The five mistakes development sector actors make when empowering farmers
And how to avoid them!
Mistakes are fantastic opportunities for us to learn. So, we reviewed our quality control and feedback files (yes, we keep anonymous records of what works, what doesn’t and what needs to be improved). We asked our colleagues and partners about are the most re-occurring mistakes on agri-development projects. Below is the list of the top five mistakes encountered on projects.
” I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that it won’t work.”Thomas A. Edison
1. Fragmented Approach
In very large, multi-year institutional donor-funded programs, consortia members implement their own scopes of work using their own methods and models (sometimes even their own metrics) and do not harmonize and align their approaches.
How to avoid: projects need to decide (either at the proposal phase or upon award) to use one standard approach and metric
2. Staffing Too Lean
Many programs are squeezed to reduce human resources to accommodate donor-imposed targets and KPIs. Often, the staff which is reduced is not the headquarters staff (whereby many senior technical staff and non-program covered staff charge 10% of their time) but instead field staff. The obvious problem here is that to achieve ambitious program goals, a staff of “doers” needs to be in place.
How to avoid: Hire the essential staff, develop a detailed work plan with a column for responsible staff member/position. Hire accordingly for all phases of the project. (Note: this might mean hiring ST staff for smaller workstreams.)
3. Weak External Communication
We live in a busy world, and so do project stakeholders. While many projects have project launch events, they do not have regular contact points with stakeholders (such as financial institutions, governments, off-takers, and sometimes even agribusiness leaders). The problem with not having regular external project communication (targeted toward stakeholders) is that they are often too busy to remember that your project’s goal was to, for example, create finance opportunities for smallholders. So, when it comes time to make that linkage, MFIs (or Banks) are not ready, ill-informed, and are often not able to act on expectations.
How to avoid: Have regular touchpoints with project stakeholders. Touchpoints can include targeted quarterly messages/reports for each stakeholder type, annual review meetings to re-align goals and targets, and status updates. This not only improves the cooperation amongst the stakeholders, but it also facilitates and accelerates alignment and ultimately improves impact.
4. Bottlenecks are Not Flagged
Every project has problems and delays. However, there is a difference between a delay and a bottleneck, and recognizing this difference is essential. A delay is time-bound and occurs once while a bottleneck is ongoing and causes a delay (of usually more than two weeks).
How to avoid: Create escalation procedures within the program to flag project delays and poor data quality at an early stage. This will help to tackle issues at an early stage before they might impede the target of the program.
5. Data is Not Made Actionable
Program people are accustomed to baselines and endlines on their projects. Often these are performed to show donors (and other stakeholders) progress on the project. However, these assessment periods are opportunities for immense learnings and in the case of SCOPEinsight assessments (see the article on Making Data Actionable), can be used to drive program objectives and outcomes.
How to avoid: Integrate and link the program’s M&E with the programmatic planning team.