New digital M&E system boosts value chain analysis and facilitates market decisions

Breakthrough for small producers, asset for reporting: KoBo-aided M&E offers broad applications

2020-12/ Computer-aided M&E systems can help small producers compare prices, finetune storage and plan investments. One such tool is pioneered in Madagascar, for green charcoal marketing and value chain analysis: Producers compile market prices and sales figures on their mobiles, to have them evaluated on the spot. The system operates on an open-source software which can be combined with other, commercial apps. "It means a breakthrough for the single producer and for project teams alike", says ECO Consult CEO Dr. Steve Sepp. "Our expertise allows us to set up apps in kind to monitor e.g. construction sites and related progress, or HCD training inputs or even a handy visualisation of global project progress over the long term."

The  M&E system was developed for GIZ's PAGE2 project where it will be tested for one year. Dr. Frank Richter, from ECO Consult's Eastern Africa project backstopping unit who conceived the tool, appreciates its advantages because they pertained to external and internal performance: "In the field, colleagues can intervene with much more precise HCD measures because they get to know problems, such as declining sales, at short hand. But it also helps inhouse to gather the sound raw data we need for project monitoring and reporting. We're talking about up to 250 parameters spread across .xls-sheets, GIS, note books and other devices that we have interlinked and that can now be visualised on a mouseclick." All target groups need is a smartphone or tablet to operate the app. Since the system's performance is not bound to online connections it can also simply be used e.g. for designing questionnaires for a household-related RRA at project phase inception, with follow-up synchronisation at time of online access. One asset is the tool's capacity for visualising the analysed data by way of PowerBI, a programme on offer by Microsoft Inc. With the ECO Consult team's prior expertise setting up a tailor-made digital M&E system is a matter of from a dozen days up to a month. "As yet we are only delving into the potential. Combined with a Sharepoint installation (running on MS 365) the tool can be expanded into a full-fledged self-administrated project platform", expects CEO Dietrich Busacker. Owed to its inhouse resources ECO Consult is able to provide the related services as package solutions, without external support.       

Burundi: New training material capacitates for more climate-resilient agriculture

Handbooks help farmers adjust their cultivation methods

2020-10/ An innovative package of training material issued by the ACCES+ project in Burundi helps farmers address climate change. Thematically the package covers the whole array of interventions towards more resilient agriculture: organisational preconditions and procedures as well as technicalities such as soil improvement by way of adapted cultivation techniques and choice of seeds, or erosion control. The material contains a training handbook for extentionists with curriculum modules and a complementary guide for plenary display with on-site illustrations. A compendium of technical files presents 20 measures stepwise and details necessary inputs such as cost and manual labour.

Two of the manuals are in French while the "Boîte à images" is also available in Kirundi. It contains photos and drawings that illustrate the subject on one page, together with a Q&A and a quintessential message on the back. To enter into a discussion facilitators can present the drawings to participants in the field or in plenary and ask for their experience. The information on the back helps them to propose hints and clues on the spot, in a language that the participants easily understand. Farmers can so analyse their situation and think over adapting their practices. Each topic ends on a reference to a file on the same subject of the Compendium of Technical Data Sheets ("Fiches techniques"), which presents adaptation measures grouped into "framework conditions", "technical measures" and "capacity development and research" in more detail.

Thanks to the modular composition technicians can freely select topics dependent on the circumstances and situation and combine them in a flexible, needs-responding way. Many of the topics also touch on community and health in rural areas. With the training package that was copyedited and layoutted by ECO, the authors, among them ECO Consult's Michel Midré, Lisa Kirtz, and former ECO colleague Barbara Fröde-Thierfelder, have elaborated a truly "awareness-raising medium to develop conviction, ownership and sustainability activities". A training of trainers end of this month helps familiarise agricultural extentionists with the material.

The project "Sustainable management of water and land for food security in regions at risk of disaster" (ACCES+) cooperates with the Burundian Office for Environmental Protection. To secure food provision in the wake of aggravating climate impacts it works to reduce the immense pressure on arable land and to retain soil fertility. For Burundi's rural population, 90 percent of which rely on land resources and agriculture, agricultural extention is at their lifelines. ECO Consult has implemented parts of the programme since 2015. Hopes are that the joint inputs delivered will also persist after the envisaged retreat of German TC from the country.

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