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Monitoring Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems

03/09/2018

To feed a growing population and tackle the challenge of climate change, agricultural production must intensify in a sustainable way, and innovation is key to make that happen. Therefore, it is crucial to enhance capacities for agricultural innovation, with a particular focus on smallholder producers.

Monitoring the results of capacity development (CD) interventions for Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) is essential to provide regular feedback to participating stakeholders, stimulate reflection and learning among the stakeholders, and recommend improvements and adjustments.

Tracking capacity changes is quite challenging, as it involves aspects that are often difficult to capture such as changes in individual behavior and knowledge or in organizational performance. However, it is important to track these changes across the three capacity development dimensions (individual, organizations and the enabling environment), and for both technical and functional capacities. This implies, for example, looking into questions such as: “Are trained producers actually applying newly acquired knowledge or skills?”, “Are producer organizations performing better?” and, “Are policies conducive to allow implementation and sustainability of desired changes?”

scoring tool to monitor changes in capacities

The EU-funded CDAIS project, jointly implemented by national partners, FAO and AGRINATURA, aims to strengthen the capacity to innovate in eight countries[1]. The project is based on the Common Framework on CD for AIS developed under the Tropical Agriculture Platform (TAP). This comprehensive methodology promotes better coherence in CD for AIS approaches and provides concepts and tools to assess capacity needs and monitor CD interventions.

In this project, a capacity scoring tool has been developed to assess and monitor changes in innovation capacities. The tool can provide important evidence on progress in changes of capacities and thus the performance of a CD project or programme. It also offers insights into how far innovation capacities are available and put to use.

The capacity scoring tool is a questionnaire organised into several topics covering key functional capacities(e.g. capacity to collaborate or to reflect and learn) that are essential for innovation in agriculture, but are often neglected. it also touches on the technical skills and the enabling environment for agricultural innovation. For each topic several indicators and questions have been developed to assess the different types of capacities across all three capacity development dimensions.

An integrated methodology is proposed to make the best use of the questionnaire. First, it is important to adapt the questionnaire to the local context. Then a key element of the methodology consists of organizing a participatory simulation game/role-play, which enables stakeholders to develop a common understanding of the challenges and the capacities needed to address the challenges. The questionnaire can be completed by stakeholders in small groups with the support of trained facilitators. Once data are analysed, results are submitted to the participants for validation and action planning.

Application and lessons learned

This approach was piloted and, after refinements, applied during the needs and baseline assessments in the eight CDAIS countries.

In Laos, the scoring tool and the simulation game/role play were introduced during a capacity needs assessment workshop for a pig raising innovation partnership, one of the innovation partnerships supported by the CDAIS project. The participants included researchers, extension agents, traders as well as pigs producers. A team of trained national facilitators facilitated the role play and the self-assessment using the scoring tool. The results of the scoring tool were used to produce capacity profile graphs in order to visualise the capacity level of the innovation partnership for each indicator, as perceived by the participants. From the assessment in Laos, the capacity profiles showed some weak indicators such as a low level of capacity for sharing information, and some strong indicators such as a clear role and leadership. These results were discussed with the participants to design relevant CD interventions to strengthen the innovation partnership.

From the experiences in the CDAIS countries, challenges in applying this approach have been highlighted. For example, this methology requires good preparation (training of facilitators, adaptation and translation of questionnaire, planning, etc.) and facilitation to support the stakeholders during the self-assessment. Moreover, the assessment results need to be presented to the participants in an easily understandable format, so that it can be validated and used by them. This is crucial, as it encourages participants to be in a position to co-design the CD interventions with the project or programme implementers. Furthermore, the collected data depends on participants’ perceptions. Therefore, in order to be able to compare results across time and monitor capacity changes before and after a CD intervention, it is essential to have an overlap of participants between assessments.

By using this methodology at different stages of the project implementation, the results obtained can be compared to the initial baseline data to determine changes in capacities. Through quantitative or qualitative analysis factors associated with these changes can be determined, thereby providing important information on how to best configure and prioritize CD interventions for agricutlural innovation systems.

For more information [resources in English]:

Contact:

Manuela Bucciarelli, AGDR : manuela.bucciarelli@fao.org

Karin Nichterlein, AGDR: karin.nichterlein@fao.org

Christian Grovermann, FiBL: christian.grovermann@fibl.org



[1] Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Rwanda

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