Chapter 4: monitoring and evaluation of participatory nutrition projects
Participatory monitoring and evaluation is an essential aspect of a participatory nutrition project. It enables the community to assess the progress of the activities and to take steps to resolve problems, changing objectives and adjusting activities if necessary.
The development worker facilitates the process and helps the community to identify indicators, gather information and record it. The food and nutrition coordinating committee combines the information from each group responsible for an activity into an overall monitoring and evaluation system. Discussions are held with the community and with institutions working at the local level to decide what action should be taken as a result of the monitoring and evaluation.
The development worker may need to develop a separate monitoring and evaluation system to meet the needs of a government or donor organization. The development worker also facilitates evaluations of externally-funded projects that involve community representatives, local government staff and external evaluators.
Participatory monitoring and evaluation serves two purposes: it is a management tool that helps people improve their efficiency and effectiveness. It is also an educational process that helps participants increase their awareness and understanding of the various factors that affect their lives. In so doing it increases people's control over the development process.
Monitoring and evaluation enables the community and the development worker to assess the progress and impact of the project, to check if the objectives are realistic and appropriate or if they need to be revised and to identify and anticipate problems so that they can take steps to avoid or solve them. Monitoring and evaluation is linked to decision-making it enables the community to redefine objectives and adjust activities if needed.
When carried out together by people in the community, monitoring and evaluation provides opportunities for individual enjoyment, creativity and exchange of new ideas.
Participatory monitoring and evaluation is carried out by the community itself. The development worker participates in and facilitates this process: assisting the community to design the system and following the activities and the analysis of the information gathered. The ultimate goal is to enable the community to monitor and evaluate its own food and nutrition activities without the help of the development worker.
In participatory monitoring and evaluation, people:
- decide what should be monitored and evaluated;
- select indicators for doing so;
- organize the collection of information: How can this be done? Who should do what? When?
- analyse and interpret data.
- use the information.
An organizational structure is needed to ensure that the information generated by the monitoring and evaluation process is effectively used in decision-making and action. This can be the food and nutrition coordinating committee.
When participatory nutrition activities involve agents or institutions external to the community, a joint monitoring and evaluation process can be discussed, designed and implemented.
External evaluations often do not allow adequate contribution from the people.
In a participatory nutrition project, the following activities and processes are monitored and evaluated:
- the progress of each activity
- its effectiveness in reaching its objectives
- its relevance to the priorities agreed upon by the community
- how the group in charge of the activity functions
- how the different activities are carried out and
- how the project evolves as a whole
- how the coordinating committee functions
- the relations between the community and the different external institutions involved.
We have seen that the appraisal process covered a wide variety of issues related directly or indirectly to nutrition, including agricultural production and time allocation. Activities were then selected to address some of the main issues identified. The monitoring and evaluation process will consider the information relevant to these issues. This can then be compared with the information collected in the appraisal process in order to see what changes have been brought about.
Qualitative information needs to be complemented with quantitative or at least semi-quantitative information. This can be done by identifying and selecting quantifiable indicators.
Checklist 3: Monitoring and evaluation of participatory nutrition projects identification of indicators
The following list is intended to help the development worker chose indicators relevant to the type of activities selected and initiated by the community. These indicators are meant to contribute to discussions at group and community level. Indicators can include:
1. Indicators related to nutritional impact:
- Changes in food consumption patterns of households and individuals (e.g. children)
- Increase In food availability:
range and quantities of foods produced by the household; modification of production system availability of affordable foods at accessible distribution points
- Number of people with nutritional problems in the community
- Change in food and nutrition related beliefs
- Access to water
- Access to medical services (e.g. attendance to health clinic)
2. Indicators related to equity:
- Changes in division of labour and time use by gender
- Changes in distribution of production resources
- Changes in income distribution
- Changes in distribution of knowledge and skills
3. Indicators related to community participation:
- Percentage of households involved in at least one activity of the participatory nutrition project (e.g. demonstration)
- Changing size of group membership during the project -
- Frequency of attendance at meetings
- involvement of marginalized households
- Number of person/days of labour involved in project activity
- Number, percentage and gender of persons assuming leadership roles
4. Indicators related to the interaction of the community with external services:
- Number and types of institutions with which the community has established regular linkages
- Participation of community in external decisions affecting it directly
- Number of people trained by external institutions
Examples are provided in appendixes 3 and 4.
Monitoring and evaluation combine recording of specific information with discussion sessions on the progress of activities and the difficulties encountered.
The first step is for the community to decide what criteria to use to judge the success or failure of the participatory nutrition project. These criteria need to be regularly reviewed. Each group responsible for an activity discusses and agrees on possible indicators with a member of the food and nutrition coordinating group. The development worker facilitates these discussions.
The information for monitoring and evaluation can come from discussions and meetings on food and nutrition-related issues at different levels: local, coordinating committee, community, group, interviews. Visits to sites and participant observation can also provide useful information and occasions for discussion. Keeping a diary is very useful. Development workers can record in the diary any indication of change gathered during informal discussions with community members.
Most of the techniques used for participatory appraisal of food and nutrition can also be used for monitoring and evaluation. To facilitate the collection and recording of information, each working group can develop a monitoring chart with the assistance of the development worker. An example is given in Figure 8.
The results are discussed and then combined into an overall monitoring and evaluation system. At the beginning of the project, activities are few and the system can be very simple. As the number of activities increases, the number of indicators will also increase.
The food and nutrition coordinating group combines the different activity monitoring charts into an overall monitoring chart for the participatory nutrition project. An example is given in Figure 9.
As the examples show, monitoring charts can be very simple and designed to be filled in just by checking off items. The preparation and use of these charts make it easy for the group to monitor its activities and stimulate discussions about why activities progress or not.
In a participatory nutrition project, monitoring and evaluation methods and indicators are simple and low-cost, and are designed to provide timely information required for decision-making and action. The cost is estimated according to the actual use of the information collected.
The food and nutrition coordinating group organizes community monitoring meetings about once every three months. During these meetings, each group presents a progress report on their activity and discusses the problems they are encountering.
Task monitoring sheet
Figure 9: Nutrition project monitoring sheet.
Monitoring and evaluation often generate the need for further monitoring and evaluation and so needs to be a dynamic and flexible process that is reviewed periodically.
The development worker will probably need to collect further information and develop a complementary monitoring and evaluation system to fulfil the requirements of institutions. This may be information which is not directly relevant to actual community work but which may be useful to policy makers, planners at provincial and central level and donors. It is best to keep the two monitoring and evaluation systems separate, so that the needs of development agencies, ministries and donors do not override the needs of the group members themselves.
A regular meeting once a year can bring together development workers from governmental or non-governmental organizations, the local authorities and community representatives, preferably from the food and nutrition coordinating committee, at local level to discuss the progress of participatory nutrition projects and the evolution of the food and nutrition situation.
In most externally funded projects, evaluations are carried out periodically by the donor agency. The development worker can facilitate the involvement of local-level staff (e.g. health or nutrition officers, home economists, agriculture extensionists) in the design and implementation of joint evaluations which involve the community, development workers, local government staff and external evaluators of the participatory nutrition project.
Monitoring and evaluation is an ongoing process built in from the start of the project. In a participatory nutrition project, it is difficult to separate the stages of problem identification, selection of activities and monitoring and evaluation of these activities. Activities increase aware ness, understanding and participation which in turn lead to redefinition of objectives and adjustment of activities or definition of new objectives and selection of new activities.. Monitoring and evaluation provides opportunities for learning from action.
Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation
- Development workers are often not very familiar with the concept of monitoring and evaluation. Consequently, they may feel that they need high-calibre expertise and specific funding to design and implement these activities.
- Monitoring and evaluation, however, is a normal part of daily life, whether personal or professional. It is generally a matter of common sense: if something does not turn out as expected, a person tries to understand why and then either modifies the activities or redefines the objectives.
Monitoring and evaluation should therefore not be seen as an external activity imposed by institutions but as an essential part of the everyday learning or decision-making process.
Steps in monitoring and evaluation of participatory nutrition projects
The role of the development worker is to:
1. Assist each group to develop a monitoring and evaluation system for its activities.
2. Assist the food and nutrition coordinating committee (or the relevant community structure) to combine these systems into an overall participatory monitoring and evaluation system for the participatory nutrition project.
3. Develop a separate monitoring and evaluation system for meeting the needs of the government institution or donor.
4. Promote appropriate mechanisms (e.g. annual meetings, field visits) for a joint monitoring and evaluation process involving the community and local institutions;
5. Within externally funded projects, promote the organization of tri-partite evaluations involving community representatives, local government staff and external evaluators.