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On the use and usefulness of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)

Siri Pisters - Junior advisor food and nutrition security CDI

The monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of a project in international development cooperation can be expensive and labor-intensive, while the hefty reports that result from such processes often remain invisible to a broader public. In its ideal form though, monitoring and evaluation has a huge potential to shed a light on the thousands of approaches, projects, ideas and initiatives that are being implemented, leading to more effectiveness and efficiency in development cooperation.

The ‘Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia’ Program, part of a major grant scheme funded by DFID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has been designed to make use of the potential of M&E to stimulate innovation in the agricultural sector. The Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) program, has recently published a call for proposals.  The call requests for proposals on new, ‘out-of-the-box’ and bottom-up ideas to generate a broader set of evidence-based interventions. Currently, the base of evidence in the field of agriculture-nutrition is rather thin, and the evidence that is created only includes a small narrow array of well-known interventions. Alan Dangour (LANSA), lead of the research theme ‘how strong is the evidence that agriculture can be pro-nutrition’ states:  “Will we really carry on testing this small handful of ideas repeatedly using the same methods until we find a glimmer of hope to support their use?”

Through this call for proposals a chance is given to ideas in agriculture-nutrition that are still in their design phase. A selection of ideas will be closely monitored and evaluated, putting them in the spotlights and providing these initiatives a chance to use M&E to adapt, improve, develop and potentially scale up. As the subsidy providers put it,  “It is hard to believe that there are not a range of exciting, maybe local and grassroot-led innovations in agriculture and livestock/fisheries production that have not yet been tested, and are waiting for an evidence base to support their potential up-scaling and broader implementation (A. Dangour, 2015).”

We think this is an exciting and promising initiative and recommend to follow an approach that truly allows for using and learning from M&E processes and the information that is generated in the development, test and scale-up phases of agriculture related interventions. Have a look at this ‘Managing for Impact’ approach on the portal