Sunday, October 18, 2015

39. Monitoring and Evaluation for a Multi-disciplinary Policy Project

Oct. 18, 2015
Ann Arbor, MI -- East Lansing, MI -- Kigali, Rwanda

Today we submitted the first draft of the "Monitoring & Evaluation"  (M&E) plan for the Africa Great Lakes Coffee (AGLC) project to USAID.  The process of putting together a professional M&E plan has been interesting. A few bullet points:
  1. An M&E plan must be designed with the funder's persective in mind. In the case of AGLC the funder is USAID so the indicators and the M&E plan have to keep USAID's processes, schedule and requirements in mind. Note -- the funders' requirements often change! (Requirements last year may change this year.)
  2. The M&E plan must keep the key goals and most essential objectives "front and center." An experienced M&E professional I talked with gave me some wise advice -- "get the goals of the project defined in a way that can be said and written in 2 short sentences." Only with such a concise and understandable goal, can a project be sure to deliver results. Otherwise disorganization and confusion happens, instead of synergy and cohesion.
  3. The field of M&E is evolving -- in fact it is no longer being called M&E at USAID, rather "Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning" or MEAL. This makes sense and in fact became a topic on our AGLC project already. One of our partners, Global Knowledge Institute (GKI), has "communication" as part of their scope of work. But today, MEAL is about creating feedback loops and "learning processes" within and during the project, which, of course, involves a lot of communication among the partners. So Andrew (with GKI) and I realized we will have some coordinating to do to avoid duplication. 
So M&E today asks: What are we learning as the project gets started? How can that learning be transmitted so that all project components benefit?  This is the vital role of MEAL in my view. I think of it as "turbo charging" the learning and effectiveness of a project.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

38. Project Kick-Off at Lemigo Hotel

Oct. 13, 2015
Lemigo Hotel, Kigali, Rwanda
Participants at the AGLC Kick-Off meeting included top Rwandan and US government officials, NAEB, implementing partners including IPAR, AgroPy, Starbucks, CEPAR, NAEB, GKI, U. of Ngozi, U. of Gitega, U. of Rwnada, MSU.

Tuesday, 13 October, 2015 marked the official launch of the collaborative 3-year Africa Great Lakes Coffee program. The program aims to strengthen the productivity and quality of specialty coffee in the Africa Great Lakes region through research and policy support.

The launch workshop was hosted by the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) and co-hosted by Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of Rwanda (UR). Amb. George Kayonga the CEO of the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) gave the welcome. His remarks set the vision for the impact that can be accomplished through the program implementation. Welcome remarks were also delivered by the Executive Director of IPAR, while the key address was from USAID-Rwanda.

Participants at the workshop were drawn from stakeholders in the coffee industry and they included high-level Rwandan and US government officials, the stakeholders in Rwanda’s coffee sector, a representative of USAID Burundi, and Drs. Bonaventure Minani and Gustav Nkurunziza from Ngozi, and Gitega Universities (respectively) who are the implementing partners of the project in

Speakers during the opening ceremony thanked the different stakeholders for their role and support in making the workshop a success. They underscored the timeliness of this workshop and requested for maximum participation from everyone. They also stressed the importance of building policies based on research and evidence.

The New Times, Rwanda's English language newspaper, published an article here:

A key activity during the day-long program involved all participants collaborating to clarify the research situation in which this project is about to launch. Participants first mapped challenges related to antestia/productivity and related to building an enabling environment to resolve these challenges.  They took the top 18 challenges, and analyzed this - exploring what we know, what we don't know, and what we might be assuming about the challenges. Then, based on what they had learned, the group honed this list of 18 down to 11 "How Might We's" (HMW):

No. 1: HMW understand the most effective pesticide
No. 1: HMW improve knowledge on how to eliminate PTD
No. 1: HMW understand the necessary incentives to decrease PTD?
No. 4: HMW make agronomic guidelines available to farmers
No. 5: HMW improve market access for farmers
No. 5: HMW address risks associated with coffee production
No. 7: HMW encourage full implementation of IPM
No. 7: HMW make enough fertilizer available to all farmers?
No. 9: HMW improve extension services to coffee farmers?
No 10: HMW connect coffee quality to coffee prices?
No. 11: HMW improve the information dissemination system along the coffee value chain? 

Post kick-off meetings followed the kick-off conference on the next day. These were productive, allowing the implementing partners the face-to-face time needed to design the next steps of the many components of this project:

Key components include:
  1. Field research with 64 demonstration plots in each country.
  2. Field research with a baseline, mid-term, and end-line survey of 1024 farmers in 4 districts in each country (the mid-term survey will be a sub-set). 
  3. The two field research components will feed the capacity building (training) and policy development components.