Measuring impact from a smallholder perspective: The multidimensional poverty assessment tool

The discussions around aid effectiveness bring a new focus on how to enhance, measure and track sustainable development. With about 75% of the world's poor living in rural areas, one question is: How do we assess and measure rural poverty in order to be more effective at eradicating it?  The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) developed a simple and innovative tool to help answer this question. Just as rural poverty is based on more than one factor, the tool - the Multidimensional Poverty Assessment Tool (MPAT) - combines 10 different indicators to create a “rural poverty dashboard."

MPAT provides data that can inform all levels of decision making by providing a clearer understanding of rural poverty at the household and village level. As a result, MPAT can significantly strengthen the planning, design, monitoring and evaluation of a project, and thereby contribute to rural poverty reduction.

MPAT is the result of a collaborative, international initiative begun in 2008 and led by the IFAD. The purpose was to develop, test and pilot a new tool for local-level rural poverty assessment. The tool went through extensive field testing in several countries and independent validation and peer-review. MPAT is relatively easy to use, requires few resources to implement, and provides users with a reliable and comprehensive picture of a community’s poverty situation.

During IFAD’s Learning Days, a session was organised on the use of MPAT in Mali. This is the first Francophone country where the tool has been tested. Given that the project  supports the adaptation of poor smallholder farmers to climate change, an 11th indicator was developed to capture this dimension.

Group discussions were held on the use of the tool. The strengths and benefits of MPAT for users and projects are manifold:

- Developed by an international group of rural development experts
- Field-tested data collection tool with purpose-built surveys
- Independently assessed and validated
- Much of the work is already done for the user (an “off-the-shelf” tool)
- Field-tested training programmes for enumerators, supervisors and data entry personnel
- Uses locally collected data based on people’s perceptions
- Standardized methodology, but also customizable
- Indicators are automatically calculated and displayed in an easy-to-understand format
- Designed for organizations of all sizes and budgets

There are however also some limitations:

- Attribution remains a challenge
- Respondents are mainly men
- Undertaking the surveys and doing the report requires significant time and human resources

MPAT is complementary to IFAD’s Results and Impact Management System (RIMS). In Mali they have merged the two for the baseline study of the  Rural Youth Vocational Training, Employment and Entrepreneurship Support Project with interesting results. MPAT will be tested in a number of countries in the near future: Mauritania, Kenya, Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland.