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Project evaluation

One important use of the information kept in monitoring records is to evaluate the performance of a project

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Footsteps magazine issues on a wooden desk.

From: Evaluation – Footsteps 17

Helpful ideas for project planning, monitoring and evaluation

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.

Gathering information

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.

Community mapping

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.

Materials needed

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.

Ground map
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.

Paper map
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.

Time taken

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.

3. Discussion

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.

4. Cross-checking

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.

5. Presentation

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.

CASE STUDY ONE - Drinking Water Project

Two years after the building of rural drinking water systems, several villages were visited to evaluate how well the water projects were working and how much the villagers had benefited from the project. In order to collect information quickly without walking around all the water pumps, a meeting was held with villagers and members of the Water Users Committee. They were asked to help draw a map showing the complete water system in the village area, including the reservoir tank, all the pipe lines and all the hand pumps. The position of all the homes in the village was also marked. Together the group sketched out a map on the ground using charcoal. While they discussed the benefits and problems they had experienced, they added to the map the following details...

  • Broken and dry taps or water pumps 
  • Parts of the water project which had never been completed 
  • ‘Illegal’ pipes which had been added to the system by some villagers in order to divert water directly to houses or fields. These pipes had not been included in the original plan.
  • Any families not using the new drinking water system and the water source which they used
  • Location of any pit latrines in the village 
  • Location of other uses of water taken from the pump such as vegetable garden irrigation, ponds, animal drinking water etc.

All this information was drawn on the map as pictures or signs. The participants did not need to write. The reasons for each of the problems or water uses were discussed. When the map was complete the evaluation team had a general view of how well the water system was working. They also knew which families to talk to about the particular problems discovered.

CASE STUDY TWO - Buffalo Breeding Programme

Buffalo bulls of an improved breed had been loaned out to villages for several years to breed with local cow buffalo. The bull was left with a caretaker farmer. Other farmers would bring their cows to his house for breeding. As a starting point in this evaluation, the caretaker farmer and the others were asked to draw a map to illustrate how widely the bull had been used in the village. The map drawing started by marking the caretaker’s house, where the bull was kept. Then the farmers drew all the surrounding houses in the village. The group was then asked to mark on the map, the information listed below...

  • All households in the area which had used the bull for breeding with their cows
  • For each of the above families, they marked the number, sex and year of the cross-bred calves born
  • For each of the families, they marked what has happened to the calves - sold for breeding, still on farm and used for breeding, castrated or died, etc
  • All households which keep female buffalo but have not ever used the bull for breeding (and their reasons if known)
  • All families who do not keep any buffalo and to whom the project was of little help.

They did this by using different materials and signs such as stones, leaves and twigs to indicate different details. For example, a small pebble was used to mark each house. They could move these markers around the map until the group was in agreement.

As each of the indicators was marked on the map there was discussion about why some families were using the bull and others were not. The information on the map enabled an evaluation to be made of the extent to which buffalo breeding had been improved in the area as a result of the project. It also gave the evaluation team some clues to problems in the project which they were then able to discuss more widely in the village.

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