Use of fact-based tools
STARS works amongst others with microfinance institutions (MFIs) and producer organizations to develop products and services that will serve smallholder farmers. Some important tools that we use to monitor results are the MicroScore tool for MFIs and the SCOPEinsight tool for producer organizations. These are not the only tools used, but offer good examples of how STARS uses fact-based tools to assess performance and to reflect on developments. This helps to focus our interventions so we can strengthen specific weaknesses that need to be addressed. The MicroScore Tool and SCOPEinsight tools were used to make baseline assessments and continue to be used for progress monitoring.
Following market dynamics
By 2020, STARS aims to increase income and food security of 210,000 smallholder farmers in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Ethiopia. As we follow the ‘Making Markets Work for the Poor’ approach (M4P), we do not support these farmers by directly providing trainings or products. The M4P approach therefore makes it challenging to identify our program beneficiaries or the exact services they will receive. And that we follow market dynamics also means that interventions are not static but develop organically over time. This poses strong challenges to impact measurement and the solutions we devise are never easy. As we implement and learn though, we are gaining valuable insights into impact measurement in M4P programs.
In STARS we use a number of additional tools for impact measurement. We apply the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale tool (HFIAS) to measure food security, but have added the Months of Adequate Household Food Provisioning (MAHFP) to generate additional insights spanning a longer time period. We use the Progress out of Poverty Index (PPI) as a proxy to measure income, but we have added the Tropical Livestock Unit and other household assets to generate more detailed information. And to better understand uptake and impact of microfinance, we are looking into ‘personas’ based on specific farmer characteristics – a tool from the world of marketing. In STARS we’re navigating a steep and sometimes bumpy road, but progressing for sure.
Strengthening African Rural Smallholders (STARS), is a program implemented by ICCO Cooperation and ICCO Terrafina Microfinance, in partnership with MasterCard Foundation.
Marco Dekker, MEL coordinator STARS