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Unravelling indicators

Posted by Steven Jonckheere Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In recent years, IFAD has stepped up its efforts to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of the projects and programs it supports. However, it is clear that many challenges still remain. The 2014-15 portfolio review of the West and Central Africa Division (WCA) highlighted project management, and more specifically in the area of monitoring and evaluation (M&E), as being weak. In addition, IFAD is giving more importance to measuring the results and impact of the projects it supports not only to see if objectives are being met according to its mandate, but also to increase accountability towards its Executive Board.

From 14 to 18 December 2015 WCA organised a sharing and learning workshop in Abuja, Nigeria, for IFAD-supported projects from Anglophone countries in the region. The overall objective of the workshop was to strengthen the capacity of our stakeholders, mainly project M&E officers and coordinators, but also IFAD country teams, in the area of M&E, its basic concepts and methodological tools including RIMS, in order to improve the performance of projects and contribute to the achievement of its expected results and impact on rural poverty reduction. The event was part of the division’s continued efforts to strengthen the capacity of project management teams and aims at building technical and analytical skills in monitoring and evaluating  the outputs, outcomes and impact of projects financed by the Fund. Sixty-three people participated, coming from Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Uganda and IFAD headquarters.

Logframe & theory of change

The first part of the workshop focused on the logframe and the theory of change. The logframe provides you with a ‘snapshot’ of the project, a roadmap for implementation. It is a management tool, which guides annual planning; monitoring and evaluation; decision making. It has boxes and doesn’t use arrows. The theory of change is a comprehensive description of how change is expected to happen. It includes mapping results: outcomes needed to achieve a goal; and project interventions that lead outcomes. Results mapping uses arrows, focuses on causality and is an analytical tool. Reine Anani gave some suggestions on how to select good indicators: keep it simple; disaggregate by gender and age and ensure that they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). A wide range of measures of verification can be used to monitor these indicators. Rigorous methodologies should be considered, but their cost/benefit should be kept into account. Secondary data can be used, if reliable. Finally, assumptions and risks are critical and need to validated and communicated regularly.

M&E tools

During the second part of the workshop attention was given to tools that have proven to be effective for monitoring and evaluating projects. Good monitoring is important for projects to track progress made in achieving planned objectives and results and for decision-making. Two examples were shared: one on the use of GPS and SACCO registry in Uganda and another on the use of earth observation data in The Gambia. IFAD’s Asia and Pacific Division shared examples of their effort to shift the focus from impact documentation at completion to outcome measurement during project implementation. Annual outcome surveys are used to measure more regularly the positive or negative changes/outcomes taking place at the household level, provide early evidence of project success or failure and deliver timely performance information. Finally, Ghana’s experience with impact assessments was presented, where the use of sensemaking and the Participatory Impact Assessment and Learning Approach were piloted.

M&E system and RIMS

A group discussion was held on M&E systems and two projects presented their M&E system. While in The Gambia, the project M&E system directly feeds into the National Agricultural Database, in Ghana GIS is being used to monitor the different rural enterprises that are being supported by the project. Projects from Malawi and Sierra Leone presented their computerised systems for managing M&E data. RIMS was identified by many projects as being a challenge. It was emphasized that the priority of projects is the M&E system of which RIMS is a only a part that will automatically follow. Special attention should be given to identify evidence for outcome and to undertake quality control. Good experiences with RIMS reporting from Nigeria and Sierra Leone were presented.


The Annual Workplan and Budget (AWPB) is an essential managerial tool to: guide and regulate all activities and investments; set times, deadlines, targets and responsible parties; allocate appropriate resources to achieve proposed objectives and outcomes. Good practice AWPBs contain: an introduction; a summary Project description; a previous AWPBs implementation assessment; strategic direction, activities by component & resources plan; a summary training & technical assistance schedule; a budget & financing plan; a procurement plan; and, a M&E plan. Projects took the opportunity to develop their 2016 AWPB.

M&E officer

Participants also talked about the roles and responsibilities of the M&E officer. They should manage the “M&E process”, which includes many tasks and many people, advice and train the people involved; ensure data quality control and its utilization. Active management support is essential for good M&E. Management includes Project Coordinators/Managers, but also Managers in implementing institutions, and in IFAD. They should show interest, demand information, provide feedback; Act on non-compliance and non-performance; and give physical progress information the same attention and follow-up as financial progress information. A M&E training plan should be created to systematically build capacity.

Use of M&E data

Finally, the use of M&E data by three key stakeholders, project coordinators, the government and IFAD was discussed. The focus on M&E to support internal learning and management does not mean ignoring wider upward and downward accountability. Projects have important responsibilities to primary stakeholders, government agencies, funding agencies and society at large to account for their expenditures, activities, outcomes and impacts. In turn, supervising and funding agencies must account to their governments and tax payers for the investments made.