Measuring Smallholder Resilience #Rioplus20

by Esther Penunia, Elwyn Grainger-Jones and Jeffrey A. Brez

On 18 June, at the Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD) event in Rio de Janeiro, IFAD, ICRAF, EcoAgriculture Partners and the Asian Farmers Association (AFA) joined forces to discuss how to measure resilience to climate change and sustainable agriculture for smallholders in developing countries [for more info, see learning event no. 12].

Elwyn Grainger-Jones, IFAD’s Environment and Climate Director, presented the results measurement framework of the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP).  Take a look at the table on page 4 of the full document and then read Elwyn’s reflections on the discussion, and detailed recommendations from  Esther Penunia, Secretary General of AFA for measuring success.


“We had a great discussion. The main thing I learnt was that there are big gaps in measuring the impacts of climate adaptation - or 'climate resilience'- projects on people. Impact measures on poverty and nutrition are fairly well developed, although sometimes not collected with a view to measuring resilience to shocks.  Technologies and techniques for measuring the bio-physical aspects (e.g. through remote sensing) are being rapidly developed, but are still too often missing from M&E systems - project information often does not tell us whether poverty has been reduced at the expense of, rather than by building up, the natural environment.  Finally, indicators on the adaptive capacity of institutions and governance systems are difficult to frame in any kind of quantitative way, and yet this is one of the most important areas for climate adaptation.  We need to work together to build up knowledge on all of this, and then integrate it into wider project investment or policy impact systems so that adaptation or resilience is not kept apart as a stand-alone issue.”  


“Thanks to IFAD for giving us the opportunity to present the perspectives of family farmers in Asia. We are happy to know that IFAD has this new ASAP program to channel climate finance to smallholder farmers, aimed to scale up and integrate climate change adaptation in its regular smallholder development programs. It is a clear response to the call of smallholder family farmer groups to help us upscale and mainstream sustainable, agro-ecological family farming systems. It is a clear recognition that sustainable, agro-ecological organic approaches by smallholders/family farmers are the imperatives to address the interrelated issues of poverty, hunger and climate change. It also a clear recognition of women's significant role in sustainable farming. 

We appreciate the ASAP framework as we find it comprehensive. We would like to make three major comments on this. 

1. We recommend that in ASAP outcomea, we include indicators related to access and control of productive resources (land, water, forests, seeds) by poor smallholders. Even before we can talk of increased land management, of sustainable agriculture, we need security of tenure so that we can decide what to plant, how to plant, what seeds to use. Clear indicators for significant increase of women having rights to farmlands are critical. 

2. We recommend indicators related to increase in biodiversity:  increase in the number of family farmers practicing integrated, diversified, agro-ecological approaches; increase by which smallholders are able to diversify their crops and the seeds they use. We need to encourage a wider genetic base in agriculture - trees, fruits, grains, vegetables, animals --- for nutrition, pest control and resilience to climate change. If we do not include these indicators, we are afraid that we will be promoting still monoculture --- planting of just one crop but drought or flood resilient. We fear that we will just promote GMO seeds -- which may be drought or flood or pest resilient --but which is outside the control and culture of farmers. 

3. We appreciate also the indicators on forming or strengthening community groups. we would like indicators that show that these groups are able to interact, share lessons with one another, craft advocacy and extension strategies together and engage their governments. These community groups should be able to have increased participation in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of climate adaptation projects, not only of IFAD, but also of national and local governments. 

This leads me to the final point. What can be the role of regional / international farmers' organizations, especially those involved in the farmers' forum, like AFA, in ASAP.  We can:

  • facilitate link between IFAD and ASAP and FOs in pilot countries;  
  • raise smallholder awareness; 
  • mobilize their participation through in country consultations with government and other stakeholders; 
  • gather feedback from the field through our members and drawing up recommendations based on field experiences; 
  • perform as third party monitors of ASAP; 
  • knowledge sharing session among project recipients of ASAP;  
  • assist in documentation, dissemination and popularization of natural resource-based traditional knowledge and farmer generated innovation."

Me (Jeff)

I can’t resist adding here that Esther’s recommendations will be extremely helpful for us as we define our knowledge and learning activities.  Check out the ASAP Knowledge and Learning Concept.  There will be more to come!