January 2008 Visit Report by the external monitor
14 May, 2008
The January 2008 visit report is accessible here
The Summary of Recommendations
- The final objectives of the project need clarification and agreement, by AMREF, its donors and local stakeholders. This agreement should be evident in a smaller set of indicators that show changes in people’s lives, which reflect the impact of all five project components, and which can be easily be monitored by community groups.
- Working with a range of local community groups, who are linked into government structures, is at the core of the KCPP strategy for achieving sustainable improvements to people’s lives in Katine. Ways of tracking overall improvements in the performance of these groups need to be developed, in consultation with them.
- The scale of project investment varies substantially across components, but in at least three components there are not enough resources to provide all villages with at least some minimal level of assistance (however defined). The livelihoods component seems especially under-invested. A strategy needs to be developed to either obtain expanded funding, or to ensure replication of AMREF activities in unassisted villages by other parties.
- The key to the long term sustainability of the achievements of the project is likely to be the work done on governance, both of the assisted community groups, and how they relate to the wider structures of government in the district. This is the area of the project most in need of technical back up, possibly by a third party, as is the case with Farm Africa and the livelihoods activities.
- In the longer term, AMREF needs to be able to provide evidence of about two types of change processes, that ideally would then be replicable elsewhere • What type of packages of support can best lead to desired improvements2 in the functioning of particular community groups• How the functioning of specific community groups can lead to particular improvements in the quality of peoples lives.
- Progress has been made with the development of an Open Information Policy but its implementation needs to be accelerated, if it is to be seen as anything more than a gesture. Disclosure of project documents to the external evaluator has improved, but will need to fit within the time schedule of future visits to Katine.
- The Guardian website should refer to AMREF’s “Katine Community Partnerships Project” in order to emphasise that it is an AMREF project, not a Guardian project and that the project is working through partnerships with local community organisations, not directly aiding individual households.
- AMREF’s participation in the Guardian website faces challenges. Cut-off time for comments on postings is too short for staff working with limited access to the internet and electrical power. The Guardian needs to adapt its standard procedures. On the other hand, AMREF’s policy of having their views expressed via one official spokesperson needs to be relaxed. It appears contrary to their objective in Katine of empowering people to speak up, rather than be spoken for.
Responses to the Farm Africa and Barclays 6th February Trip Report
- This is a new section, not included in the draft version because the Farm Africa & Barclays report was not yet available. Their report raised a number of issues that relate to my Terms of Reference as the external evaluator.
- They noted “a lack of clarity as to the overall goal and purpose of the project”, the reference to multiple types of outcomes but the lack of balance of attention to these within the baseline survey. Similar concerns have been expressed in this report. The problem is most evident when comparing AMREF’s views with Farm, Barclays and the Guardian, and less evident within AMREF.
- They “estimated that there are at least a further twenty NGOs-CBOs in Soroti and Katine engaged in similar programmes employing a community group approach”. Associated with this is the risk “of placing an unnecessary burden on project beneficiaries to set up different groups to access the benefits of individual components”. My next visit will therefore need to pay attention to two questions:
- How many of the groups being used by AMREF staff are pre-existing, versus newly created? Ideally (but not always) AMREF will be building on existing structures.
- What do AMREF staff know about past groups that were set up and then failed? Ideally lessons from these local experiences will be feeding into the design of their work with current groups (both new and pre-existing)
- Related to this point, their report noted “There are many other agencies working in Soroti District and Katine Village with several years of experience. Some are trying to achieve the same goals as AMREF and FARM Africa and some have similar approaches. We were concerned that Katine Project staff seem to have made little contact with these agencies to learn from their experience and some staff believed that they must seek formal approval from AMREF before they have dialogue with these agencies”. Relationships with such agencies will be monitored in the July 2008 visit and thereafter.
- They noted “It is not clear how work in the 18 villages covered by the livelihood component relates to the other components and a map showing clearly the villages covered by the different components of the project would be useful”. This is consistent with the discussion in this report about integration, and the potential usefulness of the village profiles database as a means of tracking how this is being realised at the village level.
- They noted a difference in approach between the livelihoods and other components, with its less emphasis on quick wins and no use of material aid. These differences have the potential to create conflict and misunderstanding both within the Katine team and with the communities they are working with. They will be the subjects of attention in my next visit? in July 2008
- Related to this are the inherent problems of the livelihoods component being subject to direction both from Farm Africa (technically) and AMREF (managerially). Further negotiations are clearly needed to establish shared expectations. This work also needs ongoing monitoring.