Guest Blog Post – Challenges of M&E for Capacity Building Projects

Guest Blog Post – Challenges of M&E for Capacity Building Projects
Prof. Magayane interviews a coffee farmer during the Feed the Future M&E Workshop in Kigoma, Tanzania.

Prof. Magayane interviews a coffee farmer during the Feed the Future M&E Workshop in Kigoma, Tanzania.

iAGRI staff recently participated in a Monitoring and Evaluation workshop of Feed the Future partners in Kigoma, Tanzania. This month’s guest blog post features Dr. Flavianus Magayane, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist and one of the participants in the workshop. At iAGRI, Dr. Magayane monitors the progress, reports M&E data to the Feed the Future, and ensures that the most effective methods for monitoring and evaluation are used across the organization. He is also a Senior Lecturer in SUA’s Department of Agricultural Education and Extension, where he teaches sociology, participatory research approaches, extension, and survey research methods. Here, Dr. Magayane describes some of the challenges of measuring success of capacity building and institutional strengthening projects focused on agricultural research and development.

Dr. Magayane is no stranger to USAID-funded projects. As a student, he became involved in a project called Bean/Cowpea Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP), a coordinated initiative established in 1980 focusing on legumes to address hunger and malnutrition in Africa. He was assigned to Prof. Jean M. Due, a Prof. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Illinois-Urbana as a research assistant. “Whenever she was going to the field, I would accompany here. She was looking at gendered dimensions of agricultural extension. Afterwards, I received a scholarship to complete my PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.”

Challenges in Monitoring and Evaluating Impact

“Measuring the outcome of capacity building is difficult in the sense that, even by well-established definitions, impact may be contributed to by many factors. The impact of capacity-building projects is felt many years after a project is over, but may also be contributed to by other factors.”

iAGRI supports 135 students to pursue degree training in the agricultural sciences. Since completing their studies, students have excelled at positions within the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, are now leading research projects and breeding programs, and are initiating ICT projects directly linking with beneficiaries to improve community health and nutrition. Other iAGRI graduates are now teaching others based at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) incorporating the technical expertise they have acquired as a result of their degree training and the soft skills they have developed through short-term courses on leadership.

“When you invest in individuals, their success will be a combined product of many factors. It is not easy to assess because our lives are shaped by many factors. What they accomplish is linked to what you have invested in them, but it is difficult to partial out. This is because human beings are always learning. You can’t be 100% sure that the impact you witness is the direct result of your training, but you can see the threads that are linked to that. In short, when you are investigating and monitoring the progress of individuals, you have to recognize that they are shaped by a lot of different forces surrounding them. It makes it difficult to rule out competing explanations.”

The Impact of iAGRI

“That said, the impact of iAGRI has been tremendous. The impact has been significant in the sense that we have trained a lot of people. All factors being the same, these people have come out with skills, technical expertise, and a mindset of how to do things better. The most significant impact has been the outputs of training in the skills and knowledge. When they are put into practice, problems are being solved, people have been able to things that they weren’t able to before, people are able to work more efficiently and effectively as a result of iAGRI.”

“One key impact of iAGRI is that people are exposed to different cultures and ways of looking at things. If you see these students when they go to the US, the way they do things when they come back is different. The students’ ICT inclination and exposure to new technologies is completely different after these experiences. We don’t have the data to show that, but if we did, you would be able to see there has been enormous change. As an M&E Specialist, we do gather indicators; however, some of the impact is not easily measured. When you speak with their professors, they are more knowledgeable and more skills. Skills, mindsets, attitude and knowledge are difficult to capture. This is what learning is.”

iAGRI Graduates

“When the students return to Tanzania, we also learn from them. That is also an impact. It’s a unintended spillover, but it’s still there.”

“Given the range of disciplines and employers the graduates eventually work for (the Ministry, the private sector, and higher education institutions), they are all working towards objectives that improve food security in-country and in the region.” Out of the 135 iAGRI students, 83% of them are currently employed at organizations including international NGOs such as Africa Rice, local NGOs including Partners for Development, local government offices, and the Ministries of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Health.

iAGRI Student Victoria Bulegaya with supervisor, Peg Redinbaugh

iAGRI student Victoria Bulegaya with her supervisor Peg Redinbaugh

“In addition, through institutional strengthening activities, the structural set-up of where they are working is changed. They aren’t just better employees, the institutions where they work are better able to harness their newly developed skills. This has a multiplier effect on the impact produced as a result of iAGRI projects.”

“In connection with mindset, one big aspect of culture we get from the West is that women can do things just like men. We cannot discount that. As a nation, we are trying to move towards that. But when students arrive and the idea of equality is also verified, it reinforces their conviction. Reinforcement is better. As a result, we manage to get more women into training. As a long-term impact, the women are empowered. Not only the ones directly benefiting from the training, but the ones who see them. They become role models for generations of future women.”

 

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April 11, 2016