Workshop draws up agriculture action plan

The agriculture sector’s self-assessment workshop came to a close yesterday, with the group producing a draft action plan for the sector to use coming up to its monitoring and evaluation plan mid-term review. 

The workshop was organised by the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), in order to facilitate a space to learn how to manage and measure the impacts of the sector’s work.

IFAD’s country program manager Tawfiq El-Zabri said as well as learning to measure results, the workshop is about communicating results better too.

“The action plan hopefully will help the ministry improve results management, decision making, and communication and so on,” he said.

The group’s action plan will be refined and finalised alongside consultants from two non-governmental development organisations then returned to the ministry for implementation.

Mr El Zabri said for developing countries, efficiently collecting, analysing and managing information is a challenge. IFAD’s goal is to help countries utilise tools and technologies to make that data gathering easier and work towards evidence based policy.

“It’s not automatic or intuitive that people will just start efficiently managing information and making decisions based on good information,” he said.

“One of the key challenges is getting good information and analysing it. Even when we collect data, the skills to analyse it and inform policy making can be limited.”

Data gathering on actual results can be more meaningful than reporting on processes, Mr El-Zabri said, although this has been the way of development work for some time.

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“It’s very easy to report on ‘well we did so many numbers of trainings, that’s an output’.

“But the ultimate result further down the line is that farmers should benefit. If you are not looking at the benefits you might be giving trainings that are not effective, or somehow not reaching the right people. 

“Ultimately, we want to help farmers improve production, increase income, improve food security and nutrition, and so it’s not about process and outputs but what kind of impact you have on the farmers and that is more difficult to capture.

The project that IFAD has brought to Samoa is called AVANTI (Advancing Knowledge for Agricultural Impact). Mr El-Zabri said rather than external experts assessing the sector’s strengths and weaknesses, people can learn to judge themselves.

“As outsiders we don’t know what the needs are, so it really depends on the participants identifying what those issues are.

“People here of course know the situation better than us and especially the Samoan context is quite different than other places where my colleagues and I come from.

Mr El-Zabri said he was happy to see the group bring discussions back to the realities in Samoa, to make discussions on improvements relevant and constructive.

“When we talked about whether farmer organisations are empowered, there was some discussion about social hierarchy here and how village elders would have an important role in deciding things.

“Discussions we would expect elsewhere to go in a different direction on farmer organisations, the participants here bring it back to a Samoan reality and the way things work here. It’s been quite interesting, actually.”

The workshop has been a healthy safe space with room for rich discussion, he added, more so than he has experienced in the past.

““I have to say that I don’t see that often. We’re bringing in a new method and it looks more effective, I think,” said Mr El-Zabri.

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