by Lorna Campbell.
Footsteps 11 looked at project monitoring and record keeping. This emphasized the importance of having an information system both to remind yourself and to let others know what is going on in a project. One important use of the information kept in monitoring records is to evaluate the performance of a project. What do these two processes mean?
...of project activities that are being carried out and project finances. It shows what is being done, in which villages, at what time, by whom. It shows us whether we are keeping to the planned timetable and budget for the project.
... a measure or judgement of how well the project is performing and whether it is meeting its objectives.
Some types of information needed for an evaluation will be available from the monitoring records. These will include records of physical inputs. For example...
- Total money spent on different parts of the project
- Number of drinking water pumps installed in named villages
- Quantity of medicines sold or distributed to named health centres or communities
- Number of training courses conducted.
However, we also need to know other important information about the type and quality of work carried out by a project. This may be difficult to keep on your monitoring records. An evaluation will therefore usually also include field visits to collect information. These visits must investigate how all the project inputs have actually been used and if they have really benefited the people they were supposed to. This type of information may include, for example...
- Which families have benefited from the project
- Which families have been left out
- Patterns of use of a community resource (such as a well or grinding mill)
- Use of and access to a primary health centre.
Evaluation should be carried out at regular stages, because it will reveal both the successes and problems of a project. This will provide guidance for the next stage or phase. Evaluation should not be seen as something which outsiders do to ‘check up on a project’. Rather it should be done by those within the project themselves.
Always remember that evaluation can only be carried out if clear project goals and objectives were set at the beginning, against which the actual results and performance can be measured.
Large questionnaire-type surveys (which cost a lot of money) are not always necessary. Effective evaluation can be carried out by gathering information from discussions with people in the project area.
In Nepal we found that maps of the area, drawn by villagers, were very effective for collecting information. Community participation is a key to the success of a project. Simple map drawing methods can be used as a visual aid to help villagers discuss progress and to involve them in evaluating the project’s work.
The idea may sound difficult at first. However, we are not talking about accurate maps drawn to scale, but diagrams to show what is happening in the community and the project. Villagers know a lot of detail about their surroundings.
The aim is to collect information about the project by allowing villagers to draw their own map of the project area. They will be able to draw on it specific places, buildings or activities that are of interest to you in your evaluation. They will also include aspects of the project which the villagers think are important.
A variety of materials can be used for mapping. You should choose whether you think it is most appropriate to draw the map on the ground or on paper.
A stick of charcoal can be used to draw the outline of the map. Details such as houses, health centre, school or roads can be shown with any available markers such as stones, coloured powders, leaves, twigs, flowers, beans, grains or straw. If the map is drawn on the ground it is a good idea to make a rough copy in your notebook to take away as a record of the discussion.
A large sheet of paper and a selection of different coloured marker pens, chalk or crayons can be used. This method should only be used if people are comfortable with using pens and paper. The disadvantage of using paper is that the map is not easily altered if a mistake is made.
It will take a minimum of one hour to draw the map. If there is a lot of discussion the meeting may well take two to three hours. Generally, the more people involved in drawing the map, the longer it will take to complete.
Steps to follow...
1. Setting targets
Decide on the key information you need to collect before meeting the villagers.
2. Involving villagers
Explain to a small group of villagers (preferably three or four people) who have been involved with the project, what you are trying to do. Ask them to help you draw a map. Explain exactly what you want to include in it. This will depend on the type of project work you are evaluating. You may, for example, require details of land use, ownership, planted areas of fuel-wood or animal fodder, or the use of drinking water facilities. You may want to identify households in the area which have not made use of health programmes.
An important part of this kind of mapping is the discussion that takes place while the map is being drawn. There will always be questions and additional information added. This can often identify problems and areas of conflict in the village which may be important factors in the success of the project. Listening to such discussion will often provide a series of interesting points which need discussing further within the project and community as a whole.
Once the initial map is completed by the first group, you should discuss it with a second small group of villagers. They will no doubt provide further information and act as a cross-check on the first group. You may want them to draw their own separate map or to add to the first map. There are no strict rules - you must use your own judgement. Think carefully about who you select to draw the map - especially if it is a big village. Check your information carefully with different sub-groups within the village.
Once maps have been drawn by several small groups in the community and follow-up discussions have been held, the findings of all the activities and discussions should be presented to a village meeting. This will allow final corrections and comments to be made. These results should then be used in planning for and improving future project activities.
6. Record Keeping
Once the field work is completed, a copy of any maps drawn, together with notes explaining both the map and the discussions, should be kept in the project office. This will provide a reference for new project staff and funding agencies.
Mapping: watch what happens!
- Who is drawing the map?
- What is their relationship to those around?
- Notice who is not taking part in the discussion. Talk with them too.
- What are the relationships between those involved in the discussion?
- Be aware of the effect of your own presence as an outsider.
Write up your observations as soon as possible.
Advantages of maps
- Mapping provides a quick and cheap method of gathering information at village level. This can provide a starting point for your evaluation. Mapping alone cannot be used to carry out an evaluation, but it can provide valuable information about how the project is progressing. It can also identify problem areas which can then be investigated in more detail.
- Mapping is a method which can be used in the planning phase of a project, as well as in evaluation.
Mapping case studies
Details of two projects in Nepal for which we used mapping to collect information are included. They describe the kind of information which was drawn on the maps.
Lorna Campbell is trained in agricultural research and extension. She has worked in the Philippines and with Pakribas Agricultural Research Centre in Nepal. She is now working with a rural development agency in Scotland - the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, 20 Bridge St, Inverness, IV1 1QR, UK.