Farmer voice in performance management and evaluation

Published on

September 24, 2015

Improving the productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers involves a wide range of interventions in technology, support services, access to inputs, institution building (farmer associations and cooperatives) and market access across local, regional and international value chains.

Cultivating effective feedback loops between actors at all points in this web of relationships will contribute to fairer, more gender-sensitive, more efficient and more effective value chains – ultimately to greater well-being of smallholder farming communities.

Feedback Commons

Keystone’s Feedback Commons is a web platform designed to make collecting and using feedback so simple, inexpensive, and useful that all development interventions can use it to manage and improve their performance in the services they offer, the relationships they depend on, and the outcomes that they hope to achieve.

The Feedback Commons is built around ‘neighbourhoods’. For example, the Smallholder farmer and value chain development neighbourhood will enable any development initiative to

  • Build micro-surveys by selecting standardised, tested questions* from a common question bank and adding their own custom questions as well.
  • Automatically generate online survey forms and printable paper surveys (soon to include mobile data collection options such as Telerivet).
  • Upload data into the Commons database (automatically or manually using a range of cost-effective options).
  • Automatically and comparatively analyse the perceived performance of selected ‘project units’ benchmarked against selected similar units. Data analysis is through a live online performance dashboard that enables the user to generate printable, close to real time comparative performance reports.
  • Choose one of a range of methodologies to present the feedback back to respondent groups (closing the feedback loop) for open discussion of the issues raised. It is this closing of the loop that enables constituents to develop a shared understanding of the issues, strengthen relationships of confidence and trust and work together to implement agreed solutions.

The launch of the smallholder farmer and value chain development neighbourhood of the Feedback Commons is built around a set of survey questions developed initially in two pilot projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of which worked to strengthen the agriculture extension system in Ethiopia, the other of which focused on supporting the Banana Growers Association of Kenya.

Although these pilot programs are young, early results are very promising; the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture is now seeking to roll out a feedback-based performance management system across the entire extension service.

Over time, as more organizations join the neighbourhood, we will add new feedback loops and refine the questions to make them applicable to many different contexts. Some of the feedback loops now covered include:

  • Farmer feedback on training programs and demonstrations
  • Farmer feedback on extension services
  • Farmer feedback on their experience of cooperative market centres
  • Farmer feedback on the performance of new technologies
  • Buyer feedback on market centres
  • Cooperative members on the performance of management committees
  • Farmer Associations and project implementers feedback on the policies, practices and support of funders
  • Frontline extension workers feedback on extension management.

Spotlight: Banana Growers Association of Kenya

In early 2015, Keystone began a collaboration with the Farmer Organization Support Centre in Africa (FOSCA - a project of AGRA) and the Banana Growers Association of Kenya (BGAK) to pilot a similar feedback-based performance management system for the BGAK and its member cooperatives.

This partnership aims to pilot simple and affordable ways to convert farmer perceptions and experience into reliable performance data in a form that can be integrated into existing performance management and M&E systems, and then to find ways of using this data to drive improvement and empower farmers. In other words, the partnership seeks ways to turn feedback into data and data into voice.

Farmer Surveys

To begin, we wanted to test the cheapest, simplest and most basic ways of collecting data using short paper survey forms collected by locally-based independent workers. Data is collected continually through the year as part of routine everyday activities at selected ‘touch points’ such as market days, seedling nurseries, input suppliers, training events, field days, AGMs, etc.

Questions for farmers (the cooperative members) cover four main performance dimensions:

  • The quality and value of services provided by and through the cooperatives (e.g. how strongly would you recommend this service to other farmers?)
  • The quality of relationships (e.g. how much do you trust the advice and support you receive from the cooperative and its service providers?)
  • The agency and commitment of members (e.g. how strongly do you believe that you can achieve your goals?)
  • Emerging outcomes (e.g. have you been able to get a better price for your bananas because of the cooperative?)

Farmer feedback on market mechanisms such as market days is supplemented with feedback from the commercial banana buyers.

We found that minimal training was required, and completed forms could be uploaded from low-resolution digital photographs with very little error. We plan to introduce mobile feedback collection selectively – but we also learned that the advantages of mobile are not always as great as we thought.

Tracking New Technology Performance

We also track the performance of new technologies promoted by BGAK and the Ministry of Agriculture from a farmer perspective. In this case, the perceived performance of tissue culture banana seedlings is assessed by farmers in terms of applying the technology, its productivity and its profitability. Finally, we are collecting feedback from the cooperative leadership on the support and funding provided by FOSCA.

The feedback data is entered into the Feedback Commons and is accessible to all constituents of the project through a live online performance dashboard. Below are a selection of early screen shots illustrating the development of this dashboard. The most interesting graphs can be copied into a report template for projection or for printing as a booklet or composite poster that can be shared and discussed with feedback providers.

Our experience is that even illiterate farmers can engage with these presentations and contribute meaningfully to dialogue over the findings.

A Net Promoter Analysis of farmer responses to the question: How strongly would you recommend this market service centre to other farmers? An open question asking farmers for the reasons for their scores can be sorted and analysed using search functions
Keystone Accountability

Users can select one or more cooperative market centres or counties (selected in the box in the upper left corner) and see farmer responses for each market centre alongside one another for easy benchmarking. They can then disaggregate the feedback by locality, a wealth proxy (in this case the number of dairy cows in the household), gender or any other demographic category.

In the illustration above, the feedback is disaggregated into male and female. Below, two further screenshots illustrate how users can organize and analyze data.

The percentage of ‘yes’ responses to a number of more specific questions on their experience of that specific market day.
Keystone Accountability

Farmers and Extension officers at an Ethiopian Farmers Training Centre discussing farmer feedback presented in the form of hand-drawn graphs from the dashboard copied onto flip charts.

A Net Promoter Analysis of farmer responses disaggregated by gender to two questions about productivity gains (quantity and quality of bananas produced from tissue culture seedlings).
Keystone Accountability

About the Author(s)

Guest Blogger

Andre Proctor is a founding partner of Keystone Accountability. He now serves as its Programme Director and manages the Cape Town office. He leads the development of Keystone’s ground-breaking Impact Planning, Assessment and Learning (IPAL) methodology and also co-leads in the development of Keystone’s Comparative Constituency Feedback Survey methodology.

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